Tonight I bicycled home blind.
Well, almost. I am not legally blind, but I don’t think I’m far from it. I wear glasses or contacts to help me navigate through daily life. I got my first “sight correcting contraption” at the ripe age of 11; until I put on those glasses, I had absolutely no idea my vision was “impaired.” That was just the way life was, and it didn’t dawn on me that there was a different, better, clearer way to see the world around me until I noticed that my classmates could read the chalkboard when I couldn’t. In other words, I didn’t know I had a problem until I compared myself to my peers. But imagine my delight as I put on my (super sexy circular bug-eye) glasses for the first time.. “HOLY CRAP! Everything is so CRISP and SHINY and BEAUTIFUL! I have been missing out on a LOT! …Woah! There are letters on license plates?!” and so on and so forth. It was a glorious moment to behold. This was the way everything was supposed to be seen, and now I could enjoy it too! A level playing field! Hooray!
As the years passed, I thought about how annoying it was to have to wear these things all the time. How unlucky was I that I had to wake up everyday and flail blindly till I found my specs; or that I couldn’t fall asleep wearing them or I’d bend or break them; that I had to waste time cleaning them every day; that I must pay heaps of cash for these stupid ugly things I didn’t even want; that I couldn’t just roll out of bed and SEE!; that others were born with “perfect vision,” but not me. Life was unfair, and it irked me. As I grew older, I dreamt of the day when I could afford laser eye surgery and be rid of my burden forever.
This evening, I found a new perspective. Two, in fact.. a physical perspective shift introduced a mental perspective shift.
It’s not a new idea in the world of personal development that a new mental perspective provides a fresh outlook on life, and as I trekked my 1 hour bike-ride home from a day of printing through the city, I realized that I was being a huge grump. I was impatient, rushed, nervous, and thinking rude thoughts about people who got in my way.. not nice & certainly not my ideal version of myself at all.
When I realized what I was doing and that I wanted to stop being a jerk, I remembered that I could use a perspective shift. So after a few failed attempts, I found one that worked: instead of thinking about how the people on the street were “making” me feel (nobody can make you feel anything, you decide that), I tried to imagine how they were feeling. And I didn’t have to imagine once I started really looking.. it was a fun game to read the emotions on people’s faces, and it made me feel good that I could relate to each and every one of them that way. It also felt a lot less selfish, and got me out of my own head. And since I was unabashedly looking into people’s eyes, I couldn’t help but smile when I imagined their stories, and they usually smiled back, which just formed a sweet positive feedback loop.
But that’s not even the perspective shift that really caught my eye (no pun intended.. kindof).. because as I was making my way through the Tiergarten (Berlin’s enormous, beautiful central park) I decided I wanted another perspective shift.. so I took my glasses off. Immediately my world transformed from people whizzing by on bikes, dogs, cars, leaves, trees, dirt, & ground into a soft landscape of light and colors. The way the light from the sunset filtered through the gaps in the leaves looked like shimmering diamonds or stars, blinking on and off in soft cascading rhythms. I slowed down to savor the sight (and, let’s be honest here, to avoid crashing into a tree). When I got onto a small side street, I was mesmerized by the floating lights the lamps created, which bounced off parked cars, which were intersected by headlights of oncoming traffic, all the while neon signs beamed from the sidelines.. I felt like I was on drugs. I was stunned by the beauty and the stark contrast to what I was used to seeing; like the first time I saw the Grand Canyon and the Swiss Alps. And here I was, just on the same-old regular trek that I have ridden almost every single day for the last 6 months.
As a photographer, my first instinct was to capture it with my camera so I could remember and share the sight and experience. Then I remembered that that was impossible.. it was something only I could see. I was occupying the same space as the people around me, looking at the exact same things they were, only seeing it in a completely different way.
It dawned on me that my new world looked exactly like my camera’s bokeh, which is defined by Wikpedia as “the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or ‘the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.'” Simply put, it’s the blurry bit in the next two photos.
So am I going to ditch the specs all the time now? No–both perspectives are valid & I enjoy being able to switch between them. And as my growing business brings me closer to being able to afford that laser eye surgery I so desperately longed for.. well I guess that’s crossed off the shopping list. Since it seems I have the opportunity to shift my physical perspective in a split second… that got me thinking about my mental perspective on my vision. Maybe my burden is actually a gift.
Update: I’ve tried this a couple times in the last few months, including today in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Each experience has been like dreaming while awake.
As I stood staring at the seemingly mundane, I must have looked quite strange to passersby who saw things with “clear” vision. But I was in my own world, seriously focused on the present moment, and enjoying it all too much to care.
If one can change their physical perspective in an instant and be teleported to a world of imagination, adventure and possibility, they can change their mental one in the same way and reap the same benefits. Are you feeling stuck like I was? Make a conscious decision to change your perspective–physical or mental and see what happens. The world you see is based on it.
As the Gorillaz said, just remember that it’s all in your head. ;)