By Jonah Carino

Ka La staff writer

I was in a dingy dark classroom that looked like an old toaster. I can see it like a photo in my mind. There was an abrupt yelling: “You are a failure! You moron! You have no job! You stupid loser. Hearing impaired! Deaf idiot,” My college teacher signed aggressively in my face. I stood up quickly and flipped over the desk and then the bird to my former teacher.

“Screw you! Get the hell out of my face!” I retaliated. I stormed out of the classroom. Suddenly, there was a pitch black darkness. In that darkness was a speck of light. In that light, my parents’ faces appeared worried. Neither my father nor my mother ever learned sign language. They could never communicate with me. I could read their lips and the disappoint- ment on their faces. “We don’t have any hope for you. You will never be anything more than Deaf and disabled. What in the world happened to you, huh? Son?”

Then I woke up.

The time was 7:23 a.m. I could smell the mist of the rain on the ground and imagined how won- derful the sound of the water splashing on the ground must be. I am “stone” Deaf, living in a completely silent world without the slightest pitch. I sat up and dragged myself to the shower. I leaned on the wall and let the water patter on my head as I contemplated the dim prospects for life. Having quit my job, I had been barely surviving on welfare for the last three years. I didn’t really see a lot of options.

“Everyone else seems so settled, and I don’t even have a plan for my career yet. I always wanted to get a college degree. I was disappointed thinking I should have had one by 28,” I grumbled to myself. I got out of the shower and continued mumbling. I felt trapped in my Deafness and in the Deaf world.

“Where could I go for a college degree?” I thought about the lame excuses and advice my parents gave me. Both my mother and father lived in the Philippines and neither of them was in any position to support me financially.

“I don’t think you will ever find a suitable career because you’re deaf,” they told me. Frustrated, my mumbling and grumbling turned to grinding my teeth in disgust. I felt like a lone wolf.

As I finished getting ready, I went to go pick up my girlfriend, Meilia. As we drove on the freeway the view around Diamond Head was incredible: bright sun rays streamed boldly in all different directions, piercing and bouncing off the clouds. During the ride, Meilia noticed that I had something on my mind.

“Something’s wrong. What’s bothering you?” she asked.

“Uh… Nothing. Just nothing.” “Baby, if you are troubled share it with me,” she signed as she rubbed my back to console me. I slowly began to sign the things on my mind.

I explained to her how one of my brothers just got a new house, and the other just got a new job. One of my brothers has dyslexia but he managed to make a good living, have a family and enjoy his life. They both seemed to be doing so well and I seemed so lost.

Like most Deaf children who cannot communicate with their family, I was shipped off to a Deaf School. I had to live in the Deaf world and go to a Deaf School and make Deaf friends, and do Deaf activities. I had to think Deaf thoughts, form my Deaf identity and embrace my Deaf culture. Despite being immersed into the Deaf World, I often wondered about the hearing world, filled with opportunity and adventure. However, I was reminded that I was Deaf and belonged and was limited to the Deaf World. Meilia understood.

“Baby, there is still time for you to find a job or go back to college,” she said.

I used to go college in Rochester, N.Y. but when I had to withdraw, I felt my dreams had come to an end.

“Same mundane things, different day. You don’t want that! You should go back to school and finish your degree.” She was blunt, “Don’t settle. You are clever. You are not limited to working and living in a Deaf world.” “Just find what goal is deep inside of your mind and heart,” she went on. “You have unfinished business. I am counting on you, I believe in you. You can do this.”

She smiled as she got out of the car and hurried to work.   I will not accept my fate. I will not stay in my comfort zone for communication sake. Right then and there, in the rain I made my decision. I decided to return to school for my degree and start a new chapter of my life in the hearing world, in the real world, a world of my own making.

Jonah Cariono Honolulu CC