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Let’s Be Real: Life is Messy

Life hasn't always been straightforward for Marissa - even before she began losing her sight. But a change in her perception of herself has helped her shape her identity.

Marissa, a young White woman with long brown hair, stands outdoors against a bright blue wall, smiling broadly

[Trigger warning: self-harm and addiction]

At first, I was unsure what to write about. I’ve spent so much time overcoming disempowering ways of being and surviving that my ultimate career choice has yet to be manifested. But like so many things, its not the end point that matters most but the journey.

It is miraculous how far I have come and who I’ve become compared to where I started. It will be impossible to go into any kind of depth here, but I promise not to dress it up too much. Life can be messy and I find being real about it is the best way forward.

I can say that I’ve been equally lucky as I’ve been unlucky. To be honest, I was poorly prepared for life in the “real world” – even as a sighted person. I had 20/20 vision until I was 18. One morning I awoke to a fogginess in my eyes that fluctuated over the next ten days. It ultimately led to me having 20/600 vision in my left eye (seeing nothing but white) and 20/400 in my right (I have tunnel vision about the size of a drinking straw and I can’t see more then five feet away).

Then my parents got divorced, our lives upended and… insert more sob story here. Long story short, I became depressed, suicidal and a cutter. I didn’t leave my house much at all until I was 22.

Lucky in love

I’ve always had an adventurous spirit though, and felt it was time to go – no matter the consequences. This is where the lucky part comes in. Dating in my hometown had always been a disaster. It seemed like every time I was on a date, it would get shut down when they figured out I couldn’t drive. The rest were just plain weird (I think some people have a blind girl fetish). So as kind of a last, desperate attempt, I decided to try online dating. I made a profile on Plenty of Fish and the first guy I messaged turned out to be the love of my life! This month marks six years that we’ve been living together and have spent almost everyday with one another. Now don’t get the wrong idea: it’s been struggle filled with love.

We’ve had nothing together, been addicted together, got sober together, and made it all work together – all with almost no support from anyone. I even had four terrible retail jobs in one year.

And even once I had those jobs, I quickly came to realize how companies are just not set up very well to employ visually impaired people. What the hiring managers tell you can be very different from the reality of working with other managers and employees. Aside from that, there is the coordination with my husband who has to drive me there and back and the added stress on him.

I don’t have enough time to go into every grievance nor do I care to. Let’s just say there are many limitations that come with vision loss, but I’ve come to learn – and still am learning – that the biggest limitations are what we decide things mean.

A change in perception, a change in identity

I think that’s the most important thing I want to express: we all live in a self-made construct about what’s possible for ourselves. I thought my life was pretty much over and I still get very frustrated with not being able to drive… but I made it mean I have no freedom, which is not true. If being able to drive meant you have freedom, then everyone on the road would feel free. If having perfect vision meant freedom, then every sighted person would feel free. Suffering is the comparison.

Now that all sounds fine and dandy and very enlightened; I know. The reality of it is that it takes constant work, awareness, upset, and grit. We all have a past following us around; a past full of perceptions we made based on the moment. Some of those perceptions work for us but many of them don’t. And change is hard.

The last thing the identity wants to do is change what it already created. But I invite you to do just that. Wherever you have a lack of freedom in your life, look and see what you made it all mean and if that’s really true. Thankfully, I think the hardest things I’ve been through are behind me. But even if they’re not, we can’t let those times corrupt our heart and our perceptions of ourselves.

Love yourselves, love others, and don’t limit yourself. And keep your grit.

P.S.: One of my stray dogs suddenly lost his eyesight. After about two weeks, he just got on with it. I guess he didn’t decide he was less of a dog.

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