It all began in my senior year of high school. One of my classmates suggested to our principal to offer us American Sign Language as an elective class and in our senior year I began my love affair with the language.
I remember coming to class eager to learn how to speak using my hands. Not just gestures or motions but to fully communicate with my hands. A spark was ignited within me and it became a passionate love affair that has not ended.
I studied interpreting for the Deaf at Northeastern University, the best program in the country. I loved every minute of every day I spent learning the language and the Deaf culture that is connected to it.
At the end of my fourth year of school ( I had two more years to go as a transfer student in a 5 year institution) I spent the summer volunteering in Israel on the ambulances as an EMT. My passion for Israel and the country I came to call my home was re-ignited and I distinctly remember calling my mother up in the outdoor market in Tel Aviv to tell her I was not returning to school.
I was moving to Israel.
And the fighting began. I had a degree I needed to complete. I had responsibilities in Boston. I had student loans I needed to pay back. But mind was set and my soul at peace with my decision.
I was giving up on one passion for another. Focusing on one passion that completed my soul. The other I gave up but with an ache in my heart.
I knew that by giving up my education and moving to Israel then was right for me – but would others understand my decisions? Would they only notice the lack of college degree and not my passion?
A week following the conversation with my mother I was on a plane returning to the States planning my move to Israel. In my mind I was returning in the shortest amount of time possible once I got my things in order.Those things turned into two years and in the summer of 2004 I came home.
But I never stopped loving American Sign Language and the Deaf culture.
(side note- each country has its own sign language which is based on the language of that country. it is not the same just like we do not all speak the same spoken language)
I wanted to continue my love affair but with a lack of foundation in Hebrew, I knew it would be a while before I learned Israeli Sign Language. I looked for different programs that taught the language here but I couldnt find anything about it and I most definitely was not able to search in Hebrew and scour the web for information in the correct language.
I gave up looking.
And now I found it.
Two weeks ago I came across an article here in Israel about the first Deaf and Blind conference. I found the name of the organization here that hosted the event and I reached out to them. I used to volunteer with the Deaf and the Blind (most of whom are born Deaf but loose their sight as they get older due to a disease called Usher’s syndrome). They responded and I am hopefully going to meet with them Monday evening.
I shared the news with my co-worker about my former passion and how eight years after leaving the Deaf world I was slowing coming back.
And the most astonishing thing happened – he turned around to me and told me that the CTO of my company was heavily involved in the Deaf community in Israel and is part of an organization that teaches Israeli Sign Language.
I ran to his office but he was out. The next day I came in and went to his office and he was not in yet. I was bursting with excitement and the spark of my passion was re-lit in full force.
What felt like a lifetime dream and passion was coming back into my life. And I wanted to share it with the CTO but he wasnt around to share it with.
And finally after what felt like years, he appeared in the office and I blurted out to him “I’ve heard your involved in the Deaf world here.. did you know I went to school to become an interpreter for the Deaf?!”
NO WAY! was his response. And I sat down in his office and we began sharing our passion for sign language. He shared information about the organization he is involved with and how I could get involved. I signed up to be notified with the next course in Hebrew Sign Language is available in Tel Aviv.
It took me 12 years to return to a country that completed my soul, but only eight years to return to this passion.
And I am glad I did not have to give up one for the other. I just needed to snooze the passion for a bit of time.