Writer Belo Cipriani shares how he dealt with the trauma of sudden blindness by "hitting the reset button."
As a child, one of my most frustrating moments came when Mario froze mid-jump. Just as I was about to avoid the last fiery ball in the concrete castle to save Princess Peach, the game suspended, and no amount of punishing of the red and black buttons made the action begin again. I shrieked and pleaded with my mother and father that I couldn’t start over. I couldn’t redo the brilliance of my last attempt to defeat the level. After pouting and stomping for a few minutes, I finally pushed the reset button and led Mario to bounce past the next set of obstacles.
Many people find it hard to imagine starting over again. Whether it’s after a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or the development of a physical disability, it can be hard to even think of leaving the house again, much less address the changes that a person’s life will inevitably undergo.
In 2007, at the age of 26, I was assaulted by my childhood friends, and as a result of the injuries inflicted, I became blind. It was initially terrifying. I was young, healthy, and intelligent, but without my sight, my vision for what I could have in the future became blurry and unpredictable. Because of this incident and the resulting recovery, I learned a lot about how hitting that reset button as a child, even in the case of a silly game, helped me understand that starting over can lead to even greater discoveries and accomplishments.
If you are looking to begin again, you should first learn what is possible in your new life. Some areas will be easier to master than others: Learning to walk with a cane came easily to me, but Braille proved to be my biggest foe, for example. Finding inspiration, connecting with others in similar situations, and building confidence provided the necessary motivation.
Begin by searching out a mentor — someone who has or is living a similar situation. If you want to get out of debt, you should find someone who struggled to pay bills and avoided debt collectors’ calls. If you are learning to be a single parent, find a woman who not only is a single parent, but also leads a million-dollar company, volunteers for community causes, and still makes it to her son’s games. I found that having a blind author as a mentor helped me remain patient and have faith that I could eventually learn to iron my own clothes, go shopping, and even travel far distances. This person also served as inspiration for my own writing ambitions. Find a mentor who can provide advice on the current changes in your life and serve as an inspiration for your future.
Confidence was the other main issue I struggled with after becoming blind, and it can be the most important quality in maintaining a positive attitude and making progress. Just like in the games I played as a child, the only way I was able to make it to the next level was to take a risk, make mistakes, and learn from them. I made a lot of wrong turns in order to finally become familiar with a neighborhood and find the route that would work for me. I spent many hours learning to pick out clothes with the help of adaptive technology, and I learned to ask people for help when I needed it. Challenge yourself to fail every chance you get. It will help you push yourself to learn something new, to meet new people, and to find new confidence in yourself.
Sometimes the best plan is planning for a reset. Find a mentor and build your confidence; you might just find a hidden level that’s worth fighting for.
Belo Miguel Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and author of Blind: A Memoir, available on Kindle for $2.99. Belo was the keynote speaker for the 2011 Americans with Disabilities Act celebration in San Francisco and was a guest lecturer at both Yale University and the University of San Francisco. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him at www.belocipriani.com or on Twitter @Beloism.