About ten years ago I was in a local bar for a drink and saw a guy who I found attractive. As had been my habit I looked, finished my beer, and left. About a block away the conversation in my head was getting heated.
“What are you doing? This is why you don’t meet people. Instead of just saying hi you imagine how horrible it would feel if you were rejected. This is dumb!”
In light of this berating I had just received from myself I opted to go back and meet him. I parked right were I was and walked the three blocks back to the bar where I sat myself down right next to him. What I witnessed was interesting. He was passing a piece of paper back and forth with a lady a few bar stools past me. I had inadvertently seated myself in the middle of their paper bound conversation. At this moment I noticed that he was wear not one but two hearing aids.
My mind began again, “Crap the bed. He’s Deaf and you don’t know sign language and now you’re going to be writing notes back and forth with him and it’s going to be awkward and OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”
It turned out he had grown up at the Deaf school at a time when a method known as Total Communication was the teaching method of choice for Deaf kids. What this meant was simply that he could speak very clearly and that his lip reading and my limited ability to at least fingerspell the words we couldn’t figure out made communication pretty easy. He told me things about his life that he’d never told anyone. It was his first time in a gay bar and he was my first encounter with a Deaf person. We talked for six hours that night. We developed a pretty confused friendship in which I wanted us to be dating and he just wanted a gay friend to help him come out. He won. We always joked that he was teaching me sign language and I was teaching him how to be gay.
Ten years later we have become more distant but when we do get together it is as if we’ve not skipped a day. He’s very comfortable in his out life. I’m very happy with my career as an American Sign Language interpreter.
Once, interpreting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as a volunteer, I had this realization that the person for whom I was interpreting had been attending this meeting of 30 or 40 people and had maintained sobriety for more than a year with absolutely no idea what anyone was saying. I suddenly thought, “This is the reason I needed to know sign language. I’m supposed to be right here doing just this.”
I believe that if I had just gone home that day I would not be who I am supposed to be right now. I believe that not doing what I always do just because it’s easier or more comfortable is the best thing I can ever do.
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