“Life will show you time and again that there is endless beauty and importance in the surrender of letting go of what you expected to make room for what could be. I have learned this lesson over and over, and every time life throws me a curveball, I become a little quicker to dodge, or rather, to adjust my swing.
Tyler and I met in the spring of 2014. He had reached out through Facebook to ask if I wanted to get together for a co-write/jam session. We’re both musicians and he knew of me through his little brother Mark, who had been my friend in high school. The day I went over to meet Ty, I didn’t know he was blind. He let me into his house and led me to the band room where we sat and chatted for at least a half hour before he casually said ‘by the way, I’m sure Mark mentioned I’m blind.’ Wow! No, he hadn’t mentioned it, and it was so interesting to me because Ty didn’t ‘look’ or seem visually impaired- all I could observe was that he had beautiful green eyes and looked at me when we talked. To be honest, I’d known so little about the visually impaired community, and probably had never met a blind person, let alone one so young (he was 29 when we met). The reason Tyler doesn’t ‘look’ visually impaired is because his diagnosis (at 21) was a degenerative retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa, which degrades the vision from structures on the inside of the eye, leaving his pretty green irises unscathed. Because he was sighted for most of his life, he still looks intentionally at a person he is speaking to as if he could see them.
As we got to know each other better, the fact that he couldn’t see sort of faded in its importance. After all, it was eventually his humor, intellect, compassion and curiosity about life that gave me no choice but to fall in love with him. He is truly unlike anyone I knew in so many regards. We have to laugh when people ask about how we started ‘dating.’ Ty likes to tell it like this, ‘Well we went on our first date… and then we went on our second date six months later…,’bragging he ‘plays well from the friend-zone,’ haha. The truth is- I wasn’t just playing the part of the fickle flight risk. I truly had some deep digging to do within myself for those six months. Part of me simply was not sure I was ready for a serious relationship- after all, I was five years younger than him and probably a little intimidated. But more importantly, I think I knew deep down that he was the real deal, and if I didn’t get my head straight first, I would regret messing it all up, jumping in too soon. This was my biggest lesson in letting go of ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ in order to make way for extraordinary. I had to go through a sort of mourning period for what I expected my future partner to be, and for what I thought my life might look like. I can tell you now my checklist at age 24 didn’t include ‘blind!’ In fact, I had a lot to consider that most people don’t- Will it be OK that my future husband can’t see me, ever? Will he be self-sufficient? Will he be able to help take care of our future babies? Gosh the list goes on and on.
There is this famous Mark Twain quote that I truly live by, and it gave me a lot to think about at this pivotal time in my life: ‘Twenty years from now you will regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the Tradewinds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.’ It was on a chilly run in late November that I finally had that epiphany- I just knew I would always regret not giving myself the chance to date one of the most amazing people I had ever met. Being afraid of the unknown was suddenly not as relevant to me as the enormous amount of qualities I admired in him, and the person that I was when we were together. So, after all this overthinking/contemplating, I finally broke down and told him how I felt. We started dating on New Years Eve, 2014– the best decision I’ve ever made.
We have now been together for almost seven years- married for three! When I say our life is both completely ordinary and at the same time totally extraordinary, I truly mean that. I have found that day to day, everything is just as you’d expect any couple’s life to be like. We have our routines around the house, go out with friends or on date nights, take our dogs for walks, etc etc. It’s in the little moments and conversations in between that I get to realize day after day how lucky I am, and that I’d never trade us for anything different.
I have the privilege of witnessing Tyler’s life. Despite his obvious setbacks- he never feels sorry for himself, or ever complains about the hand he was dealt or lets his frustrations get him down. He doesn’t expect to be treated any differently than anyone else. He holds himself (and me!) to the highest of standards, always pushing us both to be better musically, professionally, and as human beings.
About a year ago, Tyler decided he wanted to dig deeper into music production.
He had lost the ability to see/use a desktop computer for several years, and knew there were ways he could learn to work around it. Without hesitation, he enrolled in several Zoom courses through an amazing program in which other visually impaired instructors taught him from the ground up how to use the computer again strictly with key commands- and then more courses which specialized in music editing software. I have been so incredibly proud of all he has accomplished and learned since then. (In fact as I write this, he is where I can always find him- recording and editing at his computer in preparation for a solo album he’ll be releasing next year).
Our life is certainly not without its difficult moments though. I have attended many dismal eye appointments with Ty. It’s never good news- only the same ‘we’ll keep you updated if we hear of any trials or breakthroughs happening in RP research,’ and a higher degree of certainty of exactly how much worse his sight has gotten since the last dismal appointment. To be specific, Ty mostly only has light perception left- and with his right eye can barely make out the backlit, enlarged time on his iPhone when he concentrates hard enough. It’s been years since he could ‘see’ my face- and even then it was only in the perfect outdoor light with plenty of focus.
When we first started dating, I remember asking Ty what makes him the most sad about losing his vision. He said two things that I remember specifically- 1) that he will never be able to snow ski again- his absolute favorite thing to do, and 2) that he wouldn’t be able to see his future kids.
I enjoy hiking so much, but don’t go as often as I could because the one person I’d like to experience those kinds of things with can’t easily go with me. It makes me sad to know he couldn’t even see me on our wedding day, or when we were engaged, or when I told him I loved him for the first time.
As I write this, I am 31 weeks pregnant with our first baby girl. The thought of Tyler not knowing what she will look like when she’s born and as she grows up and reaches new milestones (aside from my best-attempted descriptions) is of course devastating.
But I want to be clear- the reason I even mention these sad truths is to highlight how love has simply overcome all of them. They are not the things we choose to focus on. He may not have seen me at our wedding, but he got to hear me laughing through my tears as I recited my vows to him and vice versa. We got to have our first dance to a song he wrote to propose to me that we then recorded together as a duet. We may not get to hike together, but we still go on walks, travel, share a lifelong love for creating and performing music, and enjoy time spent with our family and friends. And even if he can’t see her, I know he will be the BEST dad ever to our little girl, and I couldn’t be more excited to experience the next chapter of our lives together- the messy, frustrating, and difficult and the unexpected, beautiful, and extraordinary. Because if life has taught us anything, it’s that love makes anything possible.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emma Millard of Oak Ridge, NC. You can follow their journey on her Instagram, her husband Tyler’s Instagram, and their music duo Instagram. You can also find their music, Ghosts of Liberty, on all music platforms. Submit your own story and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and our Youtube for our best videos.
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