May 24, 2023
by Braden Gebbink
Testing 1 2… testing… is this thing on?
I’m twenty-nine years old, and I have a disability-- I stumble over my own humor and treat everything like an insider that almost no one is on the inside of. Besides that, or maybe somewhere behind it, I’m also visually impaired. I’m not blind, I just can’t see well, something I heard once at the Bureau Services for Blind Persons Training Center (BSBPTC), located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. However, not seeing well merits an accommodation, too-- just like not walking well, not breathing well, etc.… you get the point.
I’ve always had accommodations at my disposal. But that doesn’t mean things were easy-peazy. In high school, I’d leave class to enlarge my own papers. Whatever I missed in class during that time was “information gone,” might as well have been a magic act-- voila!
The stage was set. I had my cue. My teacher would say, “I’m sorry, I forgot,” and like that, voila number two, and on an act that wasn’t quite so magical, I’d get up from my chair, reach for the papers, and disappear.
And this show was a reoccurring theme.
Although I was not surprised, I was disappointed. The school had a verb named after me, for crying out loud! To make something bigger was to Gebbink it-- it was a friggin’ circus! And whilst last-naming my own work, and during all the whatever I missed in class, I was also busy juggling.
Physically, I was calm, enlarging my own work like a good boy. But on the inside, I was furious, pushing down emotions I didn’t understand, stomping them in like a lump in the carpet. First, I needed to understand where my teachers were coming from, I needed to understand that yes, they were people too. Granted, they were people who had no idea what it was like to not be blind but can’t see well. But how could they?
Lady Gaga says we were born this way, so how were they supposed to understand the way I was born?
After all, I didn’t understand them, either.
I do now.
And I think that’s the point. After I got a little older, I began to understand they were just people, like me. They were busy people, busy being people. By definition, people are not perfect. It was unfair of me to expect them to understand me the way I understood myself. Which, if we’re being honest, was through a young, inexperienced lens. I was fifteen… sixteen… seventeen years old! I understood myself about as much water understands that it’s water! Or a rock understands diamond.
Personification at its finest, folks.
It was unfair of me to expect people to understand what it’s like to not be blind but can’t see well.
John Green once said, “Here’s to celebrating light where we find it, and creating light where we don’t.” I like to think that by doing my part, by being grateful for the chance to get to do that for myself, and by understanding that they’re just people, too, and people aren’t perfect, I am creating light where I don’t find light. If we can do a little more of that, creating… finding… if we can stop blaming others for not understanding us the way that we think we understand ourselves but instead educate them, i.e., by choosing to speak, whether they choose to listen or not… then I think we have created it.
And if we’re not too busy celebrating it, then at very least we can be busy creating it. That way, when the lights do go down, when the curtain closes, and the final wave of applause has begun to fade, when that final countdown begins, and you’ve taken your final bow, wondering--
Testing 1 2… testing… hello? How about now-- is it working now?