Some things that vaguely swim to the forefront of my consciousness once in a while, and that I'm keeping my eyes open on in case I find a way to deal with them.

First, my "deaf accent." I know it exists, even if I can't hear it. It makes my voice very recognizable and slightly puzzling to folks who at first can't figure out what accent it is. I'm not ashamed of it and I don't want to pretend to be somebody I'm not, but I want to be able to recognize, understand, and control it so I can reassure myself that the way I sound won't get in the way of what I'm saying. Someday, I tell myself, I will go see a speech therapist. Someday when I can afford one.

The habits I've picked up that make me look hearing. I do them by reflex and not to deceive, but they're still vestigial in some way. I'll laugh when I'm in a crowd that's laughing even if I don't get the joke. I purse my lips and pretend to whistle when I'm dancing around the kitchen cooking, although this is absurd since I can neither whistle nor hear whistles. Nodding in agreement to complaints about crying babies, ringing phones, or middle-school flute practices in the next room that I can't hear. Saying "beep!" at the same time the microwave chimes its "I'm done!" sound, even though I've never heard a beep come from a microwave. Funny, the things a kid picks up. They've got no apparent purpose other than being what everyone else does.

Finally, I don't want to force everyone to adapt to my habits, but I don't want to keep asking my mom, my roommates, my aunt, or random strangers I happen to be next to on the street to tell me what my voicemail messages say. So I'm waiting a week to make sure the decision is sane, but this is what my new voicemail message is going to be.

You've reached the phone of Mel Chua. Please do not leave a message after the beep unless you have to, because it's hard for me to hear them so I may not be able to get back to you. If you could do me a favor instead and text message this number or send an email to voicemail at mel chua dot com, I'll get back to you right away. Thanks for understanding, and remember - please don't leave a message after the beep!