Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Impressions

First impressions have always been tricky for me. My first instinct is often to jump to conclusions and form a judgment immediately. I've never been okay with this. How can I teach children not to judge a book by its cover, and yet I continuously do just that. So through years of practice I have (for the most part) retrained my brain to keep an open mind, be patient, and let the situation (or person) reveal themself naturally. However, since losing my vision I seem to find myself reverting to old habits. 
Perhaps it's because, as I adjust to my vision loss, I often feel judged. While I am here at the Training Center I am required to carry a white cane. To me this is tremendously difficult on many, many levels. It feels unnatural, I can't keep the proper rhythm, and I trip over it more often than not. Namely though, it's been very challenging emotionally. It feels like a giant advertisement to the world that I am now BLIND. And not only am I now BLIND, I also am not very good at being BLIND. Everyone else here has had vision impairments for years, if not their whole lives, and knows how to do this. I am a newbie, and therefore subject to judgment. Most of this perception lies solely in my own feelings of inadequacy and ineptness. 

As ridiculous as it may sound, a secret part of me thought I could waltz in here, master everything, and be home in a week. I am a teacher for goodness sake, learning is what I do. Uh . . . not so much. This is hard, and I am slowly realizing that I am not the teacher in this situation and I have a LOT to learn.]

The first impression I leave of myself here doesn't have to be one of a confident, self-assured woman who is excelling at every skill she is asked to master. I am not, and why should I be? 

I have always been my biggest critic. If I thought it would cure my desperate need for excellence, I'd join a 12-step program, proudly stand up, and say, "Hi, my name is Christy, and I am a recovering perfectionist." 

Since this recovery program is not an option, today I need to be content with a  gentle reminder that I am new at this and if I am not mastering things as quickly as I (often unreasonably) expect myself to, it's okay. I am here to learn, just like every other student. They may be more proficient at cane skills than I am, but I may have a greater knowledge of computers, this is temporarily quieting my inner critic. But in a day or so, I may need a smack upside the head to drown out her voice.  

Until then, I'll keep trying, failing, and using my perfectionist self to provide the drive I'll need to try again. 


  1. Dear Miss Perfectionist, I remember your being upset because your handwriting wasn't perfect in first grade. Ahh - shades of Aunt Gail - that is a VERY GOOD THING! I love you both. You are wise.

  2. From a fellow perfectionist, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. For the most part we could walk into any college class, pay half attention, chat the rest of the time and get a 3.8. With a tiny bit of effort a 4.0. Things come easy to you. You will, one day soon, look back proudly at yourself for how quickly you learned all of these new skills. You are a natural learner/teacher. Teach them a few things about computers, give yourself a chance to shine! Thinking about you every day!

  3. "The man who moved a mountain is the one who started taking away the small stones." - Old Chinese Proverb
    I know it is hard (ahh the life of a perfectionist!) but try to take life's large undertakings and break them into small increments, rather than being overwhelmed by the huge feeling of the final goal. You will get there. We are behind you all the way!

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  5. Yard by Yard, Life is HARD!
    Inch by Inch, Life's a Cinch!

  6. Oh my, I think you and I are more alike than I thought. Darn first child perfectionism! Giving oneself a break is a difficult to learn after years of rather high expectations. Been there, doing that. It is a constant effort. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

    I think you have handled the vision loss (and extreme illness early on) beautifully. You seem cheerful and upbeat when I see you and I love your fb posts.

    You mentioned this above: "Everyone else here has had vision impairments for years, if not their whole lives, and knows how to do this."
    Sweetie, if they already knew how to do everything, they wouldn't be there to learn! You have the benefit of being able to learn now and use what you learn both now and in the future. You may have the advantage of knowing technology and computers. I hope this helps you immensely. The wonderful technologies available today to help those with vision impairments of varying levels are great! Not just audiobooks, but readers than can read text to you (albeit in a creepy computer voice). Websites that do the same. And I'm sure there are tons more specific technologies out there.

    You are my hero. You are going to kick butt in Kalamazoo and then come home and put all you have learned to use. And you will kick butt there too!

    Let me know if and when you want me to zip up and see you. I'll get off early that day so I can be there about the time you are finished for the day. I know you need to get to bed early because of your early start! I do need a bit of notice so I can clear leaving early with my boss. I do work one evening a week usually and have one appointment I can think of right now. But my schedule is really pretty open.

    I love you and am thinking of you often.

  7. Meh. Perfection is overrated. Quit trying to excell and just let yourself be excellent. Remember it's all about you. Not how others see you (plus y'know...who can see you? I thought everyone there was blind. terrible terrible). I remember thinking you were always excellent. Even the 238 times i've watched you fall up a staircase. And you could see then. Imagine what you'll accomplish now.

  8. If we both stuck to our original first impressions of each-other, where would we be today? Certainly not here, right? :)