Sunday, May 1, 2011

My First Time Attending an HLAA Convention

I attended my first HLAA convention last year in Milwaukee. I had so much fun and learned a lot. One of the things that struck me the most about the convention was meeting other people who could understand what I was going through and experienced as a person with a hearing loss. There were a lot of, "Me too!" "I know!" "I understand, totally." "Yup, been there." When I told others about my first time at the convention, I explained that it was as if I was walking into a room full of mirrors. Even though everyone had different types of hearing losses, were of different ages, had different ways of communicating, different hearing devices, different backgrounds, and different ways they acquired their deafness, there was still an understanding; an understanding that we are not alone. It was a feeling I have never felt before. I can't describe it. It was a bit overwhelming at times.

I came to my first convention on my own. I did not know anyone who was going to be there, other than a friend I made through blogging, blogger Speak Up Librarian, whom I did not yet meet in person. She talked about going to the convention and when I looked into it, I became very interested in attending and decided to go.

I wondered what it was going to be like. I had never been to Milwaukee and did not really have any plans of what to do other than show up at the convention. There were times that I thought of backing out and not going. But, I decided that I had to go, especially since I could not get a refund on my plane fare. I am glad I went and that I did not let the idea of going by myself frighten me away. When I arrived, I soon learned that I should not have had any reason to fear being alone, because of the warm welcome I received from various strangers at the convention. I made a lot of friends immediately. I remember when I first arrived, attendees I met at the airport and on the shuttle, warmly welcomed me and invited me to eat with them.

How I finally met Speak Up Librarian is a funny story. I was sitting by myself at a presentation in a large auditorium filled with hundreds of people. As I looked around, I thought I heard someone say, "Are you e?" "e? Is that you?" I thought I was hearing things. Then I turned and saw a young woman looking my way smiling at me. "I am Sarah, from Speak Up Librarian!" How did she recognize me, since I do not put any photographs of myself on my blog? She was sitting in front of me and saw my hearing aid and thought it looked familiar. She recognized its blue and white ear mold, which I posted pictures of on my blog. I thought that was really cool how she was able to recognize me this way. We became instant friends.

So, if you will be a first time attendee, I am sure that you will have a great time and will make many friends. Plus, first time attendees get a discount when registering for the convention.

There will be awesome events such as a captioned and looped performance of Wicked, sponsored by CTIA, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry.

I am really looking forward to attending this summer!


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