By Preston Fassel, BS
There’s a weird feeling in going back to your roots, especially years on down the road. Maybe it’s a drive past a childhood home, or stopping into the restaurant where you had your first job. The last time you were in this place, you were just starting out in the world. Now you’re a full-fledged adult, with all of the experience and wisdom and baldness that implies.
What’re your roots? Where did you first realize you wanted to become an optician, or an OD, or get into the eye health field at all? Was it a childhood ambition, borne out of waiting to go in for your yearly eye exam? Did a summer job in college turn into a career? I’ve talked before about how my fascination with glasses has at least something to do with not being diagnosed with myopia until I was 13, in a small-ish town with limited access to dispensaries. If I’m going to split hairs, though, my fascination with frames began somewhere I recently had the opportunity to visit again.
I accompanied my wife to Grapevine, Texas, for a conference, killing time at Grapevine Mills Mall. If you ever have the chance to visit, you really must. The place is humongous, and circular, so you can just keep walking round and round for hours, soaking up the sights and stores. It was a tradition for my family to come here at the beginning of the school year to buy new clothes and tour the local historical sites—Dallas’ Delany Plaza isn’t far away, and Bonnie and Clyde ran roughshod over the area in their heyday. While JC Penney’s was our primary destination at Grapevine Mills, there was another place that always captured my imagination. I was shocked to see it was still there.
It's a kiosk like countless ones selling discounted, off-brand sunglasses in a variety of colors and imitations of famous models. To most people it’s just another sight in the mall. To my young eyes, though, it was a place of possibility. Here’s where I stopped to try on different frame sizes and shapes and see how they interacted with my face shape. Here’s where I looked at how different lens tints changed my perception of the world, and where I first wondered how that would affect my vision in different settings. It’s where I first began to pay attention to different styles of frames, and not see simply “glasses.” It’s where I began a lifelong love affair with opticianry.
When I was looking to make a career change several years ago (which is to say after I’d been laid off from my last job), and my wife encouraged me to try getting into a field I was interested in this time, one of the first things that came to mind was all those afternoons spent trying on different frames at the kiosk. I thought about how positive an experience it was—the enjoyment of being able to change my appearance or experience the world through different tints and hues. And if it was so enjoyable for me, couldn’t I share that joy with others? Seeing that kiosk still there brought the last several years of my life into perspective and humbled me. All my accomplishments began with a kid trying on glasses at the mall.
We often get jaded to what we do, and what was once our passion becomes simply our job. The next time you’re opening up the dispensary, think about where you got your start; what first made you fall in love with this world. It’s a great feeling to relive that, and it just might reinvigorate you to make some even greater strides tomorrow.
Preston Fassel was born in Houston, Texas and grew up between St. Charles, Missouri and Broken Arrow, Okla.
In 2009, Preston graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Liberal Arts. In 2011, he graduated Cum Laude from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor's of Science.
Preston currently works as an Optician in the Houston area. His interest in the history of eyewear goes back to his time in high school, when he developed an interest in all things vintage.
In addition to his writing for The 20/20 Opticians Handbook and 20/20 Magazine, Preston is a featured writer for Rue Morgue Magazine, where he reviews horror and science-fiction DVDs. His fiction writing has been featured three times in Swirl magazine, the literary arts journal of Lone Star College and Montgomery County. He is the author of the definitive work on the life of British horror actress Vanessa Howard, Remembering Vanessa, which appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of Screem Magazine.