Happy New Year everyone!
The holidays is always one of my favorite time of the year since I get to spend a lot time with family. I was also lucky enough to visit Rochester, NY during the winter break. A visit to Rochester always helps to reset my self esteem being around my “people” since Rochester is one of the largest deaf community in America. It was great to have that right before the New Year.
Looking back at the month of December, I checked off a lot from my Christmas bucket list. I started the season with the tradition of attending Mystic Lighted Boat parade, strolled around Downtown Mystic for the holiday stroll, toured Newport mansions (see the previous blog!) and ended the festivities with a trip to Maine. I had to see the Northern Lights celebration at L.L. Bean (one of my most favorite stores!) at their flagship store in Freeport. The village green in front of the store was dressed up for Christmas with a barn of reindeer, Santa to visit with, a warming hut, cocoa bar, discovery forest and horse drawn carriage rides. It was very beautiful and fun to explore. I was able to bring my dalmatian to Freeport as it is dog friendly town - she was especially curious about the reindeer!
The year of 2018 flew by! upon reflection I realized that it was the year of growth for me. I made a lot of decisions including some were very difficult ones. I am very optimistic about 2019. The odd-years seems to be the best for me with many milestones occurring during those years. My 30th birthday is coming up in February. Currently brainstorming fun ideas for birthday celebration in New England region so if you have any suggestions - please share! I have some goals for 2019 such as having a more organized routine, cooking more/better meal preps, continue the decluttering I started last year, and less shopping (this will be difficult!). I’m looking forward to what this year will bring for me!
As I mentioned, I spent a lot of time with my family during winter break. Some of you wondered about my interactions with family during holidays as this tends to be a tough time for deaf people. Most deaf people are from hearing families, I am one of these. I noticed that right around the holidays that there are reminders posted on social media for those families with deaf member(s) to include them. Those deaf member(s) who struggle with communicating with their families tend to isolate themselves. They would do their own activities such as reading a book, playing games, being on their phone, etc. This does not apply to EVERY deaf people - it all varies on their hearing level, family dynamics and communication methods. My entire family is hearing, only my parents and brother knows fluent sign language. I need interpreting for almost all of my relatives now that I’ve moved away from them, not seeing them as frequently.
During my childhood, I was fortunate enough to have the support of my parents and brother to interpret at all of the family gatherings. It was challenging for my mom who did the majority of the interpreting - she has 40% hearing loss in her left ear (from an accident long time ago) so group conversations were difficult for her to interpret. While I played with my cousins, I relied a lot on my brother to interpret. Some cousins knew some sign language but being kids, they don’t think to sign every single word being said. I’ve always felt that it was tough on my brother being a kid and having to act as an interpreter which isn’t normal for any sibling. I remember feeling like I was an annoyance to my brother so I wouldn’t always ask him every time to interpret. I always felt like I was a burden on my brother or mom because they had to stay by me to make sure I didn’t miss out on conversations. I also felt that I was the reason for them to miss out on the opportunities to have their own conversations. In that situation when I see my mom start to talk to someone, I often will venture off to someone else (my brother or dad!) who will likely be able to help me. I loved it when I went to gatherings where there were dogs or little kids (little enough that doesn’t require heavy talking) so I could socialize with them.
Now that I am an adult, it’s weird to see how the childhood perspective isn’t that much different from today. I actually feel embarrassed to need help from someone to interpret for me! I feel that with me being an adult needing that help takes away some of my independence. I have the mind set that I should be able to do things on my own. It’s difficult to accept that at times but I don’t want to miss out on these interactions. I grew up in a tight knit family on both sides so I love the chats with all of my relatives. I’ve learned to accept this is reality of my life as a deaf individual.
Why can’t they learn sign language? I can’t force people to do what they’re not interested in. It would be difficult for anyone to learn sign language and not use it on a daily basis. I see most of my distance relatives 2-3 times a year. My grandparents and some relatives did attend sign language classes when I was a kid. As they have aged, it became difficult for them to remember certain words. When I was younger, it did bother me a lot when someone didn’t know sign language because it’d make me feel like I wasn’t worthy. Right now as an adult, I’ve learned to not be disappointed because I feel the love from my family in a different way. I see that they do make the effort to talk to me even if it’s through interpreting. They also sent me cards in the mail and interact with me on social media.
Social media have helped my relationship with my relatives tremulously. I’m able to communicate directly with my relatives online. They see what’s going on in my life so we can have topics to talk about for our next reunion. If it wasn’t for social media we would only have these in-person interactions which isn’t as frequent as many of us live all over East Coast. I’ve heard so many of what a typical family gathering is for other deaf friends and I believe that I am one of the lucky ones. While my family isn’t perfect, I do have a bond with each of them which I’m grateful for. I have such a wonderful family - they’re the biggest support system in my life.
I hope you all had a wonderful winter break. I would love to hear some of your 2019 goals! As always, feedback about the blog or any questions are welcome - in the comments or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t feel scared to ask any questions regardless of how tough they may be! I love to share my personal experience as a deaf individual in hopes that you can learn something about it!
All opinions in this blog are my own.