Category Archives: Uncategorized

Computer Fiasco

Finishing strong is something that has been echoing around in my ears the last few weeks. Though it may not seem like it, finishing well is not reliant on a strong work ethic or a fistful of assignments at the close of the semester that will keep you busy and engaged. Finishing out the fraying, unraveling end of the last semester of all the semesters, alone, is cause for laughing in the face of someone that shallowly tells you “Finish strong.”

When my laptop’s screen dropped from white to complete black, as I was putting the finishing edits on a paper I had started early, my thought process kicked in like a lacrosse ball into an eroding rope net: My life is over, I am going to die.

I got real lucky with how easy Apple customer service was to navigate – but in the end, there was no cure, and in order to wake my computer up from the sleep that had arbitrarily taken its consciousness, I had to allow the computer-savvy people to wipe the hard drive – meaning all my photos, files, essays, ideas, downloads – they are now lost in the void of a $1,000 machine that decided to drop out of the sky of life and die suddenly.

Despite how despairing that sounds, it illuminated much about the reality of life. This reality has made me feel like my friends think I’m crazy for reflecting on it. It has made me churn out the connotations and deepest recesses of the word morbid. And this is what I have come to: Despite the fact that 4 years of work and brain function and thoughts are gone, life still works the same way. If I had actually died last week, wouldn’t the result still be the same? All that data would have been made obsolete anyways.

The point is, this ought not to depress. I am not sad – at least currently – about the way life and death works. I have been forced to think about death in depth in the past, and I have found some peace with it. Death really is a part of life, and it happens every day. Death can come slowly in a friendship; I have experienced this. Death can come like clockwork to a rosebush in October; I have experienced this. Death can come to the best machinery humanity has made thus far; I have experienced this…recently. Death does come; I have yet experience this, but I have also had it come alongside me, coldly bumping elbows with me.

I keep telling Carrie this: We are going to graduate in two and a half weeks. We are going to get our degrees. We are going to achieve what we set out to four years ago. Those simple facts are enough to finish strong.

Conflict and Resolution

The way we fight is nothing like laboring in a dress shop.

When we fight, it is like toiling in a field of Jersey corn.

Our noses are in the dirt; sweat bathes under our arms,

our heads are crowned by the hot sun

as we break up the ground and reconfigure.

We do not tread lightly on the delicate wood floors,

only pricking occasionally and bleeding hardly.

We get the soil under our fingernails.

We will farm that dirt later, blown up under a microscope.

The only thing a farming family has in common with a family of dressmakers is the end result of beautiful things – and yet, I cannot help but think that we are better made by what we plant. Seams sewn and clinched, no matter how well, may last ten years –

but the fields have been there longer.

Lean Into Pain

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk4eVPbKlLk

While I do not watch this TV show, I did run across this clip a few months ago, and it irritated me. It alerted me to the urgency of interpreting. It enticed me to think about how a potential job in ASL would provide a daily – even hourly – sense of purpose. I will not be behind a desk with my face fastened to a screen for 8 hours. I hope that if I do this, if I become an interpreter, I will be in constant need. I desire a purposeful job, as I want a purposeful life that honors and pleases Christ. Is this the correct path he wants me to honor him through walking on it? Perhaps —

“The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say,’” Exodus 4:11-12.

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” -Psalms 90:17

“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” -Proverbs 31:31

In the simplest terms, I feel like God has been bothering me about hanging on to sign language. I compulsively think about it, it will badger me every time I am asked about the future, and…I think I want it. I think I want to study it more, at least for a while. I think maybe I can do real good in the world if I make it. And to start making it, I have to try.

Of course there doubts. I worry constantly about the decision I have somehow made. How much longer will I torture myself in school? How old will I be when I finally do enter the “real world”? How will the day-to-day look as I continue studying? Will I get stuck in my hometown for even longer than I thought? Will people (my age and my elders) think I am crazy for prolonging something that seemed to come out of nowhere, or pursuing something that appears to be a fad or a whim? These doubts, questions, fears, and potential regrets have kept me up for way too many nights. Grappling with them have left me faint, vulnerable, and highly self-conscious of my own desires.

You know what it reminds me of? The final lines of the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. Fred and Peggy finally come together, and as Peggy smiles in joy and relief, Fred gives her the honest truth, but with the tone of a strong work ethic and an understanding that it won’t be handed to him in his voice:

“You know what it’ll be, don’t you, Peggy? It may take us years to get anywhere. We’ll have no money, no decent place to live. We’ll have to work, get kicked around.”

