College has begun, and it is a wonderful time. But it’s also a rough time. It’s a tough time of adjustment. It’s a tough time of making new friends. And, for me, making friends, and even interacting with old ones in new ways, brings out a lot of my insecurities. And, I have more insecurities than I hope people notice. But, there is one which overpowers all my other insecurities. One which fuels my others. One that has so often caused my others, and caused me to over compensate for them. One which has for so long determined what I said and what I did. One that I have always fought and always will fight, even while all my others may come and go. And that is my eyes.
Now, when I say I’m insecure about my eyes, I don’t mean that I wish my eyes were either more blue or more green instead of half of both. Or that they opened wider or shone brighter. Although these have been insecurities I have had, that do, occasionally, more often than I would like to admit, resurface. But, what I really mean is that I am insecure about my eyesight.
For anyone who doesn’t know, I have ocular albinism. To skip all the scientific jargon, and to spare you from having to read about it, it’s basically a genetic eye condition that reduces the pigmentation in my irises and retinas. It also affects the nerves and pathways somewhere between my eyes and brain, essentially making seeing more difficult. Fortunately for me, my vision is approximately 20/60. Which means I have a mild form of the disease. It also means that it doesn’t really affect me, too much. Until it does. I don’t get too insecure about it, until I do.
And I do get insecure about it. I get insecure every time I read a book and hold it really close to my face. I get insecure every time I am on my phone and someone comes up behind me because I think they are reading over my shoulder, which they could, because my font is large enough. I get insecure every time I go into a café or other shop where the menus are placed behind the counter. Because, usually, I can’t read them. Unless I get really close. And sometimes, even then, it’s difficult. So, I order the same thing every time. Or I make whoever is with me read it to me. Or I freak out and order the same thing everyone else ordered- whether I actually want it or not.
I get insecure when I have to ask my friends to see their notes, even though I sit closer to the board than they do, because I missed some things that were just too difficult for me to make out. I get insecure when I pull out my magnifier to read something, or my telescope to see something, because I know that people are looking at me. I get insecure every time I tilt my head to make reading something easier and more clear, because I am aware of how strange I look. I’m insecure every time my friend says hi to me from across the room, and I don’t respond with a name because I don’t know who is talking to me. Because I can hear them, and see them, but I can’t make out their face until they are almost close enough to touch.
I get insecure every time I go to sit in the front of classes. Even now, in college after doing it for 13 years, and even though I know nobody actually cares. Because I would much rather sit in the back and be an active observer, attentive listener, quiet supporter, mostly invisible sassy commentator, and occasional participant. But, I sit in the front, forced to be less than invisible. And, sometimes, my friends feel the need to sit with me, even though I know they don’t want to. Which makes me feel terrible. And sometimes, they don’t sit with me at all. Which makes me sad, but I understand, because I wish I could sit with them.
I’m insecure because my eyes are hyper sensitive to light. So, my glasses become sunglasses in the sunlight, which helps me to see. But, sometimes, the sun is still too much to handle. So, I wear hats. Which I hate. Because, honestly, I’m not one of the girls that can pull off a baseball cap. I can’t just throw on a baseball cap and have it look cute. It always looks weird. But I wear them anyway because sometimes the sun burns my eyes too much.
Sometimes, my eyes flinch, and my mascara ends up on my eyelid. And, I struggle to see well enough to put on makeup without my glasses. So, my eyeliner or mascara often ends up out of place. But, sometimes I succeed, and my makeup looks great. But, usually, it looks terrible and I end up taking it off before I even leave the house.
Often, I dreaded movie day in school. Because a lot of the time, we would have to take notes. And usually, it was difficult for me to see my paper with all the lights off. So, I was forced to be that one kid who told the teacher it wasn’t okay to turn off all the lights when she asked. And all the other students would groan and complain. And, I would feel worse than I already did.
For the first almost 14 years of my life, I avoided eye contact with everyone, including my family, because I was insecure. I was insecure because my eyes uncontrollably, involuntarily, move back and forth. And I worried that if people noticed it, or saw it, it would make them uncomfortable. Or they would try to tell me that they were doing that. Which makes me uncomfortable. Because I know they do that, and I can’t control it. I know they do that because I have spent many hours staring at myself in the mirror, willing them to stop. I have spent so long avoiding eye contact because I couldn’t get them to stop and I didn’t want people to notice. And I have spent years working to make it less noticeable. And, it is, if I concentrate really hard. But, typically, it isn’t controlled. And it’s strange, and it can sometimes freak people out.
I got insecure every time I had to sit at a table by myself in elementary school during state tests because I had a larger test than my classmates. Until I was finally allowed to speak for myself and say what I needed and didn’t need. So, I no longer sat in the back alone.
But, kids are mean. And they can come up with some horrible names for the girl who is always forced to sit in the front, or willingly sits there, and whom the teachers are always bothering with questions about whether she is okay, or if her seat is okay, or if she needs anything. And some, actually most, of those names have stuck with me to this day.
Eventually, I got to high school. Where students cared less. Because, when you take mostly AP and Honors classes, everyone wants to sit in the front anyway. So, it didn’t bother me or affect me as much. Until that girl in one of my classes got frustrated with me because I took her seat. Or rather, I sat in the one seat in the room that made seeing the easiest for me, which also happened to be the seat next to her best friend. And I tried explaining to her calmly and lovingly how I needed to sit there. But, she didn’t believe me, and she got frustrated. Until the teacher came to my defense. And I felt terrible. Because she should be able to sit where she wants, but my education shouldn’t have to suffer because of it. And I shouldn’t need a teacher to come to my defense, and to the defense of my education.
