Monday, July 07, 2008

An Educational Hijack *Part 2*

continued from Part 1 (here)

I realized just how much some people assumed they knew about "deaf" people one shocking day in college.
A professor pulled me aside and told my interpreter to tell me that if I needed assistance in the form of answers on exams, that he was willing to "accommodate" my d
isability in that fashion.
I felt the heat rise to my cheeks as I quickly stammered out a reply that I would do just fine taking the exams without his "help". I was mortified to think that my college degree could be cheapened so easily. Not every deaf person needs a handout.

Some might assume that I'd be an unknowingly negligent mother. Someone who smiles in oblivion as her children are crying/choking/breaking things - all sounds that don't penetrate her personal silence. Instead I am often lovingly scolded by my husband for being overly protective because my son is rarely out of my sight. Not every deaf person is automatically excluded from good parenting.You might also assume that I don't have any use for music. You'd be wrong.
Our home is often filled with the sounds of silly songs, Christian tunes, and Toby Keith.
We dance and clap along, the speakers barely louder than our laughter at Itty Bit's newest moves.

I danced for years with a local classical ballet company. I learned an important lesson... not everyone is born with rhythm. And as odd as it must have been, I was placed in lead positions with partners and worked my way up to demi-soloist. Not every deaf girl has to give up her childhood ballerina dreams.

In my college years, the state vocational department told me that I would receive no services because I was fully qualified to work in a position such as at a fast food restaurant. I had graduated with high honors in a large senior class - all while taking college level courses. I was stunned to realize that this was all that was expected of me to be considered "successful".

So I made my own way. Applying for a position in a state law enforcement agency and working my way up to a much-loved job that handles many millions in public dollars. Not every deaf person lacks ambition.

You might assume that I don't care to answer personal questions about my hearing loss. You'd be mistaken. I'd rather you know, so you and I can easily communicate. I'd like to know what your handicaps are. The things that make you feel less than or unable to accomplish big things. We all have them. And like bad dreams, they lose their potency when the lights come on and we talk about them.

All this to say - I'm still RACHEL. I love my family, horseback riding, cooking shows, and embarrassing my mother with my burping skills.
Each person you meet will be different. Some deaf people don't speak, don't write blogs, don't dance, don't work in finance. Most of those "don'ts" also apply to the majority of the hearing people I know.

Instead, the most common denominator of most deaf people I've found, is an inherent desire to communicate, to be understood, and to be appreciated for who they are. Doesn't that sound incredibly "normal"?

So next time you see someone, take a chance. Don't shy away. Your attempts to communicate could be rewarded with a lasting friendship, a new experience, and a shared understanding of someone different than yourself.


Stacy said...

Wow, what a great dialogue on your life. I can't imagine how hard it has been on you and how isolating it has been for you. It sounds like you did a great job in rising above your disability.

A friend of mine that I grew up with lost her sight by the time she was in her late teens. She went on to have a family and start her own business.

She definitely taught me that disabilities don't make you less ambitious. It just makes you enviable because you managed to succeed with so many obstacles in your way.

Stacy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing about your friend. I don't quite have the courage to do what she has, but it never fails to amaze me what people can accomplish once they get over their inner qualms.

I admit that I have found much more satisfaction and feeling of success in motherhood than in any of my other "achievements". Doesn't it have such a great way of prioritizing your life??? :)

Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

You go girl!
You pretty much summed up my life too. LOL... And another thing I hate is when I'm out in public, and someone speaks to me, I would say "Hold on, I'm deaf, please repeat what you said." and this person mumbles "I'm sorry." and walks away. What did I do to deserve this? All he/she have to do is speak clearer, instead of walking away. It's a huge insult when they do that. (SIGHS)

Sara said...

Thank you so much for sharing this letter. I just saw the comment you left on my blog. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to take the time to read my blog and share your encouragement. I sincerely appreciate it! Thank you again, for writing this letter on your blog. I really learned a lot and am inspired by it.

By hearing "silly songs" in your house are your referring to Veggie Tales? We are big fans in this house too. :)

God bless you and your family!

Ice Cream said...

