I have to say that the year of 2020 has been like a big roller coaster ride. It was neither a great nor terrible year! The pandemic has certainly changed people’s everyday lives and has made its impact on society and on how people live and work in both a positive and negative way. Although, for myself, I found a silver lining from this year – this I will outline in the following summary below.
I have taken the opportunity to reflect on 2020 and I’d like to share my reflections with you – I hope you enjoy reading this. I will also share another blog about my resolutions for 2021.
The summary for each month will also be available in Auslan, so everything will be accessible. After I’ve done the monthly summaries, I will wrap up with some final thoughts.
In general January is one of my most favourite months because of my birthday and the vibe of summer break.
I enjoyed New Year’s Eve at the Sydney Opera House vantage point with a bunch of people (local and international) and I also made some new friends. What I found funny was many of the international people were from the UK. Every year we always have many people visiting from other countries for the world’s best New Year Eve fireworks which, of course, Sydney is famous for.
As some of you know, I love doing fun activities and/or games, so on my day out for my birthday, I went and did an Escape Room with two of my great friends from Victoria. Afterwards, we got some ice cream. It was a simple, fun and enjoyable day.
Though, at the same time, we were facing a big natural disaster – bushfires across Australia mainly in NSW, QLD and VIC. This encouraged the Deaf community to advocate and make noise about access to Auslan interpreters across various media platforms. We also made a video campaign with the hashtag #InterpretersSavesLives which went viral. This was a fantastic outcome. Also, I set up the Facebook group “Auslan Media Access” to establish a centralised and collective approach to advocate this cause. I was surprised to see that over 3,000 individual members joined and banded together to support this common cause.
Apart from the advocacy, I didn’t get a chance to visit the beaches to swim and sunbake because of the heavy smoke from the bushfires. So instead, I mostly caught up on some sleep and did some WFDYS meetings and some freelance work.
After the bushfires season, which had a huge impact on the dams in Sydney – water levels ran critically low and water restrictions were put into place. Fortunately, Mother Nature decided to visit our state and gave us a lot of rain and filled up our dam so efficiently. I cannot remember how long it has been since it was this full.
One weekend, I flew to Victoria for my lovely friend Taryn’s hen’s party. I was really looking forward to this weekend because I got my Melbourne fix and caught up with some of my Melbourne friends. I was also waiting for my results from my NAATI test that I sat last November. Of course, no results came through and I had a great time at the hen’s party. Believe it or not, for the first time, I roller skated! In spite of the fact that, my balance is hopeless and I have an ankle injury, I enjoyed skating and it was nice to feel the wind on my skin (I also gave it a fun shot and made my ankle work harder because I knew that my ankle would be fixed a few weeks afterwards)
I also recall, around this time, on the news, the COVID outbreak became serious and many countries were altered. Each country was working to protect their communities from this virus. And yet, this moment that I never thought would happen has instantly changed our lives. In the last week of February, I got my ankle surgery. I can’t describe how I feel about it because I suffered from the pain for over a year. I still don’t know what caused it but it happened at a cricket match. I was planning to share my hospital experience but I never found the time to do this. Hopefully, I will write about my hospital experience another time. Again, this was another first for me. This surgery was my first surgery, and I hate needles (I think I might have a phobia of needles). Once the surgery was done, I woke up with a cast and a “new ankle” and was told that I had to do two weeks of injections to avoid Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Ekkkk!!
A few days after that the national government made an announcement that all elective surgeries had to be canceled and postponed as a precaution and to prepare for the worst COVID situation. Thankfully I got my surgery done before this happened, otherwise I would be impatiently waiting for my ankle to be fixed.
By the way, the day before my ankle surgery, I received my NAATI result and I was not successful. I found this disappointing but I suppose it was meant to be. In spite of this, I was able to become a Recognised Practicing Deaf Interpreter. I know that someday I will try again and become a Certified Deaf Interpreter.
This month nothing different or interesting happened for me because I spent two weeks at home. Most of the time I stayed in my bedroom because of my cast and thankfully my family supported me by delivering food, drinks and other things to my bedroom – it felt like I was getting five stars room service! Haha! On top of this home-stay, the government ordered a lockdown in my state so I did not really miss anything and I took leave from my work to focus on my ankle recovery. I also am grateful that one of my friends gave me access to her Netflix and wow I became hooked to a couple of TV series.
To break my spell stuck at home, my lovely friend, Katrina from South Australia took me out for brunch and we had a good catch up! I was glad to see someone different rather than my four walls!
Then in the middle of March, my cast was removed. I was excited because I could start walking again. It amazed me in the last two weeks while my ankle has been in the cast, my calf muscle has deteriorated and felt weak like jelly.So, that explains why everyone has to keep doing exercises every day! At this time, I also began my ankle rehabilitation i.e. seeing the physio.
