This I Believe

Farha - Wyomissing, Pennsylvania
Entered on November 18, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I was born with what I always thought to be an abnormal ear. However, it was really an unpredictable medical condition that I had no control over. My right ear had and still has traces of a congenital disorder between the veins and arteries in the area – called arteriovenous malformation. That is the word that has haunted me ever since I could remember: malformation. It certainly looked malformed and different from my left ear, or what a “normal’ ear should look like.

In my childhood, I did not try to mask this; I put my hair up in pony tails and left it open for the world to see. As my father took me to renowned institutions, such as Harvard Medical and New York University where they held conferences to decipher my problem, I was aware of what was going on but not ashamed.

However, things changed for the worse at the start of elementary school. Children, and even other parents, can often be cruel and simply ignorant and I sadly let this get to me. Remarks I constantly heard were “Have you seen her ear? What is wrong with it?” or once from a parent, “Should she be in school? I hope that’s not contagious I don’t want my child’s to get whatever she has.” These comments, questions, and stares really got to me by the time I was 10 years old and I just didn’t know what to do. My sole dream was to get my ears pierced like all the other girls, and still is today, but it didn’t seem like it could ever happen.

It was around this time that my parents believed I was mature enough for the first surgery to begin correcting this problem that could have potentially become very dangerous. I went through a series of procedures in 5th grade and though the root of the problem had been temporarily dealt with, the appearance of my ear had become even worse. It was now that I began covering my ear with different headbands and hairstyles, making sure no one could see anything wrong. Only my closest friends and family knew of the condition and that has remained so even today.

This year – my senior year – was supposed to be filled with fun and the making of good memories but it has been everything but due to further correctional surgeries. However, it has taught me an important lesson. I have learned that my ear is not ‘abnormal’ as I always believed. Different and abnormal are words that are worlds apart and do not have similar meanings. Despite what people may say or ask, what matters is what my family, my friends, and I know. Normality cannot be defined by how someone should be or how something should look like. I believe that though I have a body part that does not match the other, it is not shameful and I should be proud that I can say I am unique.