By Caeden Lawrence
“Tell me a little about yourself...”
Legit, the power those six words have over me is mind-boggling. I never quite know how to answer.
Perhaps I’ll start with some basics and work my way out.
It was late 2019, and my agent pitched me on meeting with the team at Winterhouse Films for a docu-series about performers with disabilities trying to make it in the business.
I thought, “HEY! I’m that guy! I’m trying to do the thing while being half deaf! Let’s go!”
Great timing too—as many things turned out to be—I had recently gotten hearing aids and was reintroduced to “hearing life.”
When I was 24, I started to lose my hearing from a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type II (NF2). Though hearing is the most common casualty, folks with NF2 also find their bodies riddled with growths along nerve endings in the face, limbs and spine. I’m lucky enough to be one of those folks, and to complicate the process, just about all of them are on a “wait and see” approach.
Now in my 30s, I’ve lost all hearing in my right ear and am profoundly deaf in my left ear. Thankfully, the growths in my spine have not kept pace with the ones in my brain.
The casting with Winterhouse wasn’t like any other audition before. I was not showing up and pasting the shell of a character over me and filling it with my life. No. I showed up with just me. And in case you couldn’t tell, “just me” likes to tell stories—so that’s what I did. I told pieces of my story.
Turns out that charming wit came through and I was offered to be featured in the series.
Over eight months, the team and I worked together to capture the triumphs and tragedies of the business and life. What I perceive to be great success only to be followed by great... well, nothing—back to baseline. It's been the tease of the circus. There is no one way, straight way, or quick way to find yourself a ring leader, but there is my own way ... as off the beaten path as it may be.
The filming process was different. Again, this is about me the person, not me filling myself into the borders of a character. Most of my childhood was a performance. I didn’t quite know how to turn it off—everything was a show. Fifteen years later I’m still putting on a show. This time though, the show means something—it's the truth. As time went on and I became more familiar with the medium and the crew, I began to break down walls I thought were permanent and discovered walls I wasn’t even aware existed.
It seemed I wasn’t actually “over” the things I claimed no longer weighed on me. And all it took for that realization was to have someone ask.
I was given a platform to share myself. So, I did. And having shared those pieces of me with the outside world has been and continues to be cathartic. I too have dreams, aspirations, desires, fears, doubts and self-sabotaging habits just like you! My not being able to hear may change the weight of these variables, but they’re all still there.
My disability is just a piece of me. Not all of me, or even the largest part of me, yet sometimes the world wants to make it the only part of me that matters.
I’m less interested in *making it* a thing than I am in just *doing* the thing.
If any of this has an air of, “What is this guy going on about?” perhaps tuning in to the show will add clarity... or not. I really don’t know.
Now that we’re all caught up... Hi. My name is Caeden Lawrence and I am an actor... who happens to be deaf.