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What things are you proudest of in your life?

Updated: Jun 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.

(Earlier this year I began a Storyworth subscription. Each week they send me a question to answer for my family. After a year, they are all compiled in a book that is printed as a keepsake, It has been a fun exercise for me. I have enjoyed exploring where each of the questions take me. Some have been fun, lighthearted stories, others have been more thought provoking. This is one of the questions with my answer.)

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