Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Season

Okay!!! I know it has been a while since the last time I updated my blog. It has been a really crazy, busy, and overwhelming holiday season. Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now we are getting ready for New's Year Eve. It is almost 2011. That put me in a thoughtful mood and it made me realize that the holidays gave me a topic to write about.

Let me tell you something about what the holiday season does to me as a deaf person. Sure, there is lots to see -- food, snow, shopping, presents, lights, trees, and more. When I was younger, that was enough. I really liked getting presents, eating unlimited sugar and playing in the snow.

But as I got older, I began hating the holiday season. Seeing the decorations and everybody else's Christmassy spirit made it worse. You see, every year, my father's family always came to our house for Christmas. (This was a little weird because they are Jewish, but that is another story.) Anyway, the whole week of Christmas there are always at least ten people in the house.

Being the only deaf person in the whole family is always hard because I cannot follow a group conversation. I would never understand or know a single thing that was going on in the house just because there were too many people. Everybody would get going with a conversation and forget that they had to communicate a little differently with me. Even on Christmas morning when we open gifts, people are laughing and joking and I can catch only a little bit of what is being said.

Naturally, the holiday includes lots of big meals. Every time we get together at a table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even dessert, I always felt left out and would get really frustrated and angry inside. It is the same as I mentioned in the earlier blog about being invisible only now it is family. I care about these people and love them, so I do not walk away. I stick it out and stay until everybody is about to leave the table.

When I was younger, I just kind of stared at my plate, ate my food, and felt miserable. To be honest with you, now that I think about how I used to be, I believe I was selfish. I was always complaining about how I never knew what everybody was saying or what was going on. Now that I am older, I realize there is really nothing we can do to make my situation better. I am the only deaf person in the family so I cannot expect everyone what it is like to be me. And I cannot just wave a wand and have every single one of them know sign language. Believe me, if I could do that I would, but there is no sign language fairy. Haha.

So now, when my family and I get together for a feast, I just simply sit there and enjoy the food. But I also watch and observe. You might even say I spy because I pay attention to what others do not see. I watch their faces and I see their personalities. I see who is quiet and who is talkative. I see who is laughing and who is more serious. Even though I cannot be involved in conversations, debates, stories due to being deaf, I enjoy seeing my family being happy together and I feel like I am gradually getting to know them more deeply.

Shopping is another thing where I have had to learn to find my own satisfactions. I used to hate going shopping during the holiday season because I did not feel a part of it. When I was a little kid, I would make whatever the teacher said to and give it to my parents. As a teenager, I would just find any lousy gift so I could get away from the stores as quickly as possible.

In the last few years, I have started thinking about giving more meaningful gifts to the people in my family. My photography helps me because I have been able to capture images that people care about. This year I gave my mother a photo of her family from a family reunion and I gave my grandma an album with photos from a place she loves. When I watched them open their presents from me, seeing the emotion on their faces helped to make up for the face I am deaf.

Deafness makes the holidays different for me. As I have grown and gone through many holiday seasons, the situation has not really changed. It is still painful to feel left out, but I no longer feel so unhappy that I want to ruin the fun for others. These are people I love. I know they love me, and I have gradually found my own ways to enjoy this special time with my hearing family. Happy New Year to all!!! =)

Monday, November 1, 2010


Writing a blog is harder than I thought it would be--maybe because I am trying to think about something that is pretty personal--my deafness and how it impacts me and my relationships with people around me.

Here's an example: Often I avoid being with groups of people. I am good lipreader, but I find it hard to follow along with group conversation, especially if people get on a roll and talk quickly among themselves. Then I cannot figure out who is speaking fast enough to read their lips and pretty soon I am totally lost.

It might seem that the best solution to that problem would be asking questions of the closest hearing person. Believe me, I have done that many times and it works out very rarely. Sometimes the hearing person says it is not important or never mind. Well, if it is not important, why is everyone else laughing or seem to have a good time? I want to be included in that.

Or sometimes the other person gets frustrated because it is hard to explain the conversation. Or they just get tired of me asking so many questions. I do not interrupting the flow of the conversation, and I certainly do not want to ruin the fun. Sometimes I stick it out for a while. If nothing changes, I start to feel "invisible." I really hate that feeling, so then I remove myself from the group situation. It is not that I want to be by myself, but it is less miserable than being unable to participate in what is obviously making everybody else happy.

This weekend, I had this experience with teammates. We played a tournament so we were staying at a hotel. The team was bonding with a lot of talking, joking, and goofing around in groups. People were talking fast, and I could not follow what they were saying. So I left.

One of my teammates came looking for me and asked why I did not want to hang out with the team anymore. I tried to explain to her. We have talked about deafness before, so I thought she would understand. But this time, she started telling me that I gave up too easily. She gave me bunch of ideas what I should do. I think she was trying to be nice, but I have been doing those things since high school. They do not work. The only time I can understand what is happening in a group is when everybody uses sign language.

Having my teammate lecture me made me feel worse because I realize that, despite our conversations, she does not truly understand. When a hearing person is quiet in a conversation, they are still able to follow what is being said. It may make sense to them stay and listen even if they do not participate.

