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It must be awful to be blind

Oh if only I had a nickel for every time someone said this to me, I’d be a very rich man. I’ve heard variations of this all my life, so often in fact that when I was younger, I actually asked someone if there was something wrong with me because I didn’t feel my life was that awful. Anyway, since this is something I continue to hear over and over again, I thought I would blog about my perspective on the subject.

Before we get started, I want to clarify that the following is strictly my perspective and may not represent the perspective of all blind people. I feel it’s important to call this out up-front because often I’ve seen that when one member of a community says something, it’s assumed to be fact for all members of that community rather than just that one person’s perspective. OK with that out of the way, let’s get started.

Imagine this.

To put things in perspective, let us go on a short imaginary trip. Let’s say you’re walking down the street, maybe going to work, your favorite restaurant or coffee shop, or just out for a nice stroll. It’s a sunny day, the temperature is just right, it’s just a great day to be outside, one of those really awesome days when it’s just great to be alive. As you walk, you come upon a pigeon. The pigeon is just doing its thing just as you’re doing yours when out of the blue it says,

“Jees, it must be awful that you can’t fly.”

How do you respond to that statement? Let’s be honest here, it would be really cool to fly. I mean birds make it seem so easy and Superman did some really cool stuff with his ability to fly. But is your life really that bad because you can’t fly?

“I don’t know”, I’d say to my new pigeon friend, “I don’t think my life has really been that bad. I’ve gotten to visit places around the world and I’ve done it without ever flapping a wing.”

Perspective and judgement

Perspective is a very powerful thing. From the perspective of the pigeon, an inability to fly might seem like something that would make life very difficult. And that perspective is perfectly valid. We all have our own perspectives on things, it’s totally normal. Where perspective turns into a really bad thing however, is when judgement is cast — when the pigeon decides that since he can’t conceive of life without flight, it truly must be an awful reality. It’s one thing to shift one’s perspective, but something else entirely to reshape what one deems to be reality.

So, is it awful to be blind? Well, I certainly don’t think so and over my 40+ years, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder the question. As mentioned above, I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit including getting to visit some really cool places like Europe and India, I have a good career, I have a family, I enjoy the city in which I live, all-in-all, not really a bad life, at least in my opinion. Just like with an ability to fly, there are aspects of being able to see which I sometimes think would be cool, things like being able to jump in a car whenever I want, but even these aren’t things that prevent me from living a really awesome and fulfilling life. Take the car thing as an example: Sure it would be super convenient to just jump in a car and go, but I can get an Uber, often in less time than it would take someone to find a parking space. It’s a tradeoff, but one that is off-set by not needing to worry about car maintenance, a car payment, insurance payments, gas prices … I’m sure you get the idea. Being able to pick up and read a book or piece of mail would also be pretty cool, but with the evolution of technologies, even this doesn’t pose much of a barrier anymore. With most restaurant menus being online, I often know what I want to eat before the server even comes to take my drink order. And, with curb-side pickup offered by just about every retailer these days, shopping has gotten easier than ever. My point is that while there are times when I feel having sight would be useful, or just plain cool, there are usually ways to accomplish things without it. Do I know all these ways? Certainly not, like everyone, I’ve had to learn along the way, sometimes from friends, sometimes from family, sometimes from teachers or trainers, sometimes from books, but isn’t that how we all learn how to do things in life?

In conclusion, I don’t think that being blind is an awful thing, it’s just a thing. Just like not being tall, or just like not being able to run very fast, or, well, anything else. I know people may be curious about how I do certain things and that’s OK, curiosity is natural, it’s why we have the ability to ask questions and it’s how we learn from one another. So just know that if you’re reading this and you have questions, I think that’s great. Just please, please don’t pass judgement based on assumption because at least for me, my life as a blind guy has not been awful; I actually think its been a very fulfilling and beautiful thing.

18 replies on “It must be awful to be blind”

