I was born blind.
We all are, more or less, and through the first months of life vision develops step by step: color, shape, image each getting clearer as time passes. The difference, though, is that unlike most babies, I stayed blind for months. I had an infection that clouded my eyes with white blood cells until vision could not develop in my brain. When my grandmother noticed I wasn’t smiling at the right time and suggested a well-baby check, she saved my vision. In a week-long whirlwind, I was rushed through eye surgery to remove the vitreous humor in one eye and laser down both retinas. Despite the success of the surgery, I remain legally blind in one eye.
What this meant as a child was being sent to preschool with a patch over my seeing eye to try and encourage vision to develop in the other, leaving me completely blind while trying to build block towers, put on plays, and read picture books. What this means now is that, while my brain has largely compensated through my lifetime, I have relatively poor depth perception, a smaller field of view, and a skewed sense of where the center of my body is. I learned to adapt to hold my body, judge distances, and imagine the world as other people saw it. However, when I began making art in earnest, a theme that came up again and again in the work I made and the work I loved was a flattened field of view. From 14th century Byzantine painting to Persian miniatures, I was drawn to images where all the action happens on the same plane.
One thing that has stuck with me is a fear of going blind. I fear the normal kinds of going blind, like from old age, but also sudden accidents that would take my seeing eye away from me. I'll wear safety glasses when I sew in case a needle breaks and I never sleep in my contact in case of infection. During the George Floyd protests in 2020, the most scary part of participating for me wasn't the tear gas or flash bangs or arrest, but the rubber bullets which littered twitter with photos of eyes damaged beyond repair.
Despite being by far my weakest sense, it is also the one I have the richest relationship with.