Hey, are those eyeballs real?

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© HAWKEYE Nico Francois

By Ritika Khanal, Op/Ed Editor

It all began in seventh grade, walking through the doors of Brier Terrace Middle School on that somewhat cloudy day. I was a nervous wreck, wondering how I was going to make it through an entire school year at a school where no one knew me and where I knew no one. 

Of course, the thing I failed to understand at the time was, at some level, everyone was feeling the same nerves I was feeling that first day. Despite all of the fears that come with entering a new school, all I could think was, “what if I accidentally walk into a boys’ bathroom?”

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “Of all the things she could have been worried about, she was worrying about the bathroom?”

Well, I mean… I was worried about making friends, I was worried about the homework load, I was worried about having all these different teachers after having only one for the majority of elementary school. Heck, I was worried about everything.

Miracle of miracles, I made it through the first two months of middle school, by which point I was lugging around multiple technological devices I didn’t have the slightest idea how to use and heavy braille textbooks that made my back scream at me every time I picked up my backpack. If the word braille in the previous sentence didn’t alert you, I, indeed, have 20/20 vision.

Just kidding! I was born with a hereditary condition called LCA, which limits my sight to only lights and shadows. To put this into context, if you can imagine a world without colors, faces, shapes and objects, that is my world. I can tell whether the lights are on or off, and I can see the vague outline of things if they are big enough and close enough.

If the word braille in the previous sentence didn’t alert you, I, indeed, have 20/20 vision.”

— Ritika Khanal

Going back to the middle school though, even after those first few months, it was still a scary place. For six years, I had been at Hazelwood Elementary, where interaction with visually impaired students was common. When I went to BTMS, I was suddenly the only visually impaired student at the school, and as the year continued and my fellow middle schoolers got comfortable with me, the questions began, All of which, if asked any louder, might have been heard three neighborhoods away. 

“Do you have a crush? What do they look like to you? Are you sure you’re going the right way? Are you going to hit me with your stick? Wait, blind people eat candy? Are you sure honors classes are for you?” 

But the one question that stood out to me the most…“Are those eyeballs real?”

In case any of you are wondering what the answer is to any of those questions, allow me to address them. 

No, I don’t have a crush. 

Yes, I sometimes know where I’m going. 

No, I won’t hit you with my cane unless you stand in my path for more than 35 seconds. 

No, the lack of eyesight doesn’t limit taste buds or my ability to hear.  

Yes, honors classes dictate my life. 

And finally, my eyeballs are indeed real.

Now, I know kids are weird. I fall under that category myself, but hearing these questions from my classmates reminded me that I have a lot to live up to before I can get the mega weird award.

With all that said, if, at any time, you see me around and are curious about something, no matter how weird you think it is, please don’t hesitate to ask. I don’t bite, and I will do my best to answer.

Unless you direct me into the boys’ bathroom, in which case I will hit you with my cane.