This is the attitude I want with regard to the next phase of my life, the life that I mindfully choose. I want to lean into the struggle and upcoming hardship I know I will face. I have been told that interpreting can be lonely – and I think that is due to the isolation some have felt with regard to the Deaf community. I have also heard that interpreting is emotionally taxing, especially when having to sign to someone they have cancer, or have to interpret in a difficult situation. I want to lean into these things – I refuse to look at life for all the ways I can avoid pain. I don’t want to find the perfect, comfortable niche in the world. I want to find the place I belong, the place that was set for me.

Epiphany?

This wasn’t a waste of time because I went into college not wanting a particular job. I just wanted a degree. I wanted to study English. I didn’t even know if I wanted literature or creative writing. Then I got blessed with finding Classics as a second major. I would have never dreamed of leaving the institution with not one degree, but two.

And now?

I am still leaving college with what I came in for: a degree that I wanted, and educated in subjects that I loved.

And now?

I know what I want to do. Or at least try. And I am trying not to be sorry that I am only just getting around to finding out now. And I am still kicking myself for thinking about how old I’ll be when I finally am trained and ready to be an American Sign Language interpreter. Time passing scares me more than most things.

I remember hearing a story in the 8th grade about a group of young kids – probably my age – that had been read the Bible; they heard stories, heard the poetry, truth, parables etched in the book of God’s voice. They lived in a country that did not recognize that God, or the faith(s) associated with him, or the only Son that stood behind him. They lined each child up and punctured each eardrum with a set of chopsticks, because they had heard the word of the Lord. That was my first introduction to deafness. That was the first time I became consciously aware of what a lack of hearing is like. A soundless world, borne out of a hatred and lack of recognition of my God, my Father, my Savior.

I can already begin to look back and see the road I tripped all over, jumped off of, and yanked myself back onto. I can see God smiling, as I finally submit to his wishes. I see the furrow between his eyebrows as he concerns over just how doubtful I was about his plan, and about knowing his own daughter – her strengths, her weaknesses, her ideas about what she wanted and needed for her future.

I see him, silent, in the trees. I asked him why he wouldn’t speak. I wanted to know him, I wanted to see, and I wanted to say…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szp9x1ZlZn4

The above song is more deeply analyzed by Fr. Damian Ference, in a great article linked below:

https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/twenty-one-pilots-masters-of-the-culture-of-encounter/2185/

“…just as God came to encounter us in the person of Jesus, so too must we go and share what we have received and encounter the world.”

“Twenty One Pilots close their set with ‘Trees,’ which embodies the mission of the band. The song is about finally building up the courage to come before God, but not knowing what to do or how to be: ‘I know where you stand/ Silent in the trees/ And that’s where I am/ Standing cowardly.’ Then the music shifts from a slow, frustrated lament to a big melodic, drawn-out burst of consolation: ‘I can feel your breath/ I can feel my death/ I want to know you/ I want to see you/ I want to say, hello.’ That’s it – ‘hello.'”

When I saw this band in January, they closed their set with the same haunting song – and that began this long ride on the fence between decisions – my fence was chain-link and after a long pause of clinging to its metal points and smooth bar, it caused me to numb what I felt about each side of the choice I could make.

I don’t want to be numb anymore – I need to let myself love what I have become fascinated by – just as English Literature did – just as Classical Civilizations did. I will start from the bottom again, with my nose in the dirt once again. But I don’t need the dignity or assurance a job straight out of the institution brings. I am not through with American Sign Language, because I have barely started. I am going to make the world better, and this is the road I have chosen – for now.

The Future…?

 

Coping kept coming onto stage, snapping its pallid fingers in her face, trying to get her to snap to. But snapping to was not something she had done in a while. It had been so long, her whole life – when you get down to it – where she had done what she was told. She did high school to get into college. She did those classes to impress faceless, voiceless people on the other end of acceptance, waitlist, defer, or rejection letters. She did college to get a better job. She dug deep to find the internship and sacrificed freedom to make herself better for this faceless, voiceless world.

 

And now there is space.

 

What now?

 

Where to?

 

Who even are you, without all of this?

 

Is that even a skill you can channel?

 

Is it really that simple?

 

Maybe.

 

But I doubt it.

 

I was wrenched this way, then that. I came upon a conclusion while washing my hair, but when I stepped out into the cold, drenched, I was back on the fence, clinging like the talons of an owl. The pros and cons I know like the ugly scar on my knee, and they come around every time I need to be refreshed as to why it would be great, but also a mistake. I only know for sure that I will refuse a desk-and-computer-8-hour-day. I can’t change the world that way, I know this for sure now. Besides, I want dirt under my fingernails, and constructive, meaningful discomfort at every turn.

