“I turn 30 today. No, it hasn’t properly sunk in that I’m 30 already. I’m actually quite nostalgic thinking about the past and the things that I’ve done. It’s been a real journey, losing my eyesight and being blind for the past 10 years. There are a lot of things to look back on.
I was 19 when I was diagnosed with visual impairment, but I’ve been having eye problems since I was young. The doctors told my mom that I was born with an eye condition that makes my eyeballs grow larger than normal; this in turn affects my retina.
In kindergarten, my spectacle lenses were already close to 1,000 degrees. In primary school, it rose to 2,000, but the eye problem became really bad when I was 14. While I was doing PE at school, the retina on my left eye just tore. I was rushed to the hospital and the doctor had to do an operation to recover my eyesight.
It happened again between the ages of 17 and 19 when I was at Millennia Institute – that’s where I took my ‘A’ Levels. The retina on my left eye tore again, followed by the one on my right. It reached a point where the doctor couldn’t recover my eyesight; I slowly became blind.
It was a tough time for me. I was doing dance as my CCA because I wanted to learn hip-hop and breakdance, but it was hard when I lost my vision. I eventually had to quit school and stay at home to recover and recuperate. I was away from the world for a whole year.
I was just moping around at home feeling very angry and depressed. I was literally trying to cope with my emotions. I used to love playing video games and watching TV, but now I can’t do those things. Instead, I had to go to the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped to learn braille and how to walk around with a white cane.
My relationship with my family was strained because I wasn’t cooperative at first, but it slowly got better. They were always supportive and trying to make me feel better, and thanks to help from my mom, I eventually went back to school to complete my ‘A’ Levels.
Today, I’m working at NOX. It’s a fine-dining restaurant where you get to experience dining in the dark. I decided to work there because I met someone last year, and it’s getting serious. I have to be responsible and have a stable income if I want to start a family one day.
She’s based in Jakarta, so we’ve been maintaining a long-distance relationship. My cousin actually introduced us to each other. At first we communicated via Google Hangouts. When there was an opportunity for her to come to Singapore, we met face-to-face for the first time.
I told her I’m not a ‘normal sighted person’; can she accept me? I may not be able to do certain things. She’s quite religious, so her reply was based on her own beliefs. She believes that God makes everyone special and that everyone has their own strengths.
She accepts me and respects me for who I am, and her gut feeling tells her I’m the one for her. I’m wishing and praying for the best that she is the one. My mom and I will be flying over to Jakarta soon so that my mom can get to know her better. It’s a good feeling.” – Zahier, 30
*This post was not published on the same day the interview was conducted
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