Molly Kirk (r) with Lime Connect President/CEO Susan Lang
Eight years ago, one simple routine test changed my life forever. At 13 years old, while my friends were starting their journeys as teenagers, I was starting a medical journey, questioning the life and person I thought I knew. It began with a annual hearing test in my middle school nurse's office - the first test I had ever "failed" and since that moment, my teenage years were defined by over 50 different hearing tests, dozens of doctor visits, a failed surgical injection, attempts at intense medications, MRIs and cat-scans and even alternative medicine, all of which only ended in false hope, broken promises and so many unanswered questions. No one could tell me why my hearing was getting progressively worse and why it would never improve. It was during those years that I realized I could no longer define myself as "normal". I had lost the sense of who I was and worried about what my future would hold. I lost hope in myself and in my goals and I was so scared that I would wake up one morning to a world of silence.
Then in the spring of 2010, I had to face the most dreaded reality of it all, one that I had avoided for years - to avoid losing all nerve function in my ears, I had to get hearing aids. Yes hearing aids, something I had forever associated with only older people and sick people, not a college student. My grandfather got hearing aids at 80, I was getting them at 20 - life did not seem fair. I was afraid my "big secret" would be out and that hearing aids would make me unattractive, weird, isolated and unable to get a job and lead a normal life. The day I got my hearing aids, April 26, 2010, my mom was with me and I just cried and cried for the rest of the day, they sat painfully in my ears; so amplified that it felt like the world was screaming at me. I thought that although these hearing aids were supposed to help me, they were actually hurting me and taking away any last bit of confidence and self-esteem I still had left. Less than one month later, it was Lime Connect that gave me back that hope and self-esteem I thought I lost forever.
To say I was hesitant to apply to Lime Connect is an understatement - I had never thought of myself as a person with a disability - I didn't think my hearing loss qualified and deep down almost didn't want it to. My academic resource counselor thought it would be a great opportunity to help me confront my fears and meet other students who faced disabilities and who have overcome them and have been able to be successful in school, jobs and life. When I went to Super Days that May to interview, my hair was hiding my hearing aids, but for the first time I actually felt comfortable telling my interviewers what my disability was. I had amazing conversations with people from Google, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Target and I left so happy and confident, that I tried not to worry about being picked because I had overcome a huge fear of talking to people about my "secret." But luckily, they did accept me as an inaugural Fellow and when Susan Lang called to me in June 2010, Lime Connect became the silver lining and blessing in disguise during one of the most difficult times in my life. Through the interviews that May and the symposium last August, I was able to connect with some of the greatest companies and people in the country and intern for Google this past summer. My Google experience was life changing - I felt at home with the company culture and people and I did not have to hide my disability. Google gave me a lot of support and responsibility, along with opportunities to meet the founders, key executives, run projects and have an impact on my team. When the summer ended, I had grown exponentially as a person and I had succeeded in my internship even though many people, including myself had had their doubts. And, best of all, I will return to Google full time upon graduation.
The connection between Lime Connect and its partners is truly remarkable. They are really influencing how the world, especially companies, view, help and support people with disabilities. They are creating opportunities for students like me that I never even knew existed and they have given me the chance to achieve beyond what I could have ever imagined. When I found out my hearing would never improve and I had to wear hearing aids, I thought my life was over. Lime Connect and its partners have given me the chance to once again lead the life I wanted before this all happened. They have given me a new sense of self, given me back my confidence and supported my ability to continue my education.
Although it took me years after that first routine test in the nurse's office, I have come to accept that I am a person with a disability. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but in the last year and a half, I have been able to once again believe in myself and my accomplishments. I know now that life is not about being "normal" or having a solution to every problem; it is about forcing yourself to get through challenges, to make yourself stronger. The days I spent in hospitals, the hours I spent in testing rooms, and the minutes I have missed out of in conversations are gone. Yet I have my whole life ahead of me, and thanks to Lime Connect I plan on experiencing every second of it despite life's unpredictable setbacks.
- Molly Kirk, Georgetown '12 and 2010 Lime Connect Fellow