*Dedicated to a young girl in my hometown losing her vision*
Dear Future Blind Girl,
Human biology was my least favorite subject in middle school.
I began learning about proteins, phenotypes, and Punnett Squares,
and I wondered how such perfect textbook examples
translated into a body that grows old, gets injured, burns in the sun
…or whose eyes barely function.
You see, people like me are in biology textbooks,
but as examples of mutations, genetic abnormalities, deviations from the norm.
You’ll learn very quickly that people are afraid of blindness,
more so than cancer, HIV, or Alzheimer’s.
To many, everything seems impossible without sight.
When doctors first shared your diagnosis,
They likely emphasized how you would no longer be able to drive,
read magazines, play softball, or become a surgeon.
Your parents probably lay awake at night
wondering how you will ever go to college or even cross the street.
So many are terrified of living a life like mine.
But after twenty years of this unusually blurry reality,
here’s my advice to you:
Do not listen to them.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not here to share “inspirational” stories about blind people
who climbed Mount Everest or performed at Carnegie Hall.
Because contrary to what television news specials will tell you,
they didn’t overcome a nearly insurmountable tragedy.
Blindness, I’ve discovered, is a way of living.
A way of interacting with the world through sound and touch.
Through the tapping of a white cane,
Recognizing traffic patterns,
Identifying the distance and direction of whirling cars by sound alone,
Meticulously counting doors, rows, steps, and curbs,
Searching for the familiar scent of a popcorn stand or your favorite coffee shop,
Feeling the strong pull of a faithful guide dog,
All unique, innovative ways of adapting to an inaccessible world.
You’ll discover that there is beauty, power, and culture in our technologies.
Though they were never mentioned in your US history class,
blind people have been thriving for decades,
refining these tools and techniques,
organzanzing conventions, lobbying on Capitol Hill, and creating community
Passing along their wisdom to future generations.
Trust me, you will not be alone.
You may not see the pink and orange tinge of a setting sun on the beach.
But you will hear the crashing waves,
feel the sand between your toes,
inhale the salty seashore air,
And who is to say that is any less beautiful?
So future blind girl,
whether your vision becomes blurry, nonexistent, or magically restored.
know that there is beauty in a world without sight.