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.
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.