I went to the optometrist yesterday. Yes, I’m aware that this makes for a very incongruous opening statement, given the title of this post, but there’s a point. I just have to get to it.
The last time I had a professional eye exam was…many years ago. I didn’t like the experience. Not only because I felt it left my vision worse than when I began (long story), but for the simple reason of vanity. This was the first time in a long time that someone in a position of knowledge told me just how imperfect I was. The first time my imperfection could be quantified. In truth, my back had been a problem for years by this point, my knees over a decade, yet there was something different this time. Those injuries and conditions weren’t a barrier to my future in the same way that vision problems are.
Thus, I never felt bad after a visit to the specialist regarding the three bulging discs in my lower back, but the same cannot be said of that eye test and what followed. It affected my mental state. The appointment was on a Friday, as I recall; I cried for most of the weekend.
This time, I was older, more mature, but those weren’t the big changes. Let me put it plainly: now, I have no vanity. Nor pride, nor self-esteem. The only reason I can stand to hear a doctor talk about “20/70” and “moderate astigmatism” and “amblyopia” is because…those words can’t hurt me any more than I’ve already hurt myself. I went in with no expectations other than to be humiliated. Anything else, then, was a small victory.
Maybe it’s the wrong way to look at things. I know I’ve been told so before. But…that’s the nature of the beast. Time and time again, my hopes have been dashed, so at some point I just stopped bothering with hope. I’ll assume I’m going to fail, if for no other reason than the simple fact that I haven’t truly tasted success in so long that I’ve forgotten what it’s like.
That’s not to say that I have no hope at all, despite the title. On the contrary, I have high hopes for everyone else. I wholeheartedly believe that good will triumph over evil (though my ideas of good and evil are far from the norm), and I hold the utmost faith in humanity, progress, and the future.
It’s only when I come into the picture that this innate pessimism rears its head. Tests in school, job interviews as an adult—I go in expecting to lose, not to win. Because it hurts too much the other way.
When the woman I love doesn’t talk to me for a couple of days, I figure I’ve done something wrong, and maybe she’s finally had enough of me. Why wouldn’t I? I screw up everything else I touch (outside of a computer, and even that’s not a given). At least I can feel elated when I get a simple text saying “Hi.” With my family, it’s a little different: I assume every conversation is going to become an argument or them ignoring me. And my health has become one of the worst cases. For a time, I truly believed I wouldn’t even be alive in 2020. Illness, depression, and the trauma of watching so many loved ones suffer made me feel my own end was approaching.
That last kind of thinking, fortunately, is a thing of the past. I still can’t believe I’ll have a long, happy, healthy life, though. At best, I count on getting two of those. And even that will be a struggle. Nothing good comes easy, not to me. All my bets are long shots, it sometimes seems. As someone who knows the odds, I can’t help but realize I’m not going to win it all.
But I don’t have to have it all. I don’t ask for much. Nothing more than what an average man has, anyway. Let me have stability in life, let me be loved, give me a place where I can be heard and heeded. I don’t need a billion dollars, a supermodel wife, and a TV deal.
Just something to hope for, that’s all.