In my silent past, I have been surrounded by people who can hear water dripping, dogs whining, and bacon cooking without a second thought. My sad reality of it all came to full fruition that no one in my repertoire of acquaintances is able to understand that to me, those sounds just simply did not exist. I felt like I was the lone poodle watching the world absorb sounds while I was pathologically incapable of doing so. I can’t tell you how I longed to talk to someone that knows what it is like to wake up to the sun, lay down to the moon and all the minutes in between missing what we miss. For a deaf chick that has a habit of running her mouth has grown up in what some people have called the “hearing world,” I never found a hearing person who could relate to me and my quirky ways of getting through the day. I have been called weird countless of times and I acknowledge that since I eat pizza with a fork, put potato chips on my hoagies, and I swallow gum. Ironically, I have almost NO experience with the “deaf world” and what little experience I did have I was shunned. When deaf people can talk, there seems to be a common theme that people like me are deaf to the “hearing world,” and hearing to the “deaf world.” Where do we fit in? We don’t. Personally, I feel that there is no such a thing as a “hearing world” and a “deaf world” because it implies that the world is divided by a common denominator, which is a contradiction unto itself. Last time I checked, we all walk on the same terra firma, witness the same solar rotation, and feel the same splash of rain on our face. I don’t define the world I live in as a white or black world, or a Christian or Jewish world, or a Wal-Mart or Target world, so why would I lend to reason that a hearing and deaf world exist? I feel the world is my oyster and I intend to crack it open. I just needed to meet other people that have cracked theirs and I did just that. On November 26, 2007, I entered a classroom surrounded by familiar lily-white walls with one purpose to meet Michael Chorost and Josh Swiller who conducted a reading of their respective books, Rebuilt and The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and
As I was waiting patiently for the date of my cochlear implant surgery, I picked up Rebuilt and could not put it down. His book was populated with such witty descriptions and technical aspirations about deafness that truly made it a pleasure to read. He offered motivational support and in a sense virtually patted me on the head to be patient. On December 17, he underwent another successful surgery to receive a second cochlear implant after Let Them Hear Foundation persuaded
When Michael started the reading, he clearly demonstrated the host in himself. His ease and elocution with public speaking is astounding. As he guided the audience through the moment that he suddenly lost his hearing, his tone acquired a sense of ardent staidness. At first, he thought it was the battery because when that goes, you immediately feel disconnected, but usually another battery will fix you right up. A proper metaphor is radio playing a song and it abruptly stops. In Michael case, no battery in the world seemed to work, neither one of his aids worked, and finally neither one of his ears worked. He was stripped of what precious hearing he had in a matter of hours. I can relate to this dreadful moment as I went in an operating room hearing fine, woke up hearing nothing but my own heart beat that started a flood of rampant emotions that he captured flawlessly in his book. I was thoroughly impressed by the fact he can hear questions and respond to them, one by one, without hesitation his answers flowed in a dignified manner. It is one thing to see words forged one character at a time bound in a book but when there was a time I thought I would never hear anyone speak again, it was truly a memorable experience to be hearing him that day.
Allow me to introduce Josh Swiller, a native New Yorker who has been deaf since he was four. He is barely over thirty and already has a glossary of accomplishments and prodigious experiences. He attended an Ivy League college and went to
Until that night, I have never spoken to him but Josh began his reading by cracking a few jokes, which was the appetizer of his jovial personality. He comes from a large family where he and another brother were deaf. He injected knee-slapping banters about growing up with five brothers all throughout the reading. The more he talked, the more I could see that his candor is completely uninhibited, what you see is what you get. Just like his book, Josh articulately guided us on a compelling journey of courage, friendship and most of all self-discovery. The first word that comes to mind is brave. He embodied courage in every sense of the word. To be willing to have your passport stamped to penury in
To be able to someone talk to someone who understands this silent path with all the trials and tribulations that life throws at us was the greatest moment I experienced this year.
Gentleman, for that I thank you.