Editorial #9 – Dream On

Hello Gauchos.

Today, I mount my soapbox with a great deal of frustration and disappointment. Today, I shall tell you all a story of how seven years of carefully curated extracurricular activities, class grades, friend groups and networking connections all came toppling to the ground in a cacophonous display with a single optometry appointment on a Monday afternoon.

First, however, let me begin this editorial by talking about a universal truth beholden to many. That truth is the presence of hopes, wishes and desires — more commonly, they are known as dreams.

A dream can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but however it comes about, it is truly a magical and mystifying experience to encounter. Dreams have the power to drive the human experience; to rock people to their absolute core. They can represent both the worst of humanity and the best of humanity; the triumph of evil and the triumph of good.

These dreams can range across all backgrounds, all career fields, all global issues with seemingly no end in sight. We use them as the backbone for improvement in the stable yet surprisingly fragile environment we call society.

Picture a dream of yours. Perhaps your greatest wish is to become a firefighter, courageously rushing into buildings filled with flames. Maybe you dream of solving world hunger or climate change or random acts of violence. Or perhaps your dream is simply buying your very own car for the first time. However big or small that dream may be, it remains with you — it rests within your core and drives you to become that vision; to achieve that satisfaction. The dream that you see lies before you, glimmering in the sunlight and patiently waiting for your input. 

It is human, it is real, and it is beautiful.

Now picture that dream being crushed, pulverized, eviscerated, vaporized, burned, frozen, shot, stabbed, blended, dried and macerated. Essentially, picture it as nothing more than a small pile of ash and small bits and pieces laying on the floor feebly with hardly a trace of what it once was.

This is certainly a frightening sight. “Surely, that can’t happen to someone nowadays. There are so many resources available to young adults to help them achieve their goals,” one might say. But alas, here I stand on my soapbox with my dream shattered, pride eviscerated and drive momentarily ceased.

For there, over yonder, lies the very condition of my own dream — a man who, ever since fifth grade, has deeply wanted to become an airline pilot now watches that dream detonate with intense heat and come toppling down like watching the Twin Towers collapsing on 9/11. That has been the glimmering desire which has driven me through my teenage years. Now look at it. This is my dream. It lies there on the pavement. It is cold, barren and desolate. Look at it.

As mentioned earlier, all this came about as a result of one singular optometry appointment.

I arrived at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry building promptly at 1:30 PM in parking spot number eight. After about 20 minutes had passed, I entered the building, checked in, showed my ID, sat down for a moment or two, and then met with Dr. Gorski, the optometrist on shift, in Clinic F. 

There was nothing of particular curiosity or abnormality here. I was not to receive any sort of surgery, adjustment or mind melting alteration; this was simply an eye exam consisting of a set of different tests designed to detect colorblindness in people. For me, these tests were rather familiar.

I have known I was colorblind since I was a toddler. Initial color blindness testing from my pediatricians revealed that I couldn’t quite seem to recognize the numbers being displayed on the testing sheets. These are known as pseudoisochromatic plates.

Now, the FAA — that’s the Federal Aviation Administration — has very strict guidelines on the health and vision standards of pilots. They essentially must be in perfect health and have perfect corrected vision. I wear corrective glasses for my farsightedness and I already knew the FAA approved such corrective measures for pilots, so I assumed that my colorblindness wouldn’t be an issue. I assumed I could just get corrective lenses for that as well and all would be fine and dandy.

I was dead wrong.

I learned just a few weeks before the appointment that colorblindness can’t be corrected by surgery, adjustment or laser procedures, and the one method there is of fixing it — corrective lenses — is not permitted by the FAA.

So essentially, if I did not pass at least one of these vision tests, then I would never be able to become an airline pilot ever in my entire life. The stakes could not have been higher.

Most of these tests involved identifying numbers or shapes on these “plates”. One involved identifying the color of two lights being shown from across the room and another involved arranging a set of colored dots in order from darkest to lightest.

