I HATE first impressions. When people first meet me, they stare bewilderingly into my blue eyes, not able keep up with the rapid movement of my nystagmus, automatically writing me off as handicapped, blind, and useless. Having been born with Albinism, and been labeled as legally blind, people see my eyes as genetic mutations. If that is so, this mutation has proven to be the best life lesson.
Throughout my life, it has always been my goal to turn my disability into an ability. Whether it be through, playing varsity basketball for seven years, maintaining above average grades, or disproving the stereotype that “albinos” are antisocial, by surrounding myself with an endless group of friends and by holding countless leadership roles, through student council, public speaking, and mentor programs.
“Just wear your glasses and adapt.” is the typical response I would receive when I would seek help from my eye doctors. I’ve been adapting my entire life in order to survive in this world that was made for perfect sight – Charles Darwin would be proud. But, as independent as I have worked so hard to become, I was still not happy with having to hide my wandering eyes.
“I want to be a doctor.” Whenever people hear what my dream career is their faces cringe with doubt. I don’t blame them. I am very aware that becoming a doctor is a very challenging task for anyone, but for someone who’s visually impaired, it’s nearly impossible. Despite the doubt others may have, I have no second thoughts. If anything, I think this is one aspect of my life in which my disability can benefit me. Doctors can prescribe medicines and perform procedures that can alleviate the short-term pain of patients that have been diagnosed with an illness that will affect the rest of their life. But as for the long-term pain, how many doctors can give advice on how to put a disability on the back burner and live their lives to the fullest, all based on personal experience?
If there is anything I take pride in, it is my ability to overcome obstacles. I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life helping others, physically and mentally, to overcome their illnesses, but in order to do this, I must first have 100% confidence in myself. I need to be able to look the world in the eyes and make a good first impression.
So I took the initiative, and did some research. I spent months looking for my “confidence booster.” I was referred to Dr. David Granet, an ophthalmologist from UC San Diego. He offered me a life changing surgery that would dramatically decrease my nystagmus and increase my vision. With this new source of hope, I confronted my parents and doctors about the surgery. Before I knew it, I was at UCSD, lying on the operating table, a place where most people feel anxiety and fear; I felt only hopeful anticipation of waking up to a more lucid world, free of the piercing stares that have made first impressions so unbearable. This was the boost I was looking for. Today, my nystagmus has decreased to the point where I can actually feel comfortable enough to look you in the eyes and give my first genuine impression.
My name is Kaila Uniacke; look me in the eyes and you may see a girl with a disability. Take a closer look, and you will see that behind these blue eyes, lies anything but. I am a student, not just of textbooks, but of life, a lifelong learner, taking each of my life lessons to heart. I live not to cover up my flaws, but to express myself, to stand out, to make a difference. If you could see the world through my eyes, you would realize that I may not have sight, but I know I have vision; the vision to take pride in everything I do, whether I succeed or fail, whether my dreams come true or fall short. I will always be proud of who I am, imperfections and all. I am a girl with many passions in life: a passion for laughter, a passion for medicine, a passion to continually prove to the world that my disability has not won.
– – It’s nice to meet you.