“So …. are you excited??!!”
This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. I usually nod and say, “Yeah, totally!” But, to be honest, I don’t really feel that excited. I mean, I am. Sort of. Kinda….?
“Excited” is the wrong word to describe what I’m feeling right now. A more accurate description would be “curious and apprehensive.” I’m curious, because I know having a cochlear implant will enrich my life, but I’m not sure how or how much, yet. Apprehensive, because hearing bionically is something I—and most people—have never done before. Which is totally bizarre, if you think about it.
I’ve been assured by many that I’ll love it. Neat! But what exactly is “it”? I have absolutely no idea. If I said to you,
“Hey! I’m going to cook you some pufflinkles. Yeah! What do you mean, you don’t know what pufflinkles are? Everyone loves pufflinkles! They taste like flops and sandies and smell flutty and porsive. They’re cloppy but not too cloppy: they have the perfect amount of cloppiness. Have a seat and I’ll bring out a nice hot, steaming plate of pufflinkles in a few minutes. MMMMMmmm I bet you can practically taste it already.”
Would your mouth be watering? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say probably not. Mouths don’t water unless they know what to expect. And neither do ears. (Actually, ears probably shouldn’t be watering at all….)
Not only is it hard to muster up excitement for something I’ve never actually experienced, I’m harboring the knowledge that it’ll be an artificial experience that’ll take months to adjust to. Which is where the apprehension comes into play. The implant/processor will make me hear like–well, like a machine. To elaborate on my previous analogy, while most of you stuff your faces with pufflinkles, I’ll be nibbling on vufflinkles—vegan pufflinkles. As anyone who’s ever had tofurkey or vacon or anything inside quotation marks at a vegetarian restaurant knows, vegan versions of anything, while perfectly edible and tasty in their own right, don’t begin to compare to the real thing. (And have way too much sodium.)
And man, that’s going to take some getting used to. A common observation of a new implantee is, “Words sound like blips and bleeps.” Blips and bleeps? You mean, when I lovingly whisper good night to my husband, I’m gonna hear “Bleeeep Bleeeep” in return? (Did you just call me a fucking bitch, Matt?)
I know those bleeps and blips, once my brain adapts, will eventually evolve into more natural-sounding voices and sounds, but that will take time. What if the transition drives me crazy? What if it frustrates me, makes me cry? What if the implant doesn’t work that well for me? What if I’m no better off than I am now? What if it doesn’t live to everyone’s expectations? What if, what if, what if! I don’t know! I don’t know anything! This is all so weird and new and hardly anyone can speak to me about it from experience. So yeah, while I’m committed to making the most out of this journey, it’s hard to be excited before I’ve even shifted into drive.
That said, I hope that in a year from now, after I’ve adjusted and transitioned and all that jazz, my enlightened future self invents a time machine and goes back to the present day to say to Today Me:
“So …. are you excited??!!”
“Girl, you are gonna be soooooo rich from inventing this time machine!”