Breaking Out Of My Shell
Never thought in my life I’d be living my dream.
Yet here I am in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I’m living my dream of traveling around the world long-term. Before I go any further, let me introduce myself and how I broke out of my shell.
My name is Jason Hoang, and I’m 9,391 miles away from my home, Brooklyn, New York. My mother isn’t quite happy about it, and one of the reasons is because I’m Deaf. I don’t know how is it I became Deaf, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is that I am Deaf and I’m traveling around the world.
Being Deaf, including every other highlights and challenges I’ve gone through defines who I am today.
When I enrolled in elementary school, it was the first time that I saw kids who were just like me – they were deaf too. That was when I was first exposed to American Sign Language (ASL). Eventually, the teachers noticed that the classes were too easy for me and enrolled me into mainstream classrooms with other Hearing kids instead.
Was that the best decision? Well…
As the only Deaf kid in the classroom, I had no one to talk with since no one knew sign language. When I looked at kids interacting with others with full of smiles, laughs, and no signs of struggle to communicate, I couldn’t help but to wish that I could be like them – to be normal like them.
I never know what to talk about or how to keep conversations going. I tried to speak as the best I can in order to communicate. ’What?’ or ‘Can you say that again?’ were the responses I always got. I hated repeating myself so I stopped using my voice so I can just to avoid the inconvenience. I was led to believe that I was a boring person to talk with. I didn’t understand what I was going through when I was a kid.
I hated my life without knowing it. Without realizing it, I was indeed alone. At school, it became hell since I was being bullied and felt fearful of many things because of my Deafness.
Scared of walking across the street
Scared of making mistakes
Scared of disappointing people
Scared of being disappointed
Scared of criticism
Scared of failure
Scared of rejection
Scared of uncertainty
Scared of judgement
Scared of losing control
Scared of something bad may happen
Scared to talk to my crush
Basically, I was scared of many things.
Because of these listless fears, I felt completely powerless with no control of my own life. Eventually, video games came into my life. Video games helped me…rather, it distracted me in some ways. Games… Games gave me the ability to take things in control, the release I craved, the peace of mind I needed and a place to be myself. Or so I thought. Because of these feelings it gave me, I’ve became addicted to video gaming. Little did I know, the shell was created and I hid inside it.
Fast forward to age 26. All these years in isolation and fear eventually led to depression. I became dependent on games that gave me the needed escape, justifying gaming as the only thing in life that makes me happy. But I was wrong.
I almost lost the will to keep going until I met this Deaf person whom I played a card game (Yu-Gi-Oh) with in college.
Though I barely knew him, he treated me differently than anyone I’ve ever encountered. He treated me as I actually existed. This made me realize I have the power to control my own life, not the games. Not even my fears. That moment was a wake up call for me. I realized I shouldn’t be miserable like that. I was willing to give myself time to do anything and everything in order to find a way to be happy, and alive. I started to shave, take care of my own skin, go to the gym, eat healthy, go back to school for another Bachelor’s Degree in Health of Nutrition, read self-help books, took the courage to talk to girls, and bought a impulse flight to Japan.
Japan was challenging because it was during the time where I was still feeling lonely and didn’t love myself. Regardless of feeling lonely, I was learning from every obstacle I’ve overcome and because of this, I was set on improving myself every day. I later impulsively bought another flight to Thailand and traveled solo. I was enlightened, and even challenged, by everything I’ve learned. I couldn’t help but kept traveling. Cambodia, Shanghai, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Europe, Indonesia, Malaysia, India.
I couldn’t believe that I did all of it, but I did it.
I started to learn more and more about myself, especially my Deaf identity.
Once I’m experiencing more as I keep traveling, I start to see the positives, the negatives and everything in between. The progress I’ve made this far was rewarding. I become a better person than yesterday and I don’t intend to stop…ever. I was hooked on improving myself through traveling because it constantly tests my comfort zone. I learned that if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone, you will stay stuck. It works the same way in life. If I didn’t step out my comfort zone, you wouldn’t be reading this now. When you get a taste of travel like me, you may want more. That’s exactly what happened to me.
If you have the opportunity to travel, pack your bag and get ready to explore. Use the experiences to grow as a person.
You’ll never know what you’ll discover in life.