For me, sitting in a roomful of talking, laughing people feels terrible. I want to know what they are saying, but the only way to do that is break in and ask questions. The first few questions, no problem. They probably would answer. But after a while, I can see that all of my questions make it hard for my hearing friends. They begin to feel frustrated because I am ruining the flow of the fun. I do not like the feeling that I am ruining good times for other people, especially my friends.

Being "invisible" is not a great feeling. Trust me, I would rather be feeling something else. That is why I remove myself from group situations. It is hard to be alone when I know everyone else is having a good time, but it is better than being invisible in a group.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Sorry it took me a while to post a new blog; college life got in the way! Also I had a bit trouble putting my thoughts down about this subject and making them understandable. But here it is.

Stereotypes. They used to be everywhere or at least I thought saw them everywhere. There are so many kinds out there that it is ridiculous. I will admit I used to believe in some of them when I was back in middle and high school. It is easiest to create stereotypes when there is a clearly visible and consistent attribute that can be easily recognized. I guess that is why people of color are easily stereotyped.

People do not always talk about their stereotypes, but that does not mean they are not there. It may seem offensive to see them written down, but that does not mean people do not believe them. I will throw in a few stereotype examples to make things clear for later.

African Americans are more likely to be criminals.

White Americans are judgmental towards other races.

Italians are supposedly connected to a mob.

Hispanics are likely to be illegal aliens.

Jewish People are usually greedy.

Muslim People hate the United States. you believe any of those? Do not give the "right" answer. Look deep inside yourself to see whether you make a snap judgments about people as soon as you see their color or find out about their religion. I admit that I used to do that, but not anymore. Now I actually know people in those groups and they are nowhere close to the stereotype. Every single person is different and has different lives. I have been thinking a lot about stereotypes because they are not limited to race and religion. Other people face them too.

People with disability. I am one of them. I know that for a first look at me, you probably would not notice anything wrong with me. But I am deaf and there are stereotypes about deaf people as well as for other types of disabilities. Again, you probably would not say these things out loud, but do you think them?

Deaf People are mute and dumb.

Physically Disabled People are pitiable.

Mentally Disabled People do not notice if you make fun of them.

Blind People are helpless.

These horrible stereotypes are possible only when you do not know people who are disabled.

Take me. I am deaf, but I am not dumb; I am in college right now working on my degree. I am not mute; I can speak just fine. Many people have told me that when they heard me for the first time, they did not know I was deaf. Some people have had an entire conversation with me before they noticed my hearing aids.

I also have a job where I work with people with disability. Through my job, I have met many people who are in a wheel chair, blind, or mentally disabled. I can tell you the one thing they all have in common: None of the stereotypes are spot on.

I have to admit that I used to be afraid of people with disability when I was younger and did not understand my own disability. I tended to stay away from them partly because I rely greatly on my lip-reading skills and I was not sure if I would be able to understand them.

I stepped out of my comfort zone when I took a job at Adapted Recreation. I have learned that everybody who is in chair does not have the same disability. Some can dive, some can play quad rugby. I have learned that some blind people can see a little, some can see certain colors and most can get around without extra help. I have learned that Mentally Disabled People are not helpless, and they feel pride about what they can do.

Through my work, I have become comfortable with new friends. Some happen to be in a chair. Some happen to be blind. Some happen to be mentally disabled. All are individuals. The stereotypes made me afraid -- for no reason. If I had stuck with the stereotypes, I would have missed out on relationships with some very cool people.

I wish I could say forget the stereotypes, but it is not that easy. Generalizations about groups of people show up in movies, televisions, music, advertising, and everyday conversation. Maybe what we can do is challenge the stereotypes. When you meet someone who is different from you, a little voice in your head may try to label them. Tell that little voice to "Shut up!" Get to know the person. Draw your own conclusions. If you experience is like mine, your life will be a lot better if you ignore the stereotypes and get to know people as individuals.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My point of view

So I thought I would start up my blog again since everybody who read my blog about Deaflympics seemed to enjoy it. This time, I will be posting some of my thoughts about my disability and the impact it has had on my life. This is only my point of view. I do not want to judge anybody and I hope others will not judge me.

I call myself the missing link. Why? Hearing people do not think I am deaf because I speak. Deaf people do not think I am deaf because I do not sign. Where does that put me exactly? I do not belong in the hearing world nor the deaf world. I'm just stuck in the middle hence the "missing link." It seems the world is not ready for people like me who do not fit neatly into categories.

I began calling myself the missing link after one year in college. I grew up orally and worked really hard at practicing my speech. Now many hearing people believe I am not deaf because of how well I speak. They do not understand that I still do not hear. I depend on lip-reading and, even then, I miss a lot of what people say.

I started learning American Sign Language when I was a senior in High School, but gave up because of a conflict with the teacher. In college, I tried again and began enjoying it more. Though I have tried to become fluent in ASL, I still prefer to use my voice to communicate. As a result, deaf people do not find me deaf enough because I do not sign as will as most of them.

So I do not fit in either world -- hearing or deaf. I am just simply stuck in the middle. I realize that, for most of life, I have been trying to figure out where do I belong?