I just finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Of course this was not my first time reading this modern classic, and it likely won’t be the last time I find myself engrossed in Harper Lee’s masterpiece. The story has not changed in the 18 years since I last read it. Yet, it somehow feels new to me. While Scout, Jim, and Dill feel like long-lost friends, they also seem different from how I remember them. While I recall feeling infuriated by the prejudice and injustices in the story, my understanding and analysis of these events has more depth than it did as a teenager. My own life experiences over the last two decades influence how I interpret this powerful novel. (Side note – feeling so damn old as I write this)
This is true of many stories in life, not just novels and movies. The facts and characters of various stories throughout my life remain the same, and yet the stories morph over time. My story of vision loss feels very different at age 37 than it did at age 19. And I expect it will not feel the same in another 18 years. Not just because of the deteriorating nature of RP, but primarily because I have changed in the way that I view the characters and plot twists.
In the early years of my diagnosis, the ophthalmologist seemed like the villain in my story. The various specialists and experts I encountered were all linked to this negative experience of seeing myself as “disabled”. Today, I view most specialists examining my eyes as protagonists, working hard to meet the needs of their patients and further research in the field.
Some of the dialogue within my story has also changed over time. In my youth, the simple question of “how are your eyes?” felt like a major invasion of privacy. I had built up so much shame around losing vision that the very subject was nauseating to me. Today, the question is still not necessarily my favorite topic of conversation, but it does not stab me in the gut in the way that it once did. The very nature and intent of the question remains the same, and yet if sounds completely different to my ears.
Even the stories within this blog have changed for me. I look back at some of the posts from four years ago, and I’m often surprised by what I wrote. When I read these previous posts, it appears as though life was just happening to me. It’s not as though my story has reached some perfect happily ever after moment. Rather, I have chosen a more active role in how I live my life. I am the author of my own story in a way that I never felt before.