Years ago, when I was starting out on my journey as a professional actor in Chicago, I took an acting class that was taught by a well known casting director in the city at that time. It was our first day and we had just starting rolling camera on a mock audition. Thirty seconds into my audition the casting director yelled: “STOP!” After a moment or two they asked: “Okay, what’s the deal with this??? Upon saying the word this, they placed their index and middle finger in front of each of their eyes, and began shaking them violently. I took this gesture to be in reference to my ocular albinism, a condition I was born with which causes my eyes to, at times, move erratically without my control or knowledge. I then calmly unfolded to the casting director the story of my vision. Once I finished, the casting director said: “Well, make them stop moving.” “I can’t,” I replied. “Well this just won’t work,” they said. “This simply won’t work. You’re never going to have a career in film. No one will ever hire you with eyes like that. You should get them fixed. Can you get them fixed? Because you’ll never work. I mean, we’re done here. You can sit down.” For the remaining four weeks of that class I was never asked to get up and work again; I merely observed. This wasn’t the first time a fellow human being had told me that I wouldn’t have the life I wanted due to how I was born. It was closer to the thousandth. This also wasn’t the first time that I deliberately chose to ignore said human being, swear at them in my head, and boldly march forward to create the exact life that I wanted. It was more like the thousandth.
Fast-forward seven years. I work in front of the camera all the time. I just became eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild; and if it weren’t for my visual condition, I never would have been able to work in front of the camera for BlindNewWorld, I would have never had the opportunity to be involved in this astonishing sea change of a movement, and I wouldn’t be writing this to you right now. Never let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Only you get to determine that. The only limitations you will ever have are those you put upon yourself. God doesn’t make mistakes. It took me a long time to embrace my vision and make the choice to view it as a blessing as opposed to a curse. Since making that choice though, my life has been exactly that: a blessing. I’ve found that through making this choice the universe will create such wonder in and around what makes you unique. It might not wind up creating the life you thought you wanted, but it will certainly create the life you always needed. Trust me, there is a divine plan, and you and your uniqueness are at the center of it.
Jay Worthington is a legally blind professional actor, teaching artist and ensemble member of Chicago’s Gift Theatre Company. He has acted in productions ranging from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Othello, and has also taught for the esteemed Emerald City Theatre and The School at Steppenwolf. He appears in BlindNewWorld’s PSA “The Get Together.”