Yes, all the eye-opening puns are intended!
Today, I lined up Simbi, See, Saw, Prof, my four old glasses (yes, I named them), and the last-born to do a photoshoot, as you can see in the first picture.
The first time I realized that I couldn’t see well was the spring semester, February of 2016, during Biology 21 class. As a natural high achiever and ITK (for those who don’t know, this means I-Too-Know), I always sat in front of the class to see the board and obviously so my professor could see the student who deserves an A+. I remember the shock and panic that ran through my body when I looked at the board and the letters were blurry. I squinted, and still, the letters remained blurry. I stopped taking notes for that class and said “Maybe my eyes are tired. Next time, I will sit at a different angle to see how this goes.” The next few days, I soon realized I couldn’t see well in my other four classes. This same Biology class was where I got my first B grade throughout my undergraduate education. I cried!
When I got my first glasses, you couldn’t tell me nothing. But I soon realized the biases of people who don’t wear glasses and believe they have perfect eyesight. When I got my glasses, I was so shocked that for the past couple of months or even years, I thought it was normal not to see a traffic sign clearly or the plate number of a car until you’re so close to it. The lyrics “I was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see” in the song, Amazing Grace had a whole new meaning in my life. Even my brain functioned differently as I now consciously read everything I could lay my eyes on, including text messages on the phone of a stranger sitting beside me on the bus. This gets good, I promise!
Upon graduating from Simbi to See (glasses 1 to 2), like a superhero, I found my power. I realized that not seeing clearly was a good thing because if I didn’t want to participate in someone else’s bull**** near or far away, all I had to do was take off my glasses. If my introverted ass saw someone familiar from afar and didn’t want to say hi, I would take off my glasses. That way, if they claimed to have seen me and called my name, I could say, “Oh, I heard someone calling my name, but I couldn’t “see” the person, so I kept walking,” and it would be the truth. Well, half the truth, but some truth regardless. If someone I disagreed with asked, “Do you see where I am coming from?” I could take off my glasses, shake my head and say, “Nope, I still don’t see it.” When someone makes me angry or stressed, it feels so good to know that I can make the person disappear or shrink a little bit by taking off my second pair of eyes. See? Magic! Need to forget an ex-friend, ex-lover, ex-whatever? Take off the glasses! Joking, it doesn’t really work like that, but you see the point.
You must have heard the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Being unable to see far or see everything is a blessing from whatever angle you choose. The mere privilege of “taking my eyes off and on” as I wish is why I don’t want to do laser eye surgery, even if it promises vision 3030. Maybe if it will allow me to see the date Jesus Christ is returning, I might consider it.
It was all fun and games until I became an adult, and my mother gained freedom from paying for my glasses. That was when my eyes started seeing shege (as Nigerians would describe hardship) – seriously, no pun intended here, it’s true. Prescription glasses are expensive!!! To see this ghetto planet costs moneeeeey! So, when I wear my glasses that cost an arm and a leg, and one somebody trying to give a compliment I didn’t ask says, “You look better without your glasses,” it makes my blood boil. However, I can’t fight them because I don’t want to fight with my expensive glasses on and mistakenly break it but if I take off my glasses to fight, the person and their unsolicited opinion vanishes before my eyes. So, if you see someone with glasses, whether it looks like swimming goggles or a windscreen, the best compliment you can pay them is, “Money looks good on you!” Most importantly, I don’t know if many people understand that I am not wearing glasses to be cute; a girl just needs to see!
Can we talk about the nicknames? In this life, the identity of whoever gives you a nickname matters! If your peers give you nicknames, that’s one thing. If your family members give you nicknames, it’s another thing. But when Nigerians give people nicknames – it slaps hard! From Ojulari to Ojugo, to eyes-Kongba, to Aisha! I have heard them all. I am less afraid of whatever life throws at me year after year because nothing can be worse than nicknames or jokes about my glasses from my fellow Nigerians. The people I secretly wish that “thunder would fire” are those who randomly wave fingers in front of my face and ask, “how many numbers do you see?” Rude!
While I’m of the school of thought that whatever anyone thinks of you shouldn’t matter much, this works in my favor when I wear glasses. People assume that I am smart and serious with it on, not knowing that I am a forest of silliness and sarcasm. I, of course wear it on special occasions like interviews, presentations, and networking opportunities to appear as serious as the business we’ve come to discuss. In my defense, I am helping people see the best in me.
You ever have one of those moments when you leave your house and get almost a quarter way to your destination only to realize you forgot your wallet? Well, when I mistakenly forget my glasses, I assume the whole day is canceled and loathe in jealousy of God’s favorites, I mean people who don’t need to carry an extra pair of eyes around.
On a more serious note, we genuinely take the privilege of sight for granted. If you can ever lay your hands on the book – Notes on Blindness by John Hull, I highly recommend it. It is one of the most profound books I’ve read. Days before the birth of his first son, writer and academic John M. Hull started to go blind, and predictably, he was informed that he would lose his sight entirely. Not only did he lose sight, but he began to lose the memory of what the most precious people, places, and things looked like, such as his daughter and wife. In a journal, he documented how he could find companionship with his circumstance and relearn navigating life differently. It is exciting to see the world from the perspective of someone like him who knew what both sides of life felt like. What a privilege that he was a writer who eloquently captured the moments of these transitions for others to understand.
This week, my fifth and latest pair of glasses arrived. I have been waiting for this pair of glasses for over two weeks. Words cannot describe the joy I find in walking and seeing the 25mph limit sign on the roadside, looking outside the train on my way to school and seeing the sunset, seeing the bus I’m going to ride coming from afar, and reading a book from any distance and at any angle. Lest I forget, seeing myself too. Because sometimes, when I need a little confidence boost, I put on my glasses, go to the mirror, and with a smirk, say, “Baddass queen! I was blind, but now I see you, beautiful!” Likewise, when I don’t want to see my fupa or the French rolls hanging around them, I take off the damn glasses because who needs extra eyes when out of sight is out of existence.
When I was in high school, during a conversation with a mentor, analyzing a poem, he made a joke about how the gravesites in developed countries like America are so beautiful and peaceful, they can make a person want to die. Yes, my sense of humor is that dark and wild, I know. People who can see without the aid of any apparatus often make people with glasses feel like they are missing out on the world. Ever since I started wearing glasses and seeing the annoyance that comes from existing with such people, it has been my mission to make them desire being blind – just a little bit by letting them see the beauty of my own world.
So, to my panel of judges, accurate timekeepers, fellow co-debaters, and audience, with these few points of mine, I hope I have convinced you and not confused you that people who claim to have a 2030 vision are the ones really missing out on the world!!!