With my advocacy hat on, I can see there has been some improvement in regards to access to interpreters on the screen on various media platforms after we lobbied for this during the bushfires. It is, of course, very important to access health information. I still think it is sad that we had to advocate to make this happen rather than them being proactive and providing access to information without being asked.
I started to return to work slowly following my ankle surgery and continued doing my ankle rehab however, for some reason, I felt down, not being myself and frustrated with a few things at home and surrounding my life. I won’t go into this as everyone has their own personal battles although I can say that counselling is beneficial. It is important for everyone to be able to talk with someone, someone that they can confide in on how to improvise and overcome their frustrations.
On a good note, I started doing some fun digital arts / illustration on my iPad and this really helped my creative juices to flow, I really enjoyed doing this. I had missed doing this because work kept me busy and I never had a chance to do things like this for fun, that was not related to work.
I made a few visits to the hospital to do some physio sessions. I really enjoyed my time because most people stayed home due to restrictions, there was less traffic on the road and it was quiet in the physio area.
My Dad also stopped working and had to stay home because his work temporarily closed for a while. It also made me realise I was so lucky because I could still work from home and I had some work opportunities in comparison to my father. However, the advantage of having my father at home meant I was able to eat delicious lunches, because he is a chef.
In the middle of the month, my physio gave me the all-clear to drive and I felt like I had more freedom. I actually counted the days that I had not driven and I hadn’t driven for 76 days, this drove me crazy.
Then, something triggered the Deaf Community and many people were fuming because someone had taken advantage of our native language and made an appearance on a reality TV show – the Voice. Many Deaf people were not happy about this and shared their opinions/thoughts on social media. This made me want to do something. I can’t help myself since I always like to contribute to our community as an advocate person, so I decided to form the Deaf Community Australia Forum to give an opportunity for people to say something and act rather than just throw words around without taking any action.
The first few forums were successful. So many people supported the idea of having open discussion and this produced some great food for thought. Yes, some people disagreed with some parts of the discussions that were had, but this is normal and it is great to have good healthy debates and have the opportunity to share useful information.
For WFDYS, I was supposed to fly to the USA for a board meeting and then travel to Canada for holiday. Unfortunately my national government closed the international borders in March for inbound and outbound flights due to the pandemic. I was very disappointed but I was glad that I could still continue my ankle rehab as I didn’ want to delay it because it was important to me and I found it helped my ankle regain its strength.
I can say this month was a big learning curve for me in politics. It also took a lot of my energy though because I usually want to please everyone but it isn’t possible.
Following on from some community discussion and recent big movement (Black Lives Matter), and owing to my role in the Deaf community and WFDYS, (Black Lives Matter), I had some people approach me. They shared some advice about how to express myself using the right words, and how to work around many issues and how to manage all of this in the spotlight and also gave me tips on how to refine my leadership skills. I was overwhelmed by all of these things but I am glad that this happened. I am grateful that I had some wonderful people who supported me and helped me to navigate through these challenging times.
One thing I learnt was how to take on a more diplomatic approach, especially related to cultural, public and politics. I am committed to learn and continue to develop my skills further in this area.
One of my lovely friends, Jordanna who decided to move back to her home country, USA had a farewell party. I went to the party and it was the first time I had socialised with a bunch of people after a long time and it was nice to see everyone again. Although it was sad to see her leave but I was glad I had the privilege to get to know her and have the opportunity to work with her on different levels ie. Deaf Australia NSW board, Deaf Society and some volunteering projects. I know I will visit her and her country at some point because I usually travel quite frequently, thanks to my role with the WFDYS.
This month is a special month for the WFDYS! The WFDYS was established in 1995 in Vienna, Austria, so it’s their 25th anniversary. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people on the WFDYS board during both my terms (2015-2019 & current 2019-2023) even though this work is voluntary. I love to support young people, not only in Australia but internationally as well! Happy 25th birthday, WFDYS!
During an impromptu conversation with my lovely friend, Vanessa from Western Australia, when we talked about WFDYS, we had an idea. We know how lucky we are to have WFDYS because it gave us the opportunity to set up Deaf Youth Australia (DYA) and encourage many young people to develop their leadership skills and go to camps to acquire skills and network with other young people. So, we wanted to give something back to WFDYS as an expression of gratitude, so we formed a community project named 25VS25. This project will see us complete 25 different ideas before WFDYS turns 26 next year in July! You can check out the website to see how you can support this project. We are fundraising and will be giving 75% of the proceedings to WFDYS and the remaining 25% will go to Deaf Youth Australia. This is a subject close to my heart and very important to me, because I have had a wonderful time with DYA, first as a member, a secretary and then as president and I am now Vice President of WFDYS, so who knows what I will do after I step down from my WFDYS role in 2023 because of my age.
