Going Blind & Catching Up with ANDREA YU:
An Interview with EMMET TERAN
June 18, 2021
A year after the start of a global pandemic, Andrea Yu, who is a student with City Access New York interning with A Closer Look Inc., spearheaded a series of interviews with characters from Going Blind (2010) to find out how they fared through a year of COVID-19 lockdown and where they are now in their sight-loss journeys.
Andrea spoke with Emmet Teran in mid-March about his eye care during the pandemic and his current occupations.
To listen to the interview, use the audio player below. A transcript of the interview follows. To view the film, Going Blind, click here.
ANDREA YU: Hello. I’m Andrea Yu, host of Going Blind and Catching Up. This week, we have an interview with Emmet Teran. He has been working in politics and advocating to unionize workers.
Hi Emmet. How have you been since the making of the film and during the start of the pandemic?
EMMET TERAN: Hey Andrea. Thanks so much for having me on to talk. It’s a pretty broad question, but all in all, really good. It feels like it’s been forever, it kind of has for me since Going Blind came out. Since then, I went to high school, went to college, graduated in 2018, and was working in politics as a press secretary for a couple of years in Connecticut, and then just actually moved back to New York City, and have been working for Joe. So, I’ve been kind of going a little full circle in terms of where I was 11 years ago and where I am now.
I’m helping Joe out with some grant work for his projects and helping him out on a bunch of different things, but excited to be back working with him. In terms of the pandemic, like everyone else, it’s been a pretty jarring year, but I’ve been healthy and safe. I was actually just vaccinated yesterday. I’ve had my first dose, so you know, looking forward to this being over. All things considered, I’m really fortunate. I was able to keep my job, have the support of my family, and I’m sure you’re talking with my dad, so he’ll fill you in there, too. I hope that wasn’t too much of a ramble, but that’s what I’ve been up to.
AY: Wow, it sounds like a lot has been going on.
ET: Yeah, you could say that.
AY: So then, because of this pandemic, how has your eye care been affected?
ET: A little background for me, since the film – in 2017, before the pandemic – my retina detached in my left eye, which was a scary prospect. Because I have ocular albinism, the lining in the back of my eye’s pretty thin, so the prospect of getting my vision back was pretty unclear for quite a few months. So it was a bit of a scary time in the fall 2017, but fortunately, I had a really amazing surgeon and I was able to get it back. You know, with that said, like with everything else, getting all the necessary doctor’s appointments has been a special challenge. I haven’t been to the doctor’s in ways that I wish I could have been, haven’t been seen in the ways that I’d like to, but I’m hoping, now that I’ve had my first vaccine dose, that I’ll be able to start making those appointments again and getting out now that the rates are lower and I feel safer. Obviously, I’m younger, but I’m more so just worried about hurting someone else accidentally on the subway. Now that I’ve had my first dose, I feel a little bit better about getting out there.
AY: So then, I assume you’re adjusting to this time well with the Coronavirus?
ET: Yeah, I mean, trying my best to. It’s been an interesting time, to say the least. Kind of moved in November after the election. I left my job in Connecticut and moved to New York to be closer to my brother. It’s been really nice being able to have him in my small pod all winter. Catching up with him and catching up with people in New York, of course at a distance, has been a challenge, just like for everyone else. But all things considered again, financially doing fine. It’s really nice to be back in New York.
AY: Oh, that’s good. Would you say working remotely has been accommodating to you well?
ET: Yeah, I mean, I think with everyone staring at a screen for 8 hours a day sucks. It’s definitely a wear on your eyes for people like me and you and Joe. Having low vision and having to strain in ways that we haven’t necessarily had to dedicate as much screen time as we do now, which is definitely a challenge.
But I’ve been fortunate. I’m currently working 3 different jobs. One with Joe doing non-profit work, another one doing some content writing for a startup called Unit that helps create an app that helps workers unionize, talks them through the legal processes that they have to go through. And my last one is helping out on comms on a City Council race. All of it, for the most part, is remote. So I’ve been fortunate in that respect, but spinning a lot of plates.
AY: Wow. So what led you to work at those two jobs?
ET: One of my main goals in life is to write. If I’m able to do that, I’ll be happy, whatever form that can take. My politics are also pretty important to me. The impact that the job that I have in terms of what it does for people is also very important to me.
Working for a startup that helps workers unionize and hopefully stand up for themselves more in the workplace is really important for me. Not to be too political, but we know that the declining union rates are tied to income inequality in the US. Working to bridge that gap and put more of a voice, rights, and a seat at the table for workers is so important now more than ever, especially. Since people need more of a voice, they need to stand up.
In terms of my political work, I graduated from school wanting to go into journalism and 80 applications later, wasn’t really finding too many jobs, since it’s not the easiest industry to break into. So I started getting involved in some local political races and found myself working in Hartford for a couple of years as a press secretary for the committee chairs up there – so labor, housing, health care. Yeah, I found my way back into New York in fall in this pretty important election year with the mayoral race up and all these city council districts in play.
AY: Wow. So how would you say balancing everything remotely is going so far then, since that’s a lot you’re handling?
ET: It’s a challenge. Full-time job would always be nice, but you know, especially given the pandemic, things are a little bit harder to find. But I’ve been managing okay. Remote hours are a task, because there are less limitations in the way of packing up your office and leaving for the day. Your work kind of follows you home, because your work is at home. I’ve found a good way to balance it and ways to stay sane and watch movies with my roommates. Trying to find a good balance when I need to close the laptop.
AY: When you’re in an outside environment in your free time, how have you been adjusting to these changes?
ET: You mean COVID-19?
ET: You know, double-masking, keeping my distance, avoiding the subway if I can. I’m a runner, so I go on jogs. I’m sure to wear a mask and try to go in off-hours. I mean it’s kind of like anyone else. You’re trying to limit your exposure to the outside. Obviously, we’re getting a little stir crazy now that we’re pretty much past the 1-year mark on the pandemic, but now that it’s getting warmer out, it’s much better to be outside. Braving some cold walks to socially distance to catch up with people over the winter was so so necessary and really looking forward to the spring weather where it’ll be nicer to be outside.
AY: Right, it’s refreshing.
AY: Yeah. I think that about wraps it up. It was great hearing from you again.
ET: Thanks so much for doing this project, Andrea. I’m really looking forward to hearing from all the other folks from Going Blind. The movie really had a huge impact on my life. I really wouldn’t know how to advocate for myself, if it wasn’t for Joe teaching me early about all the really important aspects of low vision therapy and all the tools and gadgets that are out there in the world. I know we didn’t talk a lot about it in this, but from my retinal detachment to even before then in the classroom, I think what this movie has done for me is really hard to describe and quantify, but hoping it continues to have an impact on others. Say “hey” to the rest of the cast for me.
AY: Of course. Thank you for doing this with me.