 

Someone in Paris told me, “Never stop studying! Don’t enter the real world!”

 

My heart screamed a few days later, “Get out of the institution! Claim your freedom!”

 

I ignored it after that for a while, but it curled around my hand and crushed my knuckles and sneered, “Stop ignoring me, you worthlessly faltering, entitled twit.”

 

Nobody will do it for me.

 

I want many, not just one.

 

Is it really that simple? Convince me.

 

Jubilee

You know how I know I will be okay?

 

I didn’t have a single thought of despair when Carrie got in.

 

All I felt, from top to bottom, was joy.

 

This wasn’t even me knowing all along.

 

Less than 12 hours before, someone asked me,

 

“What happens if she doesn’t get in this time?”

 

I said, “Then she will try again.” But then I added, slowly,

 

“But if she doesn’t this time, she will probably feel a lot of

 

despair.” But that thought left me pretty suddenly, and

 

my heart didn’t cling to that melancholy like it has in past failures,

 

where biting down on the sour, teeth-splitting candy

 

felt pleasurable, in a twisted, painful way.

 

I felt her tears that had turned her face crimson

 

Fall into the ditch of my collarbone. They were warm.

 

I could only laugh and call each number, and write words

 

Of jubilee to friends oceans and kilometers away

 

As we shivered in the cold on the campus we shared.

 

Never have I been more proud, and of something outside just me.

 

Maybe the future will really be okay

 

After All.

A report from yours truly

Here are some of Alice’s thoughts in the space between the miraculous birth of Christ and the party of the (end of) the year, which resembles the revelry of a Gatsby extravaganza.

Christmas carols are our oral (and singing) history. They tell us of Christ’s birth, the wise men, Herod, all the parts of the puzzle that make up the origin story and the story of my faith. Through them, our history is preserved.

I need to value my physical health more. It’s a blessing, seriously.

Also, I need to reflect more on how unglued I get from the slightest discomfort. I’m not even trying to put myself down; I simply need to reassure myself that I am weak and because of my imperfectness, I, and my body, will fail me. Be okay with that, Alice, it’s life. It’s being human.

Helping with a task like untangling lights and zip tying them to the railing, when done together, takes a fraction of the time and can actually be enjoyable when a warm pair of shoes and a coat are involved. Helping out around this time of year will make the people that always do all the work appreciate you so much.

Just go. Even if you think you’ll be late, the “so what’s the point of going,” feeling is sometimes a lie. Jump when even a small door opens.

I also realize that people are not this black and white. They are not keys on a Steinway or Yamaha. Rather, they are the vastly diverse strings on a glossy wood guitar.

We cling when we are insecure. I remember someone telling me once “when I find something in my house, like a piece of clothing or a toy that I forgot I had in my possession, then I know I have to throw it out or give it away. I wasn’t thinking about it twenty minutes ago or last week – so how could I still need it if I didn’t know I had it?”

This resonates with me. It’s times like these where I feel sobered by the way in which most people in developed and/or westernized countries lead lives consumed by objects, things, junk, whatever it is.

Of course I set aside things that hold sentimental value. That is one part of human nature that is both blatant and natural.

But I never understood why it was attractive in American culture to have a messy basement or attic, buried with “junk.” Why was the style of decorating with undertones of clutter and miscellaneous possessions so pronounced? Does it make the family that chose to decorate that way seem more wealthy because of the amount of things they have? Or more eccentric because they clutter their living spaces?

Mandy, Carrie and I grew up watching Arthur, this 1990s animated show about a family of aardvarks living in a place called El Wood City. I remember one episode where D.W. and Arthur go to visit their grandmother in her big cluttered house. They are super bored until their grandmother takes them to her attic to clean it out. They end up finding a trove of cool things like clothing and accessories from the 1980s and a reel of film that depicts their teachers and parents when they were younger. In the final scene of the episode, one of Arthur’s classmates asks if all grandparents have old, cool things in their attics and basements. Arthur’s grandmother says “Probably more, why don’t you ask them?” This seems to be the didactic message of this episode. While it is charming and not necessarily harmful, it drives home my point even more: American culture advocates for the cluttered, possession-oriented lifestyle and décor.

I am simply wondering why this is. Are any other cultures like this in the world? Are there cultures out there that are the direct opposite?

I have a playlist for anyone who wants good music to listen to, in conclusion of this report.

