Back when I was an MMA Fighter

I grew up legally blind and was bullied. Being blind meant I couldn’t see the people hurting me. I was beaten by faceless attackers.

I never knew why these people hated me. I meant them no harm, but human beings often lash out at anyone, or anything, that is different.

Back then, I was defenseless.

After I got older and with my vision corrected, I joined a karate school. I learned they also taught kickboxing and MMA fighting, but I was told only guys could learn those.

So, I wanted to prove them wrong, signed up and began to train.

The first time I faced off against an opponent… I was afraid to get hit. I was also afraid to hit someone else. After receiving a few punches, also remembering all the beatings I endured growing up, I got over it and fought back… hard.

When I moved away to college, I left fighting behind and pursued other interests, but had proven my point. Any future assailants were no longer faceless to me. I would not be bullied again.

I enjoy watching “Cobra Kai” and saw “The Karate Kid” for the first time not long ago. I agree with the philosophy in the film when Daniel told Mr. Miyagi he wanted to learn to how fight so he wouldn’t have to.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media

Social media is always the subject of debate. There are pros and cons.

A pro: Imagine trying to get through this pandemic without Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Zoom keeping us connected while forced to isolate.

One good thing about social media is how it confirms we’re never alone. There’s always someone out there. And we can also be there for someone else.

How we use social media is up to us, so choose positive over negative interaction.

It’s helpful to avoid conflicts and seek out new friends to unite with versus people who want to argue and divide us.

Rather than disliking somebody’s post, why not find things to like? The recipient of your positivity will appreciate it.

Social media is not a problem unless you choose to make it one. Just like in real life, don’t go looking for trouble.

Seeing Columbo

During the pandemic, many people found a new friend in Lt. Columbo. A new generation discovered his TV show thanks to streaming.

I’d make myself pancakes on Sundays and watch him solve mysteries. It was like having breakfast with the great man himself… without the cigar smoke.

Columbo feels like a very real person thanks to the brilliant actor who portrayed him, Peter Falk… but did you know he had disability?

When Peter Falk was three years old, he lost one of his eyes to cancer. He wore a glass eye most of his life.

After his first screen test, the head of a studio rudely told Peter Falk: “For the same price, I can get an actor with two eyes.”

Peter Falk was dogged, intrepid and not to be underestimated… just like Lt. Columbo.

After his failed screen test, Peter Falk worked harder, became a great actor, received two Oscar nominations and eventually achieved legendary status as TV’s most famous sleuth.

COLUMBO, Peter Falk, 1971-93

If you didn’t know Peter Falk had a disability, that’s because he wasn’t defined by it nor let it stop him… and proved a studio chief wrong by becoming a better actor than most performers with two eyes.

Navigating the World While Legally Blind: How I Did It

When people hear the world “blind” they imagine a person not seeing anything at all

Only 10% of all blind people have no vision and use Braille. Many see some shape and color.  Not all blind people are the same, just like all people are different.   

My eye was shaped like a football instead of a circle.  I could only see before the tip of my nose.  As far as seeing further, I only discerned vague shapes and color.

olivia durant blind motivational speaker

I would never go anywhere alone, but had a very good memory of places I’d been. I would try my best to memorize rooms and past outings, including trips through New York City.

I did not live in a life that would involve special schools and assistance from others.  I had to make up my own ways of navigating the world with limited support.

When I would enter a room I would mentally divide it into equal shapes, then count the steps between those areas.  I would remember those steps for the future, including when it was time to turn into a door.  Sometimes I made errors, but managed to keep my disability hidden.

After my vision was corrected, there were benefits from these methods that remain. I’m very good in the dark. I’m also very good at texting without looking at my phone. These are just a few of my superpowers.    

As far as how I navigate the world now, I’ve come a long way.

A new users guide to eyesight

What is the first thing I remember after my eye surgery?

The sky.

The sky is something you see every day, but I’ll bet you don’t notice it unless there’s a big change.

Consider this.

How many people do we think about and never contact because we need some reason to do so?

You don’t need a reason to reach out to people.

I saw my relationships with myself and others differently after my eyesight was given to me.

Seeing a face often helps us better understand what is being said.

The same applies to faceless people we send our words to.

Personal relationships should stay personal.  Social media can make them impersonal.

We even have something called Facebook and we still seem to forget this.

Photo by Şahin Sezer Dinçer from Pexels

While many things in life looked different to me after my surgery, theme parks looked exactly the same.

Theme parks are fun; you literally feel the rides and experiences.  You also hear the sounds and smell the food.

Be able to see crowds gave me a sense of the size of the community.

My new vision made learning how to do everyday things revelatory.  Simple things people treat as second nature like how to cook, do laundry or selecting clothes for my career.

I cherished learning some of these basic things that most take for granted.  We should always value learning new things, no matter how routine they seem.

Driving was a very different experience after corrective eye surgery.  I was always a very attentive driver and stayed the same way after my improved vision.  I paid close attention to the world around me through that windshield.

Paying attention is something we all need to do as we’re always surrounded by constant distractions.

After my eye surgery, I was able to travel and see many places for the first time.  That included places I’d been to before.  I was now able to fully appreciate them.

Travel isn’t required to find new and exciting places.  The destinations can be as common as a new restaurant, new store, or the home of a friend you’ve never visited.

You don’t need to take a picture. You need to take the experience.

Olivia Durant wearing sunglasses

People often wear sunglasses as a fashion statement or to project an aura or attitude.  Sometimes people wear sunglasses to hide their eyes, to cloak how they’re feeling since eyes not only see… they tell.

I wear sunglasses for the same reasons everyone else does, but I also appreciate one of their most valued purposes which is to protect my eyes.

Because I don’t take them for granted.