And can you believe the names of some of these tests? I suppose that a lot of these past optometrists wanted their own names embedded in the back of the minds of hundreds upon hundred of future optometrists, but my goodness — they had some of the funkiest names.

Dvorine, Farnsworth, Ishihara, Titmus, AOC-HRR…it goes on.

Anyways, I did all of these tests; 12 to be exact. Every single one of those tests I failed. Every single one. And it’s not like I only failed by one or two images. No, I failed more spectacularly than that. I failed by several images. In fact, on some of the tests, the only one I got right was the first example plate that anyone with two eyes and a brain could see.

The optometrist finished her assessment and diagnosed my colorblindness as moderate to severe Protanopia; a condition in which the red cones of the eye are either not firing properly or are completely absent. My green cones also showed a deficiency. In essence, I have trouble discerning red from green, green from white and yellow from green.

This would never fly with the FAA on any account. Those colors are literally the most important colors a pilot needs to be able to recognize while on the ground and in the air. So with that in mind, I thanked the optometrist for taking the time to do these tests and walked out of the clinic with a prospect that I wish hadn’t been true.

I would never be an airline pilot ever.

There was no argument, no appeal, no method of recourse or way to fix the problem. That was that. And unless anything changes between now and 2100, it will stay that way until I die.

Now, to a certain extent, I understand where these regulations are coming from. Pilots, flying a multi-ton, multi-million dollar flying aluminum tube, need to be able to have a crisp and undeniable recognition of the simplest of colors: red, green and white. These colors make up the primary section of all affairs aeronautical. Therefore, I am angry at the FAA, but I don’t blame them for my condition.

But how absolutely ludicrous is it that there are pilots out there flying with heart and organ problems that, while severe, have been corrected by various medical methods, but I cannot do such a thing and achieve my life goal because I cannot make a number out of a set of colored dots on a sheet of paper. 

Further, how awful is it that I, an enterprising and determined individual, with a single primary objective in life that is ready to accomplish the mission without delay is barred from ever completing that mission and is instead kicked to the curb with the door slammed permanently shut. And even further, how absurd is it that the sole method of correcting the very deficiency which prohibits my admittance into any piloting program is not tolerable by the FAA at all. Not even in the slightest.

After all was said and done, I had before me a steaming pile of a day which had been utterly devastated with a single fatal blow. To put it simply, I was exhausted and needed some kind of balancing recourse. Thankfully, my parents had the perfect idea: sushi for dinner.

The four of us piled into the car and made our way to northern Petaluma — right around where the Applebee’s and golf driving range is — to the Gohan Sushi Restaurant. Unbeknownst to us beforehand, however, the restaurant was not open on Mondays — we would not be dining there tonight. What a terrible yet oddly fitting circumstance.

Sheepishly, we exited the parking lot and made haste to the next available restaurant: Fuji Sushi about a mile down the road near the Trader Joes.

Entering and taking a seat, we were all still in both shock and disappointment; not entirely because we wouldn’t be eating the Gohan Marco Solo roll that we all knew, loved and ordered constantly, but because of the events that transpired that day. There I sat with my hopes and dreams flushed down the drain, my parents deeply empathizing with my devastated soul.

But then the sushi came along. And it was delicious. In fact, it far exceeded our expectations by a longshot. We hadn’t been here in quite some time — I had only been once before with my parents back in 2019, and I had forgotten if it was any good. Thankfully, it absolutely was and my appetite was properly satiated.

It certainly wasn’t the gleaming image of Gohan that we knew — in fact, it was kind of quirky. But still, it was sushi. And it was a proper meal, especially given my disposition as a result of the day’s events. I ate it happily, finishing within just a few minutes, and having been satisfied to a much greater extent than before.

