For so long, I’ve lived a life in between. I don’t exactly fit within the normally-sighted who can people watch, drive, and generally recognize a person across a room, but I don’t fit within the fully blind community who seem to fall closer on the spectrum near light perception or complete blindness.
At least, I never felt that I fit into either of these groups.
Living Among the Normally-Sighted
Since I was a teen, I’ve always felt a bit lost. I couldn’t participate in activities as well or in the same way most of my peers in public school could. I had some wonderful friends and teachers in public school. Don’t get me wrong. Looking back, my friends were willing to do way more for me than I would ever expect anyone to do for me now. I can never fully thank them for that.
Despite trying several tools that could help me in high school, none of them ever felt right. I remember my nonocular always gave me issues. I would try to use it, but my eye could never focus on anything other than a tiny focal point, and that point shifted uncontrollably. I never gained any real sympathy when I tried to explain this to my parents or teachers. No one could seem to understand. Maybe they believed I was being stubborn. I was a stubborn girl. I still am.
Today, I’m still not sure if that particular monocular was defective or inadequate for my particular situation. I use and recommend monoculars to everyone I meet with low vision.
I also tried to use dome magnifiers and several other magnifiers. Since I could read pretty well when holding my face directly up to my papers, I always felt that these types of tools got in the way. Now, as an adult I absolutely love my handheld magnifier (see my review here) and my two monoculars and my smartphone camera. I’m not sure how I ever read so much as a child without these tools and e-books.
As a teen, I felt so betrayed by all the tools meant to help me lead a normal life, and I had no one who understood what I was going through.
Exploring the Blind Community
I once went to a summer camp at my state’s school for the blind. I remember being so completely resistant, because I had no sense that I belonged to the blind community. All these kids were using white canes, and I had hardly ever seen one. They were learning braille and other tools to help them, and I felt like I didn’t belong.
I remember reacting so badly when someone was trying to teach me how to swim. I’m not sure if I had a previous bad experience with the water or was just not used to a more hands-on teaching approach. I eventually got past my bad attitude. Once I did, I had the time of my life. I took dance and Judo lessons and participated in so many fun activities.
But when it was over, I went back home to my normal life. I forgot the joy I found here with teachers and peers who understood what it was like.
Eventually I took part in some activities with my state’s National Federation of the Blind chapter. Here I met some intensely kind and caring people. I even attended a local conference, which was eye opening. This amazing group of people were making it every day and succeeding. They were getting out and living their lives and advocating for the blind community. I wanted so badly to be a part of that, but I felt like a fraud. It was another classic example of imposter syndrome (I detail more about this in a previous post as well). I felt like I didn’t belong among people who could most understand what I was going through. I didn’t feel blind enough.
Between feeling like an imposter and feeling like there was no way anyone would keep driving me to local meetings, I gave up on participating in the NFB. I hope they’ll have me back one day soon when I sort all of my feelings out.
What if I Don’t Belong Anywhere?
Throughout my journey, I did discover the National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) and its forums and groups. I found peers there who understood what it was to feel trapped in between worlds, but I also found that the albinism community also had its own sense of division. Those with good vision could drive. Others who were lucky enough to live in cities with public transit seemed to do well for themselves. But it felt as though the rest of us were trapped somewhere with no public transit and no ability to drive. I still felt quite lonely inside my world.
Even among my true peers, I felt separated. It took me years to accept myself and to accept that these were barriers I was creating for myself.
Yes. I was different from the normally-sighted. And, yes. I was different from those who were completely blind or those raised within the blind community. None of these people were actively excluding me, though.
Looking Beyond the Condition
So, since realizing that I have been creating unnecessary barriers, I have begun reaching out to others in the blind and low vision community. I’ve learned about other eye disorders and spoken to people with varying amounts of vision. I have been so inspired by everyone I’ve come across. These wonderful strong people are leading successful lives, and I’ve realized that a successful life can look so many different ways.
Success can look however you want it to. I aim to make my own success from now on, and you should too. Good luck. Stay Curious.