Monday, 1 February 2010

I am Colourblind


No it's not just a lyric that Adam Duritz wrote. I am actually colourblind. People who aren't colourblind find it very hard to understand what it is, or have preconceptions. I could explain the science which makes someone colourblind quite easily. But actually describing what it's like is near impossible, I've always been colourblind so I have no point of reference. No I do not see in black and white, it's not that bad. Although some people do, those people are profoundly colourblind.

I'll try to describe it as simply as possible I get what I consider similar colours confused. First and foremost is red-green, if you're colourblind at all these will be the colours you most often get mixed up. One time I had this beach ball, with green stripes and when I spun it, the colour would actually flash green and red, that was quite trippy. I however am slightly worse. My brother's are colourblind but I think I may be a step beyond them. For example I have no concept of Purple or Brown, they're just Dark Blue and Dark Green, respectively, as far as I can tell.

I've never thought it was really that bad though. Apart from some trouble in art class with telling colours, asking friends for help and them setting me up to paint someone orange. But I try to take stuff like that in my stride. I'm not a painter so it's not going to affect me, and I like a bit of banter between friends. I generally try not to let things I can't control bother me, and I can laugh about it most of the time.

I've always known since I was quite young that I could never fly a fighter jet, because of my colourblindness. Even though this was and still is one of my dreams, I accepted it and tried to move on. However recently it dealt me a blow. I've recently graduated from University, and to be honest it's seemingly impossible to get a job. I didn't put in enough effort with my final project. I have an aptitude for exams and require less than a day's worth of revision. However despite my good grades in my exams, my failed project brought me down to a 2:2 and almost every graduate employer wants a 2:1 minimum. I can't tell you how depressing that is.

Anyway I was thinking about how to get a job one day and I considered the people who travel around the world transporting goods on ships. I realised that's the Merchant Navy. I thought that would be a really interesting job. I could travel round the world on a big ship. I could see some amazing things, meet some interesting people. The pay must be quite good; it's a job with some risk, and since you're on a ship for months at a time you can save all the money you make.

I did some research, it turns out, in the UK there is an organisation called the Ship Safe Training Group. They basically organise the training of new officers for the merchant navy. They interview you, and if they think you're suitable, they get in touch with sponsor companies who are members of the Merchant Navy, and they pay for you to go to university and get a degree. And when I say they pay for, I mean everything. They pay for your tuition, your accommodation, your transport costs, and food. They even pay you a small salary, you're merely expected to put some of that salary toward some of your food costs and study equipment.

I thought great, If nothing else it will keep me busy for a few years and when I come out I'll have another degree with a load of other qualifications. I'll have a job paying at least £20,000 and have prospects to become a Captain if I was good enough meaning I could earn around £65,000. If that wasn't enough, once I decided I had galavanted around the oceans of the world enough, I could get a shore job teaching or something, and settle down.

I was all set to apply, when my brother mentioned to me that his best friend from School is in the Royal Navy. He is also colourblind, and as such is restricted to being a supply officer, meaning he isn't allowed to do any of the actual sailing. That sounded bad, but I remained optimistic. I had been e-mailing this guy from the SSTG about joining and decided to ask straight up about the colourblindness. I e-mailed him late on a Friday so I knew I'd probably have to wait until the following Monday to find out.

So I talked it over with my best friend Tom and another good friend Sven, who were both encouraging and said, as long as you're happy do it, or words to that affect. I tried to forget about it for the weekend, or it would just make me anxious, but I remained optimistic. I woke up this morning went to my inbox. I saw the message there, and tapped my iPhone screen. Up it popped, "I am afraid I would have the same restrictions... not allowed to be on the bridge alone... not allowed to use coloured ropes".

For the first time in my 21 and a half years living on this planet my colourblindness has stopped me from doing something that I not only wanted to do but really felt capable of doing, and something positive for my future. I felt like there was this whole bright future for me and now it had been swept away. And by such a tiny thing as a couple of missing neurons in my eyes. I've been quite depressed by my job hunt, it seems to go nowhere and nothing ever seems to change. I saw a piece on the news a month or so ago saying that there are more young people unable to find work in our country than ever before. And that some are turning to drink to deal with the resulting clinical depression. Thankfully I don't think I have that gene, and won't become an alcoholic.

This though is a setback, nothing more. If I get depressed I'll become apathetic and give up, I can't let that happen. It's upsetting, monotonous and tedious, but I have to just keep on looking and hope that I find something.