By Marisol Rodriguez, ABO-AC, NCLEC

The term twenty-happy (20/Happy) is a colloquially accepted term in the eye care field and it has a different meaning to different individuals. This is my twentieth year in the eye care profession and 20/Happy is the exact term that comes to mind. I’ve had the pleasure of acquiring many mentors, friends, and other eye care professionals (ECPs) whom I often lean on, ask for advice, and who help guide me along this journey. If you haven’t developed a relationship with another ECP who is willing to mentor you and help you reveal what you’re passionate about in this industry, I encourage you to do so. 

Vision Expo East just passed and I was grateful to have attended. I spent some time with opticians who are entrepreneurs, frame and lens designers/engineers, craftspeople, and professional office and educational consultants. As a New York native, it was such a pleasure to return home and be reminded of my humble beginnings. Visiting with frame representatives and previous work employees helped me reflect on how far I have come in my career and reminded me of the great times along this journey.  

Raymond Giaretti, optician/owner of Nassau Vision in Oceanside, NY,  was my first mentor in this field. I walked into his practice after finishing high school just looking for busy work. He gave me the opportunity, and I very quickly fell in love with opticianry. I loved the diversity of the tasks I was charged with. I was trained from the ground up - day to day business practices, frame purchasing, lab ordering and finishing, etc. However, the most important lesson I learned very early on in my career was to explore the “why” not just the “how”. 

Year one I was shown how to take a pupillary distance, but at the time the why wasn’t clear, yet. I was preparing to edge lenses into the respective pair of frames, and I was having a cut-out issue. My first time unsupervised, I recall just “making this job work.” My work was always reviewed by Raymond before it went out, and when this particular job was returned to me, it had failed final inspection. That day I was shown how I made the mistake, followed by how to prevent it. He taught me how to measure for minimum blank size, how the Prentice Rule applies, the importance of using the correct pupillary distance and how to lay out a lens by hand. I have never forgotten that day. It’s when I realized, “I don’t know what I don’t know,” and why it’s so important to have someone who is willing to teach you “the why’s.”

Twenty years later, I feel grateful I am constantly crossing paths with so many amazing opticians who are of service throughout this industry, whether for their local associations or our national ones. I must celebrate a special individual, Cira Collins, ABOM. She’s a rockstar optician, involved in all different facets of the industry. She asked me what I believe the future looked like for me in opticianry. It caught me off guard for a moment, but I explained to her the best I could of what I felt that looked like for me. She really listened, and then asked, “that’s all amazing, now how can I help you? Is there anything I can do to help guide you?” That was mind blowing.

It feels amazing to be supported by fellow opticians whom I admire, who are willing to always give a hand up, and do their part to help the field of opticianry evolve. I strongly encourage aspiring and seasoned opticians, to find someone to be a sounding board for, to collaborate with and network through educational venues… you’ll thank yourself in 20 years.