Growing up, I never realised how unique my eyes were. I felt the same as everybody else, and so I was the same. As soon as children began noticing the difference in color, I began encountering a spectrum of reactions, the majority of which were not pleasant. I spent most of Elementary school with the nickname “Khatula”, which means “Cat” and was intended to insult me. My eyes dehumanised me to those nasty kids, and indeed I was insulted.
As soon as I hit my teen years, my eyes became a subject of beauty. This unique attribute was no longer seen as a means to humiliate, but to celebrate. People stared with wonder – I mean, they’re a good ice breaker – and my eyes attract a lot of attention still.
I was riding the bus one day when a young woman tapped on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but one of your contact lenses has fallen out.” The look on her face when I told her that I wasn’t wearing contacts was priceless. I suppose it’s easier to believe that there’s something wrong than to believe your own eyes… literally.
On other occasion I received a comment on my blog from a young lady who was feeling rather down about herself. She wrote to me about feeling boring and unimportant, and how she broke down in tears when she discovered that I had different colored eyes. “You’re so effortlessly unique”, she wrote. It broke my heart to think that the thing I was so terribly teased for as a child could make someone else feel overwhelmingly powerless for entirely different reasons.
For me, The Heterochromia Project is a place to reexamine things you cannot control, which held a lot of control over you.