I had always considered myself an ordinary guy, content with the simple joys life had to offer. But that day, everything changed. I was sitting under the comforting shade of an old oak tree, chatting with my closest friend, Sarah. We often talked about our dreams and aspirations, but this conversation took an unexpected turn.

“You know, Sarah,” I said, “I’ve always wondered what it’s like to imagine things, like counting sheep to fall asleep. Everyone talks about it, but I can never seem to grasp the concept.”

There was a moment of silence before Sarah spoke again, her voice filled with empathy. “What do you mean, Alex? Don’t you see images in your mind when you close your eyes?”

I felt a pang of confusion. “No, not really. When I close my eyes, it’s just darkness. I never see anything.”

Sarah’s expression softened, and she seemed to choose her words carefully. “Alex, it sounds like you might have aphantasia. It’s a condition where someone is unable to visualize images in their mind.”

Aphantasia? The term was foreign to me, but the weight of her words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had spent my entire life unaware that my mind was different from others. The realization that everyone else had this unique ability to conjure images and scenes in their minds while I could not was a heavy burden to bear.

That night, I lay in bed, trying to process what I had learned. I felt like an outsider, cut off from the vivid landscapes of my friends’ imagination. The simple act of counting sheep seemed like an elusive dream. The darkness behind my closed eyes became a symbol of my isolation, a void I couldn’t bridge.

Days turned into weeks, and my despondency only deepened. I avoided discussing my condition with anyone else, fearing that they might treat me differently. I tried to cope with my newfound awareness, but I felt an ever-growing disconnect with the world around me.

One evening, as the sun set in a blaze of colors, I found myself back under the same oak tree where I had first learned about aphantasia. My eyes rested on a family of squirrels playfully chasing each other. In that moment, a peculiar sense of calm washed over me. I realized that even without the ability to visualize, I could still experience life’s simple joys through my other senses.

I closed my eyes and focused on the sounds around me—the rustling leaves, the distant laughter of children, and the gentle breeze caressing my skin. I discovered that, despite my condition, the world was still full of beauty waiting to be embraced.

With time, I found solace in expressing myself through other creative outlets. I began to write, pouring my emotions onto paper, creating vivid stories that captivated others. My words became the brushstrokes of my own unique canvas, painting colorful emotions that resonated with readers.

As I shared my writing with Sarah and others, I felt a connection that surpassed the limitations of my aphantasia. They could feel the emotions I described, and in that exchange, I found acceptance and understanding.

Though the journey was not without its struggles, I learned that being different did not mean being broken. I embraced my aphantasia, seeing it as a part of what made me uniquely myself. And in that acceptance, I found peace.

So, here I am, the man who once felt disconnected from the world, finding a way to create my own world—a world painted not on the canvas of the mind but etched in the hearts of those who read my stories. My life became a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, a reminder that true beauty lies not only in what we can see but in the intangible magic of the soul.

Keonyi Kim

NLCS Hub Chief Director


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