Okay, so I wear glasses. Frame glasses, not contacts. Yes, I do have some nice thick hipster frames, but that’s not exactly why I choose them as opposed to contacts. I did, for a time , wear contact lenses. After just narrowly failing one of those school vision tests, I was taken to the eye doctor and given glasses. After a short time with those, my optometrist persuaded me to try contacts. I was all for it, as getting contacts seemed the cool, grown up thing to do.
For a while, I wore those contacts like a boss. I wasn’t a four-eyes, didn’t have a weird frame around my vision. I could go swimming normally, (wait, you can go swimming in contacts, right? Crap, I never checked…) Anyhow, things were going fine, until they weren’t. I started to have trouble focusing in class. Not paying attention, I mean I would be taking a test, staring hard at the pages for a while, then notice the words starting to scatter and swim. I had to blink couple times to clear it up, and focus harder. My head could get strained and really achy. Soon enough, my job shelving books at a library, I started to get headaches from focusing on the spines of books I needed to shelf. The headaches become worse and worse, until reading for any period of time caused an intense stabbing of pain in my head. I was definitely freaking out by that point. That was my senior year of high school, so even if I wanted to take my reading slower, the mounds of homework I had meant I could not. I ddi not want to slow down, though. I loved reading and writing and the idea of being unable to follow that passion, possibly for a long term period, truly terrified me.
Upon visiting my dear eye doctors, they decided the brand I was using was the problem, then kept switching out brand after brand and special type after type. None of them worked. They made me switch back to glasses, and when I still had headaches while wearing those, but I could at least take them off. This isn’t an ophthalmological procedures blog, so I’ll try to sum the whole thing up quick. After a bunch of weird tests, we ended up switch optometrists and when the new guys figured out the problem was, something about my internal focusing system being zapped, I learned that there was no quick way out. I had to go through months of eye strengthening exercises to get somewhere close back to normal. In all honesty, I can still feel an unpleasant tug at my one really bad eye after a really long day of studying and computer work.
In that interim, though, I had over a year of time when I could not indulge in my favorite hobby, or even perform at a level in school and work that I could’ve before. I had nightmares about having headaches so bad they would make me go blind, and then I could never finish that one book I was still reading. I started to try and find ways to listen to audio books more often, which definitely helped. Still, though, a bunch of paper books piled themselves in my room, and I couldn’t even look at them. Something that used to be a source of comfort had turned into the most painful sort of labor.
You know the weird thing, though? That didn’t stop me. I would sit down with books I just couldn’t stay away from and spend intense but short periods of time trying to take all the words off the page I could before the pain became too intense, then I’d lay back and take several aspirin. I couldn’t stop, and what those few books I braved reading in print during the bad times always gave me enough to keep coming back for more, a trial instead of a past time now, but not one I could just stop.
I remember one moment very intensely. I’d decided to make myself read Fahrenheit 451 for my seventeenth birthday.
It was a classic I hadn’t read yet and desperately wanted to. I’d peaked at it and discovered that this one girl Clarisse, the one that gets Guy Montag all hot under the collar for book-learning, was seventeen. It was a short book, I told myself, and wasn’t it kismet? I could only read a book with a seventeen year main character while I was seventeen year-old character for much longer. That was the sort of silly logic I needed to use to goad myself into reading a copy of any book in print instead of waiting for an audio book or something. I didn’t finish the book before my birthday, but Clarisse died before I turned seventeen, so I figured that fulfilled the weird promise I’d made to myself. Turns out that until you got to a relatively recent era, you couldn’t count on scifi lady characters being much more than sacrificial maidens, even in good books. More on that later, though. Back to my bleeding eyeballs
I just remember sitting in a car, taking out the book, and forcing myself to entertain myself by reading through blurred eyes, tears of pain, and a gashing headache. I stopped to laugh at myself at that point. It was ridiculous, the lengths I was going to to read this book. I also laughed at the characters, who were having books taken away from them by force by a backwards, twisted government while I was losing my ability to read all by myself, thanks to my own stupid head orbs. I cried and laughed, then had to put the book away after that, and not pick it up for a bit.
A while later, I remember `finishing the book and wishing I’d had the foresight, like the guys at the end of the story, to memorize some books to go over in my head while the headaches were really bad. Reading made me feel that. It made me feel other, better things too, before and after that too. Still, though, it made me feel like that, and I guess you know you have something special there.