Ever since I took my very first philosophy class a year ago, I have started thinking more clearly about many things, including deafness. To be more specific, I have started observing more carefully and analyzing what I see, particularly in relation to how other people treat deaf people and act around them.
Recently, I was going through a rough patch with some friends and suddenly I realized that I was repeating a pattern that I have experienced ever since middle school with making friends. It goes sort of like this. When I meet a group of people like, for example, a new team, at first I am friend with everybody and everybody likes me. Then as they learn more about my deafness, the relationships kind of stall out. This happened in middle school with volleyball, basketball, and track. It happened in High school with soccer and basketball. It happened in college with soccer and even in clubs that are not related to sports.
In the past, I would just have been upset about this, but now I wanted to figure it out the way a philosopher would. Why does this pattern keep happening? That is when I came up with this idea and even wrote it down: "They want to be my friend and be there for me but they do not want me to be their friend or ask for my help."
Does this make sense to you? If you are not deaf, you may not get it, but I will try to explain it as simply as I can. Most of my life, I have had people who were amazing to me. Now, however, I am wondering if these relationships are real friendships because friendship is supposed to be between two people who are equally there for each other.
Let's say I had a problem or needed to talk to someone. Often I can find someone who would be there for me or listen to me. And that is great. BUT here is the thing. Every time I talk to someone or ask for help, they learn more about me. I do not learn more about them. Why? When they have a problem, they do not talk to me or ask me for help. We just hang out whenever we happen run into each other or have a practice or game.
I believe that people who listen to me and help me without asking for help in return are not looking for friendship from me. "They want to be my friend and be there for me, but they do not want me to be their friend or ask for my help." When you think about it, this is not friendship. It is not even close. It is pity. They want to be my friend or help me because I am deaf. They want to feel good about themselves because they "helped a disabled person." They do not really see me because they do not understand what I can offer them in return.
I know I will probably deal with people like this the rest of my life. They do not really understand what they are doing. If they did, it would save me the trouble and time of trying to build a true friendship. Fortunately, I have gotten lucky few times and found some a few real friends. Like all friendships, these are still works in progress, but those people value me for who I am -- someone who is willing to help as well as be helped.
People who started one-sided relationships with me do not stick around long. Why should they? They do not see what is in it for them. True friends know that I am more than my special needs. I have a lot to give. We support and help each other, so I know the friendship is real and will be around for a long time.