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Losing my Self-consciousness

Shambling through paradise headerRecently, I had a dream where everything I had ever done in front of a mirror was broadcast for the world to see. In my dream, I was not embarrassed—I was actually promoting the broadcast to friends, saying things like, “Yes I really was flexible enough to do that to myself at one time in my life” and, “I really do use a Gillette razor to cut my nose hairs.”

There was a time in my life where this dream would have been mortifying—one of those dreams you awaken from with a sigh of relief. Yet here I was in my dream, boasting of my strange and occasionally bizarre actions. I give Costa Rica a lot of credit for my change in consciousness. Or maybe better said—my change from being overly self-conscious, which I was in my younger days.

I learned Spanish here on my own. It was a mix of listening to the radio, watching TV, reading, studying verb charts and of course, going fearlessly out into public to practice my new language. On the streets is where I began losing whatever nervous self-consciousness had accompanied me to my new country. Like many learning a new language, my mouth worked much faster than my ear. I could walk into a store, tell them exactly what I was looking for, but as soon as they responded, I would go blank. A little voice in my head would ask, “What in the hell did they just say?” I lost track of how many times I said, “Como?” and “Hable despacio, por favor’’, in conversation.  

I remember standing before the teller at the now defunct Banco Anglo, struggling to make a transaction as each question she asked me hit my ears like something spoken in Sanskrit. Behind me I heard people snickering, someone even imitated my accented Spanish… and I didn’t care! I racked up half a dozen ‘Como?’s and a couple ‘Hable despacio’s in the course of that one conversation, but I was able to finally finish the transaction successfully, before walking out of the bank, proudly staring down those behind me in the line.

Multiply this type of early learning experience by a few hundred, and what comes out is an armor plated psyche as well as a new appreciation for anyone who has ever learned a second language. Had I never come to Costa Rica, had I stayed in the states, a monolinguist, I may never have reached that happy plateau of un-self-consciousness.

Maybe the oddest thing about my dream, is that, at the time of the dream, I did not have a functional mirror in my apartment. I had a couple of shards of a mirror that had fallen and broken, which was of little use, except for making sure I did not have any bean chunks stuck to my teeth before going out in public. I recommend trying this mirrorless existence to everyone. In this age of selfies and superficiality, it is liberating to walk outside not knowing nor particularly caring which section of your hair is sticking out wildly.


I want to conclude by doing a little experiment in crowd-sourcing. For the past several months, whenever I go out in public, I wear one contact lens—usually in my left eye. I am farsighted—with the naked eye, I can read just fine, even small print on a menu. But in the distance, shapes begin blurring up at about ten feet away. If I wear both contacts, I then need to also carry reading glasses because I can no longer see clearly up close. I do not like normal prescription glasses, because due to my general lifestyle, the shelf life on any new pair of glasses I purchase can be measured in weeks. So the single contact lens gives me the best of both worlds. I can see in the distance, relying on my lensed eye, and I can read small print, relying on my naked eye. However, my optometrist tells me I could do long term damage to my eyesight wearing only one contact. So I am seeking the opinion of anyone reading this—should I continue to use only one contact lens?……..Or should I switch to a monocle?

One Response to “Losing my Self-consciousness”

  1. Brendon Cleer said:

    For about 10 years, I have been wearing one contact lens for reading and a different prescription in the other eye for seeing at a distance. Before my optometrist recommended this, I had to wear reading glasses at the computer and it would make me dizzy and give me headaches. It really is the best of both worlds, as I can now read or play volleyball with no ill effects. I am no doctor, but I can’t imagine what the harm could be. Maybe it is similar to sitting too close to the TV or crossing your eyes and they might stick that way. Perhaps, there is no harm.