Do you want to know why? I went through most of my schooling without glasses and it feels like someone stole my life from me.
In first grade they thought I was squinting at the board and asked me if I wanted glasses and I said no, because I didn't "need them." Really, I was afraid I'd look goofy in them.
I don't even know who to blame. I can hardly blame myself at 7 years old for the cultural stigma. I can't blame my parents. I have a facility for math and music, so I always seemed just ready to succeed beyond everyone's wildest dreams. Even before my prescription I read one of the Harry Potter books all the way through, although I had to take breaks every 3 pages and almost fell asleep exhausted halfway.
My eyes were healthy enough they could pass vision tests somehow, until a newer machine in high school barely picked up on it. I suppose society is to blame but where is the fun in hating something so vague?
I faked my way through literature and history in middle school, which were the most reading-intensive. As my class matured, the workload increased, and I spent a lot of time after that complaining of getting vaguely tired from doing schoolwork, which everyone agreed was fair but not a good enough reason to avoid work altogether. After having all but failed 8th grade, I managed to test into a high school scholars program. I was eventually dropped to lower and lower classes. At one point I had a remedial class after school where I had "extra time" to do my homework and standardized tests. But I didn't even have the reactionary dignity of calling myself stupid because I was regularly tested for cognitive deficits and the tests only praised me more, further raising the hopes that just a little more encouragement should do the trick.
I suppose internalizing this lie and having to pass it onto my teachers provided me good insight into how people lie. For example, you promise everybody you'll do exactly what they want, and then pick just one person to actually follow through on. That way you satisfy one person at least, and stay in the good graces of the rest for at least making an attempt. What's ugly is once they're done giving you second chances, you either get one last exception or you face the music and must produce a sincere sounding apology. It was awful having to do this to my teachers who loved me unconditionally, but it was the only way I knew how to avoid seeming like I was just trying to be a bad student on purpose.
Making matters worse, my father started facing serious mental illness throughout my childhood, and by high school it was spiraling out of control. He lost all of his empathy, drowned himself in beer, and my mom was resigned to him degenerating into nothing. He decided I "had to go to school" and it was now his solemn duty to force me to religious services and school by threats of taking away my possessions, my bedroom door, and marching me there with an arm twisted behind my back. He could only punish me so much, and I eventually won. Going to school was almost an escape from it, but not enough. I trudged through as best I could and once Junior year hit I decided to stop going entirely out of protest to everything.
You don't come away unchanged from all that. I have a sour grapes attitude toward everything. After years of being told you're capable and failing at doing anything, you stop believing good things can happen. I still have a habit of placating and charming people, but I have a lot less interest in whether they care. I have some patience but it really takes effort to summon up compassion. I can't imagine going to services even though they are less than a block away these days.
The irony is I'm still suffering at home in failure and he's got his life together. He's running two support groups now, taking a class, cooking dinner and following the news on the radio. I'm chipping away at sleep problems, an eating disorder, mood disorder, and I can't hear a word of praise without immediately discounting it. I'll never forget the cruelty involved in trying to accustom me into being an upstanding member of society, and the emptiness inside that I feel when I try to remember something nice from those days. I won't forget the lie about how my success is just around the corner. I can't even complete an English class now without having panic attacks. I feel like my life was stolen from me. If I weren't so opposed to the idea basically on the grounds of upsetting my family this could be a suicide note.
I said I don't know who to blame but someone sure cheaped out on the eye tests, right? Who failed to do any creative research about my father's condition? It has to be better organized. Maybe doctors overbook, maybe they only know about treatments covered in the media. Maybe the frenzy of new treatments encourages them to balk at older generics. While people get unfairly priced out of treatments, the American medical system is so corrupt that there is a culture of just writing people off as hopeless, and I wish that criticism were aired more frequently, because right now it is hurting a lot of people like me but doesnt have a name or a face. It is just sort of the overall system doing this.
I'm getting help but all the while I'm forced to watch the system fail others. I don't mean to be more radical than thou to advocates of reform, I just want people to see the system we have now is much more rotten than people might know, and hope my story resonates and helps focus the reform effort on what really benefits people. I hope anyone basically literate in these issues can try to articulate a comprehensive criticism that helps the reform movement.