The Silver Lining
When I was diagnosed with my MD, Stargardts Disease, I was 22 years old.
Life as a bartender
For work, I was serving and bartending. At that time, it was great! I was young and it was fast-paced and fun. The money was awesome, the schedule was crazy, and the shifts were hectic. I loved it!
I worked for a restaurant chain at three different locations for about ten years. I was able to network and meet lots of amazing people. For a while, I could say I was happy enough. Throughout that course of time though, my vision began to diminish.
It was a slow process but gradually things started to become more difficult to see, read, and accomplish. During that same time frame, I had become a mom, homeowner, fiancé, wife, and mom again. Life was happening!
At the same time, I could notice the continual progression of my eye disease. My job was becoming more difficult to perform. The print on the menu was impossible to read and the POS system was difficult to see. In addition to that, mentally and emotionally I was struggling with the idea of being a 30-year-old bartender. I would think I can’t do this forever.
How would I adjust?
My husband was a full-time car salesman. He worked very long hours. He did such an amazing job at providing for his household, for his family. Although I worked a lot, my hours were part-time and flexible. So I was able to work around his and the kids' schedules. I would describe our combined income as: Daddy puts the food on the table, Mommy contributes dessert! We were a great team.
Which was why it was difficult to admit I was visually struggling. How would our household work if I tried to switch jobs? Switch jobs?! What could I even do?! I argued with myself a lot.
The last two to three years of my bartending days were the absolute worst years of my life. I had decided to take a chance and apply for a job at an upscale hotel in the city, as a bartender of course. It was perfect for me and the hiring management staff loved me.
I was offered the job and I was ecstatic! I thought I was stuck at one place forever. Who else was going to accept me and my MD? This could be my beam of light. My fresh start. Time passed as I worked at the hotel. It turned out to be awful. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I couldn’t do it.
The tickets, menus, sheets, and screens were all too small for me to read. It caused me to move incredibly slowly which was perceived as incompetence. It was a very fast-paced high-demand environment. As someone who previously thrived in environments like that, it was a hard pill to swallow at the realization that I couldn’t keep up anymore.
I was fired after three months. I remember crying in the office and asking what am I supposed to do now? Looking back, it was a pretty funny moment. I’m looking at them and they’re looking at me. We’re all uncomfortably quiet but I just sat there crying in that office after being fired until they got up and left me there giving me a minute to myself!!
Luckily enough, I was hired on the spot the same day at a restaurant in the city. It was quick and easy because I knew one of the managers there and I clearly needed a job. I hated it there.
Do I deserve better?
I couldn’t see anything and nobody cared. I was angry most of the time and sad the rest. Needless to say, I wasn’t the most likable person either. It was mentally the worst I had ever felt.
But what choice did I have? I didn’t even know how to do anything else. I was broken. I thought I was damaged and didn’t deserve better. I thought since I was impaired, I was stuck doing something I hated because at least I had a job. I was there for two years before I realized that wasn’t true.
I decided to send myself on a journey that would allow me to work in spite of my VI and not because of it. It was time I found purpose. I enrolled in massage therapy school. It wasn’t easy. After a nine-month program as a visually impaired student for the first time, and several COVID setbacks, I was able to become a licensed massage therapist.
The silver lining
I am currently practicing at a spa that I value and where I am also valued. I am successfully doing something that I love and I don’t have to depend on my vision to do it. And to think I would have never discovered this passion without my MD.
I am so thankful for the silver lining of my life-altering condition. My advice is to find your passion. Find your silver lining!
Do you feel that you've maintained independence with macular degeneration?