The thing that I wish people understood most about blindness is that we’re all individuals. We’re all unique. We have different giftings and talents, and there is no one way to be blind.~Natalie Watkins
When I first met Natalie Watkins I remember thinking that she was such a beautiful woman who oozed self-confidence. Having served as a panelist in Bold Blind Beauty’s Awakening The Senses series, I wanted to learn more about her story. Today, I’m honored to share just a small part of her story with all of you. Enjoy! ~Steph
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Beyond Sight Magazine Cover
Hi, I’m Natalie Watkins. I have lived everywhere on the sighted/blind spectrum from having typical vision to light perception, and it hasn’t been an easy journey. It’s been one with some great triumphs and some definite travails, but I have been fortunate to have the support of family and friends along the way, which has definitely lightened my load.
My professional journey was varied. I taught school in the public school system. I did a pivot and then worked as a retirement planning counselor and got my stockbrokers license and worked in corporate America for years. Then I was a full-time parent and I lost my vision when my kids were older in their teens and tweens, and it was an adjustment for our entire family.
I didn’t see any real representation of parents with disabilities in like mainstream culture. So I went ahead and created a book entitled Fiesta Cane that depicted a blind mother and her children. I thought that we needed to have more positive messaging around people with disabilities in our culture.
How Natalie Conquered Shame
I know previously I had internalized a lot of shame around my vision loss. And really bought into a lot of the ableism that is so prevalent, and it was just time for me to overcome that. Basically, the psychosocial adjustment was greatly helped by my mentor Larry P. Johnson, and I vowed that if I ever came to the point where I had adjusted to vision loss and lived as a peaceful and content person with a disability, I would pay it forward.
So I’ve been blessed to be a volunteer with Rutgers’ Eye2Eye Program, where we offer peer support to those new to vision loss, and that has been a tremendous blessing to my life. I also am the author of two books, a poetry chap book, and the book for children that I mentioned previously. So that has been a real focus of my current professional life.
My kids are now off on their own and they’re doing well. So any issues they have are not related to having a mom with a disability. They’re just the typical ups and downs of growing up.
Confidence Borne Of Nurture & Faith
People have told me that I seem self-confident and have wondered about the source of my confidence. And I think as a young person, this was due to parents who supported me and a mother who told me there was nothing I couldn’t do if I just set my mind to it, and I believed her. And it’s not until later that the world comes along and we all experience resistance and you know, people try to crush our dreams without really intending to.
But we all have our limitations. So at that point, I was very fortunate to discover a very healthy faith which basically helped me to believe in my inherent worth as a human being. That I wasn’t defined by what I could do or not do, or any limitations or abilities or lack thereof. That I had inherent worth as a human being, and that is the source of my confidence as I walked down this journey of life with a disability.
So any words of wisdom for you that I might have gleaned on this path? I would just say, keep faith in the future that, with the right focus on your goals, you can accomplish what you set your mind to. My mom was right, I truly believe that.
And the thing that I wish people understood most about blindness is that we’re all individuals. We’re all unique. We have different giftings and talents, and there is no one way to be blind. There are many resources out there for rehabilitation, such as orientation and mobility, braille assistive technology, different tips and techniques and that’s all very useful.
But don’t forget about your psychosocial health because the emotional adaptation to losing vision is nothing to be underestimated. And I wish I had received more support or sought more support in that arena earlier.
So thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a wonderful day. If you’re going on this vision loss journey yourself, feel free to reach out to me, and if not, I hope that this video has demystified blindness a bit for you.
Have a great day. Thank you.
Connecting With Natalie
- Website: nataliewatkinswriter.com
Connecting With Bold Blind Beauty
Like what you’ve read and want to chat about it? Join us in the Bold Blind Beauty Facebook group.
- The header photo is identical to the image used on the Beyond Sight Magazine cover and YouTube Thumbnail. A headshot of Natalie a pretty brunette with a bright smile. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight March 2023 | Women On The Move | Natalie Watkins.”
- YouTube video description: In the video, Natalie is seated on a sofa wearing a forest green v-neck top.