I got enlarged AP and SAT scantrons®, because those things are tiny. Which always made the lives of the proctors more difficult. And I hate making people’s lives more difficult. And the AP proctors always made a big deal about it. Even though I took 8 tests. They never could quite figure out what was what, so they always made a big deal. And being the center of attention, especially for something like that, was embarrassing and uncomfortable.
I would always stand on the far end of the basketball court, or soccer field, or whatever in gym class, hoping the ball never came to me. Because almost every time it did, I would miss it. Because I don’t have the best depth perception. Sometimes, my eyes don’t do a good job of communicating with each other and my brain to tell me exactly where objects are located. Like in volleyball. I would think the ball was further away than it actually was. So, I wouldn’t stretch out my arms in time, and it would hit me in the face. Or, it would seem closer than it actually is, so I would see it fall a centimeter away from my open hands.
I get insecure every time I try to explain to people what is wrong. Or what I need. Or what it is. Because it is hard to explain because it’s hard to understand. And, usually, they get bored before I even start. And, although I have done so much research on it, and I have lived with it my entire life, I don’t always completely understand it. And it’s hard to make someone understand something that they haven’t experienced. Because it’s not like normal visual impairment. I can’t throw on a pair of glasses, or get some super expensive laser surgery and be totally fine. It doesn’t work like that. But, it also doesn’t mean I’m completely blind. Or that I can’t see anything when I take off my glasses. It just means my vision isn’t perfect, even with glasses, and it never will be.
And, for a while, it made me insecure about my future too. I wondered what my life would be like. Because, I can’t drive. At least not yet. I’m working on it. I should be able to- with certain restrictions. But, I’m terrified. Because seeing is difficult for me, and it’s important to be able to see in order to drive. So, I don’t often do a lot of things because I hate having to be dependent on others for rides. I’m an independent person occasionally forced to be incredibly dependent on others, and it makes me feel terrible, and, at times, pathetic. And I’m stubborn and hate asking for help, especially on things that I shouldn’t need help with.
And I often wondered, and still do, how it would affect my future relationships with people. Because I can be difficult to understand since I don’t always understand myself. Which can make me difficult to deal with. And I can be stubborn about it. And sometimes I will be okay and be joking around about it, but some days I can be very insecure and sensitive about it. Which makes me that much more difficult to deal with.
I have missed a lot in my life because of my inability to see well. And, I am used to it because it happens a lot. People try to point things out to me. Cool signs they see as we drive by. Animals we see while walking. Whatever. And, I can’t see them, and I don’t want to make them wait until I can, or make them try to point them out to me. So, I lie and say I saw it, or I tell them not to worry about it, I’m used to missing things. And, I have gotten good at faking a reaction to convince them I saw it. But, sometimes, that makes them feel bad for me. And I don’t like when people feel bad for me. So, usually I just lie and say I saw it.
So, sometimes, actually a lot of times, I joke about my eyesight. I make jokes about how I’m blind. And maybe it’s because it makes a difficult, complicated thing easier to deal with. Or maybe it’s because I use humor as a defense mechanism, and I have not fully accepted it. But, I am working every day to. And, it’s a daily battle. Thankfully, recently, I have won more than I have lost, and the more I fight, the more I win. And, sometimes the jokes can get annoying, or they are overused, and I apologize. But, it’s how I accept myself. And, I hope one day I won’t need them. But, for now, I do.
And usually, I’m okay if others join in the jokes. In fact, I usually love it and find it hilarious. But, sometimes, on those days when I am feeling terribly insecure or overly sensitive, I can get mad or frustrated or annoyed or even angry when people try to make jokes. Because I can’t control my eyesight. I can’t fix it, though I have hoped and prayed that I could. So, sometimes, I don’t think people are understanding how much I am actually affected by it, and how sensitive I can actually be about it, so I don’t always appreciate the jokes because sometimes I feel they are being made in ignorance. And, I’m sorry. Because I don’t know when those days are coming, and it’s not fair to others that I act that way because I’m feeling bad about myself. But, thankfully, those days have gotten fewer and farther between.
Thankfully, I have gotten a lot more accepting of myself. If anything, this condition has taught me how to be creative. I know multiple ways to enlarge the screen on both my phone and laptop. I often take pictures of unreadable menus and zoom in. Or look it up online. Thank God for technology!
I also thank God for my sight. Because I could be completely blind. And, there have been days where I wished I was. Days where I have been in tears wishing I was “normal.” Or that I was completely blind. Because that would be easier to explain. But, thankfully, there are more days when I realize how lucky I am. Lucky that I am able to see. Lucky that, in all reality, I don’t have it that bad. I thank God that the human brain is so miraculous and is able to adapt. Change nerve pathways. Become better. Because, although I still don’t have perfect vision, I see a lot better than I used to.
So, I am insecure about my eyes. Sometimes, I over compensate. Sometimes, actually a lot of times, I feel the need to over shine or cover my insecurity by making my good qualities shine brighter. Sometimes, I feel the need to make sure others know I’m smart, or funny, or whatever because I feel like I’m not good enough because I don’t see enough. And sometimes, I use it as an excuse and treat myself differently because of it, even though I hate it when others treat me differently. It’s a battle I’m constantly fighting. But, thankfully, I have become better at accepting and surviving. And I am continuing to become better at accepting, without needing to compensate, or make excuses, or joke.
And it’ll always be a fight. It’ll always be difficult. But, I’m learning to live with it and accept God’s plan and purpose and will for my life- even if not being able to see well is a part of it.