Rumour Has It…

That I have had a breakdown. Hmmm, I must admit that when I heard that, I just had to laugh. Granted, for those of you concerned enough, it was not at all funny but alarming enough for you to actually approach me and find out the truth, for yourselves. I would like to applause those of you for having enough respect for me, to come to me, rather than conforming to the peer pressure of Chinese whispers amongst yourselves.

gossiping

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.”

As for the “breakdown” – it is absolutely and utterly untrue. IF there ever were one, it would have been before I founded the Tree House. There was a time when I was kicked whilst I was down but those who did not dare to look down on me – whilst I was down helped me back up again. After the Tree House was founded, there was another time when a good portion of my previous admin team tried to undermine, overpower me but I stood my ground, stood up (much to their horror hoping that I would stand by) and removed their flaws from damaging me, relatively the Tree House further. (A survival of the fittest of course) They still and will always try their best to damage it but that is their problem, therefore their waste of (negative) energy. These people are behind me, and so it should be the case, for you too.

I have now reached the stage where I do not need social media in my life – any longer. Social media has become quite the tool for sociopaths. It sucks people in, makes them mindless of others and sadly, the preciousness of face-to-face values is lost on most. If anything, the Tree House has been a lifeline to me for the past two years. I am oftentimes (albeit surprisingly) reminded that people can still be humane, respectful, kind, considerate, honest and genuine.

I do appreciate social media in the sense that it has reconnected me in the past, to long lost family and friends, for introducing me to some newfound friends that have brought laughter and tears to my heart. For reminding me, who not to be, who to steer clear of and just how twisted and bitter some people can be. That is not the way I wish to use my second chance at life – most people only get one chance and if they could turn back time and change certain aspects of their lives, they would. Thus, why, I am because I can. I have once again found the balance in my life in order for me to cherish life and social media is not part of that equation.

Look to the person next to you, to the cashier in the shops, to the stranger opposite you on public transport. Consider how they may be feeling or what they may be going through. They would love a friendly smile just as much as you do. Smell the freshly cut grass, cherish chocolate even – as a treat mind you! Strive to be righteous, honest and the best one can be. Find a way to being happy from within because being happy for a reason is dangerous since that reason can be taken away from you.

There is certainly no need for me to broadcast why I have taken a step back, a sabbatical, especially when it is for very personal reasons that only my family and a selected few friends deserve to know. They have after all, always been there for me.

Please trust in me that when I say, I am more than fine, I am actually anticipating all the joy the future has in store, for me, and my children.

For… “What is coming is better than what has gone.”

Onwards and upwards – Positivity rules! 😉 😉

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

How Social Networks helped me to embrace my deaf identity by Michelle Hedley

Being deaf in a hearing world can be easy at times, and at others, it can be blooming hard. Although I have very little hearing I was brought up, first in a mainstream school with an attached “unit” with support, and then from the age of 10 a mainstream school with no support. So most of my life I haven’t had any deaf friends. There were the various attempts to join deaf clubs, both as a child and as an adult, but as I had clear speech and didn’t sign at all (not our choice but was the policy of the education authority at the time) sadly I found myself excluded and shunned. Thus I rarely came across other deaf people as I was firmly entrenched in the hearing world. I would rely on my parents to be my ears and communicate with the world. I could not (and still cant) make telephone calls thus I had little freedom socially.

The advent of mobile phones became a marvellous invention as I was suddenly able to communicate with my family via text messaging. Then this went further as the ability to access the internet at home became readily available. This meant that I could have conversations by email, although again limited to my family. It was the appearance of social networks (mainly Twitter and Facebook) and the introduction of smart phones that really had the potential to change my life. All of a sudden I was able to embrace the changing technology and use this to my advantage and communicate with the wider world. Online contact via email, tweets or Facebook posts became socially acceptable by companies and organisations and I was able to, for the first time, deal with my own affairs without relying on others. I can now make my own doctors/dentists appointments, arrange meet ups with friends, buy tickets, chat online (instead of a phone call) and resolve (many) issues myself. I also learn and absorb more facts online than I do when involved in verbal conversations, so being online can enhance education wise as well as socially.

Through Twitter and Facebook I started to explore the wider world and I was soon able to meet online other deaf users. For the first time I interacted with the deaf community regardless of whether they signed or not. Through Twitter I found that I was able to feel equal to other hearing tweeters. I don’t mention in my profile that I am deaf, merely because I don’t consider it relevant. Others don’t say in their profile that they wear glasses, or have red hair etc and I am the same with my hearing loss.

I wish to be thought of as Michelle, or that Geordie, rather than ‘that deaf girl.’ Other people prefer to state outright that they are deaf, and that is fine by me. Whatever works for them – there is no right or wrong in my view. At the same time I don’t hide it – I do tweet about deaf issues regularly and expect most of my followers probably work it out at some point!

Twitter allows me to talk to other people who share the same interests as me without being judged. One of my main interests is musical theatre and Twitter is a haven full of people with similar interests. For me Twitter goes one step further and even enables me to talk to those who actually work in the theatre profession from the ensemble right to the leading roles. The anonymity of Twitter allows me to talk to others without any pre-judgements made or misconceptions about my hearing, or entitlement to any views on music and the stage. My Facebook world has also developed as my “friends” extended from being just family to others I met through through twitter or indeed other friends.

