Jalpuna

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin

Your vision is probably 20/20. Or maybe you wear glasses or contacts to correct it to 20/20.

My vision - with glasses - is 20/200, which also just so happens to be the definition of being legally blind.

The first number represents what someone with normal vision sees at a distance of 20 feet. The second number represents how far away that person can be to see the details I see at 20 feet. In other words, from a distance of 200 feet, you can see the details *I* see at 20 feet.

I note the word "details" because big stuff is easy to spot. A building is big. Easy to spot. But the sign that says what building it is...? Well, that's something else entirely.

If the sign is big enough for you to read at 200 feet away, I probably need to be 20 feet away to read it.

When I was a little boy, my father told me that some day, it'd be okay.

"Some day," he said, "there will be an operation that will fix it. Some day, I'll take you to Will's Eye Hospital. It's the best in the world for eyes, and they'll fix it."

And thus began the waiting.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
And you say, "just be here now
Forget about the past
your mask is wearing thin"

Let me throw one more dice
I know that I can win
I'm waiting for my real life to begin

- Colin Hay
"Waiting For My Real Life To Begin"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At age 11, my father killed himself. And, since a boy's father is his hero, my mother inherited my father's mistakes. She knew my vision wasn't fixable... but my father had said differently, and he attached a name to the solution to my problem: Will's Eye Hospital.

We were lower-middle-class, and had no money to afford Will's Eye. But I fought, and fought and fought until eventually she took me there.

I'd waited sixteen years for a way out of my own private hell. Finally, at Will's Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, I was told what I needed to hear.

The doctor who saw me observed me thoroughly. I was given every test I'd ever been given before, and then a few more. And then, the doctor took a deep breath.

I'll never forget it.

He had a look of importance on his face. He had something to share with me. Something that would change my life - forever. I could see it in his eyes.

The doctor looked at me and said "Quit wasting your money."

...?!!?

"You're 16 years old. Your vision is what it is, and that's pretty much all it will ever be. You need to accept it. Go and buy new frames for your glasses if you want them, but that's about the best you're going to be able to do."

The drive home from Will's Eye with my mother was deadly silent. I didn't know what to say. My dad was wrong. Deep down, I knew this before we drove two hours to Philadelphia, but he was my dad! How could he be wrong? And he was dead, so it wasn't as if I could talk to him about it.

He was wrong.

I spent months being miserable, trying to figure out what to do now that years of hope had vanished. And then, one day, a senior in my high school talked to the class about his year in Ecuador.

Instantly, I realized what I had to do. "Foreign Exchange Student! Yes! Yes! I can do that! Anywhere but here sounds perfect!!!!" I didn't have the courage to run away - but being sent away would be easy.

And it was easy.

Seven months later, I was living in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

And guess what...

...I was blind in Bolivia too.

...But my suicidal father wasn't in Bolivia.
...And my bipolar sister wasn't in Bolivia.
...And the stepfather who pushed me down the stairs wasn't in Bolivia.

The parents who gave all of the regular kids cars at their 16th birthdays weren't in Bolivia either.

In Bolivia, I realized that it wasn't 'life' that sucked. It was 'MY" life that sucked.

In Bolivia, I realized I could change my life. I'd waited seventeen years for Will's Eye Hospital to give me all the answers, but they didn't.

Or did they?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Above, I quoted a few lines from the song "Waiting For My Real Life To Begin," by Colin Hay. If you're not familiar with his solo work, surely you remember him as the singer from the band Men At Work.

I was discussing this song with a friend over email tonight, and she said:

"It's sad that the majority of people are waiting for their life to begin. It takes courage to live a life you love. But all life really is practice.

I had this awesome conversation with a recovering alcoholic and he was saying everything we do is practice. He didn't wake up one day drinking 24 beers. he had to practice to be an alcoholic.

You often think of "Practice" as doing something to get better. But getting worse is practice too"

It's fair to say that I am still learning how to be blind. Practice makes perfect, eh?

Not necessarily.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I never spoke the word "blind" until I was 30 years old. Maybe 31 - honestly I don't recall. Years later, I'm still figuring out how that word relates to me and who I am - but I will tell you this and it is not a lie: I'm not waiting for my real life to begin. Not anymore.

This is all I've got.
And it's everything I've got to work with.
And what I will be is up to me.
And the same is true for you.

Just be here now.

::::: | Tuesday, Aug 15 2006 at 12:23 AM
::::: |


Comments:


Roscoe said:

"Some Day" never comes until you understand that it's been there all along. You can't recognize it until you're ready. You were ready, and now you have one less secret to keep hidden from yourself. I'm happy for you.

::::: | August 15, 2006 6:22 AM


Mari said:

I was trying to figure out where I remembered "The Blower's Daughter" from and after a couple of Google searches, I found it! It was from the movie "Closer", which I kind of liked even though it was depressing and unsettling...

Thanks for bringing me new and wonderful music and reminding me of great songs and artists that I already know :)

::::: | August 15, 2006 8:04 AM


J said:

Now that was PHENOMENAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WOW!! Thanks for sharing your pain and your courage to live the life you love.

::::: | August 15, 2006 8:11 AM


chantel said:

You're amazing. I felt the same way about my life since I was little too. "I liked myself". That also prevented me from ever wanting to kill myself too. Another blogger wrote, "I always had my pilot light on but didn't realise it" This is probably true for you.

I always refer to it in a clothing sense. I wear it until it fits; that included learning that I can have happiness, fulfillment, friendships, safety, and all those other things, "normal" people seemed to have.

::::: | August 15, 2006 9:54 AM




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