 

Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg – for anyone wanting a joyful song to strut or sing along to

 

Stay Gold by First Aid Kit – for encouragement or a drive into a sunset

 

Canyon by Joseph – this song is just good

 

Blood & Tears by Joseph – this song depicts a healthy relationship, and I like it a lot

 

Digital Witness by St. Vincent – my friend Sarah showed me this one, and if you are down for a whimsical musical experience, this song is pretty weird, and I like it

 

Kings & Queens by Urban Cone – this is a good one for New Years Eve, whether you are throwing a party or need a good tune for the drive through the city at night, all to celebrate life with a joyful clatter

After the commercial break, I will go into weather and traffic.

Alice will be signing out now, wire again soon!

ASL influences in my life

I grew up watching the 1990s version of Miracle on 34th Street. It was one of those Christmas films that was not animated or stop –motion, and it had a deeper sense of Santa Clause as a person instead of just a character that says “Ho Ho Ho,” in a deep, jolly voice. When Kris Kringle is sitting in his chair meeting all the children that come to see him, there is one little girl that is placed on his knee who is deaf. Here is the clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMXk048h3XQ

I think this may have been my earliest memory of sign language. I remember another part of this film where it is revealed that Santa knows several other languages like Russian and Swahili; but the awareness of ASL was awakened in me at this very moment.

Jump to high school, my senior year. I was still seventeen when the school year began, and I walked into my math class on that first day. I despised (and still do, to this day) math, and I always shed my more happy and outgoing self when I had math class, and kept my head down and just did the work without stopping to look around. I noticed that there were three teachers in the classroom – a head teacher, a teacher’s aid, and a third one who didn’t seem to hold any particular position in the classroom. Odd, I thought. I sat near the front, and our first task for the class was to introduce each other to everyone else. I got paired with a boy who sat beside me, and we both wrote down things we liked and did for fun outside of school. We were asked to stand in front of the smart board and tell the class about the other person.

It was only then that I noticed that the third woman, who was standing between us and the TA, was an ASL interpreter. The teacher aid talked funny, when she did decide to use her voice. She had dark skin and thick glasses, I recall. The only signs I remember the interpreter using in this memory was the sign for boxing, because I had several student athletes as classmates. I also remember the open palms of the interpreter, her hands moving like a dance in the space in front of her.

Freshman year of college and I was in a big residence hall with all girls. One girl who lived below me thought it was astounding that I was taking Latin at Mary Washington to fulfill my language requirement. “That must be so hard!” she said. I asked her what she was taking, and she told me about this community college right down the road from us that offered sign language. I was intrigued. She told me the credits would transfer back into UMW if you chose to take ASL as your foreign language. I asked her how her class would do tests or quizzes, and she explained. I put that thought of sign language into my back pocket, and never really forgot about it.

This past summer, I began to look at all my classes that were left in order for me to finish my two degrees and graduate. I began making plans, and I found that I could finally act on this interest and take a sign language class. My schedule allowed me to have one “fun” class during this fall semester, and I signed up.

Funny thing was, this class wasn’t just fun for me. It became serious. I soaked in every sign we were taught, and I intently and religiously did my homework in order to nail down a new plank for the bridge I have begun to build. My biggest desire in this regard is to cross over and connect the world of hearing, the one I have always known, with the deaf one.

I have found myself looking up movies and TV shows that have signing in them, or wanting to find deaf communities that would help me learn and grow into this language through everyday practice. The major need I have right now, though, is someone who can answer questions. Questions, specifically, about interpreting. This is my new charge and path that has been placed under my feet.

I have never had a clear job position and/or title that I’d label my “dream job,” and it always felt like everyone around me had one in mind, or one that they always knew they’d want to pursue. It is only divine intervention that now, when I have uncovered something I really want to do, it happens to be when my college experience is coming to a close. I have been telling shocked friends and relatives about my apparently out-of-the-blue newfound interest, and how inconvenient it has been to “just now” find what I want to do. And yet, after some time of evaluation and reflection on this past semester and looking ahead, I have come to a new conclusion: College is about preparing for the future, and finding a passion and hopefully, for the lucky ones, a potential job they will bask in and love.

Sure, I wish I had made this discovery sooner, and been able to begin preparing for the rest of my life (at least my potentially professional life), but that is not how life works – at least that is what I have experienced. Of course people would love to have met their husband or wife sooner so that they would have that clear path and security about whom they will be spending the rest of their lives with. But not everyone is lucky enough to find his or her soul mate at a “convenient” time. I am one of these. There is no such thing as a convenient time – I know for experience.

I have no idea if what I want to happen will work out, and I need to find peace in that up-in-the-air space. I need to be okay with not having anything carved in stone, while also having the clarity and sense to take opportunities when doors are opened for me.

Tomorrow, Carrie and I will be driving home for a month of Christmas, New Years and birthday celebrations. I am excited to have leisure time to think about, pray and continue discovering where I want to go, as well as where I am called to be.

