I can see. I don’t have glasses or contacts on, and I can see.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to open this post, which I’m writing exactly twelve hours after getting LASIK surgery. I still can’t process it, actually, but I want to write about my experience because…well, that’s what I do. And I CAN SEE. The point of this post is to simply tell you what being able to see means to me.
Here are the basics of LASIK: Once I was in the operating room, it took literally 15 minutes for Dr. Brad Feldman at Kremer Eye Center to cut small flaps into my eyes, reshape the corneal tissue, and reposition the flaps with what felt like a small, white paintbrush. It was gentle (except for a suction cup-like device that began the procedure) and painless. I’ve got to type it again: they cut my eyes with lasers and it was painless. There was some burning for a few hours after as my eyes “realized” what happened to them, but by the early afternoon I was walking around the city like normal.
It’s hard for me to describe exactly how poor my vision was. I still remember the first drive home when I got a pair of glasses. I was six. My mom was crying as I pointed out fast food signs, license plate slogans, the odometer on the car dashboard.
Imagine you’re six years old and unable to read a McDonald’s arch without squinting. Imagine finding out that you were SUPPOSED to be able to easily read these things, that everybody else can do it, and that without these lenses perched on the bridge of your nose, you’ll be crippled (yes, crippled) for the rest of your life.
Over the years my prescription changed (as it tends to do). I finally got contacts, and I got used to seeing the world through refracted eyes. But I’d always be reminded of what my eyes could actually do. I couldn’t read a book into the wee small hours. I couldn’t jump into a lake and look around in the water. I couldn’t kiss someone in the morning and see their face.
Maybe prose isn’t your thing. Let’s put how bad my vision was into numbers:
A lot of people don’t know what having 20/20 vision actually means. It’s quite simple—a person with 20/20 vision can see something that’s 20 feet away as easily and with the same level of detail as the average sighted person can see something that’s 20 feet away. Therefore, a person with 20/40 vision (roughly the first point where people start getting glasses) can see something that’s 20 feet away as easily and with the same level of detail as the average sighted person can see something that’s 40 feet away. It’s twice as hard to see something, basically.
Someone who’s got pretty bad eyesight (say, a -3 or -4 prescription) might have 20/200 vision—the same ability as most newborn infants whose eyes have not yet adjusted to the world.
And me, with my -7.75 prescription? There are different mitigating factors, so it’s hard to be 100% accurate, but my vision was somewhere in the range of 20/1000. You could see across a football field easier than I could read a clock across the room. My vision was, in a word, horrendous.
The key word: “was”. I get to type “my vision WAS bad”, “it WAS hard to see”, endless variations on a state of existence that I (hopefully) will never have to experience again. It’s beautiful, and I didn’t need the artificial tears when I got back to my apartment because I was crying.
It’s strange. I lost my glasses while dancing on New Years Eve (long story), and my final LASIK appointment was on January 2nd. I spent the first day of 2014 basically blind. It felt like fate—my last day living in a blurred world. I got breakfast, saw a movie (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitte, which had some gorgeous blobs), and walked around Philadelphia. It felt like a goodbye, one more look back at where I’ve been so I can see where I’m going.