My Vision This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 14, 2011
I am 17 years old and I'm not allowed to cross the street by myself. I will probably never get my driver's license, and I am admittedly afraid of the dark. For most 17-year-olds in the United States, all three of these statements would seem extremely strange. For most teens, crossing the street is just another daily activity, driving a car is an exciting symbol of freedom and independence, and fear of the dark is something they abandoned long ago. These are challenges for me because I was born with a visual impairment called congenital nystagmus.

When I was born the doctors initially believed I was blind. It wasn't until my mom discovered that I could follow objects with my eyes that my parents learned that the doctors were wrong. Congenital nystagmus is an involuntary horizontal movement of the eye that often causes a visual impairment. In my case, it prevents me from seeing things at a distance and affects my balance and hand-eye coordination.

As one might expect with any disability, my vision often presents itself as a disadvantage. Unfamiliar places make me anxious if I can't find my way around. It can be a challenge to navigate in the dark, and reading small print can be exhausting. I have found, however, that despite all the things I can't do because of my visual impairment, it ultimately makes me a stronger, more determined, and unique individual.

I love music. I love it so much that I intend to study it in college. I think it would surprise most people to learn that I accredit some of my skill in music to my visual impairment. I have frail eyes but great ears, and my hearing intensifies the joy I find in music.

My determination to live relatively normally with my nystagmus has pushed me to make sure that I never use it as an excuse, a sob story, or an appeal for special treatment. I aspire to have a fulfilling life, to learn as much as I can, and to achieve the same things as those with perfect vision.

I hope I will never let my nystagmus hold me back. I prefer to think of my impairment just as disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson does: “We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them. We enjoy pleasures other people enjoy, and pleasures peculiarly our own.” And I'm fairly certain that's all the motivation I need.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Molly sw said...
Oct. 29 at 5:13 pm
I have nystagmus I’m 14 and I struggle with having it being told that I won’t be able to drive I find it hard at school with seeing the board or talking to people because I don’t want them to see my eyes wobble I wanted to post this to see if anyone know people who have it or if you have it
BigFan said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm
Great article! Keep pressing on!
JusticeLiberty said...
Dec. 19, 2011 at 2:58 pm
I have the same thing and am 15 years old! More people should have the attitude that we share! Stay strong!
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