I love it when I learn something new. Even when that learnin’ means that it contradicts something I previously thought was true. I grew up on a farm/ranch in SE Colorado. The families I knew, including our own, had all kinds of animals. Common critters included horses, cows, pig, sheep, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, ducks, geese, and even a llama or two! Something you didn’t see a lot of in the family rooms of various ranch houses were aquariums. We had some big ol’ goldfish that grew to an astonishing size in the cow tank near our house. What was even more astonishing than their size is that they survived the frozen tank winter after winter. I can’t remember who first told me that fish are stupid. This was long before “Finding Nemo” even came out in theaters, with Dory convincing us all once and for all that
After I went away to college and married a city boy, I actually lived in town big enough to have cable television. I found that I had a lot of years of catching up to do on Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, and many other educational animal shows. However it wasn’t until my daughter’s boyfriend – the one who happens to know all there is to know about owning a freshwater tank – put up a couple of aquariums in our home on behalf of beloved daughter, that I began to see freshwater fish up close and personal. As a matter of fact a big 30 gallon tank sits behind my desk, so it is pretty hard to miss the freshwater angelfish swimming around the tank. I very soon discovered that my preconceived notion about the stupidity of fish was – well – WRONG. They really do NOT have 30 second memories. They are affectionate, can remember the easiest “trail” through the freshwater plants to circumnavigate the tank, will follow a person around the tank to “beg” for food, they can be aggressive and yet can be tame enough to actually take blood worms from your fingers. They will live in harmony with other types of fish (but not all), and seem to actually play with each other occasionally. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ready to whip out an IQ test to see how they fare, but I really no longer believe that fish are stupid.
Other Wrongs – Now Corrected
I just turned 46-years-old this week. That is really hard for me to wrap my mind around. I remember when my mother turned 46-years-old, I was a very young and immature 23-years-old. I remember filling out her birthday card to send from my little apartment in Chattanooga to her “home on the ranch” in Colorado and thinking… “Wow. Mom is O.L.D. She is definitely entering her “senior” years now.” I’ve got to tell you now that I’m 46-years-old myself? Well, let’s just say I want to open mouth – insert foot.
I also grew up with very limited experience with any person with chronic illness or invisible disabilities. I did not have very much experience with people with even visible disabilities. Growing up in a small farming community limits one in that way I guess. It wasn’t until I became deaf and developed Meniere’s disease that I first really began meeting people of all kinds who are “differently abled”. Having an acquired disability today is much different than it use to be simply because we have the Internet that connects us to each other and to a wealth of information as well. I grew up believing that people with disabilities were to be pitied. Knowing what I know now about a community of which I am proud to be a part of, pity is the last thing any of us want. I’m constantly amazed by the perseverance and strength that I see in people with all kinds of various “differences”. I hate to even use the word disability, but it is the language present in our current laws that protect the rights of those who have them. A fellow client from Fidos For Freedom, Inc., first introduced me to the term “differently abled”. I find that this phrase much more accurately describes those who live a victorious life despite any physical, mental or emotional differences they may have. Through networks such as the Hearing Loss Association of America, Cochlear Americas, Invisible Disabilities Community and Invisible Illness Awareness Week I have learned that having invisible issues also creates incredible strength and depth to the human soul. I’ve met some wonderful people who have taught me how to navigate life with grace and a “can do” attitude.
I’ve learned that all of us should “check our preconceived notions” at the door. Assumptions are a discriminatory lot. I do have to admit to also enjoying lessons learned from erroneous stereotypes. After all, that means I’m still learning. You can teach an old dog new tricks! After all, I’ve learned that fish aren’t stupid…
© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal