Live in the Light

Brilynn Rakes

Since I was eight years old, I dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. However, I grew up discouraged that my dream was an impossible reality, because I was born with visual impairment. I am legally blind, color blind, and extremely light sensitive. At times, I allowed these impairments to control my attitude toward accomplishing my dreams. My determination was diminished and I became insecure whenever I could not complete a dance step perfectly, or see what the choreographer was demonstrating, or had dance teachers lower expectation only for me. There were many times when I came close to quitting. Although I experienced difficult times in my journey, I successfully overcame my visual impairment with a combination of persistence, passion, and hard work. I have turned being visually impaired into a positive aspect of my life. Today, I see my impairment as something that sets me apart from other dancers and pushes me toward improving my dance abilities. My journey has been hard, but if it had been easy, then I would not have developed the work ethic and personal strength I possess today.

Many visually impaired people experience struggles similar to my own because visual impairment is the severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contacts thus reducing a person’s ability to function at certain or all tasks (Keikhayfarzaneh). Generally, the visually impaired endure daily struggles beyond the average person and can sometimes be depressed by their condition. In the midst of discouragement, the visually impaired can sometimes fail to pursue dreams, strive for greatness, or be proud of their uniqueness. A HealthMED study compared the rate of depression between normal sighted people and the visually impaired. The study concluded that low vision causes patients increased difficulty in carrying out activities of daily living, mobility, and socializing. Results show the creation and growth of depression are common results of visual impairment (Keikhayfarzaneh). Once depression sets in, the struggle to escape its paralyzing effect can be extremely difficult. This reoccurring pattern among the visually impaired must end because individuals can achieve greatness despite the pain and difficulty found in their lives.

Eighteen-year-old Rachel Starritt is completely blind and yet lives out her dream of playing piano on the international stage. Indeed, Rachel is a prime example of a rare individual who has accepted her blindness and has used it to her advantage. “Being blind helps me play music with my whole body,” Rachel said (Wightwick). With determination Rachel has learned to interpret and play music without having to read the notes. She struggled in her craft but in time realized that being blind improved her playing.

Although Rachel’s story demonstrates hope for the visually impaired population, the devastating reality of depression among the visually impaired is more prevalent than I could have imagined. One month ago, I had the privilege of performing at the Blind Center of Nevada’s Third Annual Gala. Like many organizations in the country, The Blind Center advocates for the success and well being of the visually impaired community, and its gala serves to inspire the blind community with visually impaired performers and speakers. I instantly agreed to perform at this gala because inspiring others with my story is a passion of mine. The two dance solos I performed and the video describing my visual impairment from ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” dazzled the audience of visually impaired guests.

I realized after speaking with the director of the gala how many visually impaired people are struggling to find and pursue their passions. Jennifer Earl shared a story about a teenage boy with degenerative blindness and his attempted suicide because of his fears of the unknown and outside world. Undoubtedly, his condition led him to the emotional devastation of attempted suicide. It became clear to me that the boy was unaware of his limitless potential in life.

With courage and persistence comes success. Do not fear the hard work it takes to overcome obstacles. Instead, fight through them with determination. Everyone has an aspect of life that causes doubt, fear, and sorrow. The visually impaired along with any person with hurtles in their way must get out of the dark depths of discouragement and enter the light of passion and determination. Life is beautiful when you surpass the boundaries holding you back from following your dreams.

Works Cited

Earl, Jennifer. Personal Interview. 21 Sept. 2013.

Keikhayfarzaneh, Mohammed et al. “Depression Among Low Vision Patients.” Healthmed 7.3 (2013): 832-836. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

Wightwick, Abbi. “Master Class in Determination” South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales) 19 June 2013: NewsBank. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.