This is my first personal essay and would like honest feedbacks. Thank you so much!
If I need to post this elsewhere, please let me know.
“I’m afraid I have bad news.” The young ophthalmologist said as his voice quivered. “You’re going blind.”
At 21-years old, I came in to that room earlier for a routine eye checkup thinking I only needed glasses. When I heard those words, it felt like the walls were closing in around me, the same walls I worked so hard to keep at bay. The dreams and hopes I had for a promising future disintegrated before me in that dim-lit room. With the diagnosis, I felt the talons of death dig deep into my heart as pain tore through me. What do I do now?
Let’s go back to the beginning, back to the 1970s when things were still archaic especially if you lived in a small mountain community in upstate New York. At the age of two, I did not behave like others my age. I startled easily. I spoke very few words. I would not respond when spoken to. I threw frequent temper tantrums. For my parents, they knew something wasn’t quite right.
For the next two years, they took me to various specialists across New York and New England states in search for answers.
“We don’t know what is wrong with your daughter.”
“She has behavioral issues which should be addressed by a therapist.”
“We recommend your daughter be admitted for further psychological evaluations.”
As a last resort, my parents took me to an audiologist near Plattsburgh NY. To Audrey. Audrey put me through a series of tests and discovered the answer. To demonstrate, she placed me in a soundproof room with a head phone. She then amplified the sound of my voice. I mumbled incoherently at first, and gradually my words grew clearer.
Audrey turned to my bewildered parents and said. “Your daughter has moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears.”
Nerve deafness, she called it.
I was four years old and for the first time in my life, I heard the sound of my own voice.
Fitted with hearing aids, I spent the next two years attending speech therapies to get caught up in my speech development. Regardless of these intensive sessions, I still spoke funny. I struggled in school academically. I was acutely aware of being different from the others. For these reasons, I kept to myself and made few friends. What I lacked I made up with imaginary friends and often times pretended I was someone else; as a person with a more meaningful presence in the world.
My life took a new direction in fifth grade when a classmate issued a challenge on who could write the best story. I discovered the writer within me when I wrote the ‘house that had a severed head in a refrigerator’ story. My classmates thought the story too terrifying; I loved it. The story found the hidden switch and turned the light on within me; this same light revealed a whole new world of possibilities that I never knew existed. Writing brought everything around me to life in high definition with booming surround sound. Through writing, I finally felt like I was somebody who had a purpose for being in this world.
While writing provided the mental and emotional outlets it still wasn’t enough. I continued to experience sudden outbursts of anger and struggled with being hyper most of the time. Competing in sports helped provide a way to purge the negative energy. In high school and through college, I played in every sport I was allowed to. Being an athlete enabled me to stay focused on the things that demanded my complete attention. Competing and the occasional victories gave me the confidence and self-worth I craved. I decided to pursue a career in Exercise Science. My desire was to work with elite athletes to help them find ways of improving their performances.
I was well on my way until that fateful day.
It was the day I learned I had Usher’s Syndrome Type II (a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa which includes moderate to severe hearing loss along with deteriorating eyesight). A blind athlete? A blind writer? How contradictory they sounded to me. I struggled most of my life with deafness and had found a way to overcome it; but, to lose my vision as well? The harsh reality set in like a mountain crashing into the ocean in thunderous waves. Who would be remotely interested in hiring a blind-deaf person to help train athletes where perfection rules? Who would want to hire a blind-deaf person in the publishing industry where everything is scrutinize and any shortcomings shunned?
Self-pity consumed every waking thought as I allowed the walls of limitations to box me in completely. I saw no way out. The dreams were no longer attainable. I gave up, and let it all go.
Eight years went by as I passed each day like a zombie with no future. Life to me was one endless gray road. I refused to acknowledge the multiple interchanges and exits where a dream laid as it waited to be rediscovered. I could not bring myself to believe there was still hope.
One day, I received an unexpected gift in form of a journal. It was a simple, leather-bound book with a cute drawing of a cartoonish cat on its cover. It was a book filled with empty pages.
The journal was empty. I could almost feel its desires, its pain of being so utterly hallow. It wanted to be something meaningful to someone. It reminded me of a dream I once had. It filled me with remorse and regrets, and I hated it.
So, I tried to ignore the journal. I hid it under the couch. I hid it under the mattress. I even buried it in a box and stuffed it in back of a cluttered closet. Still, I heard it calling. Pleading. I cursed the book, but yet I could not bring myself to destroy or even part with it. Something wouldn’t let me. Why did it haunt me so? I just wanted to be left alone in my misery and self pity.
After weeks of continued torment, I gave in. Day after day, I wrote as I poured out my pain and anger. As I filled each page with streams of words, I felt the heavy weight lifted from my heart. Colors and sounds filled my senses like music from the heavens. As the journal grew full, the emptiness within me slowly melted into something else. Something that resembled a beating heart that once again was full of hope and passions. My soul now reawakened as I felt like a newborn that was seeing the world for the first time.
I’ll never be a Hemingway, or a Poe, or a King; but, I know I’m meant to be a writer. Blindness and all. I learned that to deny the Muse of my soul meant certain misery and eventual death. All it took was a journal to save a wretched life. Mine.
I like what you had to say and how vulnerable you are about your feelings and fears. Thank you for sharing!
Kelly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your in-depth and honest critique! :) I'd be the first to admit that this essay needs a lot of work, but it is my hope and desire to make this piece the best it can be and use it to help others who are going through difficult times.
Again, thank you so much!
You're very welcome. I think you've got a beautiful piece here.