The hole of the day’s events was still there, but it had just gotten a little smaller. I knew from experience that the hole would stay there for some time, but it would get smaller as life went on. And eventually, the hole would shrink to a size so small, that you’d be able to carry on in life without constantly stepping in it.

My grandfather, on the same day, telephoned me expressing his deepest apologies and sadness for my situation. However, he did leave me with a critical piece of advice. One that I believe will stick with me for the rest of my life and I hope does the same for yours.

He told me of an old expression he knew; a mock-Latin remark called “Illegitimi non carborundum.” Roughly translated, it makes one vital precept known to all:

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

In the case of my situation, the “bastards” wouldn’t be the bureaucrats of the FAA nor is it anyone directly affiliated with me. It is purely random chance and heredity that are to blame. 

I refuse to let them grind me down. I refuse to give up in the wake of this situation. I refuse to let my talents, skills, and interests go to waste just because one plan didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I refuse to let the “bastards” win.

That is because it is my belief that this event, while tragic, occurred for a reason. As a matter of fact, I believe everything happens for a reason. Occasionally, when life hits you where it hurts, it seems totally random and totally undeserved — a sucker punch from the universe to a person who is only trying to be the best person they can be. 

I know this feeling. In January of 2022, I was in a severe car accident in which another driver ran the red light and rammed right into me. The car flipped upside down with me still inside. I escaped nearly unscathed with a few scratches to my arms, but it left a pretty big impact on me, especially considering I had only just turned 17 a week or two before. It made me ponder this randomness of circumstance: how was it that such a crash completely blindsided me and shook me up a great deal just as the actual car had blindsided me at that intersection that exact night?

If the universe had wanted me dead, it could have done so right there and then. That would have been the end of that discussion in a quick and painless demise. But it didn’t. I did not die on that day. I didn’t die because I followed procedure, wore my seatbelt, and got the hell out when I got the chance.

I am still here today because I have a purpose in this world. Somewhere in this world, perhaps in some far-reaching region of the globe or just down the street, there is a place for me to thrive and grow and become the person I want to be. This certainly does not mean I am invincible. There will be a time and place where my existence comes to an end, either suddenly and unexpectedly, or slowly and justifyingly.

However, I am still here in this moment. That car accident happened for a reason and so did this entire conundrum.

At present, I am still somewhat unsure as to where the path to the future will take me. Perhaps I will become a firefighter, courageously rushing into buildings filled with flames. Maybe I’ll be an air traffic controller. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to solve world hunger. Or perhaps, I’ll settle for simply buying a car for the first time. Whatever route I go, I know I’ll make the right decision. In my home and standing behind me is an army of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other relatives that love me and care for me and will help me in any way they can so that I can become a successful adult.

When a dream dies, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. That was the thing that drove you to your core for so long and now it has been taken from you, shot, and dragged away never to be seen again. The best thing you can do is grieve at that moment and then, as aptly put by television show character Ted Lasso (played by Jason Sudeikis) “be a gosh darn goldfish.” Because that tragedy happened for a reason. It may not be clear at that moment and it may never fully reveal its intentions. But in the grand scheme of things, that happened for a specific purpose which hopefully leads to you becoming a better person.

One final thought: when such an event occurs and a dream is annihilated, it may seem like you have failed. That certainly was the case here; I failed all of the tests. That was that.

And when a failure occurs, it’s easy for one to think “I am a failure.” But that is completely false. 100% false. It’s not even close to being in the realm of right. When something doesn’t go according to plan, you are not a failure. You have failed, yes, but you are not a failure. The key difference lies there.

But where does one go when they have failed? Where perhaps, in the wake of their failure, they have lost their motivation and drive to continue on? It’s easy for someone to simply give up the ghost right there and then.

But allow me to leave you all with one final quotation from the song “Roses of Success” in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of all things:

“For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.”

Take care, Gauchos. And above all else, follow your dreams. I can’t follow my dream, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

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Seize the Day,




Owen Davis

Editor-in-Chief, 2022-2023