Saturday, November 27, 2010

Clashing Cultures

Growing up in two worlds, I had never really thought much about it – the world being full of sound. As I watch my roommates talk to their family and friends on the phone with ease, I am jealous. Envious of the fact that they are able to easily communicate in so many situations. On Wednesday nights, we tend to go to the local bar, Humphrey’s, for Pennies night. The crazy, chaotic atmosphere provides good times for all, but it is simply another challenge I have to get through. Even though I always have a good time, I am rarely at ease with myself. Every waking second, I am working hard to keep up with the hearing world. There is no sense of true belonging. When I am with my hearing friends, I often think about how the situation would be so different if everyone was deaf and signed. When I am with my deaf friends, I wonder how my hearing friends are and desire to be with them as well. It truly is remarkable, the fact that I can easily cross between the two worlds. But it is lonesome most of the time.

Although I have always interacted with hearing people, I did not live with one until my freshman year of college. It was quite the experience at first. I had anticipated frustrations, challenges and lots of awkward moments. Needless to say, it was not what I had expected. Haley and I lived with mutual respect and understanding. Communication was generally very easy and superficial. My sophomore roommate, Caroline was a bit different. Even though we are great friends, living with her was not quite what I had expected. I think this time, it had to do with the living environment. We had a wall that split our room into two. She had her space and I had mine. And we lived in the dorms. So it wasn’t necessarily living together. We also had different circles of friends.

This year is the year that has really put things into perspective. Hearing people are so fascinating! My roommates, Mary Beth and Sarah both are huge fans of music and in particular, Taylor Swift. They play music as much as they can, especially when cooking or eating or pretty much anytime they’re in the apartment. Sometimes I feel a bit left out watching them belt out the words to the song. Living with two hearing people certainly is different than living with one hearing person. The conversations are a bit faster paced but lively. They have unknowingly made me a better listener. As they converse, I work hard to read their lips and listen. Externally, it may seem that I am listening as intently as I always have, but internally, I struggle. It is not their fault; it’s just the way things are.

I’ll admit that I was nervous about living with them. I realize that I require a bit more attention and help than the average roommate. Initially, I did not want to test their patience, see how much of my deafness they could handle. Fortunately, I was being ridiculous. My worries and fears diminished the second I felt their warm welcome.

Living with a deaf family has its advantages, staying up late and making as much noise possible are two of the great advantages. Mary Beth and I had a bit of a squabble about the annoying things we did. I would close the door a bit too loudly in the morning when I would go off to class and she would turn on the bathroom light when I was headed to bed. So far, these mini issues have been fixed.

Funny story – Apparently, I brush my teeth in a very weird way. I brush my teeth in a certain way which doesn’t seem normal. According to my roommates, it sounds very circular and slow, much unlike theirs. It was then when I realized that I had learned things in a completely different way. Most children learn certain things such as teeth brushing through sound and model it as they heard it whereas I did not.

These lovely ladies have changed my life so much over such a short period of time. I owe them much gratitude. I cannot believe a semester has already flown by. Each day I spend with them, I feel incredibly lucky. Recently, I noticed Sarah becoming more conscious of how to make things easier for me in terms of communication. We were walking back from the BSC with another friend and he was telling a story. Sarah walked in between me and him, suddenly, she walked over to the other side of our friend because she knew it would make it easier for me to lip read Geoff. While that moment may seem like a typical thing to her, it meant the world to me. That single act of kindness showed me the trueness of our friendship. Mary Beth has always been such a great friend of mine, but it seems that living with her has strengthened that bond. Both Mary Beth and Sarah have been learning sign language throughout the semester and it has been so much fun signing with them. When we go out with multiple friends and I get lost in the craziness of things, I know I can look over to one of them and they would rescue me. For that, I am forever grateful. I will always hold them dear to my heart, no matter what happens in the future. They truly are amazing, beautiful, and wonderfully weird women. I am proud to call them my roommates and great friends.

In the words of Winnie the Pooh “If you live to be 100, I hope I live 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.”

1 comment:

  1. So so glad you found such loyal and deep friendships with your roommates. I have been so blessed to have one of my own- Carolyn Jones (she came to the championship game in Taipei). :)