While most blind people grow up without a chance to see what their families, friends and surroundings look like, I was fortunate enough to live with my eyesight until I was 17 years old.
Growing up, I was a very active child. I loved basketball, hanging out with friends and school. I wasn’t perfect though. After turning 14 years old, negative behavior landed me in a group home for therapy. A part of my stay included a daily dose of lithium, which is a medication used to treat hyperactivity and mood swings by decreasing the flow of sodium through nerve cells.
My doctor failed, however, to monitor the side effects of this medication. Slowly but surely, my eyes began to get irritated and seeing far distances became difficult. I voiced my concerns and doctors said it would get better; only it got worse. A new doctor finally looked into my complaints and realized the medication had scorched the optic nerves in my eyes. Eventually, my eyesight was completely gone and specialists rendered me blind.
Life can change in the blink of an eye—no pun intended.
Although family and friends tried to stay optimistic, I personally started to realize just how much I had lost with my eyesight. I couldn’t play basketball anymore, and my friends couldn’t relate to what I was going through. I looked to other people in the blind community for support and encouragement, but many of them were struggling to cope with life, too. Unemployment, dependency and low morale seemed to be all life had to offer a blind person. I found myself sinking into depression, and I knew I needed something to fill that empty void in my life.
Find your passion. Save your life.
My little brother introduced me to hip hop music when I was 18. I loved the raw, rugged passion in the lyrics. Eventually, I started writing my own, using them as an outlet for fear, hurt, depression and almost anything else I felt that day. Because I couldn’t see, I had to remember all my rhymes, which came surprisingly easy and ended up being very impressive to others. I started to develop confidence in myself, and I quickly decided I wanted to use music to be a trendsetter and a leader in the blind community.
By the time I turned 23, I started taking social stances with my music. I stopped cursing and using vulgar language and started creating positive messages I hoped would inspire and uplift other people who felt like an underdog in society, just like me. My local community started to recognize my passion, and I got the backing I needed to take my movement national.
The music industry ended up being a different story.
Music industry professionals and other artists couldn’t fathom the idea of a successful disabled artist. Many music groups promised to help me, but instead took my money and disappeared. Eventually, I’d had enough. I decided I would conquer the industry myself. I set up my own shows, reached out to blind organizations and stayed true to who I was as an artist and as a blind individual. As of today, I’ve toured many states within the United States, been featured on many broadcast news stations and have come in contact with so many people –both blind and sighted – who say my music has inspired them to keep going when they were at their lowest.
“Accept your blindness, change your mindset and chase your dreams.”
This is the motto I live by now. I know I have to keep pushing towards my dreams because others were watching. I want to be that positive voice and role model for the blind community because we deserve to aspire to be productive members of society. Whether our dreams include music, philanthropy or corporate America, we deserve to have the resources and support to achieve our dreams. We aren’t disabled. We're unique and have our own culture. The sky’s the limit you don’t have to see it to know it’s there. There is life after blindness. To learn more about me and my music go to www.novacain.net.
If you are blind or visually impaired what things do you do to inspire and motivate others in the community? Sing or play music? Read poetry? Give motivational speeches? Or just be a friend with a kind word? Share your inspirational methods in the comment section.