Wow, I have been away from my blogs for far too long. This is fantastic and I can't wait to read all your other posts about deafness.

My kids and I took an ASL class last year and I loved it. I loved when they made this point: "Most people think of deaf persons as handicapped, but if you walk into a room full of deaf people you will see people laughing, telling jokes, being sarcastic, having animated conversations, and if you don't know their language you will be the "handicapped" one."

Jaime said...

I enjoyed reading that! Good for you. You have accomplished much and should be proud! :-) I like what you said about talking about your/our handicaps. We all have them. (I hate to be the center of attention because I either clam up or talk too much and say stupid things. :-))

I've enjoyed going through your past blog posts and "getting to know you".

Lindie said...

I tried to leave a comment here before but accidently closed it out early. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your Part 1 and 2 of this post. You are so right in that we all have our own handicaps. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I admire you so much.


Rachel said...

Thanks for the comments. I hesitated to write about my deafness because I wanted this to stay an upbeat and positive blog. I'm so glad readers didn't take it to be a "poor me" thing.
Some of these lessons were hard-learned for me. It took a lot of years to realize that everyone has some kind of struggle and we all want to be understood.

I'm enjoying everyone else's blogs!
Thanks for posting!

Pam D said...

You just left a comment on my I Heart Faces post, and I always like to "return the favor". Except, I can't really return what I cannot give back. Which would be the chance to read an AMAZING blog and meet an amazing young woman who is a fabulous parent, fabulous photographer, horse woman (oh yeah... I love the smell of manure in the morning... ) and it just goes on and on. And this post? Is just cool. It applies across the board to ANYONE who is different, and how we all just need to work at getting along. The Golden Rule in a nutshell...
I shall become another follower.. no happy dance required, I promise. It's very nice to meet you, Rachel; I'm Pam, and I think we could be friends!

Kelly said...

I know that I am a few years behind on this post, but I was really wondering how you lost your hearing, but I didn't want to be rude and ask.

When you mentioned being deaf in the first blog that I read I thought you were just saying that to get rid of the people on you porch, I didn't know you were serious (not that being deaf is something to kid around about). I have always tried to learn sign language, just enough to communicate if ever need be, for some reason it has always interested me. Several years ago I was in a toy store looking for something and a girl asked if she could help. Of course when I was talking I was pointing and looking so she asked me to write it down because she is deaf. I tried to make sure after that I was looking at her when I was talking, and signed thank you when I left. The thing that amazed me was that she spoke as clearly as I do, not like the girl from TV, or the way you assume that deaf people talk, but crystal clear. Actually she spoke clearer than I do, I speak with a strong southern drawl :).

With you I am amazed that you were so great at dance, I guess because as a dancer myself I don't know how I could do it without hearing the music. It's amazing that you did, and that you didn't just give up that dream. So many people give up on things for a lesser reason.

All of this to say that I think you are amazing, and Itty Bit is very lucky to have you as a mom.

By the way, I'm Kelly x-dance teacher (I love tap the most), I love horses and hope to buy one (four actually) next summer, I'm a mom, wife, and working on my accounting degree. It's nice to meet you; I hope we can be friends.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving back-lurking on your blog, Rachel! :) It's crazy, but when I met you in school, I never thought, "Oh the deaf girl." I just thought you were awesome... and TALKED fast!!! LOL. All while flapping your hands around in gestures I wanted to learn. I do recall you teaching me some naughty signs, missy. LOL. :)

One thing I recall most, though, your huge personality! It was you against the world... you were on a mission and you weren't letting anyone/anything slow you down! I was so overwhelmed, even in elementary school, how you knew your path. Not many people, even now at 30+, can say that.

You have always been an inspiration and someone I look up to. But it's weird how friendships change. I wish we would have remained close, but I'm glad that we can still smile those awkward smiles when we run into each other in ice cream shops and introduce our families. :)

I have to say, too, that your mom and you are so alike. Having to be an advocate for my son now, I'm so thankful for having met your mother so long ago. You are the strong mother you are because of her. And so will your son be because of you.

You still amaze me. :)

<3 Mandy

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