From a recent conversation with Tess Edmonds:

I can feel the responsibility and the weight of leadership that won’t be so very far away now (probably within the next decade or so), and feel so, so not ready or worthy for any of it. But there’s also so much work to be done.

We’re no longer the very new kids, we’ve been teaching students who are themselves young adults for a little while now, we… have to be the grownups. And I don’t know how anyone ever becomes ready to do that work. I don’t know if you feel the same way… maybe it’s something you’re never actually ready for, but do anyway.

I fairly recently realized that part of my desire to be “ready” is really a desire to be safe - from errors, from criticism, from failing… and I don’t actually need that, nor is it even possible at all to have that, with this kind of work.

There’s also a part of openness and eagerness to learn, and humility, and that aspect I want to keep - if I ever think I’m ready, I’ll be wrong! But as you said, that’s not the same as being able to contribute, and learn more along the way.

For me, one of these things is probably going to be getting more help with my ADHD. Re-reading that above conversational snippet in light of what I’ve recently learned about rejection-sensitive dysphoria makes me realize that – look, I can’t do the work I want to do in the world without having the ability to take those errors. Those critiques. Those failings. Those people telling me that I have failed (even if I haven’t).

I have tried stubbornness and masochism and just Working Harder and Trying More and Wanting It Badly as a way to cope, just like I tried those things for being deaf, or having ADHD in the first place, or being a woman in tech, or… you know. Lots of other things. But there are other tools, and there are other ways, and all this energy could probably go somewhere better, right? So I will try… yet again.

I am writing these words down and putting them out there so that someday, someone (some student, maybe) reading this will go “oh, is that… how it is?” and be able to work past shame and struggle and towards whatever supports they need. It might not look like it to people who meet me, but i am wrestling with this mightily, and need a lot of help, but don’t know what shape that help needs to take quite yet. It’s a journey that’s hard for an adult who’s already supposed to have it all together, but I want to do the work I want to do more than I do not want to do this work that I seem to need in order to do the other.

  • ontology (noun) and ontological (adjective): Ontology is the study of being and reality, and/or one such reality being studied (very roughly speaking). I will often sign this as the version of “world” that’s a gestured globe, followed by “study” (and then “world” as a classifer if I’m setting up multiple ontologies to talk about). Sadly, I do not yet have a better way of distinguishing between the two for voicing purposes than fingerspelling “y” at the end of one, and “cal” at the end of the other… it doesn’t matter when I’m signing directly to someone about it, and I haven’t yet had a lot of opportunities to let other folks voice me on it (although [FRIEND] tried yesterday when I met his colleagues, to hilarious effect). Suggestions welcome, and I apologize in advance.
  • Ontological plurality / ontological diversity - “ontology” as above, and then “many” for the first and some variant of “varying/diverse” for the second. I’ll mouth the hell out of it or can modality-switch the first couple times until we nail it.
  • Epistemology (noun)/epistemological (again, sorry, noun vs adjective distinction have not-yet). It’s “knowledge” initialized with an E (I’m not thrilled, but whatever.) Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and/or one such system of knowledge being studied. I will almost always assign these to one or more ontologies, so I will generally set up an ontology in space somewhere, then sign “epistemology” and then point to the applicable ontolog(y/ies).
  • Onto-ethico-epistemolog(y/ies) - (I’M SORRY) the things my research centers around, b/c ontologies, epistemologies, and questions of power/privilege/ethics within them cannot be separated. I sign this “ontology ethics epistemology” and then use the sign/handshape for “setup” as a classifer because I’ll sometimes transition that handshape into “expand” and then use the fingers of the open 5-hand to enumerate various components of it.
  • Assemblage (ALSO VERY SORRY FOR THIS, it’s French so it’s pronounced “ah-sem-BLUHDGE”) means “a collection or gathering of things or people,” but the membership of those collections is not static. I’ll sign “group” and then wiggle my fingers, again with tons of mouthing.
  • Paradigm / paradigm shift - in the Kuhnian sense of “a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a discipline,” or one such set of concepts/practices. Sometimes used interchangeably with “ontology” in lay usage, but I actually distinguish between them: paradigms presuppose ontologies AND epistemologies and are underlying assumptions that determine how people approach a situation. The shifting collections of underlying assumptions constitute assemblages that - for me - are either ontologies or closely related (I am still figuring this out). Sign-wise, I am a terrible person: for “paradigm” I’ll generally fingerspell quickly and then switch randomly between “vision” and “perspective” and “mind setup” and “think approach” for “paradigm,” and do “shift” (based on “way,” but often placed up by the head) for “paradigm shift.” And… yeah, this is one of the reasons that I usually oral-mode research stuff, and expose this process to hearies when I don’t, because they jaw-drop when they see this sort of meaning-negotiation.
  • Narrative accrual - collection of stories from a community, so I sign “story collection heap.”
  • Community of practice - a community of people who share a common practice in a domain; I sign “community practice group” but sometimes this gets abbreviated into a fingerspelled “COP” because it’s often shortcut-typed as “CoP.” CoPs and narrative accruals co-construct each other.
  • I have somewhat snarky name signs for some common theorists Foucault (pronounced “FOO-coe,” because… hearing people) and Derrida (pronounced “deh-ree-DAH”) that I can show you when they come up, and might expand for the hearies since they crack up every Deaf theorist I’ve ever met.

[Closing sentiments, signature]

Yep. That’s every single meeting with a new interpreting team, and this particular team was less-new to me than usual (one person had interpreted for me before and knew some of my context, vocabulary, signing style, and personality).

I’m good at prep, and I enjoy doing it – it forces me to think through the meeting as well – but it is a lot of time that hearing people do not generally need to spend. This is part of the invisible labor I do to create access for myself and other Deaf signers in academia.