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Audiology, Elle Woods, and Me

Legal

I have been listening to musicals a ton this week, something I have not done for quite some time. It has been wonderful to reconnect with the part of me that loves art and music. A particularly important song came up on my playlist this afternoon: “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde: The Musical.

In undergrad, I decided late that I wanted to be an ear doctor. Becoming an audiologist requires grad school, and at the time, to get into grad school, a prospective student was required to observe a certain number of hours at audiology offices.  Being late to the game, I had to get in a lot of my hours during one summer. I called every ear doctor in my hometown, and just one ended up taking me for observations. Eager to learn what real clinics were like, I put on professional clothes, grabbed a notebook and pen, and went out to meet the people I aspired to be.

The first day went off without a hitch. I learned about new equipment and techniques, and was eager to come back. I scheduled a second observation time for the next week. And that is when everything fell apart.

I was having a bad tic day, but I was determined not to let it deter me from accomplishing my goals. I started the observation, taking deep breaths and blinking slowly to try and reduce my ticcing. Honestly, I was feeling pretty good about myself, like I was overcoming my tics with willpower (this is not necessarily a healthy thought, but I was younger then). That is when an elderly couple in the waiting area began to make a scene about my tics. They pointed at me and narrowed their eyes. “That girl has Tourettes!” they said, motioning to other people and getting their attention so they would stare too. “I don’t know why they have her here.” This went on for about five minutes. My face got hot, and tears started forming in my eyes. The audiologist I was observing did not say anything to the patients, and when I left that day, the receptionist told me they had made a policy change and they would no longer have me come observe at their clinic.

Even writing about this now; now that I am in graduate school; now that I see my own patients; now that I am well on my way to becoming an ear doctor; I feel incredibly hurt by this moment. This was the moment I realized I could not live safely in academia forever. The moment I learned random people truly believe that I do not have the ability to do my job, or even the right to be there, because I tic.

So where does Legally Blonde come in? That night, when I was ready to quit audiology, I went to my community theater and saw this production, and I bawled. Because here was this woman, with so much potential, who no one took seriously because of something she could not control. And she works incredibly hard and shows them all up.

I took the next few days off of audiology. But when I was ready, I pulled out my textbooks and started reading–to the soundtrack of Elle Woods.

–KMJ

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