Age presents another point of view for telling stories according to Dawn Mauldon

In her latest memoir, Unheard Voices, Dawn Mauldon set out to challenge how voices of displacement, diversity and personal histories influence expectations and outcomes. The author shares her unique and deeply personal perspective on being the child of Deaf parents and what it means to see and communicate in a rich and diverse language world. Dawn sat down to reflect on the gift that age, and introspection opened up opportunities for her to begin her writing career.

Always a seeker of stories, I’ve spent a lifetime searching, gathering, hearing, observing and telling stories to make sense of my place in the bigger story. Many unheard voices have guided me and now, my first book will be published in early August, just one week before my seventy-ninth birthday – and that’s a story to celebrate.

Stories are still a significant part of my growing and learning, encouraging me to consider other points of view that confirm, question or challenge my places of belonging. Visual and physical storytelling was my point of difference as the first-born hearing child of deaf parents, signing was my first language, and crossing between cultures and languages was a rich environment for an inquisitive child.

Gathering information has been my constant, telling myself different stories about where I belonged inside my own and ‘other’ stories. Now age, time, opportunity and enough distance, which allows me to revisit and reconsider the many unique narratives inside my own voice.

A lifetime of story-gathering and retelling

Age has crept up on me; I have raced past experiences and never stopped to catch up with myself. Now the time has arrived where I can settle inside my own story, and the stories of people and places that have informed my worlds. Without realising it, I have been working towards this stage all my life.

At the age of thirty-five, I entered into teaching. And discovered I still had much to learn. The diversity of students, teaching environments and life choices helped me to understand how stories are created, structured, retold and interpreted, while always challenging and confronting varying points of difference and versions of reality. There has been much gained along the way, and story-seeking continues to be a driving lifestyle choice, understanding what it is that I do know and discovering more of what it is that I don’t yet know.

Unknowingly, I have always been writing and telling stories in journals, poems, essays, short stories and especially in letters to family, friends and students. It is how I have made sense of my relationships with people and place. Writing is easier to store and dispose of than some of my previous artistic passions. The gathering of stories does not have a ‘use-by’ date for me.

Engaging with the past informs the future

For me, the diversity of opinions, ideas and attitudes has been generated by race, class, ability, difference, gender, education, opportunity, age and so much more. Today, changing times and opportunities question and challenge how diversity and difference were silenced in the past, and an array of voices advocating for change are being heard through multi-media, literature, films and theatre. Lived experiences, however, have given me an insight into particular times in social history, and through my writing of Unheard Voices (including my own) have an opportunity to be heard.

Through reading, writing and discussion, different voices can explore and express their unique perspective. Story-seekers can discover how difference and potential have individual voices and timelines, and should take every opportunity to trust in the truth of their own voice.

People have always been my passion, process and purpose, and I am fortunate to have had many life experiences where diversity is the natural order of things. Many voices have passed from my life, but their whispered presence still influences how I explore and value my place in the world, and that encourages me to keep expressing the uniqueness of forgotten stories.

Ageing is a new story

The seeking of stories continues, staying open-minded to disparate voices is my ongoing challenge, and I do that through my passion for reading, supported by local bookstores and the AH Bracks Library. Although I still read to unearth characters, narratives and new information, I now also spend a lot of time reading to discover the art and craft of writing. Furthermore, I don’t have to leave home, get dressed up, explain myself, carry a passport, lose my luggage or talk when I prefer not to. And there are those moments – as reading, writing and stories merge – when something new turns up, and my intention is to stay open to whatever comes my way.

I’ve always been tenacious, curious and creative, often exploring how difference is identified without knowing the full story. Ageing is a new story and another opportunity for me to experience what it might mean for me, on my terms, as I take on another career as a writer. My younger self could never have known that both stories and age come in stages, are about timing and lived experiences, and beginnings and middles. Now I appreciate how outcomes are not endings, but simply undiscovered possibilities.

Wit, wisdom and wonder are welcome parts of my evolving experience, and in varying guises they keep turning up, waiting patiently for me to recognise what is being offered. And through the languages of love, loss, hope, difference, joy and belonging, age is now a welcome character with a flexible point of view, ready to guide me towards the next chapters of my story and hopefully, another birthday and book.

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