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meet sydney

years awarded



Scholar Quote: Survivorship to me is living your own truth. Living your life without any model, actor, or tv show telling you how to look.

Survivorship is a complicated idea in my life. Before the age of one I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma. It came out of the blue, being discovered by the flash of a digital camera. The discovery of the cancer led to the enucleation of my right eye and resulted in me receiving my first prosthetic eye before the age of two.

Survivorship was never the issue when it came to retinoblastoma, although scary, it has a high survival rating. Survivorship for me was learning to live within a society, in which when I stare I always have two eyes staring back. Growing up I always hid my prosthetic eye, trying to pull a dramatic side part with my hair. I tried to hide what I came to know as an imperfection. In every photo I seemed to be looking the wrong way, eyes not focused on the camera. It may seem to some that this is a minor inconvenience though when the world revolves around social media; and how a “perfect” face looks it leads to the unrealistic idea of a young girl’s features.

I began to fear mirrors and hated being photographed. I hid myself, and shied away from others. I was destroying my life over the idea that if I was not perfect, if I did not project the photoshopped beauties that were shown in my social media page, in advertisements and in catalogs I could never be beautiful.

Only when taking a step back, wondering where my confidence took a downward spiral is when I realized I was surviving, but I wasn’t living. This moment of realization came at my ocularist office. It was time for a new prosthetic, and I was in the chair being molded for a new eye. The thick, cold paste was being pressed into my eye socket and was readily taking form. Once completed my eye would be cast and painted. I got the opportunity to watch my ocularist hand paint the iris on my prosthetic, and it was magical. The deep shades of blues and rich purples mixed to create the exact unique shade to match my other eye. Once finished I became so perplexed after putting my new prosthetic in, on why I felt guilty at that moment. The more I thought about it the more it became clear that I was under the impression that my disability was holding me back. Which was and is just not true. What was holding me back was my mind. I had been so focused on how my disability hindered what I thought was important, that I didn’t think about what it added into my life. I have a unique feature, that is hand painted. I am wearing a work of art that had taken hours to paint and perfect. To disregard that work, that time, that patience all to try to conform to the typical societal standards of perfection would be cruel to its maker and myself.

After my ocularist appointment I decided to take on a new perspective, one where I would appreciate my differences and not submit to the heavily edited images the world is trying to shove down my throat.

Survivorship to me is living your own truth. Living your life without any model, actor, or tv show telling you how to look. After my experience with poor body confidence, I am now dedicated to helping others discover their worth and beauty not based on the constrictive social norms that inflict the children of today through social media. I am so blessed to have been able to share my perspective on life. I have been able to find and live my truth every day, looking in the mirror proud of myself. Beauty is in the eyes of the holder, no matter if that beholder can only see half of the whole picture.