Summer is coming. Actually, winter is coming, but possibilities for summer are coming. I'm almost certain I'll be at ASEE (big engineering education research conference in Indianapolis for a week in mid-June, assuming my papers get accepted; I know I'll be in Boston for research and friends for at least a week in mid-May, and seeing yet more friends along the roadtrip. Matt and Bonnie will have a pet Mel who will get very excited by the Beer Church; I also want to see Dan and Becky, David and Kelcy, Howard and Heidi... friends, yay! Beyond that? Exploring options, not making commitments.
I thought this summer might be good for hiking the Camino, something I've wanted to do for a while. I'm considering mountain-biking it (or rather, "folding bike pretending to be mountain bike"-ing it) between my stint in Boston and the conference in Indy, but I'm getting more and more cues that this summer may not be my Camino summer. Scheduling looks increasingly absurd, especially if I want to really live out my apprentice with Indiana Voices of Women and stay close enough to home to do teaching prep for next year's circle this summer. Also, flights to Europe in the summer are pricey, and I could use that budget to do so many other things, like...
Hacking with friends. The Erics (Gallimore and VanWyk -- my undergrad suitemates and the electrical engineering geniuses of our batch) and I talked after Kristen's wedding about how awful electronics books were for teaching you to make things. There are some good books for the basics (which I've got down) and some good books for the theory (which I pick up easily), but nothing that launches you past that towards, say, Bob Pease. I quietly expressed my sadness at missing out on the pragmatic rules-of-thumb because I can't simultaneously lipread the engineer beside me and look at the circuit board they're talking about. There's a very real "Deaf Mel Cannot Access This World" ceiling for hardware -- which I prefer to software, and miss dearly. But I can navigate the software engineering world entirely in text chat, so I am much more skilled in that domain.
In any case, I said, I really just wanted to hack on electronic things in the presence of people who'd be willing to answer stupid questions and let me ask stupid questions about their own ongoing projects (which are so far beyond me that I don't even know how to think about them; I need to see the big messy context and muddle around lost asking stupid questions to get any better). And the Erics, with great enthusiasm, said basically: ZOMG DO THAT YES COME HACK WITH US AND THEN WRITE A BOOK ON ALL THOSE THINGS THAT ARE NOT WRITTEN DOWN PLEASE PLEASE. Which... honestly, I'd love. They know how I work, how I think, what I can do, that I need subtitles and lipreading and that my questions often come from "I can't hear, and therefore have fascinating gaps in my knowledge!" rather than "I have no electronics experience" or "I'm dumb." (Case in point: multimeters beep for connectivity testing. Most people learn this within 5 minutes of touching their first multimeter. I found out, in a somewhat embarrassing fashion, after using high-end multimeters for years.) So there's that, and a lot of people in Boston who I'd love to see, and who'd love to see me, and who I'd like to... honestly, just be around. Not so packed in that all I can do is schedule in 2 hours for an isolated dinner. Really be around, day after day, for a few weeks. A month, even.
Then there's the possibility of chillin' in NYC doing more work with Hacker School, and possibly doing some artistic training on the side to take advantage of, y'know, being in Manhattan. Things like creating a solo show, or dance classes, or... something that will let me live full-time in the hacker space, but have a thread of the performing arts along the side, because...
I'm feeling more and more compelled to write and draw, to get up, speak, and dance. To hone my skills (and muscles, and habits of discipline) so I can do this well. Writing workshops? Acting workshops? Dancing workshops? I learned this week (thanks, Stacey Parker Joyce!) that sometimes they are accessible to a deaf Mel with little performance background -- a deaf Mel who has very little performance background because she's gone her whole life worrying that they aren't accessible to deaf Mel, and thus never started until grad school.
I can make tons of excuses about my motivations for that: oh, I want to communicate my research clearly, want to be really damn good at writing papers and then books, experimenting with output formats like dance and theatre for communicating research, engineering, tech, hacker stuff -- and that's all true. But the real driving force, the story kicking out inside me waiting to form and be born, is the story of silence, living with silence, living in silence, this not-being-able-to-hear that I've spent so long running from and now am rediscovering in painful, awe-struck amazement how much it wraps around, threads into, all my life -- has always been the air I breathe, how many ways I've tried to hold my breath for so long. And I would like to bring that story into the world with mastery someday, which means many small awkward births along the way while I obtain that mastery.
And I am going to publish other books first, dammit because I want to have something good out there that's not about hearing, even if I know that I just want to prove that I'm not just my audiogram, even if I know that this is very silly and will kind of not work anyway and I will probably end up being known more as That Deaf Woman Who Wrote This Thing About Not Hearing Stuff instead of Mel, The Freaking Excellent Researcher/Teacher of Engineering Education... just like Sheryl Sandberg is now The Woman Who Talked About Feminism instead of, I dunno, the other dozens of her jaw-dropping accomplishments. But I digress. Summer.
There are other options, other possibilities. Research collaborations, professional opportunities, classes I could take, things I could learn, the usual. Tons of options. But I'm keeping this in mind above all else: I want the sense of this summer to be just packed... with laziness. Quiet time in empty space just being there with family, old friends. Unhurried, no-deliverables, relaxed. Playing with wonderful ideas alongside wonderful people. Sleeping, breathing. Not running madly from one plane ride to the next; stopping and starting when I want to. Empty days, long afternoons, an epic van ride as the sun comes up, cool water, satisfying sweat.
So... summer. And with that, I pull back to the present, and curl into the fuzzy blanket from my mom, because it's winter coming now.