Friday, January 24, 2014

looking in my eyes

A recent trip to the eye doctor had me reflecting on my sight impairment and how I've come to terms with it over time.  As a kid, I always hated eye exams at the nurse's office.  I would try to memorize the answers of the kid in front of me so I would pass with flying colors, just like I did the hearing test (I have very good hearing). 

I was a very good, although a tad over-enthusiastic student.  I had straight As all the time and never had to take my book home to do my homework, because I remembered it all.  I always had my hand up and participated often.  By the time I was in 5th grade, things changed.  I couldn't see the board, I started skipping my turn when we had to read and I started copying off the kids sitting next to me.  When you're the kind of student that I was, not being able to see the board is a huge problem and I felt so ashamed.  I found that if I squinted and pulled my eyes out at the corners I could see more clearly, so I made it through several months of 5th grade like that.

Finally, my teachers noticed and they sent me down to the nurse.  This time, I could only read the big E at the top and I broke down crying.  I had never failed at anything before,  and had rarely gotten a loathed "S" for satisfactory on a homework assignment; I always got "E"s for excellent.  And now, I had utterly failed.  I felt like I had let everyone down and that I should have tried harder, eaten all my crust and a lot more carrots.  I didn't understand that genetics played a role, I thought that it was something that I had done or failed to do. 

Sidenote: I took the parable of Jesus curing the blind man with his own spit to heart and would put spit on my eyes at night and pray with all my might that Jesus would cure my eyes....  I'm still waiting for that miracle!

As someone who had glasses since she was a little girl, my mom was super great about the whole thing and made me excited about the prospect of a new fashion accessory!  I still remember that first moment when I put my glasses on.  I could see EVERYTHING!! It was amazing!  I noticed things that I hadn't in a long time, and then we went outside and I could see the leaves on the trees, not just a big blob of green!  I realized that was now part of who I was, that needing glasses didn't make me less of a person and that it didn't change me, that it helped me to be myself again.  Once I made the switch to contacts in 7th grade, I really stopped seeing my eye sight as something that stood me apart from the general population, it had become just another part of my daily routine and annual round of doctors.

Then I went to grad school from 2010-12 and spent two years staring at a computer screen and books from the time I got to work at 7:30 until the time I went to bed around 1:30.  I kept increasing the zoom on my computer until I said something to my eye doctor about it.  He sent me out to get reading glasses--not the kind of reading glasses that some of my friends had prescriptions for, but the kind of reading glasses that my dad and grandma use.  I can read print just fine, but my eyes become fatigued very easily and then I have trouble reading after that.  When I bought them I was the only 27-year old I knew who used reading glasses, and I'm still the only 29-year old I know who carries them in her purse just like her grandma!  Now, I just joke about it.  I have the text on my cellphone set to a size a person 2 feet behind me could read, I keep my Word documents magnified to 200% and I'm generally unaware of what is on the right-hand side of most websites because I have them zoomed-in so far.  I always say that it is so my students can read things when I project them up on the smart board, but really it is so that I can read it without straining my eyes.

I've tried all sorts of contacts and currently have really great ones that give me really good vision.  I still can't read street signs until I'm close to them and I have a really hard time reading my phone when my alarm goes off in the morning before I put my glasses on, but I keep my eyes really healthy by wearing sunglasses, going to the doctor every year and always washing my hands before handling my contacts.  I know that my eye sight is so valuable, so I continue to try to soak in as many sights and words as I can until my tired eyes drive me to bed.  If anything it helps me to understand my students better when they struggle with something beyond their control. 


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  2. kelli, i've needed reading glasses since i was 23. used to wear them for things close up, but now i have bi-focal contacts, like an old lady. they work though! you're not alone. :)