I'm really feeling it!

I joined the kendo team in my college at the behest of my sophomore year roommate. To be more precise, she told me to get into some exercise clothes and dragged me to the rec center across the street without explanation, as good roommates in college are often wont to do.

Turns out they needed more women on the team.


Please excuse me while I go be a bad-a.

So, anyway, I join. But I never fight an opponent. The big real reason was that I wasn't plunking down the $600+ for the armor. I just didn't have that kind of money, and I wasn't going to beg my parents for it. As an aside- they were actually cool with me doing kendo, because when I quit weightlifting after high school I gained a ton of weight, even with eating reasonably well and hitting the gym. The regiment was just not the same.

I didn't love kendo in the way that some of my teammates did, but I enjoyed it enough.

When I transferred from my American college to Soka Daigaku in Japan the following year, I kept practicing. I actually had to pair off with the guys because I was too tall to pair with the Japanese women, even though I'm short by American standards.


Then I entered grad school, and joined the San Diego Kendo club. This was... a bad idea.

For one, it was HUGE. Like 100+ people huge. In college, both in the US and Japan, my team was maybe 15 people? and they all knew I could not see.


But the second issue was that the San Diego team and the UCSD (University of California, San Diego) team met jointly, and the UCSD team is one of the best in the US. The club didn't have time for stragglers like me. And I couldn't wear glasses while practicing, they flew off. Again, I couldn't really afford prescription goggles (my REGULAR glasses cost over $600, goggles would be even more).


Couldn't afford is the wrong word. I never wanted to "live Kendo" as it were, and I couldn't justify the purchases.

One of my teachers noticed my slow progress and suggested I come to the additional night classes. I enjoyed kendo, so I was delighted for more.


But she still noticed me struggling. I told her I was blind and couldn't even see my opponent that well, nor did I have depth perception. I fought from sound.

"How do you drive then?" she asked incredulously.

"I CAN'T. I never have, and never will be able to. I was born like this. One of our classmates always picks me up, or I take the bus."


It finally hit her. I'd been explaining that I was visually impaired for almost a year at that point, but it never really sunk in except to one of my sensei how bad my eyesight was. The only problem was what happened next:

She started expecting a lot less of me.

She stopped correcting my form, or giving me advanced advice. I know I'll never compete, not because I think I'll never get good enough (if I stopped everything I am doing I'm sure with about 3 years of hard work I could be competition ready), I didn't WANT to compete. But that didn't mean I didn't want to improve.


If you play Starcraft or LoL or some other online game, do each and every one of you want to be pro? Some do. But those that don't, still want to get better (or at least lose less and enjoy the fun).

This is why I don't tell people IRL about my eyes unless it's vital to our communication or situation. Because my achievements are uplifted beyond and don't stand on their OWn merit (oh look, she made this art AND SHE'S BLIND!) or that less is expected because I can't see.


Everyone has a disability of some kind, physical, mental, emotional, whatever. Some are just easier to spot than others. There are a few instances where my eyes really DO come into play (my dad always wanted me to be a vet but me doing surgery is a REALLY REALLY bad idea), and I'm not going to enter Formula 1.

But for the most part, we as humans have strengths and weaknesses. I'm not amazing at kendo, and while I love it (as I love video games) I don't plan on becoming pro at either.


But I do want to get better, and don't YOU use my eyes as a reason to see that can't happen.

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