December 31, 2018 at 4:44 PM (Goals, History, Self-Reflection) (, , )


Every new year, I feel inspired to write.

When I do manage to write, it’s once, and I don’t follow through. I guess that’s alright, I mean there aren’t too many who are hankering to see what I’m writing about this year. Writing is for me, for my personal outlet, a way to write my thoughts, to figure out what’s going on inside my head. Most of the time my writing is by hand in a journal, and that’s enough. It’s for me, after all.

This year, I guess will be a way to share with those who want to know, what has been going on in my world for the past little while.

The last time I wrote a New Year’s post, was shortly after my first semester in a rather intensive program in college. You see, I had tried going to college at the young age of 19 and while I loved the experience, the friends I made, the courses related to my major, I didn’t have the self-discipline to focus on the requisite courses that were not so much fun. Child psychology, English, Science. These weren’t fun for me at that time, but it wasn’t my dime so I didn’t feel bad when I withdrew from them, or failed out of them. At least not until my father saw my course grades, at which point he withdrew financial support for me pursuing a college education. One semester, that was all the effort I gave before I decided a college degree wasn’t something I needed. It wasn’t, for a very long time. I was successful in every job I pursued, I was able to make a living, pay my bills, feed myself, but deep down I was not satisfied. It wasn’t until I met someone and started learning about sign language interpreting, that I found a passion, something I wanted to chase.

When I was a child, I loved to read – I still do, actually – but I was reading all types of books. Florence Nightingale made me want to become a nurse, Anne of Green Gables made me want to teach, and find my soulmate, and Helen Keller opened my eyes to a world without sound and without sight, and gave me such fascination with learning more about the beautiful language of sign. Her book had a printed page with the letters of the alphabet, with which I taught myself how to fingerspell. How to form words with letters using only a hand. I’m sure I had my letters inaccurate, my H turned the wrong way, my C turned sideways, my K angled incorrectly, but I was so proud of myself for learning something new. This stayed with me my entire life.

At the age of 19, a teen without a driver’s license, living in a very tiny country neighborhood, with little to do and no friends, I watched soap operas. One of my favorites, Days of Our Lives, had a storyline where one of my favorite characters lost her hearing in an explosion. This led into a deaf storyline where her sister taught her sign language. This was an age of VCR recording, a way for me to capture every single exciting moment! I copied everything they did until I felt like I ‘knew’ sign language. I bought myself a book, the Joy of Signing, and studied every page like it was gospel. I copied every sign, every hand motion, as best I could without seeing it in action. Sadly, this was the extent of my exposure to sign language. I’d never met a deaf individual, I had no idea there was much more to it than the motion of the hands to match the words I hear.

In 1996, I found myself living in Las Vegas. I was 28 years old and living on a friend’s couch. I had two jobs, one of which was at a Cinnabon at Meadows Mall, a job that I owed to the friend whose couch I slept on. There I met a woman who was deaf. No, she was Deaf, meaning she was culturally Deaf, she used sign language, she grew up with this as her native language. (The difference between Deaf and deaf will take much more time to explain so I’ll save it for another day) Oh I was thrilled! I could still fingerspell! I remembered a handful of signs that I taught myself almost 10 years previously, and I desperately wanted to learn more. Oh, she was so patient, she never got annoyed with me asking how to sign this or that, with my awkward fingerspelling, with my excitement at learning her language.

We worked together for a little over a year. I went from being a part time baker, to being a shift supervisor, to being the assistant manager, and finally the store manager. I loved working in a bakery, and I loved working with my co-workers. When I moved on from that job, I lost touch with the friends I had made, and without consistent use, I lost most of the sign language that I had learned while working there. The passion for it never left me, though, I always had a love for the language and hopes of learning more and being able to use it in my life somehow.

That brings me to a day when I was working at a shelter, and I met the wife of a co-worker who is a sign language interpreter. We became good friends and she encouraged me to follow my passion for sign language, helped me figure out how to go about enrolling in courses and helping me to find my path. That is how, in 2014, I found myself enrolled in beginner sign language classes at Lansing Community College. In 2015, I had learned enough, and was able to take an assessment to get me into an Interpreter Training Program, which I learned, is one of the top in the nation for Sign Language Interpreters. This new venture turned my world upside down in some great ways and some not so great ways. I met so many people, both positive and negative influences in my life, and each of them I owe something to. Some for their guidance and encouragement, and others for showing me their own true colors and teaching me what I do not want in my life, what kind of person I do not wish to become.

Now, it is the end of 2018, and this year I started working my very first job as a Sign Language interpreter, having gotten my EIPA (Educational Interpreter Proficiency Assessment) score high enough to allow me to work. Last year, I graduated from LCC’s Interpreter program with my Associate of Applied Arts degree, and this year I completed my Bachelor of Applied Science degree, majoring in Sign Language interpreting. That college degree I had given up on, I attained, a mere 31 years after having given up after my first semester of college. I now hold two certifications, an educational certification and Michigan state certification in sign language interpreting. I am working full time as an educational interpreter in a local high school, and I work part time interpreting in a Church setting. I’m still figuring out what my long-term plans are, but I know it will involve interpreting, and remaining immersed in the community I serve. This has been an amazing year, with so many ups, and a few downs, but at this time I remain focused on the positive in my world, and on the goals I have for my career.

I wish each of you a prosperous new year, full of blessings and joy.

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