I did not always recognize that my life was influenced by my family and the deaf culture because I did not know any other way of life. Growing up in a deaf family, however, has had everything to do with realizing my heritage, being involved with a minority culture and influencing my decisions for the future.
Even though I am hearing, I share in deaf pride. I celebrate it because the three generations before me have accomplished much during a time when many though the deaf were not capable of excellence.
In the early part of this century people still considered deafness a handicap and a hindrance. Despite that sentiment, my deaf great-grandparents enjoyed full lives, being very involved in their community and traveling around the world to their hearts’ content. They have taught me never to accept limitations that others my place on me. My deaf grandparents were both teachers; my grandpa pursued photography and my grandmother left her paintings and literature books which are now throughout our home.
I know that what they were like has been important because I share some of their interests. In a few years I hope to travel to Europe to see the same sights as my great-grandparents did. My grandmother, whom I never knew, had a wonderful love of literature which my mother and I now share and discuss and I frequently refer to her notes found throughout the pages of her books. It is in these ways that my family is always with me.
I admire my mom, who is also deaf. She has never been stopped by a limitation and always reaches for new goals, which is difficult especially as a single mother. She has been involved with the Bicultural-Bilingual movement, in which she insists on the equal importance of stressing ASL and English in schools. She is an innovative and energetic teacher and has taught her students to be proud through a course on Deaf Culture. I am also a student of her in life and it is through her that I can understand the viewpoint of a deaf person. My family makes up a part of my identity and deafness defines one of the two cultures I was raised in. It has given me a sense of belonging and a secure base from which I can get the self-confidence to establish and realize goals.
Because I cherish my family and value being a part of deaf culture, I want to use my unique perspective and my talents to give back to the community. I will begin my second year at the University of Oregon and have begun classes needed to fulfill my English Literature major. My ultimate goal is to teach, another area of my life that has been influenced by my mother and grandparents. I never want to stop learning and I want to pass on what knowledge I have to others. I have decided to teach the deaf because I want to continue growing in and being part of the changing deaf world. I want to encourage my future deaf students to strive for the excellence which our people have obtained. I want my future deaf students to be proud of who they are and to be encouraged by the goals that have been accomplished for them.