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What things are you proudest of in your life?

Updated: May 25

This is a hard question for me to answer. As I look back over 65 years, my mind is quick to call out the mistakes and bad choices I have made in my life. The things that I should be proud of, take a lot more deliberate reflection to call to mind. That attribute is not one of the things I am proud of. No one can be fully defined only by their mistakes, yet I have always seen myself more through the lens of my weaknesses than that of my strengths.

One example that comes to mind is how I have viewed myself as a father. I am quick to judge myself poorly, using the divorce as the single data point to support my failure as a parent. Yet, when I see what wonderful adults my children have become, I could not be prouder of them. While much of that is the result of their own strength, intellect, and resilience, it also makes me realize that I am being unfair by judging myself based solely on the way my marriage ended. Life is not a straight line. It is full of twists and turns, and if there is any one thing that will help a person thrive in life it is the ability to adapt, emotionally, mentally, and physically to the unexpected. Maybe resilience is one thing that I modeled well for my daughter and my son.

I have long considered myself a critical thinker. I am intrigued by the unknown, I love learning new things and, much to the chagrin of my family, my favorite question is, “Why?” I have known this about myself for years, so it surprises me how little effort I invested in getting to know the one person who had the biggest influence on my happiness and success—me. It took a retinal disease to open my eyes to that. I wish I had not waited until so late in my life to do the hard work of pulling back the covers on my emotions and lack of vulnerability. I could have saved myself and my family a lot of pain in the process. 

If there is one personal accomplishment for which I am proud it is my memoir, Seeing Clearly. My feeling of pride is less about the book itself and more about what I learned in the process. I feel like there is a version of me before Seeing Clearly, and one after its completion, and I like the latter far more than the former. 

The self-discovery work I did in writing my memoir was instrumental in teaching me how to live with my visual challenges. It hasn’t been easy. I have had to give up a lot of things, long before I was ready, and it would have been easy to be bitter about that. Writing Seeing Clearly taught me a lot about my emotions and how they impact the way I see the world and that has helped me navigate the changes in my life. The journey taught me more about myself than I could have ever learned just living life in the dark, as I had for so many years. 

In the end, I think the thing I am most proud of in my life is how I used my visual challenges as a teacher to help me grow as an individual. When I was first diagnosed with macular degeneration, all I could see were the limitations the disease would bring. Looking back on the last ten years, I see far more personal growth than I do limitations and my life feels more complete and satisfying as a result. I am extremely proud that I have taken what many would argue is a bad situation and used it to help me grow into a person who I like more than the man I was before.

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