Change.

2017.

What a year. I decided I would use my blog to summarise up my year, and when I logged in, I saw that the last posting I made was actually a year ago today.

I read the post and I rolled my eyes. Every year, I am always doing this and that… I think it’s in my nature. I’m not one to sit down and watch things happen, I like to be in the midst of it. However… I think in this year, something has changed within me.

My resolution last year was to stop, breathe, and learn… and I truly feel that has happened.

As I look back on this past year, I find myself reflecting on how the year has changed me.

In January, I attended the Women’s March in Copenhagen. This was in retaliation for Trump’s Presidency. The march was to promote equality and the protection of the rights of women, immigrants and marginalised groups.

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At a time like this, when people are being oppressed, it’s important that we stand together and create communities of safety for each other. This was an inspiring moment for me. People of all ages, races and sexualities came together to march in unity for our human rights and dignity. At the end of the march, there was a stage where people came up to recite their poetry, sing their songs, and made powerful speeches. Looking back at that moment, I remember it being… absolutely fucking cold. I mean, it was January and it’s near the Baltic sea. I opted for vanity rather than sensibility and as a result of this, my shoes were soaked and I was this close to getting hypothermia… but, there was something about that moment that made me warm. As I looked around, I could see people laughing, smiling and jeering. Sometimes in life, when it looks like the cards may be stacked against you, and there’s no way of winning… does that mean we should give up? No. We keep on fighting until we win. Winning isn’t always about winning big. No. It can also mean little steps. Those little steps, one by one, creates a path. It may not be a path that you’ll walk on, but someday, others can.

In February, I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it hit me hard. Every year, I claim to be suffering from SAD, because… y’know, it’s bloody cold and depressing. But this year, it was different. This year, I was living in the Bay of the Baltic Sea…! The weather was harsh and unsympathetic. Snow after snow after snow. To some, that may sound romantic, being cooped up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow.

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It wasn’t. I was unprepared for how cold it would be and the effect it would have on me. I became quiet, sullen and didn’t want to participate in anything. In fact, when I think now about how I felt at that time, I feel upset. It was a horrible time, and it really makes me feel for people who are continuously battling depression.

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Depression is a hidden illness. You don’t know who suffers from it. The most important thing to remember is to not belittle them but to support them. Some days are better than others. Some days are worse than others. It can get messy. No matter where you are on the spectrum – your thoughts and feelings are valid. You are precious. You deserve to be listened to. You deserve compassion.

In March, Sarah Jane, along with some others, appeared in an RTE documentary, Deafening. The documentary followed Sarah Jane as she spoke about how she and her husband navigated their way through IVF, what it was like to live in a world where deafness is the norm, and her hopes were for the future. I felt very proud of her, I usually am, but even more so because she was honest about having IVF. That’s something not many people are open about, and truthfully… that needs to change. She also spoke about how relieved she was that her children were hearing. I know that may be a controversial thing to say, but I can understand why she said it.

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“It’s not that their deafness would be a problem, it’s other people’s attitudes that’s the problem. The world won’t change for us so we have to adapt to fit in.” 

The documentary and that statement had an impact on people, as proven so by the responses from people on Gogglebox. That statement made people consider why she said it. It made them look at their actions and made them think about the things they say. The Gogglebox programme ended with this belter line, which shows that they had done some reflecting, and then some.

“If you knew someone who was deaf, you’d say “You know me deaf friend?” But you shouldn’t be.”
“No.”
“You say, ‘you know me friend?’. That shouldn’t be discussed.”
“The way you introduce me. ‘Y’know me fat friend, Tracie?’ You shouldn’t be saying that!”

Brilliant.

In April, we went to Finland for a study trip. Again, the week was an inspiring one and the lectures complemented our curriculum perfectly. We visited the Finnish Association of the Deaf, World Federation of the Deaf, Finlandssvenska Teckenspråkiga, Ursa Minor, and had a guided tour around Helsinki where we were shown pieces made by Deaf people, spoke about De’VIA, Deaf View Image Art and how it evolved throughout the years. I enjoyed meeting those people and was blown away by all the hard work they put into their projects.