I also use social networks to increase awareness about issues that affect the deaf community, such as subtitles in theatres, cinemas and online and this has met with some positivity. Hopefully, in my own way, I am slowly raising deaf awareness as I develop my relationships online when my followers slowly begin to realise I am deaf. As we have already been chatting, they don’t have any preconceptions that could affect the beginning of a friendship.

I now have “met” many others who have varying degrees of hearing losses, some who sign and some who don’t. For the first time I can embrace being deaf whilst living and working in the hearing world and I have been able to share my experiences and learn from others. Previously, in “real life” this didn’t happen, and so the ability to meet and communicate online has proved to be really invaluable to me in many ways. In a way you could say that I now have a deaf identity which was something I didn’t have before despite being born deaf. It has also improved my confidence in so many ways as I have tackled tasks that I would never have normally considered.

There may be times when I use my phone too much, but the advantages way outweigh this and I can honestly say that my social life is 100% better as a result of social networks and smart phones. Of course we do need to be careful on social networks as it is very easy to become a victim of trolling or bullies. But that cautiousness doesn’t need to spoil our interactivity and socialising. After all we need to sometimes exercise caution out on the street too so it is not limited to online.

Social networks have become a huge part of my life as it acts like a bridge between hearing and deaf people and allows me to participate in the wider community. As well as socially, social networks becomes my news and radio station filled with gossip and facts and allows me to learn and improve my knowledge.

We may all be strangers fundamentally, but we are all linked by a desire to talk and chat to other like-minded people. I have “met” so many people and have gained friendships, both deaf and hearing, that would never have happened were it not for the medium of twitter and facebook. I strongly believe that my life is so much better as a result as I have access to so much more than just my immediate family. Although there is still room for improvement, I now have access to a much wider community, indeed a global community and surely that has to be a good thing. Social networks may not be everyone’s cup of tea (and lets face it, the world would be boring if we all agreed with each other!) but for me personally I LOVE IT 🙂

You can find me on Twitter as @Shelle02 and on Facebook as Michelle Hedley

The Era of Computers by Angel Sign

laptopdaguerrotypeAs I was growing up, so began the era of computers. Of course I learnt how to use them at secondary school, they didn’t exist in primary back then, and as I grew so did the use of computer generation X.

I am the first to admit that I really only used the Commodore 64 to play games on at home, Mr Wimpy, one of my faves, a must to play every weekend, competing with my brother to reach level after level. Another favourite of ours was the infamous Donkey Kong.

Once I left school, life took over and the only real place that I used a computer was at work. At home, and I played only if with my boyfriend at the time, it was the age of consoles. We had moved on from the Atari and it was now Sega with Sonic the Hedgehog racing to collect the golden rings.

Up until this point the internet was not widely used by the public and as I was enjoying life too much it held no real interest to me. In fact unless I needed to search something at work (which was rare), I felt I had no real use for it at all.

This all changed when my family arrived and once the children began school, things changed. Of course nowadays computers are available to use in Nursery right through till they leave school. My children are from Generation Z and will be thought of as the sophisticated technological generation who are internet savvy. I now had a lot to learn!!!

So I took an ICT course at the primary school my children attended, learnt how to understand the keys and formats of various programs on the computer. This in itself aided me to support my children with homework and various other projects. Of course I still had no real clue about the internet and how to use it with full potential. Even now I am still learning and from my children who understand it naturally like water off a duck’s back.

After a few years of growing in confidence, I was able to help my children search information, I could buy online, do my banking and so on, however I was still yet to enter the world of social media.

For many years I berated the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bebo and so on, saying that the youngsters of today were not able to socialise face to face very well and that society would lose the ability for physical contact in communication. I still believe that this could lead to the downfall of Generation Z.

However, I was soon to join the masses as through my BSL course, in order to support each other’s learning, it was suggested that a group was set up on Facebook. Imagine my horror. Still after a couple of months I crumbled and agreed to set up an account and join the group.

So, for the first year I kept it purely to do coursework and supporting and nothing more. However with something as nationwide and sporadically placed as BSL, I found as I went up the levels, I started to branch out and look for more support with my learning. I also used it to find social clubs, events and groups of varying nature hence my entrance to The Treehouse.

To conclude my history and begin answering the question, of course the internet has changed my life. In respect of having such a busy life, I can do my shopping or banking online. I am able to research for topics of interest, learn things I never knew before, and support my children’s education and so much more. Through social networking I have talked with some diverse people, had some interesting and occasionally heated debates and made some new chat buddies who have similar interests or goals in life.

As a deaf person, has the internet changed my life? I do not feel it has drastically changed my life any more than the average person however I can see how social media networks is a huge change for those that are lonely, isolated for whatever reasons and not necessarily just for deaf people. For those that already have a healthy outdoors life, I see them sharing and continuing to enjoy. Then there are those that are in between who have a life before the internet and have become lazy through its addictive nature, which is possibly the biggest con of them all.

The pros are that it is a diverse piece of technology on tap, for those that have it; it can help you to find information worldwide and meet people from all over. However, I still feel as a member of Generation X it is our responsibility to ensure that those from Generation Y and now Z learn that the world they see on the screen is also alive and kicking outside their front door, and sometimes they need to step out into the bright sunlight and embrace nature’s natural way of learning too.