Now that I’ve turned the great age milestone of 30 years old, you’d think that I would be more secure in my place in the world. Funny thing is, I think I belonged more in my teenage years than I do now.
Being blind makes me stand out, period. Most of my friends don’t mention it, bring it up, or even skirt around its edges unless strictly necessary. But walking around and living my life, I am ever more reminded of it. Little kids ask why my eyes “don’t look normal”; adults ask questions about my guide dog or offer assistance. I am sure that my sighted husband, friends and family are kind enough not to tell me about the public staring at me, which would probably make me become unglued. Any blind person on the planet who doesn’t think they stand out, even just a little, clearly doesn’t understand human nature.
Some Ways I Don’t Fit in in a Sighted World:
– I don’t like most movies or TV shows. To me, they seem shallow, and I can’t get a mental picture of what’s going on around the characters and why they do what they do. I have also found that I am sensitive to and overwhelmed by sound effects in many movies/TV shows. Ironically, I’m married to a HUGE movie buff.
– How I use a computer or cell phone differs from those who can see. Many people ask questions about how I navigate programs, read email, etc. Sometimes this makes me feel like a bit of a zoo exhibit, but for the most part I don’t mind answering questions.
– I navigate the world through sound, using a guide dog. Even using a cane, sound was my best navigating aid. If I’m standing around looking like an idiot, more often than not I’m listening to try and catch my bearings.
On the other hand, I am feeling increasingly isolated from the so-called “blind community”, that seemingly all-powerful populus of blind people. I felt this a little bit in high school, a little bit once I graduated… but in the land of social media, I acutely feel my unbelonging. I recently emailed with another “loaner” like myself, who for years has been the only blind student in their school, workplace, college, whatever; it’s with these people I feel I belong.
Several Ways I don’t Fit in in the Blind Community:
– I am not a technology brand die-hard. When I was growing up, technology was a tool to get work done; today, it is everywhere. The blind community populus tends to tout companies like Apple while slamming others simply because of mistakes that were made years ago. If someone wants to use an Iphone, it works for them, great!, but don’t judge me for using something different.
– I try my utmost to stay out of drama. The “blind community” is a very very very small world. Remember that “Six Degrees of Separation” craze years ago? In the blind community, it’s like 2. I can meet a blind person at a goalball tournament across the country who knows my best friend’s boyfriend. Many blind people get into relationships with each other, and the ending of such relationships gets messy because of the truly small nature of who knows whom. Yes, some of the relationships work out, and work well, and I am so happy for those people, but I’ve seen several of my blind acquaintances date each other and break up and not be able to maintain a clean break. Honestly, I stay out of it, which adds to some of my isolation.
– I do not online radio-broadcast, and don’t understand the appeal. On my Twitter feed, I see so many advertisements for 3-hour slots on online radio stations. If it’s one’s hobby, and one does well, good for them… but I don’t need to see it all day from those I follow on twitter, who for various reasons don’t appear to be interested in school or looking for work.
This is not to say that I don’t have sighted friends, or blind friends… but the friends I do have are strong, confident, capable people who enrich my life as a human being. My sighted friends love me for who I am, and the fact that we just sit and talk for hours; my blind friends have shared their burdens with me, and I’ve called them on bad days where I just don’t want to be blind. What these people have in common is their own sense of belonging in the world, the confidence to take what life gives them, and to stretch beyond their own comfy bubble, blind or sighted, to befriend a grumpy 30-something billboard for someone who’s different.
I can relate to so much in this post!
I don’t mind answering questions about my disability either, but I get irritated when someone can’t get past my blindness and see all that I have to offer. I call this “staying in the blindness museum,” and I’ve become very open about using that phrase around people who can’t get real with me.
The staring thing used to bother me because I felt judged or scrutinized. Then I read the work of the disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson who argues that people stare because they’re trying to figure out your story. Garland-Thomson reminds us that disabled people have only been out of institutions for about 30 years, so it’s likely that most haven’t seen a blind person at work, on the street, in the coffeeshop. Her work is wonderfully liberating.
I think even blind people and blindness organizations can get sucked into the idea that blindness means one thing for everyone – the same existence, the same gadgets, the same attitudes. It’s important that we embrace a balance of stories about blindness – even if this perspective goes against the loudest voices in our community.
*hugs* until your hubby posted the link to this, I didn’t know that you had a blog. I don’t txt or email you as much as I should, I miss you and I’m sorry.
I don’t know what it’s like to be blind, or feel as isolated as you.
But I thank you for being one of my friends who I can sit down with after years, and still connect. You are a special person, I am sorry I don’t tell you that enough.