Initially, I only needed them for distance, and was told to not wear them outside of the classroom, in case my eyes became dependent on them for seeing in general. Stupid kid that I was, the summer after my 9th grade year I wore my glasses all the time, and found out later that year that I done exactly that. Thus, my driver's license requires me to have glasses or contacts to correct my vision before I get behind the wheel of a car.
Though I was self-conscious about my glasses at first - I feared being called four-eyes and other nasty nicknames that were so prevalent in middle school teasing - I grew to like them. They even made me feel as though I were more intelligent, though I doubt there is any real connection there other than stereotypes of nerds and professors always wearing glasses.
As I grew more religious, I made sure to have a second pair of nicer glasses that I wore l'kavod Shabbos and Yom Tov, since my everyday pair often became scuffed and worn. When I became yet older, I made sure to have that nicer pair of glasses also available for going on dates and attending weddings.
Parenthetically, I remember the time I was on a date and discovered I needed a new prescription, since I could no longer read street signs in New York until I was literally right next to them. Not such a great thing when you're not a local and already have issues with finding your way around town.
Yesterday and this morning, I learned a tremendous lesson that will forever impact my appreciation for the existence of glasses to correct my less-than-perfect vision.
I recently went to my ophthalmologist for my annual checkup and was given a new prescription, which of course meant I needed new glasses. Ever since ASoG and I moved into our new apartment, I had been breaking my own personal rule and relying solely on my weekday glasses when my nicer Shabbos/Yom Tov/Wedding/Former Dating pair went missing sometime during packing, never to resurface. As such, when I went to Lenscrafter's to get my new prescription yesterday with ASoG, I bought a new, nice pair to replace the ones that are MIA as well as update the lenses of my weekday pair.
The new pair, which is half-rim, won't be ready for another week. My weekday pair, which has a full rim, wouldn't be ready with the new lenses until this morning. I figured, "I can rely on my trusty contact lenses to get me through the afternoon/night/morning at school!"
Boy was I wrong.
Although I have contacts, I don't wear them regularly. I initially got them to be in a school play during high school wherein I didn't want my spectacles to ruin the look of my medieval character. After that, I wore them every now and then, mostly for special occasions like weddings, a date or two, or while dressed in a Purim costume that either didn't call for glasses or wouldn't fit the glasses inside the mask. I've always had a bit of a hard time getting the contacts in and out, though the process is a bit smoother when I wear them more frequently. As of yesterday, I hadn't worn the contacts for any significant period of time, and after 15 minutes of struggling with my overly blinky eyelids, I finally got them in.
They hurt! The left one felt like it was inside out (it wasn't) then resolved to burning, while the right was merely achy and tired. I wore them for a few hours while attempting to study for grad school, but kept tearing up and failing to blink/rub out the irritation. Of course, I took them out and began to feel a lot better.
However, this left me without anything to focus my eyesight properly. Admittedly, my eyesight isn't anywhere near blind (thank G-d), but the world beyond 15 inches in front of me was blurry and blurrier. I had a very hard time trying to read my textbooks and take notes, let alone compose a presentation for my class. I felt like an old man with failing eyesight, bent over my books, pain in my neck and back. I almost gave up studying altogether, but managed to finish my presentation preparation with some much needed encouraging from ASoG, though I didn't take a practice test I had planned on completing.
I have a bad habit of hanging onto to old things I probably won't ever use again, so it just so happened that I managed to locate a pair of old glasses from at least 2 prescriptions ago buried on my desk. After much frustration with my inability to study, I dug them up, thinking I could at least see somewhat better than with no glasses at all. Of course, I was wrong, and foolish to ignore the advice of my ophthalmologists of the past who warned me not to wear an incorrect prescription, which could do more harm than good. After that brief painful attempt, I closed my books for the night.
Going to shul for Mincha/Ma'ariv and Shacharis went off without a hitch, though I had to hold my Mishna Berura very close to do my daily daf. Surprisingly, no one seemed to notice my lack of glasses.
As I previously mentioned, without my glasses, I was also unable to drive. ASoG had to take me to grad school this morning, which also made me a lack of empowerment, being unable to drive my own car. Once I got into the classroom, I explained to my classmates about my situation, and preemptively asked their forgiveness as well as the professor's for what was probably going to be a sub-par presentation, since I'd need to remain close to the board to see my diagrams and hold my notes close to my face instead of glancing at either from a more professional distance. In the end, I did well enough to get a 4/5, though one classmate critiqued my habit of talking into my notes instead of to them.
As class progressed, I was forced to get up from my seat and stand near the dry-erase board as another classmate wrote out a few equations so that I could properly pay attention and take notes. I felt so helpless and frustrated that I couldn't see the writing on the board 7 feet away from my desk other than the colored blur of the markers being used.
Thankfully, my weekday glasses were ready in time for ASoG to get them and pick me up as soon as class was over. I can't describe the wonder and joy I experienced and felt when the world became clear once again as I slid my updated glasses over my ears. I had almost gotten used to being visually impaired, and was at first a bit shocked at the clarity and precision that welcomed me in my surroundings. I could clearly see ASoG's face as she sat in the driver's seat, street signs, leaves on trees, and various other things I seemed to take for granted before this experience.
I don't think most of us who wear glasses/contacts really appreciate the bracha that we have. If we had lived in an era before they were invented, we'd be behind in our education, unable to function fully in society (this is to the exclusion of Braille and provisions made nowadays for those who are permanently visually impaired or blind). I really felt helpless to an extreme as I kept losing things around our apartment, such as my watch or phone, or even failed to empty the leftover contents of my dinner plate properly into our trashcan - which brought about an annoyed, though understanding protest from ASoG.
I know I'll never view my glasses in the same way again (pun intended). I also wonder how many other things in my life, certainly major things, but especially little things, that I simply accept as always being there, never truly appreciating their value - be they people or objects. It's kind of funny in a way how such a seemingly simple mishap could become such a eye opening experience (zing!). I could have probably held onto my glasses until the new ones arrived before updating them, which would have avoided all these issues and made me feel less foolish for not doing that, but then I wouldn't have gained from going through almost 24 hours without the ability to see clearly and comfortably.
HaShem certainly works in mysterious ways that are beyond our comprehension, and I am very thankful for both presently having my glasses to help my vision and the lessons I learned from their brief absence.