I saw a short film a while back, from Australia where a now adult explained living before and after she received a CI, she explained it as before she was living in a black and white world, and now she had colors… This is how I feel… but about ASL, not my CI.
Before I learned ASL and was a part of the Deaf community, it felt as if I were living in an old foreign film, where nothing was clear, where the world around me was muffled, where I was alone, without friends, without true understanding. I was able to grasp a word here and there, I was able to understand some simple things, but never with fluency, never with the ability to really grasp it.
When I learned ASL, became a part of my Deaf community, my world suddenly had color, had vibrancy, had understanding, free flowing comprehension, exchanges of ideas, flow. It became a masterpiece, it became reality, and what a beautiful reality it was. It was something I had always dreamed of, no more struggling to understand, no more lip-reading people who had accents, no more having to ask professors and teachers to stop walking around the room and stand in one place, to pick a place, any place and keep that place for the semester, to not talk while writing on the board, and god forbid… have a teacher with a mustache… or BAD teeth… no, I would sit comfortably, without having to struggle, and watch my interpreters. I could have free flowing conversations with my professors, without having to ask them to repeat time and time again. I could ask them questions without wondering if I was pronouncing a word correctly, of if they would even understand what I was saying. I was free to soak in the message, without having to worry that if I looked away for just a second to make a note of something to remember or look up later I would be lost. I was finally in a place I was free to be me. I was finally surrounded by the world, the community, the freedom, the ability I had been searching for.
My CI didn’t give me that eye opening experience that learning ASL did, my CI didn’t allow me to freely understand no matter the circumstance, my CI didn’t give me the ability to understand the first time, and not just smile and nod. My CI gave me other things. If the world before ASL was an old black and white foreign film, the life after ASL was a modern day High Def Open Captioned movie. Life after my CI… when only using my CI, is like watching TV with Rabbit ears.
Some days, some circumstances, it’s good. The picture is mostly clear, the captions come a little late, but it isn’t that crisp picture of HD. Other days, you struggle to get reception, wondering how you will watch the show when the only time you can get a decent picture is if you are holding the ears, but the moment you let go… the quality goes away. I can understand if it is quiet, if there isn’t noise in the background, if I am expecting speech. I can understand best if I know the voice, if it’s not in a whisper, but also not yelling, crying, too slow, too fast, too old, too young, too foreign, too high, too low or anything else “funny”. Add any of those circumstances, and you are back to trying to adjust those rabbit ears, trying to get the right signal, trying to get clarity.
I live in a colorful world, one where ASL provides me color, provides me access, provides me clarity, and sometimes I have to adjust my ears, my rabbit ears so the hearing world can come in a little more clear… and yet other times, I ignore the hearing world and live in my world of color!! The one place I will NEVER go back to is that old foreign film, of black and white, of pain and fear.