Empathy can be hard to come by unless you experience firsthand what others do. When it comes to blindness and visual impairment, that’s nearly impossible short of an accident or a debilitating illness. Until now.
Many organizations are holding events such as “Dinner in the Dark,” where sighted attendees are asked to eat their meals blindfolded. Menu items are read aloud, and instructions are given as to how to navigate one’s plate and place setting, using clock positions for reference. This gives people with sight a small taste, literally, of what it’s like not to be able to see.
I attended one such event put on by the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and found it quite eye-opening, pun intended. And to be honest, I didn’t like the experience. I felt isolated and left out. It was difficult to keep up with conversations around me, especially with the normal restaurant din. As an introvert, I found it that much more challenging.
Despite that negative sentiment, I felt free from societal pressure of those around me, as I couldn’t see if people were criticizing me or my actions with their looks. I lacked the social cues to tell me I shouldn’t be doing things a certain way.
I left that event much more grateful for my sight, but also more appreciative of my friends who are blind and visually impaired. They live in a sighted world not designed for them and are often treated as second-class citizens. But it’s not their fault they have visual impairments. No one wakes up one day and says, “I’d like to be blind the rest of my life.”
If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of these types of events, I highly recommend it. It’s life-changing. I’m more determined now than ever before to treat people who are blind and visually impaired the way I would have liked to have been treated as a temporarily blind person: included and important.
“Let it go.” The theme song from Disney’s “Frozen” kept playing in my head. I wanted so desperately to hold on, to maintain control, to ensure accuracy and consistency.
I was about to embark on a new endeavor. Conflicting emotions swirled in my head: excitement about the new challenges ahead but sadness at the loss of what I had built over the previous three years. Would this move be a good one for me? Would everything I had worked so hard to cultivate fall apart after my transition? Or had I created a strong enough foundation that would withstand the winds of change?
Only time would tell.
I had to trust and believe in the best-case scenario. And I had to let my concerns go. I wasn’t really in control anyway. It was a façade. But I liked to think I was. And I liked to think I had made a difference, had left my mark, had left things better than I found them.
When we’re stuck in the nitty-gritty, sometimes it’s hard to take a step back to see the bigger picture. What had I truly done in the past three years?
I considered that and jotted down a list. As I evaluated my accomplishments from a higher perspective, I realized I had done more than I originally thought. But was it enough? It didn’t feel like that much. But then if it had, I might have lost my drive to continue trying to make an impact and sat on my laurels, satisfied.
“The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency,” said Benjamin E. Mays, a late American pastor. “Not in you doing too much, but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It’s not failure but aiming too low that is life’s greatest tragedy.”
To be honest, I had been on the verge of complacency. I didn’t want to get to that point. I don’t ever want to arrive at that point. I want to continue to strive to do better — and to help those around me in the process.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"