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It’s been 23 years since I last viewed the world without glasses or contacts. More than 23 years since I viewed the world clearly with an unaided eye. Twenty-three years of being chained and shackled by a handicap that most people don’t even see as a handicap because of how prevalent it is.

People blessed with 20/20 vision can’t understand. They don’t have a common frame of reference, they can’t truly experience what it’s like to have imperfect vision. People with minor vision problems get a hint, but even they can’t really understand.

When I was 16, I accidentally ruined my glasses. My contacts had torn, and this was before the time when contacts became disposable. The pair you bought would have to last you until your next prescription because there was no throwing them away. So I had to go to school without my glasses. I made it to the classrooms by memory. I knew the general location and the path to take to get to each one. Reading what the teacher wrote on the board, however, or even writing notes was out. You can’t write when you’re nose is almost touching the paper, you know.

But leaving school that day is when the true enormity of my disability crashed in on me.

I couldn’t cross the street.

Even with myopia – nearsightedness – you can generally distinguish one blur of color from the next, to some extent. I discovered that’s not necessarily true. By the time a car got close enough for me to distinguish it’s out-of-place color from the general grey or blackness of the road, it was too late. I stood on the sidewalk and tried to compensate with my hearing – but the school’s parking lot was next to me and the sound of the cars there drowned out the sound of any oncoming cars. I could only stand there and cry as I realized just how helpless I was.

No one offered to help me. No one noticed my problem. I was still standing on the sidewalk by the street when the cars all left the school, and the brief pause between school letting out and the evening cruising of the street by teenagers began. I finally took a chance…and crossed the street. And cried for the mile walk home, taking a chance on each street that I crossed. There were two more busy streets on my route that could not be avoided, but which I tried to cross at points where they were less busy.

The next day I had my appointment with the optometrist. I asked him, “Just how bad are my eyes?” He’d only say, “You don’t want to know. But if they weren’t correctable, you’d be legally blind.”

I found out last week how bad my eyes are now. The opthamologist said they were ‘worse than’ 20/400, because that’s as high as they went on the one test I took for my LASIK evaluation. When I was discussing it with a friend later that night and told her my contact prescription, she translated it for me. At the time I was prescribed my contacts, my vision was 20/750.

I’ve spent most of my lifetime viewing the world through a blur, or through a limited tunnel of clear vision, surrounding by a blur. I can’t remember anymore what it’s like to wake up and see the time clearly. I can’t remember what it’s like to actually play a game outside and enjoy it without the discomfort of a pair of glasses sliding down my nose, jostling out of place, or flying off. Or not worrying that an eyelash might fall in my eye. Or being able to wear make up without ending up looking like a clown simply because I can’t see well enough to put it on – or can’t put it on around the glasses.

Children make fun of other children who wear glasses. “Four-eyes” and “nerd” were the common names when I was a kid. I’m sure they’ve gotten more imaginative since then.

Faulty eyesight is a handicap. It puts constraints and limits on your life that you come to hardly notice at all. In five more hours, I’ll be able to start living life without those hindrances…and you have no idea how much I’m looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning and seeing the clock.

I’ll miss the pretty light-globes, though….

(okay, it's not five hours to go when I reposted this here. It's just 50 minutes. The nerves are starting to act up, which is why I'm posting rather than working. I need a more complete distraction than scanning batchings and renaming files!)


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June 2012



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