How Contact Lenses Changed My View of Life (Literally & Metaphorically)
I sit in front of a mirror reflecting back to me eyes webbing with red, gleaming with tears and tendrils of mascara caking my cheeks. I grimace at the transparent bowl balancing precariously on my fingertip. I’m 26 years old and I have finally decided to choose sight.
The doctor comes in sensing and seeing my desperation. “Breathe. Go slowly. Make the end goal of sight overtake your reflexes,” she says. In that moment she could be a yoga master, Yoda, even God—the contact lens is in my eye. I blink, I wait for the initial discomfort of a foreign object to settle and make peace with my body. The blur dissolves, edging out until I’m greeted by clarity.
I thank her graciously and extravagantly as if she herself thought up the idea of the contact lens or even recommended I get them. I walk into the world relishing in its beauty, vibrancy and definition. I study the faces of strangers because I can read their expressions now; they aren’t just smears of mouths, eyes and noses. On my drive home I read every street sign as quickly as possible, testing my limit of how far off I can be before they become legible. At home, I don’t have to nuzzle my cats to my face to see just how cute they are. And, my boyfriend, goodness, I’m even attracted to him across the length of our home. I have been witness to an entirely new world in the span of an hour.
I’m very quickly overcome with the urge to see it all. I begin to fret over all of the things I’ve likely missed—glances exchanged between strangers or friends, the Grand Canyon could have been even more breathtaking, the intricacies of veined leaves on trees, paths I should have taken, missed moments where I could have made an impact.
I wonder how often we miss things or take things for granted and how much of a difference approaching each day with a fresh lens could make? I wonder also why I hadn’t made this decision sooner?
My vision hasn’t always been bad. It wasn’t until I graduated college and received my first real job that I began to notice my eyes weren’t as keen as they once were. I believe this was a direct correlation with screen time, how often my eyes were trained to a computer or phone for an unrelenting 8 hours or more each day, but as a writer, I chose this life and it’s a story for another day. At 22, I decided to get an eye exam, which resulted in my decision to get glasses. In my plan, I would only wear these glasses to drive or see from far away such as in a classroom or meeting settings. More often than not, I would end up forgetting my glasses because I didn’t want to be a full-time wearer.
My wish to not wear glasses at all times stemmed from two things: vanity and defiance. I didn’t think I looked good in glasses. They weren’t “me.” My face is small and every pair looked big, boxy and disproportionate. The children’s style glasses fit, but I wasn’t about to be caught in the same purple sparkly glasses as an 8-year-old. By not wearing the glasses, I could also avoid the fact that I had what I viewed as a deficiency, an imperfection, a flaw. A tangible sign that I was aging. In my mind, it was better to ignore the problem, walk blindly through life than face the truth and the solution.
I think how often we choose this mindset. We stare at and through our problems. We trudge on with eyes adverted, sideways glances, being led by a blind faith and just hoping our lives will change. If you want to enact change you must choose to see your situation for what it is and rise from the dim obscurity. It can be a hazy spot only occasionally noticed or it can be blaring and all consuming, in any case it deserves your attention.
It’s the friend that never puts in the time or effort, but you still insist upon dangling them along for the sake of a friendship that once was. It’s the relationship that you may be comfortable in, but it isn’t truly nurturing your soul or allowing you to be the exceptional person that you are. It’s the job you drag your feet to every morning and count the minutes until your feet cross the exit because you’re that unfulfilled. It’s all the travelling you promised yourself you would do, but here you find yourself, another weekend on the couch watching other people’s dreams unfold. It’s you—the way you put your passions on the back burner, the way you assure yourself you’ll “do it one day,” the way you forgot how to take chances, the way doubt the way your body looks in the mirror, the way you don’t remember the last time you laughed until your body quaked, the way you became scared of love.
To turn a blind eye to your problems, to your limitations, to your challenges is to deny yourself happiness and higher purpose.
Months later, I grope for my glasses, which are perched on my bedside table awaiting my rise each morning. I put them on immediately to gap the space between putting in my contacts. I cannot bear to retreat back into the blur. There is nothing left for me there.
I sit in a coffee shop grappling for an ending. A conclusion that will satisfy myself and others, a void filled, an answer. A man approaches me, a wide, timid smile graces his face as he places a folded, handmade booklet onto my table. The cover page reads that the man is deaf and he is handing out these booklets that contain the alphabet and numbers in sign language in hopes that others will learn. I don’t yet know his language so I mouth “thank you” hoping he will understand. He has taken what some might view as a limitation and turned it into a tool. He chose change.
When I first got contacts, I wondered if I could cry in them. Would they fall out? Would they smear? As the man, turned away, I allowed my eyes to well.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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