Beauty Is An Alabaster Princess
When I was asked if I would write about my experiences for “Bold, Blind, Beauty”, I have to admit, some of the insecurities of my youth emerged. “Do I even fit with the other women who have shared their experiences?”, I thought, “Am I really a bold, blind, beautiful woman?”
The answer is, “Yes!” But, that answer doesn’t always come easily when decades of insecurity preceded finding my strength and confidence.
When I was a child, all I wanted was to be like everyone else. I would have given anything just to fit in.
I was born with a condition called Oculocutaneous Albinism, which is also the primary cause of my blindness. As a result, my experience with blindness is closely intertwined with my experience of beauty and physical appearance. I believe it is not coincidental that as I accepted my blindness, I also began to find true appreciation for my own unique beauty.
As a person with albinism, my skin, hair, and eyes lack pigment, resulting in a fair porcelain complexion, light blonde-white hair, and light blue/grey eyes. Albinism is typically accompanied by low vision, but there is a wide spectrum for people with albinism in terms of eyesight and photophobia (sensitivity to light). My eyesight has always hovered between a measured acuity of 20/200 and 20/400 with strong photophobia. As I have aged, my photophobia and functional vision have worsened.
As a child, teenager, and young adult, standing out and being seen as someone so visibly different in appearance from others left me self-conscious, shy, and far less confident in myself than I would like to admit. Throughout my childhood, and into my adulthood, I didn’t recognize “beauty” in myself, at least not the aesthetic beauty typically referred to with that word. My grandmother would say I was beautiful (I mean, she’s a little bit biased), because I had and have a beautiful heart and deep caring for others, I could recognize this “inner beauty”. But, if I stood next to any other girl, young lady, or woman my age, I could not recognize physical beauty in myself. I felt so different from everyone around me.
It wasn’t until late in my twenties or early in my thirties that I came to recognize, accept, and truly appreciate, that the features I have because of albinism: my porcelain skin, my white hair, and the unique blue-grey of my eyes, these features are rare, they are beautiful, and they are MINE.
This past summer, at the age of 36, my husband and I attended his university alumni reunion, and a friend of ours referred to me as an, “Alabaster Princess”, and in that moment, he managed to bring together decades of personal struggle with “beauty” in a pivotal, beautiful moment. It was one of those “aha” moments Oprah talked about throughout her career. Aha, my friends, I AM an Alabaster Princess, and I AM BEAUTIFUL!
For many years, due to a combination of lack of services offered by my school district, and my own self-defeatist avoidance of anything “different”, I refused to travel with a cane and I completed school work and activities with top grades but endured neck and back strain and massive headaches from eye strain. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I came to understand and accept my blindness as part of me. I believe being blind has been as important in my development as my values, hopes, and talents, but that blindness is still JUST one part of who I am.
Around age twenty, I attended adjustment to blindness training, which may seem silly to an observer when you consider I had been blind since birth. This training allowed me to meet others blind people and helped me move toward self-acceptance. It also provided me the tools I needed to be independent, competent, safe, and confident. I began traveling with a long, white cane, learned the basics of Braille, and learned how to go through life as a bold, blind, beautiful woman with confidence. I became a guide dog handler a decade later and experienced yet another level of confidence, poise, and grace as I traveled with a canine partner.
My blindness is one piece of the puzzle that is “me”. (If you ask my husband, that’s probably one massive, complex, 3D puzzle!) I am a daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, advocate, counselor, speaker, writer, blogger, and crafter. I love life–I enjoy this world full of color, reading, movies, travel, organizing, meeting new people, inspiring others to live their best life, and lifelong learning. There are many things I’m good at, and there are things I am working to improve–just like anyone else.
When I was a child, all I wanted to do was fit in, but as I consider the course of my life, I wanted to fit in when I was born to stand out. I wanted to be invisible in this world where, for some reason, my greater purpose involves being seen.
Today, I am a bold, blind, beautiful woman because I utilize the tools of blindness. Today, I am a bold, blind, beautiful woman because I know who I am, what I have to offer the world, and that I may be blind, but blindness will not stop me from living life fully, learning, growing, and giving, one day at time.
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