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Young Student Describes Finding her Passion for New Language

Hartland Middle School student tells how her experience with new American Sign Language class has affected her.

By Jennifer Bauer

Passion.

Cannot be described in words, it cannot be given or shared with others; it must be felt by the one who finds it. The passion to which I am referring is a deep, all encompassing passion that when found, you may never be the same. I am not the same person who sauntered into eighth grade, confident but a little skeptical of the people and places around me. Every day I tell myself, don’t let the world change you, Jen. But maybe, just maybe, I could be changed for the better. And as soon as I found my passion I realized that it wasn’t the world that has changed me, it was passion that had.

I could walk through the memory like it was a well rehearsed play. Or when you’re watching the most intense part of a film when the two main characters are finally reunited after being separated for years. More often than not I prefer my company over the company of others and find myself just jabbering away to the only living, breathing thing in the room, myself. But not this time, now I have found a company that is nothing compared to sitting in a dull, grey, room that is so quiet you can hear the soft humming sound of the furnace, all alone with no one but myself to converse with.

Every third Friday of the month Biggby Coffee has what they call Deaf Coffee night. It’s a night where Deaf community members from around the area come together to speak with friends and family. I have been in an American Sign Language program for quite some time now, and find myself very interested in the culture and language. When I walked in, I was instantly flooded with the strong smell of freshly brewed coffee and toasted bagels. I was the only one from A.S.L there and in the corner sat a Deaf couple. They were signing so beautifully, for A.S.L is one of the most beautiful languages in the world.   

Undecided as to if I should sit down and introduce myself to the couple, I just purchased my coffee and sat alone at a table nearby. Soon after, I got bored and proceeded to sign to myself. 

Little did I know that the Deaf man was watching me, he probably thought “what is that strange young lady doing signing to herself?” But if he knew me he would just disregard it and know that I am just talking to myself like I always do. He motioned me to come over and sign with them.

“Name you?” he questioned.

“Jen. Name you?” I signed in reply.

We continued to just sign casually with each other and soon came the inevitable question of “why do you want to learn sign?” I knew that I would be asked this one day, Deaf people will always ask a hearing person why he or she wants to learn to sign simply out of curiosity. I knew this was coming but never really gave that much thought to the question, so quickly I came up with an exceptional answer.

“I love Deaf Culture.”

Me, being as nervous as I was at the question, can think back and just see how sloppy my reply looked rolling off my fingers. Now understand, I didn’t lie to the man, I do love Deaf Culture, but to me it’s so much more than that. Truly, I still can’t think of what I would have said.

Ten minutes must have gone by and within those ten minutes, I felt so apart of the natural order of things. I felt happier than I had ever felt in my entire being. It is impossible for me to put all the emotions I was feeling down on paper but I can say for the first time, I knew what finding your true passion felt like. I always wondered what my purpose in life was; why on earth did God put me here? Let’s just say I found out that day. 

I am forever changed by the passion that found me on that blissful night on a Friday, in a café. 

Editor's Note: Jennifer Bauer is currently a student at Hartland Middle School enrolled in their new ASL class.

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