*from the Vox archives
It’s funny how something rather trivial can mark a watershed moment in your life. In my case, my life is divided between when I didn’t wear glasses full-time and when I started doing so. Perhaps that’s because my husband is the one who pretty much demanded I see an optometrist who said it was long past time to wear glasses continuously and my husband’s arrival into my life was a big deal. But the glasses mark a bigger change than that.
I was reminded by a friend’s post about plans I had the year after high school to move to Paris with one of my best friends. I spoke not a word of French (but was working very hard on learning courtesy of French in 10 Minutes a Day) and planned to work in a restaurant or as an au pair. I was not concerned about immigration laws, work visas, language barriers, or even money. I knew it would work out. So certain was I that I had a ticket and was ready to go. Ready until said best friend and roommate at the time informed me she and another roommate were making meth in our kitchen. I told our 4th roommate and other best friend, an ugly scene ensued, and I moved back into my parents’ house. In the span of a few days, I lost my two best friends (one because she couldn’t understand how I would be upset about meth production and the other because she thought I knew about it earlier or was somehow involved) and my independence. And I lost my dream of a romantic life in Paris. Sure, I probably would have been deported, if I didn’t have to call my parents and ask for a wire transfer to come home first. But, you never really know. And it could have been magical.
After that, I had many more dreams just as big, just as splendiforous. A psychiatrist would probably label them “grandiose.” I was going to join the Peace Corps, though images of me getting an appendectomy in the African bush had me drag my feet until I conveniently met my husband and shelved that idea. I was going to win the Nobel Prize in literature. I was going to save the world (are details or specifics really that important?).
Sure, everyone dreams big when they are young. But for me, those big dreams were tied into a big heart. I’ve been reading The Velveteen Rabbit to my son at night and there is a passage in there about how toys get loved so hard their fur becomes shabby, their eyes drop out, and they get loose in the joints. Then they become real. I loved those close to me so hard that if they were toys, they would become real at least twice. I knew their birthdays and other special dates and would give over and above what I really should have or could comfortably do. I was there for them. Perhaps a little too much. Everyone wants to be loved. Not everyone wants to be loved so hard their eyes drop out.
Again, probably a product of youth and “maturing” is a way of explaining why I no longer suffocate those dear to me. It’s not that my mind is narrow or I’ve become frigid. It’s that I’ve gotten older, wiser and more reasonable. But, I know the truth. Between the end of Paris and a few months after getting glasses, I had been betrayed by those closest to me in some pretty profound ways. When you love that hard, you have a long way down if you are dropped. Glasses marked the end of thinking big and free and the beginning of panic disorder and rage.
Glasses also put a distance between me and the world. A welcome distance at the time. They make it harder for people to see my eyes, which allegedly are the gateway to the soul or something like that. They obscure welling tears, but also laugh lines. In a way, they function much like a camera lens. I can pretend I am watching a play take place and keep myself safely just far enough away. It’s amazing what that little inch between your face and your glasses can give you.
But, it also takes away. I used to be intense, yes, but full of life, vibrant and was a ton of fun to be around, if not just a wee bit crazy. High school and college friends and acquaintances who look me up on Facebook are often shocked that I’m a lawyer. I used to party, I used to skip school to go to the beach, I used to get in my car and drive for days. People I know now are shocked to find out what I used to be like. It’s almost like pre-glasses me and glasses me are two totally different people who occupied the same body, same family, same name.
I value my gained experience and wisdom, my stability. But, I recognize that I love at arm’s length now. And the few times I do let someone in, really in, they invariably shred my heart. So, the distance gets a little greater for the next person. I know I only hurt myself this way, but I still keep that distance.
Some days, I think it would be nice to take the glasses off. To let someone really have a look at me. Literally and figuratively. Now I hide not only behind my glasses, but my job, my family, my obligations. It would be nice to let go of all of that. It would be worthwhile to lessen the distance between me and the rest of the world. I suppose in some small way, that’s what I’ve been trying to do here for the past several years. Perhaps I haven’t written much lately because all I have to say is personal and would mean that I let down guard a bit. I don’t know. But one of these days, the glasses will go.