 

With love and a joyful noise,

 

Alice

Color The Swallows And Hang Them From The Ceiling

Have you ever heard of the legend of 1,000 paper cranes?

Carrie has always splashed the world with color – it is no wonder she is so inspired by studying art and its rich history. Last week Carrie presented her project on origami (Japanese paper folding) and how it affects architecture, and I took some photos of her display. I thought I’d share our personal backstory, and honor Carrie’s diligence in her study of art.

Carrie and I first read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes when we were in fourth or fifth grade at Rivendell, our Kindergarten-through-eighth-grade private school. I recall the beginning of the story relating to me a lot; the Japanese twelve-year-old girl loved to run and had a great life in Hiroshima. I remember Sadako collapsing while running, and the rest of the story blurred away into obscure, forgotten memory. I think this was the first book that really rattled me as a reader and student because the narrative did not end happily. Of course that kind of exposure is perfectly healthy for any student when they come of a good and appropriate age. And we read a lot of emotionally difficult books during our time at Rivendell – I want to collect all of them and give them to any kids I have someday.

The legend of the cranes says that if one person made one thousand of them, they would be granted a wish. Carrie took this story from our childhood, and used it to demonstrate how the cranes, and origami in general, relate to architecture today. We learned how to fold the vibrant squares of paper and morph it into a modest, stout little bird. All our classmates were taught, and tons of these flying creatures began to appear everywhere around the school. Desks, lockers, windowsills and bookshelves.

I remember making one. It was puny. And a solid, ugly lime green color. And then I remember all the other attempts involving ripped paper and bitten cuticles. I have lost the ability to fold two-dimensional paper and creating a three-dimensional winged animal – but Carrie always remembered. She even left a crane for the cashier at Cookout last weekend when we needed late night fast food. Carrie put in a lot of time and effort into this art project, constantly folding and pulling the paper this way and that while we watched movies or studied in the library tree houses. I think she did a great job, and I am proud of the beauty she has released into the world. She has paid homage to a Japanese legend, our childhood, and her love of art.

I promise to write again.

With love,

Alice

Things currently

I felt compelled to write about my life when this past Friday the restaurant I serve at got slammed with customers and I walked home limping in the aftermath of countless Pepsi refills and ragging down red sauce and spaghetti-crusted tabletops.

This semester has been a ride, and I have uncovered a few things that I wanted to make clear, in writing, so that I won’t loose them in the dark crannies of my brain.

I was having a conversation with my roommate and friend Sarah a few weeks ago, and this is the metaphor we came up with:

The job I am currently working will cease to exist next semester because the restaurant is changing hands. I feel like this change reflects the changes that will come not only next semester, but within the next year.

Things will change and the world will keep spinning no matter what I do or don’t do. Nothing and nobody will wait for me, even though I love the idea and feeling of walking alone, looking up and seeing someone waiting and watching for me.

I always stress about not having enough time. I always wish I had more time to research and plan my future, even though it feels silly of me to try and “research” my approaching life. To me, researching my future is like trying to connect lines between faint stars; I know the stars are there and that I want to create those networks that will make the picture of the sky legible and less daunting, and yet it seems counterintuitive and without reality.

I do know this: Just because my college experience will come to close in May of 2017 does not mean that I wont stop learning. I want to learn skills that are not just found in a lecture hall, I want to find something that I can use to interact with other people, or that will open up the real world even more for me. An example I have already found is my new found love of ASL (American Sign Language). A little deaf girl came into my work a month or so ago, and I knew right away by the way she used her voice to get a hearing person’s attention, and the way she signed C-O-K-E to me when I asked her what she wanted to drink. I signed O-K back to her, filled her glass, and when I placed it in front of her, I knelt down beside her and asked her what her name was. I had never felt more useful and happy than I did in that moment. Her hearing family stared at me in amazement, and I even heard her teenaged brother whisper “She knows sign!” It is this kind of real-world usage of academic skills that I want to do every day of my life after graduation – I just need to find my place in world. Make no mistake, though – I don’t want to stay in a comfortable niche in one edge of the universe (though I’d love to do that, it being the easiest form of living), I want to go everywhere and serve without a set limit.

In the throws of finals and packing up to go home, I feel strangely content. I know what I believe in, and I trust who holds my foggy yet bright future. Peace is essential to mental healthiness, and I encourage you, reader (whoever you are, or if you are out there at all), to embrace peace and joy, and hold on tight because there is always a good reason for it.

I’ll be writing again soon, once school has quit for the semester.

All my love,

Alice