During those cumbersome middle school years, I used to sit in the back of the classroom; that is, until one fateful day, I realized I needed glasses.
Now, there is nothing wrong with glasses of course, but the young, very insecure version of me was convinced that they would look atrocious, and I did everything I could to avoid getting them.
Still, I failed the annual vision test, and I reluctantly went with my dad to purchase some eyewear. My dad was also forced into the situation while my mom was at work. I remember trying them on, asking for his honest opinions, but he didn't care - he just let me know which ones insurance covered.
The ugly ones, I thought.
When I look back, even as a slightly more secure adult, I still agree with my younger self. They were unsightly.
I only wore them when absolutely needed, and the rest of the time, I squinted a lot, ultimately living in a distorted, blurry world. Still, I could see up close, and my vision was not bad enough to interfere with most activities. I continued to live in this murky world up until I graduated college. Truthfully, I didn't know what I was missing out on at the time. The world was like an impressionist painting to me, which was still magical, just a blurred shadow of reality.
When I became a teacher, I realized I needed to see the features of my students' faces in order to teach well.
I finally had my own money and own insurance, so I purchased some contacts (I was still convinced I wouldn't look good in glasses).
While my vision was never that bad to begin with, the change was revolutionary in my life. I saw details I never saw before.
I saw landscapes differently. I saw myself differently. I saw the whole world for once, as it really was, or at least, more accurately.
Around this time, I took up photography. Now it is important to note that at the time I lived in a Southwest community that some looked down upon in some ways. This community is wonderful, but there are many social problems there.
Maybe I could change people's perspectives, I thought, just like mine was changed.
I started my own Facebook page for this city and began posting photos of the amazing landscapes, events, and people I saw. It grew quickly over the years, receiving thousands of likes.
Still, the likes were not what was important to me. Rather, the messages I received kept me going, often letting me know that I opened their eyes to the beauty they never saw before. I have since moved from that desert city, but I continue my journey as a photographer, seeing the beauty in everything, even unlikely things. I still get the same thrill when people write comments under my photos and say something along the lines of, "I never saw it that way."
In fact, where I lived and taught at the time, the Navajo people introduced me to the spiritual concept and tradition of "Walking in Beauty." The students and parents I worked with taught me that one should walk in beauty all of the time and see it in every direction - before, behind, above, and around us, no matter where we happen to be. With my camera in my hand, these words are always on my mind.
Interestingly, I finally did end up buying a pair of glasses, and I came to the conclusion that this action in itself was symbolic. I finally saw the beauty in myself, with or without glasses.
And, now, my camera goes everywhere with me as I walk in beauty. I share my new, clearer vision with the world around me. No longer living in a blurred world, I appreciate every detail I see through the lens of my camera.