Harvard Supplement: I See Things Differently

Harvard Supplement: I See Things Differently


Being colorblind isn’t all bad. In fact, as of late it has allowed me to see more than I otherwise would have.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved airplanes. I’ve drawn them, read about them, built models of them, and watched them take off and land at the local airport. I can look up at a plane and identify it by shape, no color necessary! Naturally, ever since I learned that people make money playing with airplanes, I wanted to be a pilot.

As I got older though, I found that perhaps my colorblindness would prevent me from attaining my dream job. Last spring that I got myself formally tested. As it turned out, my red-green colorblindness was severe enough to keep me from flying commercially. Ever.

I soon fell into that common trap of, “why me?” Why did I have to be colorblind? I never asked to be colorblind. None of my friends want to be pilots; why couldn’t one of them have been colorblind?

Unfortunately, no amount of griping on my part would give me the ability to distinguish red and green; and so, as one might expect, there was a bit more inner searching to do: now what did I want to do with my life?   

Soon though, it dawned on me that just because I couldn’t fly them didn’t mean I had to give up airplanes. I thought back to the many books I’d read and the models I’d built. It was then that I realized there were all kinds of things I’d love to do that still related to aviation. I could become a historian and share the rich history of aviation with others, and in doing so perhaps bring someone else into the magical world that is flight. I could become an aeronautical engineer and design the airplanes of the future, or a physicist to devise new ways to fly faster and further, or a chemist to find new materials that would make planes lighter and stronger. I could herald in a new age of fuel efficiency, speed, and safety.

As I read up on these subjects I discovered much in addition to airplanes that interested me. Bernoulli’s principle that explained the generation of lift was all good and well, but Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was simply mind-blowingly beautiful and impressively hard to get my head around. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s stories of his flying adventures were entertaining, but reading his more famous work The Little Prince in French was maddeningly brilliant in the doors it opened for my language skills.

There is so much out there I am eager to learn more about; and, if my colorblindness hadn’t ruled out flying, I may never have realized it. My inability to distinguish a few of the colors allowed me to discover a multitude of the exciting things I could do with my life besides fly. I still don’t know what I’ll do with my life, but that is due to a happy overabundance of options. My eyes are open to a world of engrossing and electrifying topics ranging from relativity to French-literature. While I still look up if I hear an airplane, now I see the world a little differently.

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