Today I would like to talk about the changing landscape both figuratively and literally.
After finishing a long day at work today, I had three events to attend for professional organizations I support related to my job.
Two of these were in the city. I do go to the city campus of my workplace at times. However, the campus and vicinity are familiar and I don’t generally venture far from it.
Generally, I’m fairly confident navigating my way around, finding where I need to go, and getting there. However, today was a very different and confronting experience.
It was the first time I had been to this particular area in the city for around 18 months. The landscape had completely changed.
Over the last six months, my visual field has decreased significantly (you can read about this in my previous post). While I knew the area I was in, it was very unfamiliar. I had been there before it was when I had much better vision and in my mind, I expected that the experience of this area and the layout would be very similar to the last time.
This expectation was far from the truth and my experience was considerably different. I knew where I needed to go but getting there was challenging and physically and emotionally exhausting.
Imagine when you are tired, yet your environment continues to overstimulate you. You try to track everything around you to ensure you remain safe while navigating with one eye closed and looking through a cardboard tube with the other.
One particularly frightened me was the addition of painted bike and scooter lanes (on the footpath). Where people and fast-moving vehicles darted unexpectedly to avoid each other. I tried to keep track of everything around me but found it so overstimulating and visually challenging that I just had to stop for a while before setting off again.
To combat this, most of the time, I navigate my environment systematically, but today this approach did not work.
I finally arrived where I was meeting friends and colleagues; I entered and walked the perimeter of the rooms to find my friends. I couldn’t see any of them. I did another circuit and decided to go outside and call, no answer; I texted and waited 15 minutes. It was cold and windy outside, so I decided to find somewhere warm, get a drink and wait for the next function to start.
It struck me just how isolating restricted vision can be – particularly when technology can’t help. What began as an easy adventure had become challenging because of the changes in my vision.
I eventually did manage to meet my friends, they were sitting in one of the rooms, but I did not see them despite walking past. I couldn’t express just how fatigued I was getting there and cried when I found them.
What this has reminded me of three things. Firstly, the need to conserve the use of my vision. Secondly, my expectations and ability to thrive in busy, crowded and unfamiliar environments might need to change. Lastly, that these changes aren’t a failure but a new beginning.