Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Thank You To My Glasses

In February of 2008, I plunked down a huge amount of money, popped a few ibuprofen and a Valium and prepared to change my life.

I got Lasik.

I got my first pair of (red, Minnie Mouse) glasses when I was 7, in 3rd grade. It was inevitable; both of my parents and all of my grandparents wore glasses. It probably didn't help that my 7-year-old self (like my 27-year-old self) read in any light possible, even the dim light of a movie theater, in the car at night, or under the covers.

After the Minnie glasses, I graduated to bifocals. Yep, I was Benjamin Franklin-ing it in the 5th grade. Probably because prior to this I would remove my glasses, set them in my pocket and then promptly sit down on them. About once a week.

My parents took me to our optometrist at least once a month - probably a lot more - for adjustments, tweaked frames, or popped-out lenses. Dr. Barr (the elder, now passed away) was a focal point of my childhood. He smelled of cinnamon and welding. Getting to choose new glasses was THE BEST. Sometimes Dr. Barr (the younger, now retired) would let me choose a new case to go along with them and it was the BEST DAY EVER.

{The summer after 6th grade}

As I got older, my glasses became a part of my identity.
The smart girl. The girl who likes to read. The girl who writes poetry all over her jeans.
The girl with the glasses.

{a pensive pose in November of 2003}


In my early 20's, I found my most favorite pair of glasses ever - turquoise and lime green Vogue frames. They were colorful, fun, quirky, and could start any conversation. They were ME. At the time, I worked in retail and I don't think a day went by that a customer didn't comment on my glasses. Even better, they looked good with all of my different hair colors - and there were a lot.

{Vogue frames with my red hair}

But then, I went to Hawaii and I went snorkeling for the first time. Which was awesome! ...I think. See, I took off my glasses to put on my goggles and though I took a bunch of awesome pictures while swimming blind, and I saw a lot of colorful streaks, I didn't get to enjoy the moment. Which sucks.

{at a Pottery Barn Kids holiday meeting}

So, I began thinking... maybe it was time. This was also a time when I was wrestling with who "Katie" was. For so long, I had been labeled (and labeled myself) as a certain person. And "glasses" were part of my label, part of me. There was probably also a lot of psychological fun-ness that we could touch on, like "hiding" behind my glasses, making myself "invisible" or other things I should talk about in therapy. But, let's not.

So, I did the research, I found the right place for me - Laser Eye Center in Torrance, CA - now known as NVISION Laser Eye Centers - and I made an appointment for a consultation. Five months later, on the day after Valentine's Day, I had LASIK done. I went in early in the morning and the procedure took all of 20 minutes. Then I went home with my eyeballs covered by gauze, sleeping pills, and Vicodin. My mom made me food, then I slept until the following morning, when I went back to have the bandages removed. I will forever remember (and I've thought about snapping a photo to hang at home) the first thing I saw when I stepped outside with my new eyes. The Martin Chevrolet sign across the parking lot, across the street.

{via Google Maps}

And then, the marvels began. I could see trees. Not green shapes my brain identified as such. But trees. With leaves. And branches. I could see street signs. I could see how dirty my shower was (crap). And I couldn't wait to see what I had missed out on the NEXT time I went snorkeling.

At first, it was REALLY hard to get used to what I looked like without my glasses. I didn't know who this person was, I didn't understand the way her face was shaped. The kids I baby-sit for were a little freaked out. I had clear lenses put into my Vogue frames and I wore them for about a week. Then, it just seemed silly. My friends would ask, "Didn't you get LASIK? Why are you wearing glasses?" I couldn't admit I was self-conscious about my face (or maybe I couldn't hide anymore, cue therapy!), so I went bare-faced. And gradually, I got used to it.

{first Thanksgiving after LASIK - with Jonathan}

I still have my Vogue frames and I've worn them as props in the past few years, but mostly they're a reminder. Of how we change, but we still stay the same. I wore glasses for 16 of my most formative years. I will always reach up to adjust my glasses if something isn't quite clear. Even though they're not there. And I will always wipe my eyes with my index finger, starting at my nose and moving under my eye, just as if I was doing it under a pair of glasses. That aren't there.

{using my Vogue frames as a prop at a "geek chic" party - with Amy}

But I've learned that I'm not defined by this one characteristic. Or any characteristic. And understanding that has made me a better person.

Thank you, glasses :)


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