Over a lifetime, I count many experiences, both as a blind woman and otherwise, of feeling that I do not fit in. As we are molded by our society and other influences, e.g., media, parents, politics, fitting in is a primary goal of this early programming. As a child, stability, living in the best neighborhood and misunderstood shyness are important components in how one is perceived by one's contemporaries.
I had normal vision as a child, but moved often, was raised by my grandmother and was quite shy as a result. These were strong influences on how I was perceived and how I came to feel that I did not fit in. I also had a legal surname change going from elementary school into junior high. That was due to a legal adoption by my grandmother and her husband. That also made my contemporaries wonder about who I really was.
Because of all these early childhood changes, I came to adulthood with some degree of low self-esteem, married unwisely and gave birth to 3 children, who also had to cope with my low self-esteem.
After 10 years of marriage and eventual self-worth progress, I was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. That was a setback in my progress of improving my self-image. Now, there were other reasons for my feeling that I did not fit in.
The point of this story is to convey how much I appreciate the convention comfort zone. I have been coming to ACB conventions since 1992 and, in addition to the information provided, new exhibits, successful advocacy and the overall camaraderie, they are definitely a comfort zone experience for me.
I have a variety of friends, sighted, blind, various ethnicities and ages, and despite the fact that I have been blind for over 40 years, there are still many situations where I have to explain and explain and explain. At an ACB convention for one week a year, I do not have to explain anything for anyone. Total comfort and an always appealing respite time, where fitting in is never an issue and acceptance is an unheralded fringe benefit.
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