I've been blogging a lot about deafness-related topics lately, and I'm not sure how comfortable I am with that balance, though I seem to want or need to write about it, so I'm leaving this in my awareness and not backing away or holding things back just because I think I "should" be writing about other things more (I write about other things, and when those occupy more of my mind, they'll also occupy more of my writing.).
Also, there have been so many wonderful blog comments lately that I want so much to sit down and respond to -- I'm hoping to get to them on the plane on the way to Seattle this week. Thanks to people who've written; it means a lot. And I have bugs to correct in posts on hearing aids and R as well (thanks, Grant and Jerzy), and more notes on hearing aids to catch up with, and... wow. Wow.
My posts have been a bit light lately, as I've been doing a lot of non-blog writing, some of it grad-school-related, some of it getting through that email backlog of mine (wheeee). I decided that I wanted to share this response to someone looking for stories of "successful deaf people." Which, for the record, I think is a totally cool project -- I just have no idea how I actually want to respond to it. (So that's how I responded.) Please don't let this stop or discourage you from writing to me about something hearing-related; I've been greatly relishing the opportunity to figure out this stuff more, overwhelming though it may be at times. But that just means I'm watchful about taking occasional breathers as I need them. That's all.
Anyway, here goes.
I'm actually not sure how to respond to your email -- and please don't take this as a sign that you've offended, and I hope I'm not being insulting here myself. It's mostly that this isn't something I've given much thought to before; "successful deaf person" isn't something I really consider myself, not because I disagree with any of the adjectives, but because that's not a salient piece of my identity. I'm a teacher, a writer, a hacker, and a myriad of other things, and my hearing is merely an attribute that affects the way I interact physically with the world -- like my height, or the span of my fingers. My hearing is normal to me, and by far not the strongest of what I'd call my descriptive attributes.
I lost my hearing at the age of 2, so this has always been my world. And I unconsciously developed such good coping mechanisms that nobody noticed my deafness until I was about to enter kindergarten. It's an identity-piece I've never really claimed, because it didn't seem to affect what I could do; I've always just pursued the things I liked, found ways to do them, and feel kind of weird about the concept of "struggling with hearing loss" -- to me, that feels like saying that I "struggle with being 5'8"" or that I "struggle with double-jointed elbows and hips with a slightly less than normal range of motion" (because of the way my skeleton is built) or that "I struggle with loose tendons in my left ankle." Sure, they affect the dance moves I can do to some extent -- but everyone's body has individual limits that affect theirs; smaller girls who can do high lifts can't jump as high as I do, nor can they support the larger partners that I can, and I work on strengthening my left ankle, and I work on powerful kicks rather than being able to put my foot behind my ear. Other dancers are larger, others smaller, others have more flexible hips, less flexible backs, sensitive hamstrings. And if I build my upper body and core strength, I'll be able to do a handstand someday, just like I'll be fluent in German someday if I'm persistent and smart about working at it.
I guess another thing I'm saying, in part, is that I feel uncomfortable labeling myself as "deaf" to some degree, because I like to be known on the basis of my accomplishments rather than what my cochlea can or can't do. I'm a decent but ultimately mediocre piano player; were it not for my hearing, nobody would be impressed by my abilities, and I do mind that. There's no reason why my performance or my end results ought to be held to a different standard because of my age, race, gender, sexuality, disability, or anything else. So I'm an engineer who happens to be an auditory low-pass filter, and that's... it. I wear hearing aids sometimes, and I wear neon blue and yellow running shoes sometimes, and I wear a big thick black jacket that makes me look like a marshmallow man when the Midwest winters get cold.
I'm not sure quite where this sort of perspective fits into the project you're trying to do; you seem to have made deafness, coping with deafness, helping others with it, and advocacy for the deaf a large and important piece of your identity, which is wonderful. It's not a (visibly) large part of mine. And I find that to be a fascinating contrast. It's something I'd certainly welcome talking (or writing) with you more about; but I don't think I can, at this very moment, participate in the project by simply answering these questions and saying "ok, go!" -- my hearing is a far more rich and complex situation for me than that, and I'd participate in things that allow and support that sort of depth of exploration, as this notion of identifying with deafness is also new and shifting territory for me.
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.