You put this so well! I do think there is an advantage to being born blind. Personally, I’m glad to not know what I’m missing even though there are things that I’d love to see, like the sunrise over the ocean, stars on a clear night; ya know, stuff like that. And sure there are inconveniences but nothing that can’t be tackled. It is interesting though because I did not know many blind people growing up; and the ones I did know even those born that way were very unhappy people. It wasn’t until high school that I met other blind kids who like me were just trying to do life and get on with things as best they could who oh, just happened to be blind. And then like you I met other blind adults thanks to the internet. I think having other people who are just kinda living life like normal folks and showing you that yes, if you want you can have a family, travel, a full life in however you want it to be is huge. I know a number of individuals who still are struggling with acceptance of their own blindness despite having been born that way. It makes me incredibly sad! I do think that people assume it must be awful to be us because they’re thinking about losing their own sight and for them in their mind that might definitely be horrible. I’ve thought about this with regards to losing my hearing. I can say that off the cuff, the idea of that is awful! That said, I know deaf-blind individuals who were hearing now deaf who have managed to carve out a life for themselves and be happy and even enjoy the things that I’d assume would be off limits like music. The same thing with not being able to walk. I have a friend who is in a wheelchair due to MS and she’s traveled the world, mostly solo, wheels and all! I’ve not been half the places she’s been or done even a third of what she’s accomplished in a handful of years. She kinda makes us all look like slackers. LOL! I think you’d still grieve the loss of whatever it is be it sight, mobility, hearing, etc; but having people around to support you or even inspire is important. So really when it comes to this I think perspective is everything!

Steve your post is just what I needed to read today.We really don’t know anything about anyone’s life to pass judgment. Doing the best we can and living our life with happiness,health and gratitude for everything is crucial.You are an inspiring writer my friend.Keep being amazing and in my heart ,I do believe I can fly ,I just need the right kind if wind below my wings .

Thank you so much, your reply is exactly what I needed to read today as I’m feeling a bit uninspired. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading, and for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. :-).

I’m so glad to hear that, Steve! I guess when we – that is, other people – say things like that, what we really mean is, we believe it would be awful for us. This makes me think of my mother. Three years later, I still sometimes find myself thinking of ways she could have avoided death. Things I could have done, things she could have done, things the doctors could have done. Meanwhile, she is surely just fine in heaven!

Jeanine, thank you so much for your reply. First and most important, I’m very sorry for your loss. I lost my own father just over a year and a half ago, so I’m going through emotions similar to those you described. Some thing I should’ve highlighted more in my post is that for me, I never missed sight because I was born without it. For those who lose their vision later in life, the story is often a very different one. They do in fact missed their vision, and at least at first, the experience can be truly awful. If I were to lose my hearing for example, I think that would be truly awful. But I think that, only because it’s something I would have lost and therefore missed. I would hope that I would eventually get past that, but it is a definite process, I process that takes time, and which requires love and support.

I totally understand how you feel. I am not totally blind, but I only have little sight in one eye. People often seem to feel bad for me because of it. But, I have been like this my whole life and I have always gotten by, on my own.

Hi and thanks so much for commenting. It sounds like you definitely understand where I’m coming from, now the challenge is to get others to understand as well. 🙂 One thing that you mention is that you’ve found ways to get by on your own. I’ve certainly done this too, but thanks to the Internet, it’s wonderful to be able to connect and learn from people, makes it not such a lonely thing any more if that makes sense. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

hurrah, I couldn’t have said this any better, which is why I’m glad, Steve, you said it; this way, I didn’t have to try

Haha fantastic, I’m glad I could help. 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting, it’s always great to hear from you.

Hi and thanks so much for reading and commenting on my post. It’s unfortunate that most of your patients hadn’t arrived where I am, but to be fair, I had a distinct advantage in having been blind since birth. I think when one loses vision, it’s a very different process: there’s a definite adjustment in addition to needing to deal with sight loss. I’ve heard that this compares in many ways to the process of grieving the loss of a loved one. The other real challenge that I think exists is helping patients connect with people and resources. I know there are many services and agencies out there, but connecting with people in similar situations makes such a huge difference. In my own case, I received skill training and other services as a child, but it wasn’t until I met a blind couple living independently and on their own that I thought, “wow, I can actually do this.” With privacy and other concerns, I realize these connections are challenging to make, but I think it’s a challenge definitely worth tackling.

It’s unfortunate that many people try to project on you their fears, insecurities, etc. Glad to hear that you didn’t begin to doubt your abilities and then experience rejection because those feeling lead nowhere.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it. Interestingly enough, I have definitely experienced self-doubt and rejection, but while painful at the time, I just figure that most people experience those things in one way or another and that on balance, they’re just part of life. You’re right though, those feelings definitely lead nowhere, at least nowhere good.

This was such a refreshing post. So much of our perceptions depend on perspective. Loved the pigeon example. Technology has truly evolved a lot and made our lives easier. I loved reading about your perspective of things Steve because I frankly had never thought in this direction. Thank you.

Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. I’m glad the examples were helpful, I absolutely love challenging my own perspectives, so glad to see others do as well. Thanks so much. 🙂

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