Originally published April 2011 at
I recently received the following message from a young lady named Colby Garrison who just finished reading Carmella’s Quest. I am sharing it with her permission.
“Hello Carmella, I am a totally blind college student, pursuing my undergraduate degree in Communication Studies. I have been totally blind since birth, due to retinopathy of prematurity. I am a Christian, and I am working with my first Guide Dog. I started reading your book last night, and I could not put it down. If I did not have classes to attend today, I would still be reading it. I downloaded your book from bookshare. I cannot thank you enough for writing your book. I wanted to thank you for writing Carmella’s Quest, because I feel like there is someone else with whom I am able to identify on many levels. You make me feel like its all right to experience the highs and lows of blindness, and to release the emotional responses that come with them. I will be recommending your book to my friends who are blind.”
“I’m so glad the book has been an encouragement to you. That was my hope for it from the beginning. I know how hard it can be to find time for pleasure reading while in college so it means a lot to me that you’re taking the time to read my book right now.
You’re right. As I describe in CQ, faith, supportive loved ones, and focussing on our independence and goals can help so much. Having a sense of humor and not expecting perfection from ourselves can, too. College can be challenging but rewarding, as can blindness. There are days when it really isn’t a big deal and when it presents some uniquely special opportunities and other days when it sucks. We know not everyone is going to accept us and that some people will decide everything about us based on narrow minded ideas. I don’t waste a lot of time on people like that. I’ve found way too many people who don’t make a big deal about it and treat me like a whole person, with blindness just being a part of that. They treat me with sensitivity but not with pity and consider me an equal. The older I’ve gotten, the more friends like that I find.
Sometimes, blind people aren’t honest even among themselves because we try to put such a brave face on for the public so we won’t be pitied. The reality is that living in a world set up for those who can see can take a lot of energy and can present plenty of frustrations. No matter how much technology and other plans for handling lack of sight we put in place, they don’t bring us quite up to the same level as our sighted friends. Things take longer. Gadgets don’t always work right. People don’t come through like we need them too. We try and do the best we can with it and that’s all we can do. A sense of humor and staying focussed on the bigger picture are so vital to that process so we don’t get bitter and stuck in self pity.
It sounds like you have goals and try to have a good attitude and to do the things that will help you to be successful. I think that’s great. Give yourself credit for the extra effort involved sometimes. Be honest about the difficult parts. Find some “safe” friends you can be truthful about the harder times with. It doesn’t help to dwell on them, but it can help to express emotions around them to people who care when it all gets to be too much. That’s not weakness; that’s reality. For the most part, focus on what you can do rather than getting stuck on what you can’t and know your strengths. Be open to the lessons in blindness and to God’s plan in all this. With ROP babies, any of us could have died. Obviously, knowing we didn’t can help us have more of a sense of purpose about why we’re still here and God’s hand on our lives. We know He’s working out a unique plan in us and that there is a reason why we are who we are.
Just some thoughts on all this. Keep pressing on and I hope these words, as well as the book, have been helpful.”