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I was particularly inspired by Finlandssvenska Teckenspråkiga, a minority group who use Finland-Sweden Sign language to communicate. How the language developed is interesting. The first school of the Deaf was founded in 1846 in Porvoo by Carl Oscar Malm. Malm used the language he learned in Sweden to educate children. As a result of this, Finnish and Swedish sign language became fused and FinSSL was born. However, the school closed down in 1993, and it was decided that there would officially be one sign language, FSL. This caused some problems for FinSSL users. The younger ones were offered to either be integrated into a State school with the help of interpreters, attend a Finnish Deaf school, or move to Sweden for Deaf education and retain Swedish as their written language. The elder ones struggled with access to services, interpreters and so on. Nevertheless, they persevered, and research into the language began. In 2002, Finlandssvenska Teckenspråkiga, the organisation for FinSSL-users, was founded. In 2014, the government decided to finance a project to “vitalize the FinSSL” – Lev i vårt språk – Live in our languages. In 2015, FinSSL was recognised as a language in Finnish Law.

This inspired me because it proved that no matter how small your community is, if you fight for what you believe in, and you will succeed.

May, the last month leading up to the end of our year at Frontrunners, was eventful. Exams were fast approaching, and emotions were running high. The year was coming to an end,  it was time for us to reflect on the past year and what we wanted from the future. I’m not going to lie, there were a lot of tears and arguments. We lived together, worked together, ate together and played together 24/7. Our patience and tolerance were tested to the limit, that’s for sure, but as a result of that, we also learnt how to regulate ourselves at even the hardest time. We learnt how to reflect on our actions,  how to express our feelings and opinions in a way that was respectful (well, not always…!) and how to become respectful of differences. They became my family. Despite all the shit we put each other through, we still love each other… and if any of us ever needs help, we’ll be there for each other in a split second.

 

Those people below, the teachers, also became my family. They were the people who gave me advice when I needed it, they offered me their shoulders to cry on, and they spurred me on when I thought I couldn’t do it.

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I’ll have to admit, it did feel weird at first because of the age difference. I’m older than one of the teachers, there’s a two years difference between another one, six with another, and a fair few with another one…! But after a while, that went out of the window. It didn’t matter how old we all were, it became about what we had to offer each other. Some of us have knowledge in a particular area, some of us have skills in another, and some of us have a way of making people see things differently. Ultimately, we all learnt from each other, and I think that’s one of the wonders of Frontrunners. No matter whatever happens, you will walk away with memories of a lifetime and life lessons to live by.

In June, I made the most of my new-found freedom! As soon as I landed, I was already off to Dublin to see my girls and their beautiful kiddies. I hardly spoke to them, because the kiddies demanded so much attention! But it was lovely to see all of my girls become so settled in as mothers, and I hope that if I do become a mother one day, I’ll be as good as they are.

Then it was back to London to collect an award at the Creative Diversity Network Awards at the BAFTAs for our documentary, Life and Deaf!

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Then it was off to Glastonbury! As always, it didn’t disappoint. I love how varied it is, how there are so many different things you can see, people to meet, and just have a goddamned good time. One of my highlights would have to be when Jeremy Corbyn came out. He spoke of a little girl he met in Syria. She had lost everything. He asked her what she wanted to do in the future. She replied, “I want to be a doctor so I can help people.” Amidst the chaos, sadness and loss, she still wanted to do good. There are many people out there, made to become refugees through no choice of their own, who can contribute to the world, but are shunned. This is wrong on so many levels. He also spoke about success. Success means better education, better NHS, better housing, and a thriving community. For the many, not the few.

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Legend.

In July, I took some time out to relax and reflect. I spent some time with kiddies, and it was lovely to just sit and watch the world go by.

Then I went to Latitude. as a festival on a whole, it was great. It was in a beautiful location and the people I went with were absolutely bonkers!

But the access wasn’t up to par, which left me feeling very disappointed. However, this led to a meeting with Attitude is Everything where we reviewed the current handbook on accessibility, which I’m pleased about.

In August, I applied to university. Very late, I know but I figured I had nothing to lose. I went for an interview and I got accepted. BSc in Social Sciences at Birkbeck.

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Little did I know how stressful it would be, having to fight to be able to have a decent interpreter and notetakers. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I persevered. Don’t let the system defeat you. We have a right to education, and we have a right to have it delivered to us in our language.

