When I was a preteen, my parents gave me the “gift” of being relocated to Langley, the town where my school and friends were. Prior to moving to Langley, I lived a 30-minute drive away from a normal social life.
This meant, between the age of 5 to 11, I would have to head home on the school bus immediately after the bell rang. At home in the faraway land of Surrey, BC, I had the company of two cats and, if he felt like it, my much older brother. I also found entertainment in cartoons, the entire Babysitters’ Club and Little House on the Prairie series, art supplies, and sometimes a blanket fort. If I wanted to see my friends on the weekends, though, I had to trust my parents to make arrangements with my friends’ parents that involved motorized transportation.
I know moving to Langley was a sacrifice for my parents, but it wasn’t my fault the schools my older siblings had attended weren’t set up to accommodate deaf students. It wasn’t my fault there were no other deaf kids my age in my neighbourhood.
What was the default situation for most kids–my hearing siblings included–was seen by my mother as a privilege for me. 9 out of 10 arguments Mom and I had throughout my teenage years had her cut me off with, “YOUR FATHER AND I MOVED TO LANGLEY FOR YOU.” To her, that invalidated all my grievances.
(At the time of the Langley relocation, both my siblings were done with school, and not living at home.)
Now, I did sometimes get “extras” because of my deafness but they were often not the good kind of “extra”. What student found fun in taking the compulsory BC Foundation Skills Assessment in the 4th and 7th grades? Imagine having to be evaluated twice in each grade so that your results could be compared to that of your deaf peers’!
I also got a very thorough sex education as well as bonus lectures on the dangers of alcohol and drugs. I suppose because many deaf children suffer from language deprivation, and therefore don’t communicate with their families, I belonged to an at-risk group. In high school I’d be pulled out of, say, art class to attend an educational session in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing department so that instead of practicing the colour wheel, I’d be reminded of the things I learned about sex and drugs in grade 5. When it came to missing subjects I hated, like math, I didn’t mind listening to a former addict’s story about hitting rock bottom.
These speakers, though, were always hearing. I don’t know why the school couldn’t have found somebody more relatable to teach us those topics. Once, they did find a somewhat interesting 20-something former addict (I think his name was Chris? I’m gonna call him Chris) to come in to share his story. I, of course, found Chris’s struggles to be more entertaining than learning fractions and as a bonus, Chris ended up becoming a mentor to a “troubled” friend of mine. That had to be a good thing, right?
I’m not sure whether this friend saw Chris as someone to look up to, or if she just thought he was cute but she’d talk about hanging out with him at the skate park. I’m also unsure whether this is true, but Chris apparently still smoked pot, and went as far to share a few puffs with my friend.
I know I’ve kind of gone off topic here but it just is one of those memories that don’t get recognized as fucked-up until you’re older. Sure, weed is a “soft drug” and not at all in the same category as meth but… a 20-year-old guy befriending a 13-year-old girl is weird enough but for this person to contradict his drug abuse tragedy with a gentle offering of marijuana? Odd.
Although it might have been logical for the teachers to make sure their deaf students had access to this information, I couldn’t help but feel as if my intelligence had been insulted: I was more terrified of getting pregnant than any of the adults could have been about me having careless sex. I was too cool for drugs (except for birth control pills). Too cool for school. Too cool for everything.
Maybe it all goes back to spending the first 11 years of my life being shut off from society as soon I headed back to Surrey on that school bus.
As a teenager, I wasn’t just awkward around my hearing peers, I also ended up sabotaging what could have been a relatively normal social life within the Deaf community by being a stuck-up drug-free turd.
I’ve always had a very good relationship with cats though.