December 8, 2018, I was a week and a half into training with my first guide dog, Edison. I live just outside of Seattle, but I had traveled to New York to meet and work with this amazing dog at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind facility. I had become legally blind three to four years earlier, and I had finally taken the opportunity to avail myself of some of the resources that would help me adjust to vision loss. I apologize for not giving a more precise date for my blindness. People often ask when I lost my sight, and my answer is always a stumbling, awkward response. My vision loss was a very gradual process. My first major eye issues happened in the mid-90s, but there were treatments and procedures that could be done to temporarily restore my vision. In 2014, though, those past procedures presented me with their bill. My vision failed relatively rapidly, and there was nothing to be done about it. In January of 2015, I was formally diagnosed as legally blind. There was a big ceremony, with sacred artifacts and hooded figures... no, of course there wasn't, but that's my idea of a "formal diagnosis".
One of the other resources I was availing myself of was a vocational rehabilitation program offered by the state of Washington. I had been enrolled in the residential program on the day before Halloween. For three weeks, I studied Braille, how to walk around safely, and how to use a computer accessibility program. I was also in a class designed to help blind students apply for and keep jobs. The first step was to decide on which career to pursue. Since "jet pilot" and "Army sniper" were off the table, I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue. I figured I could resume my studies in my other classes where I left off when I returned from New York, but I made arrangements to stay in the careers class discussion via email, because it only met once a week, anyway.
I had worked many retail jobs in the past, and had almost completed an Education double major in college. I'm not sure why, but my interest in working with kids, of any age, had dwindled into non-existence. I'm sure that it's only coincidence that my own children were born at roughly the same time as The Great Dwindling. Retail didn't have a glass ceiling where education was concerned - it was an adamantium ceiling. Without a college degree, there was only so far I could go in retail. So I followed my teacher's advice and looked at what I was passionate about. My conclusion? Nothing marketable. I'm a really laid-back, easy-going guy. I liked a lot of activities, and had many interests, but not a ton of red-hot passion. I was lost as far as potential careers went. I was seriously considering just subsisting on my disability income. Living in some tiny apartment, in some crime-ridden neighborhood, with my dog, eating microwave dinners, and listening to audiobooks. I loved reading.
All my life, I've loved reading. A good story is the best escape from reality. I still remember crying as I watched my mother die from a hunter's bullet through Bambi's eyes. Later, I struggled to keep my best friend's spirits up as he tried to destroy the evil ring he wore on a chain around his neck. And when I was a teenager, I dealt with bullies in a small town in Maine, while something much, much worse stalked me and my friends. I immersed myself in stories. As a kid, this can be detrimental when reading scary stories. When I discovered Stephen King and Peter Straub, part of me would remain in their books even after I had put it down. I was terrified until I had finished the book. It took me two years and two tries to finish Salem's Lot. I just couldn't get into it at first. But for those two years, vampires were real for me, even when I was reading other books. Perhaps, in the minute or so that it took you to read this entry, you've made the same observation that it took me forty-four years to make: I am passionate about stories. On December 8, 2018, I still hadn't reached that conclusion... but I was close.