In September, I went to Malta for the EUDY Human Rights Training session. I particularly enjoyed the week for several reasons. The training itself proved invaluable and I know that it will hold me in good stead in the future, but it’s not only just that… the people in my group also played a big part. It was particularly encouraging to see a group of young people from all over Europe come together to learn how to train and empower future generations of youths. It was such a diverse group of people – some played a big part in establishing youth associations in their countries, and some on a European level. Some had no experience but were keen to learn, and some had plenty of experience and were more than happy to give advice on how to lobby, campaign and advocate.

This quote sums it up perfectly.

“I want my friend to understand that “staying out of politics” or “being sick of politics” is privilege in action. Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Your wealth, your race, your abilities or your gender allows you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation or genocide. You didn’t want to get political, you don’t want to fight because your life and safety are not at stake. It is hard and exhausting to bring up issues of oppression (aka “get political”). The fighting is tiring. I get it. Self-care is essential. But if you find politics annoying and you just want everyone to be nice, please know that people are literally fighting for their lives and safety. You might not see it, but that’s what privilege does.” – Kristen Tea.

I believe it’s important to speak out when you see or feel something is wrong, because if you don’t, how can you expect things to change for the better? It may not be instant or happen in your lifetime, but the important thing is there must be change.

 

I didn’t particularly enjoy getting thrown into Immigration because I put my passport into my carry on luggage which was later put into the hold. Fun times.

A pleasant surprise made its way into the shape of gorgeous Faolán, who surprised his mother by popping out 3 weeks earlier!

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Read the article below to find out about his speedy delivery.

Faolán is famuzzzz

I then went to Bestival as a BSL co-ordinator with Performance Interpreting. I appreciated this opportunity as it allowed me to see what goes on behind the scenes and the effort it takes to put everything together. I felt this was an important step towards building a good relationship with festivals and the deaf community.

 

Oh, and I had a three-way wedding. Fun times.

In October, I attended a beautiful wedding. My gayboys finally got married. I’ve known these boys for years, and I can honestly say that they will go all the way. The love they have for each other is so sweet, it kinda wants to make you throw up at times.

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Mr and Mr Twine-Smith. I wanted them to change their names to Swine, but they put their foot down. Damn.

In November, it was the 3rd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf in Budapest, Hungary, and I was fortunate enough to be part of their team. The week was action-packed. I have to say I have the utmost respect for the WFD team. It’s a small team, but the work they do is no easy feat. It’s all hands on deck at all times, and everyone supports each other. Such a lovely team and I hope to work with them again in the future. If you’re in a position to be able to donate, please do so. The work they do is truly inspiring.

Donate to WFD

Thanks also go to SINOSZ and the volunteers for hosting the Conference. Last but not least, praise goes to those who delivered presentations. A lot of hard work went into their research, and it’s making a difference to our community. Thank you.

Oh, and €100. That is all.

I also moved in with Robert, and I truly do feel #content. *inserts smirk here*

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Which brings us to December. Finally… I’ve been at this for ages. I need a cup of tea now.

Okay, so December has been a busy month. I got elected to the Board of the BDA. Thank you to those who voted for me. I will do everything I can to make it a good term, and hopefully, bring about a lot of positive changes!

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University has also taken its toll on me, what with fighting for interpreters and all the assignments… but I have to say it’s been a valuable experience and I’m glad I chose this journey. I realise my path hasn’t been a conventional one, but it’s what I feel is right for me. I didn’t go to university when I was 18 because I didn’t think that at that age, you could determine the rest of your life. Instead, I moved and worked in various countries, I met different people and learnt their cultures. As the years have gone by, I’ve learnt more about myself. I’ve learnt more about my abilities and skills. I’ve learnt to stop being deprecative at times and to stop putting myself down. I look forward to finishing my studies and potentially continuing more studies afterwards…!

 

That was a year. Told you, I’m always running about. But this time, I’m running about with a sense of purpose. There’s a fire inside of me, and I want to use it for good. I feel like a door has been opened, and there’s a world of possibilities out there. I finally feel settled in myself, up there… which is what I said wanted to achieve at the end of last year.

So, what’s my resolution for the next year?

I’d say… continue to be yourself, work hard, appreciate what you have, treat people the way you would like to be treated, and enjoy life.

 

Adios

xxx

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