12 Jul Mind Over Matter
BEFORE WE START...THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES!
You never truly stop growing my friends...
So my time at the Big Thicket is slipping away from me much faster than I hoped, but I anticipated the time to be too short anyway. I have met some incredible individuals here at the park, and they have truly become my support system while I’ve been here. One of the biggest things that I’ve learned while being here is how to interact with and adapt to different walks of life that people have. I come from a small area in North Georgia called Flowery Branch; we are a small town/city off the highway. We are too far from the metro to be called Atlanta and too flat to be called the blue ridge. The demographics are over 85% white, with African American being the 3rd largest population behind Hispanics. We were not very diverse, much less regarding diversity in abilities. As weird as it sounds, when I came to Big Thicket, I met the first deaf people, Tulasi and Henry, in my life.
It was, for sure, an adjustment, to say the least. I never really understood the deaf culture, and in lots of ways, I still don’t understand it. When I first met them, I felt really awkward because I didn’t know ASL, nor did I know how we would be able to communicate without the use of an interpreter. Even the first day I showed Tulasi around the ranch house, I told them they could use my bathroom speaker if they wanted…it took me a second to realize why they stared at me so hard…then I felt the most embarrassing feeling of my life. I felt like I was at a wall; I have never felt so incapable of understanding someone else. But it gets better. Over the first few days of getting to know each other, I started picking up ASL gradually. Our communication got better and more cohesive! I was learning and understanding all at the same time, and it was terrific. One night I remember asking Tulasi if they could teach me a greeting for Henry because, at this point, I had never had a real conversation with him. “Hello Henry, my name is B-I-A-N-C-A. I don’t really know Sign, but I am slowly learning. I hope you can help me learn!” This was the sentence I learned, and I absolutely butchered it the first few times I tried, but I practiced all night to figure it out. When I approached Henry the next day, I was nervous about messing up, but Tulasi was there to support me.
Henry was so nice and proceeded to respond and teach me a little sign while doing it. From that moment on, I knew things would change for me. Over our friendship, I have learned about the history of the deaf community and the struggles they face on an everyday basis. It has been almost a culture shock for me but in the best way possible. They are some of the kindest people, and they have taught me so much by living their lives to the fullest. Henry is my favorite clown; he has taught me to slackline and juggle (which is actually very difficult!). Tulasi has invited me into their religion and culture through food and stories. Our friendship has taught me to understand life through a lens I would never have had the opportunity to see through without them. And for that, I thank them so much. <3
Another opportunity I had was to guide someone through a situation that hits very near and dear to my heart. I have been going through a major journey with my weight for all of my life, and I have come to the point where I am comfortable to talk about that on a public forum. One of my biggest fears when I learned I was going to be working on the water was my weight. Now I have had instances where I could not do certain things because I was too big, and that was very embarrassing for me, but going into a job where I felt as though I was not going to be able to perform to the best of my abilities because of my weight was scary. I had to overcome a lot of anxiety to get out on the water. Firstly, the fear of not having a life jacket that fit me properly, secondly not being able to get in the vessel because I weighed too much. On my paddle training day, I really had to keep myself together because I was all in my head about everything that could go wrong. Long story short though, because of the support I had with my supervisor and friends I was able to overcome that anxiety and get out on the water and have a great experience.
This was something that changed my outlook on new challenges here at the Thicket. I realized I could do more than I ever thought I could do, and that was special. When I had the opportunity to give that new experience to someone else in my position, I felt honored. For privacy, I won’t say much about them except for this. No matter how you change you must understand, this journey in weight and health is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Sometimes it is difficult, and you want to give up, other times it is easy and you can sail through but always it is a challenge. To anyone reading, and you may be going through something similar, don’t ever discredit yourself from anything until you try! I promise if you let your fear win, you could miss a life changing experience!