This past week I travelled to Florida for a convention. We do this event every year and it’s a great thing for our business. Last year I had some struggles with my vision and noticed challenges when shaking hands, as well as navigating through the crowds. Fast forward to 2017 and the challenges not only remained but increased.
My night time vision has deteriorated to a point where dusk becomes my “curfew” and once the sun falls into the horizon, my ability to see, navigate and accomplish tasks is magnified greatly in difficulty.
This year I was given the opportunity to host my own session or class if you will. I was speaking about the topic of increasing your business by adding Millenniala to your Client List and after several days of preparations, I was beyond excited for the opportunity. Knowing that I would be presenting to over 200 individuals in a dark room was my largest fear, simply because I can’t see much anymore.
I stood in front of the crowd and for the first time, I publicly announced my visual impairment. It was the first step of many to further acceptance and it was a great feeling, in a very odd way.
Once I shared my impairment, I heard “aww” and “wow” from the crowd but nothing else. In fact, disclosing my disability was helpful as when the crowd was speaking or asking questions at the end of my presentation, they were standing without being asked, to help me find them in the crowd.
I was touched.
Fortunately my mother was at the event representing our company as well and she stepped up to the front of the room to point out raised hands and assisted in the direction of interactions once my presentation was over.
“Coming out” is a big step and as my vision continues to decrease, I know it’s coming quick. I need to let my industry partners know so they can understand why travel is so difficult. Informing my industry that I’m going blind will allow them to understand why a handshake isn’t as easy or smooth as it should be. It will inform them why I’m not the one rushing to the bar at night to purchase drinks and all of my amazing colleagues, partners and clients deserve that, right?
With the event behind us, I write this on our flight home. Following several accidental bumps into others and a very close call with a wet floor sign, I am elated to get home. Home where I know the layout, everything has it’s place and I can feel at peace once again.
I will be sharing my visual impairment with the world soon and I hope that when I do, I receive the same understanding that I received at my session this past week. I hope that my friends, family and colleagues see this impairment for what it is and not who I am. I hope that instead of pity, they will understand that this isn’t ME but it’s having to become a part of me.
One can hope and I’m in high hopes.
I have Retinitis Pigmentosa and it is terrible but I will NOT let it define me, my family, my ability, my goals and my life.