7 Degrees of Strangers Letterhead

Introduction

Hello letter friends,

This is my last letter for the series, “Seven Degrees of Strangers”. If you haven’t followed the journey, you can check it out on my website. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve written about 6 different people I talked to one degree of separation apart.

For those of you who may have noticed an error, the phrase is six degrees of separation, not seven. I would like to say I did that on purpose. I didn’t. I could have lied and said this is to close the loop. To be frank, I was deluded by my own title, I thought this would be a great experiment.

Nevertheless, Raina chose a wonderful person last. Someone with a perspective I don’t have, yet we had a fantastic conversation.

Enter Megan Jolly

Megan lives in Portland and met Raina through a basketball camp Raina’s husband was starting. I believe Raina chose to ask me to speak with Megan because Megan’s legally blind. She has Leber’s disease, a mitochondrial defect that affects the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. Men are more prone to blindness from this recessive trait, and Megan is one of the unlucky ones in the gene pool. She found out in 2016 when she was getting a new perscription for her glasses. That was subsequently the last time she drove.

Going Blind

Megan isn’t completely blind. She’s got no central vision and about 45% of her peripheral vision. Before her diagnosis, Megan’s life was playing soccer, working in non-profit land, hanging out with friends. And after the diagnosis, Megan still does many of the same things, but some activities are a lot harder. Since Megan doesn’t drive, she relies on public transportation. While service is good in Portland, it takes longer to travel. Also, Megan can’t do some of her finances, so her friend became her power of attorney since the banking website she’s supposed to use has poor accessibility support.

Oregon Commission for the Blind

As I was doing some follow-up research about the organization, I ran across this quote. “The real problem of blindness is not the blindness itself—not the acquisition of skills or techniques or competence. The real problem is the lack of understanding and the misconceptions which exist.” It’s from the National Federation for the Blind, and I hope you takeaway how blindness doesn’t strip who you are.

Acknowledgements

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me with this project. This wouldn’t be possible without all of you readers who have stuck with me, even while I went through a few months hiatus. It’s time for me to re-read Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”. First, I’d like to recognize Megan Gebhart whose blog turned book, 52 Cups of Coffee, inspired me to write this short series.

Of course, I’d like to call out every person I got to interview. To my good friend, Simon, who helped kick off this series and being kick-ass at what he does and reminds me how much potential we have. To the fantastic Evan whose illustrations elevates the writing and logo that signifies the connections between all of us. To Joe for being such a great storyteller and having such a great philosophy on life. To Mary who gave me a phone call earlier this year and continues to remind me how much connections matter. To Julie for writing a book that read after and use her last concept as a mantra for life. To Raina for waiting patiently for my piece to come out and for reaching out and being a champion. To Megan for showing me a part of life I rarely get to see. You all have been great guests, and I thank every one of you.

And I thank my family and friends for sticking with this series. Whose feedback has inspired me to continue writing. And maybe had to stick around and were forced to listen to me talk about all of my guests. Thank you. You’re the best.