Towards the end of the month, I was invited to participate in a photo shoot project by Storybox. This was a rare opportunity for me to glam up and look fancy as I normally wear casual clothing and rarely wear makeup. It was fun and I enjoyed my day with some other deaf people at the studio.
This month consists of some great achievements I have made in my life!
Since I am a multicultural and technology geek, one night my grandparents got a new iPad because their old iPad had broken. It was an opportunity to teach them how to text via iMessage in their native Chinese so I could translate it from Chinese to English. My grandparents learnt how to do it well which amazes me. I am always using gestures to communicate with them because they can’t use or understand English nor Auslan and I can’t read or write Chinese. I am grateful and appreciative for small things like this! And I am proud of them for learning new things!
On another exciting note, I had been planning to set up and run a company as it was one of my goals and I finally did this, this month. Prior to the launch, there was heaps of paperwork to complete, such as business registration to ATO, which was on 1 August (I have a thing for numbers and the number 1 is one of my lucky numbers), and the development of the website and logo. I think the most challenging task was choosing a business name because it will be permanent and it needed to be something meaningful to me personally. And so, I launched Creative Mint Digital on August 13. I was feeling nervous but also very excited! One chapter in my life closed and another chapter has now opened. In order to open my next chapter, I made the difficult decision of leaving Sweeney Interpreting. It was a wonderful experience for me to work with some great people who have the same common goal for Deaf Community and they gave me a confidence boost towards my future career. I want to extend a special thanks to Sean and Chevoy for giving me the opportunity to work with them when I moved back from Melbourne and then gave me the encouragement to take the next step of running my own company.
I know it was the right decision to make and I believe this may be a good future for me because I love to travel and my type of work means that I can work from anywhere which is a great benefit. As a side note, if COVID has not happened, I would probably live overseas and be working for an organisation and not have had the opportunity to set up this company.
In my ankle rehab journey, I remember this day very well. On the 21st I graduated from the ankle exercise rehab program at the hospital’s physio department. This was a new milestone for me to achieve! I couldn’t be more grateful for my wonderful physiotherapist, Debbie who was friendly, humble and patient with me and made sure my ankle returned to its full capacity and strength again! I was comfortable with the process and Debbie’s guidance. I am now satisfied with my “new” ankle so far! I have had no pain at all, so far.
This was one of my busiest months due to my new company work and a major event – International Day of Sign Languages and International Week of Deaf.
I also started to travel to a few places such as Central Coast and Wollongong. It was amazing to see how my client base was building up. Honestly, I had plans to promote my services but this never eventuated because I was able to get some clients due to word-of-mouth and I enjoy working with a variety of clients.
I was also able to appreciate the little things in between work, such as, finally managing to visit the beach for a short time to absorb the warmth, smell the fresh salty ocean and see the beautiful sunset.
This month we celebrated the International Day of Sign Languages and International Week of Deaf, it was amazing to see many deaf people around the world and how they celebrated in a different way owing to the pandemic.
Deaf Australia Inc, the national peak organisation advocacy for deaf people and a member of the World Federation of the Deaf, hosted their AGM which I attended. Unexpectedly, it was there, that I found out that I was receiving the Deaf Australian of the Year award. I felt very honoured to receive this award and recognition for my advocacy work and contribution to the Deaf community. I wrote a gratitude message in my Facebook post. I am incredibly proud of myself for receiving two awards: the Deaf Youth Australian of the Year in 2018 and the Deaf Australian of the Year 2020. Who knows what will happen next!
To wrap up this lovely month, I went on a little getaway in Forster to celebrate my lovely friend, Taryn’s 30th birthday. It was a bummer that our interstate friends were unable to come due to COVID border restrictions. However, I helped to make a video with almost an hour worth of clips of friends and families saying a small message for Taryn, which I’m sure will be memorable for Taryn! We all enjoyed our time, playing games, chatting and visiting a few places! Admittedly, it was a break that I really needed too, and I was able to unplug from my work for the whole weekend.
My wonderful friend, Stephanie from ILA Reporter. ILA Report is the official blog of the International Law Association (Australian Branch). We collaborated on an article and wrote about the significant ongoing issue that our Deaf Community faces in regards to the lack of access to emergency broadcasting and explained what our human rights were. You can find the link here if you’d like to read it.
One night during this month, my Boston wife (it’s an inside joke) and wonderful friend Kylie, decided to watch the second series of the horror TV show, “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” It was mind-blowing but not really scary compared to the first series. The storyline was still great and it was definitely worth watching!
My dear brother reached his 21st trip around the sun. This was a great milestone for him. I am a very proud sister and cannot believe how fast he has grown up into a young man! I am so excited to see what opportunities he takes on.
