Friday, July 17, 2009

It's James Dietz Again

Two in a day.

Stephanie mentioned further back that she'd like to see more of us open up, so I thought I'd try it myself.

I've been blind for my entire life minus 6 months (those proceeding my being physically shaken by my babysitter at the time). I don't remember having sight. As a child I was interested in the sounds around me - mainly those of video game consoles (which at the time actually had a uniquely low-fi sound; today everything sounds epic and movie-like... boring) and machines (pencil-sharpeners, photocopiers etc). I did what I was told; always filled in extra credit sections on spelling tests, cried when I got in trouble for complaining about homework etc. I didn't have too much use for socializing, mainly because the other kids on my block would run around and I would only slow them down (or so I thought). It didn't matter too much though - so long as I had the basement with the TV, my Super Nintendo and Street Fighter 2 I was in business.

Rohmteen mentioned that others who may seem smothering or unwelcome only want to help you. This can be a little more insidious; parents can do it to. Mine were far from sheltering, though it's difficult for any sighted person to explain what a blind person has to do in order to cross the street (hint: listen for traffic running parallel to your path across the street, or ask for assistance). People will also unconsciously make "accommodations" for you - cutting your meat, putting pasta in its own separate little bowl, etc. The world didn't matter too much so long as I could return home at the end of the day and talk with my family who understood me. Of course I didn't realize this until I had to leave. I only used cutting meat as an example; I had cut things on my own with a knife, but clumsily with my hands rather than a fork or some other socially-acceptable companion utensil. Living on one's own you begin to realize how hard it is to make a mark. I get a lot less feedback in social situations; my little jab at eye contact before is an example. Apparently the conversation can pass from person to person through their eyes. I only surmise this, as I often find myself beginning to speak only to be run over by someone else. It also makes talking in large groups (5 or more to a crowded college house party) very difficult. I like to have control of a situation and know all that I can, and when someone suddenly leaves you talking to thin air while they run to greet a friend who just waved to them from the other side of the room you can't help but feel a little affronted. Someone I consider a friend was explaining to me that sighted people can adapt quicker. If you're at a baseball game and don't know anything about baseball, you can look down when someone cheers and see that the man is running triumphantly towards the plate, or if you see someone else smiling you can go right on and smile along with them. People are also more attractive; physical attractiveness is apparently quite crucial motivation to meet new and interesting people. I pass by tons of people every day at school, and occasionally one will say that s/he has seen me walking around and wanted to talk but "didn't know how."

The hardest part for me is keeping my head above water - not growing bitter and jaded from being an outsider. I've got to flaunt what I have so that people find me intriguing because of something I can do well and which makes me feel good about myself. I'd like to do everything perfectly - not just stuff related to sight but everything; be witty and charming (usually by using lots of multi-sylabic words), great and knowledgable. Of course my crazy plans result in failure (when you spend time constructing th eperfect plan, you will only find more and more flaws... and since the world is a crazy place where actions have unforeseen circumstances, they are more likely to break leaving you entirely in the dust). This often results in very visible and isolating behavior, for which I only beat myself up later. I will probably never be able to instantly navigate a new area well enough to impress a potential date, but maybe I can take them to a location I'm more familiar with, or show them my appreciation for sound effects and music by combining them to create audio stories (I posted one a couple weeks back in a rush - I don't think it actually worked. It definitely wasn't captioned. I intend to fix this as I really want you all to hear it.) I can't really buy all of what I just wrote. I'm still bitter, and still angry I can't do everything as well as I imagine I could if I could see (or was perfect at everything), but if I write it down enough times and socialize more I'll learn how to be pleasant, happy and successful.

That ended on such a lame, downward note. This doesn't mean that everything is miserable and I have a hard time. It hasn't been easy adapting to an office environment and other similar things, but I'm learning a ton about how to be more socially acceptable and enjoyable to work with. By focusing on work in front of me, it becomes a little easier to forget about whatever it is that is annoying you at the current time. I've experienced lots of highs and lows over the course of this summer (even over the course of these past two weeks), and as annoying and painful as it is to learn things I end up becoming a better person for doing so. I've made a couple of friends who feel the same way I do and with whom I can identify and even *gasp* share mutual interests. I would definitely rank this summer in DC as one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and I am not being at all sarcastic or hyperbolic. It's not all about the job or the program, but they definitely do force me to confront some personal issues which can slide by at school or home.

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