IT WAS 7.37pm. I knew exactly what the time was because I looked at my watch every 10 seconds. I didn’t know that locating the apartment keys that was hidden somewhere inside my three-kilogram bag with a laptop, wallet, and a bunch of other notebooks and stuffs were so distressing. My feet were moving slower with each step; my right shoulder sore; my eyes were shutting down pretty soon. “The weather forecast lied,” I thought to myself. It was not cloudy; it was windy. It was not 18 degree; it felt like 5.
After minutes of desperate trials, with a sigh of relief I finally managed to open the door lock. I dropped my bags, put the keys on the table, and quickly brewed some hot water. Taking off my jacket, I could still feel the coldness of life, piercing through my bones. Then I saw my older sister, walking out of her bedroom, smiling, and asking what’s for dinner today. Then I realised – I was home.
If people were asked about what they want to accomplish in their lives, some cliché answers were to be successful, to be happy, and to achieve their dreams. Yet I feel there is another reason underlying all these answers. They all want to feel belong.
However, most of us will eventually venture that part of life called exclusion. Our friends in school who we trust completely in the end pick up someone else to be their group partners. Our community who we thought are supportive turns out to be talking about us behind their backs. It’s not a new story, yet we know how it feels like not to belong. And we try everything that we could to fight the rejection.
“My discomfort at that briefest of disclosures was a critical landmark on that most personal of journeys: to find out one’s place in the world,” said Michael Uniacke. Being a Deaf person, growing up in a Deaf community, he too, has gone through that journey called rejection, identity crisis, and yes, belonging.
But what happens, if you are a part of two worlds?
I was wondering on the fate of a young girl, only 18, on her first day of uni. She was holding a map of the university, and started to ask around for directions. It was a busy afternoon, with hundreds of new students walking past, and she had those little hearing aids attached to her ears. She had difficulty hearing, yet she did not know how to do signing either.
90% of deaf people are actually born in hearing families. As hearing parents, you would like your child, or that young girl, to be immersed in your own comfort zone. She ended growing up in a protected environment where the parents could control all the variables. But it was time for her to spread her wings, and she didn’t know how to make that first stroke.
Even with the help of hearing aids, normal hearing was beyond her reach, and she couldn’t communicate to her peers. She didn’t want to ask them to repeat themselves for the fifth time. She was Deaf, in a hearing world, and at the age of 18, she was at the crossroad, wondering where to go.
A sense of belonging, I guess, is a journey where all of us need to venture. Some would find it easier than others, yet it may be a grave task for those living in two worlds. You may not want to be attached, or already comfortable of being an individualist. Yet in the end we all crave for that comfort and close relationships with other people.
We are craving, to find a place called home.
“Despite their own children being deaf, they did not routinely witness the lives of other deaf people and nor did they seek out, either for themselves or for their children, documented stories, fiction or biographical, of deaf people’s lives. They continued to rely on the accidental brush with a deaf adult, their children’s school environment, and conversations with other parents as their main sources of guidance, knowledge and hopes about their deaf child’s prospects. They were startled when I said, “Me neither. I don’t routinely encounter deaf people. I don’t know much about deafness either.” Just because I was born deaf and was immersed as a little girl in five years of oral deaf education, this does not give me a passport into understanding deafness in general or my deaf self in particular. On being transplanted from the deaf school to a regular school as an eight-year old girl in grade three, I was not thereafter exposed to the intimacies of deaf culture or the lessons of deaf history. I am only now exploring the implications of this absence of other deaf people’s stories from my life.”
Donna M McDonald, excerpt from “Not Silent, Invisible“