I'm at the point where I wear my hearing aids every day, pretty much all day, doing just about everything. I'm at the point, in fact, that when I step outside without them, things sound wrong. Muffled. Muted. Dead. As if I were deaf. I'm still in the process of grudgingly accepting that sort of thing.

Assistance and I are still eyeing each other in a wary truce. I think my hearing aids are remarkable, and I know they augment my communication abilities significantly, but still feel weird about having them. Part of me wishes I could just use the "try harder" technique to get the same effects, even if I know (from 20+ years of experience now) how poorly that works. Part of me is grateful to Voc Rehab for paying for them; part of me wishes I had been able to afford them on my own. Part of me knows it's still my mind and my determination and my intelligence doing all the work; part of me still feels like having hearing aids is "cheating," not quite doing it on my own.

("But you wear glasses," Sebastian pointed out in response to my ranting. "I... but... that's different," I sputtered, frustrated at the exposure of my own illogic. He is right, though.)

If hearing aids still feel a little weird, CART feels even weirder, because the Assistive Services there involve another person. Generally speaking, CART has been working well for R class (obviously) and also for Design (you have no idea how wonderful it feels to follow a large group discussion, even somewhat lossily and with a lag), but it's less optimal for Hearing Aids II; the constant flood of technical terminology comes out garbled. Since it's a straight-up lecture, if I get the professor, I get everything. Dr. Alexander's pretty good about making sure I can lipread him, and I won't need to explain an FM unit to him -- in fact, he's one of the people who recommended that specific technology to me -- so I'll bring my remote mic to class next Wednesday and see if my hearing aids themselves can help a bit more.

Robin also suggested that I ask for accessibility-fu during our department's weekly seminar, which I routinely attend and then zone out for, since I often barely understand what's being said. That is something that hadn't occurred to me before ("but... it's not a class!"). And I know I should; this seminar is how my classmates are learning about the cutting-edge research in our field, the stuff that isn't even published yet. But I'm already doing so much, asking for so much -- or at least I feel like I am. Half the DRC (disability resource center) knows me by now; I get the feeling I'm one of their resident overachievers, and it's got to be tough to keep up with me. (My hearing classmates often say they get tired just watching me work.) If I do more, and I ask for accessibility help with what I do, I'm also asking for more resources than the average person, and that... seems selfish and unfair.

For some reason, I do not -- can not -- yet bring myself to trust in the abundance of this system.

I have been thinking about learning more ASL so I can use interpreters as well; they're easier to find and far more numerous than CART providers, though I suspect I'll always prefer the latter because written American English is the closest thing I have to a native language. I am embarrassed to ask for an interpreter without being fluent in ASL myself; I feel like such a... poser, a such a fake deaf person, such a hearing person, when I talk to them by voicing, when I read their lips in close-up one-on-one convos and listen to their voices instead of watching their hands.

My ASL abilities are weirdly shaped to the specific environment they were developed in, which was "lone deaf kid in mainstream classroom, already oral." I've mostly had ASL as a translation of a simultaneous audio stream, not as a standalone language in its own right -- and I have rarely had to sign to anyone; I talk. So I usually can't understand just an oral lecture, and I usually can't understand just an ASL interpreter -- but if I see someone using ASL and simultaneously hear the audio for what they're signing, the two incomprehensible information streams somehow click into a single one that makes perfect sense. It's almost as if the ASL gives me enough contextual data to nudge my auditory Markov model past the critical comprehension point.

And I cannot, cannot sign fluidly back; I'm Tarzan-like and grammarless. ME NAME MEL, HARD-OF-HEARING-I. Even if I have started calling myself "deaf" in text and when talking with hearing people, I somehow can't bring myself to tell a signing person that I'm anything other than "hard of hearing" because I'm not engaged in Deaf culture and feel like such an awkward fake saying I'm deaf or Deaf (and yes, the capitalization makes a difference; capital-D indicates an entire rich, gorgeous, wonderful culture that I'm an outsider to). It's similar to why I'll say "I'm Chinese" as a shorthand to non-Chinese people, but will append "-American" when speaking with another Chinese person, because they're more of a real Chinese person than I am; I don't feel like I have the right to use that word.

HOW YOU? FINE THANK-YOU. [frantic scrabbling with hands going backwards in an attempt to indicate I used to have an] INTERPRETER, BUT FORGET SIGN LANGUAGE, SORRY.

Sorry, sorry. I apologize for the inconvenience of my existence. Sorry. ("Stop apologizing for everything!" Sebastian frequently reminds me. "Sorry!" I often reflexively reply.) I work overtime to compensate for my shortcomings, then work double-overtime to try to compensate everyone else for the trouble they take to deal with me -- it's a form of proving-myself, of proving that any trouble you go through to accommodate me will be repaid a hundredfold.

I want to find a good opportunity to learn more ASL, to shore up some of the rudimentary gaps in my knowledge. Something on the order of a week of intensive 1-on-1 (a couple hours a day for 5 days, maybe). I know I don't have the bandwidth to do that this semester, but maybe over the spring? Maybe I can ask my old interpreters if they know anyone who'd be willing to do a bootcamp with someone who hypothetically "should" know the language, and vaguely sort-of does, but functionally doesn't?

And I will keep on wrestling with this, I think, for quite a while. Accessibility scares me, because I know how little of the world actually has it. If I travel to another country, go to a public event, step outside unplanned into the normal world -- none of it's there. Almost always. (If it is, it's by freak accident.) If I had to pick, I would rather have a big, big world I'm free to move around in than a world where everything is easy to access.

And I guess I do have to pick, and have had to pick, every day I step out into the world and decide to make a go of it. And that's what I choose. But my options are changing, so my choices are changing too.