One other favourite thing that happened this month was visiting my lovely friends on the Central Coast which is only one hour away! It was a lovely break from my home! And another birthday to celebrate, Ivy’s 2nd birthday! I love birthdays because of all the joy and happiness!
There were a few happy moments this month that stand out for me. One of them, I organised a late birthday activity for my lovely Julia, with a touch of “Amazing Race”. Since I am a fan of Happy Socks, I got some limited edition Disney socks for her. We all know Julia loves Disney, especially Minnie Mouse! This mission was a success! She enjoyed it! A big thank you to my Boston wife, Kylie who helped in the background to make sure the mission went smoothly! Everything was done through Zoom, the wonders of technology! I love technology!
The other happy moment was when I found out that my lovely friend Katrina had received the dedication award from WFDYS for her wonderful contribution to the Deaf community! A big congratulations to Kat, I am very, very lucky to have her in my life. I look up to her like my big sister and she is an inspiration and a great role model. Katrina’s drive and passion for the Deaf community is one of the reasons why I also want the best for the Deaf community and why I want to see it thrive. Of course, I also love the great times we (Vanessa & Katrina) had when we worked together and achieved many things while we were on the Deaf Youth Australia board since day one. Teamwork is the best!
There was another birthday and this time it was a surprise for CJ! We celebrated at a painting studio! It was a great time and I had fun painting, it was my first time too!
Another happy moment happened when I finally saw my lovely Katrina after COVID restrictions were eased, we caught up for lunch and dinner too! I also had the chance to catch up with Kylie too! It was nice to see two out of three sisters in one place (minus Hayley). They have all been a part of my life since I was 2.5 years old!
As for the WFDYS, we hadn’t seen each other in person for a long time but we regularly caught up at our monthly online meetings. I do miss them a lot and I cherish our time together in Georgia which was the last time I saw them (last November), just over a year ago! Because of this, our online board meeting ended up taking five days during the last week of this month and into early December.
I cannot believe it is already December! I feel like time went so quickly! This month was so busy!
The WFDYS board meeting was successful although very exhausting because we had to work with so many different time zones as well as do some preparation work prior to the meeting. It also was lovely to see several YOMs observe our board meeting, so good to see how technology has enabled them to participate without any barriers.
After the week of meeting, I focused my time on one of the 25VS25 initiatives – Deaf Santa! You can see this story on our Facebook page. This is a great initiative we came up with and we enjoyed seeing so many kids excited to talk with a Deaf Santa. Again, I was very exhausted after busily zooming online in different time zones. But it was all worth it! I hope that this idea can continue next year!
For 25VS25, we released another initiative: Deaf Power Socks and amazingly we managed to reach 50% sales within 2 weeks, which was a fantastic result!
We then hosted one last forum for DCAF with Deaf Australia. I think it was a good session for the Deaf community and I hope they learnt something and how to help/work together in unity for 2021. You can watch this forum on this link if you missed it. This also made me think about DCAF as I’d love to keep it running for 2021 although I may need to think of different strategies so that it can be effective and efficient.
A few days before my planned break from work, I had to cancel it. I had planned a fun getaway to spend some time with my interstate friends from Victoria. I was really looking forward to this but then the Sydney outbreak happened and the restrictions that were put into place impacted my plans. I was very disappointed because I hadn’t seen any of my Victorian friends since February and was so looking forward to catching up with them again. Although I enjoyed my break, I managed to get a lot of sleep and binge on Netflix!
I had another lovely gathering on the Central Coast and it was lovely to catch up with my friends, I enjoyed eating and of course chilling with the kids. We also kept an eye on the news and found out there were updated restrictions for Christmas due to the outbreak.
As some of you may know, my family does not really celebrate Christmas as this is a western tradition. For us, celebrating the Chinese New Year is a bigger event than Christmas. So on Christmas Day, my lovely friends Taryn and Josh invited me to join them and spend some time with some others. It was my first time spending Christmas with my friends and it was one of my best nights, I had so much fun! There were a couple of kids around and they were so happy just like us! I enjoyed playing with them and I was pretty satisfied that both kids liked me because in the past they were hesitant around me or didn’t like me. Overall, it was a really great night!
I admit that in wrapping up December and looking back at my year with only a few days to go until 2021 is here, all I can say is wow, so many things have happened this year and I have achieved a lot too! I am still standing, and I am recharging my energy ready for the new year to come. One big positive that has happened this month is that there have been no bushfires as normally this month is categorised as a high risk for bushfires, but thanks to La Niña this month is a wet season and I’m sure our firefighters are having a nice break. You can see there is a huge difference between last year and this year!
So in a few days, I will post another blog of my resolutions for 2021. What my goals are and what I want to do. It should be a great one, especially since I will be in the last year of being in the 20’s club!
I hope you enjoyed the summary of my year! It was nice to walk down the memory lane of 2020 and this is certainly one year I will remember forever!