Elgin Bolling: The Eyes Are The Window Of The Soul




Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling Is a Creative Caricature Marketing Consultant, who helps his clients enhance their online visibility by providing them with  funny pictures for serious business. He is the Author of several Ebooks including How To Use Cartoons & Caricatures To Promote Your Business, found here:  http://subwaysurfer.blogspot.com/p/media.html 

Elgin is also one of NYC’s Most Sought After Live Caricature Entertainers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fix2V9e4Khw


By Elgin Bolling

“Strabismus” is a word that doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue. It’s almost never used in conversation and origami has never been used as a graffiti tag by any subway writer in the hood.

People with Strabismus have come to know the word by its most common names: cross-eyed, cockeyed, left eye or which-cha-way if people get really creative.

I first heard the word at a very young age, not because it was explained to me but because I constantly found myself at Kings County Hospital, looking tearfully into intense bright lights, hearing a team of doctors who kept repeating the word.

Strabismus is defined as a visual disorder where one or both eyes are misaligned. This is a condition that may be constantly present, or in my case, comes and goes, affecting one eye more than another.

In a culture that coined the phrase “the eyes are the windows of the soul,” I always wondered what my soul was saying as I looked out from broken windows. That I was misaligned? Off-center? Unbalanced? My peers certainly let me think so.

 My condition was intensified a notch by being born premature at six months. My eyesight suffered in my anxiousness to be part of the air-breathing world and in addition to the aforementioned Strabismus, I wore the proverbial Coke bottle glasses.

As you might guess, socializing became a problem. In social interaction, particularly if you are a male, you have to look people in the eye, both to gain respect on the playground and romantically, at the school dance. Being caught in a world where I was forced to look people in the eye while looking away inevitably made me appear all the more odd.

This body image crisis caused me to constantly engage in fistfights to defend my honor and spend entire summers at home to avoid social interaction.

One day I looked into the future and saw what waited for me: namely the image of a frightened, angry, lonely man, with no one to love and nothing to live for. I was determined that wasn’t going to be me.


It’s not an easy thing to look into your future. If you’re honest, you will see clearly where you’ll end up if you don’t change.

And that’s the hardest thing to accept, knowing YOU, not THEM, are going to have to make the change. Years of fighting, hiding, being teased, laughed at, pointed at, made fun of, made me realize that people, aka “THEM” were fine with things just as they were. I had become a doormat, behaved like one and laid down on cue for people to wipe their feet on. 


So I looked actively for change agents: models who I could imitate and emulate. I resolved thiswould be no quick fix job and would take months, if not years, of mental and physical programming. Having a lot of time on my hands—remember, I was a recluse who didn’t go anywhere—I became a voracious reader, television watcher and radio listener. If there was a new self-help book out, I had to have it. What I couldn’t buy, I borrowed from the library. I read that everything starts with the mind. I learned that the words you say every day to yourself was what you eventually became and acted out. I had no problem believing this, as I had become the poster child for negative self-talk. I slowly began to change my speech patterns, particularly the things I said about myself to myself. I realized, from my own experience, I could change very little that came out of the mouths of others but could control what came out of mine. Being able to develop a measure of control over SOMETHING was very encouraging. I also noticed a pattern in what was said in various self-help books. While each imparted the information through their own personality, many of the words and concepts they quoted from came from a book I owned, called The Bible. I figured if the info I was getting from the books in pieces was great, then getting it from the source must be fantastic.  I became a voracious Bible reader, literally reading several copies until the pages became frayed and the covers came apart. That book became single-handedly my greatest source of wisdom, comfort and salvation.


While I could do nothing about my eye condition, I could transform my body. I began running. Running was great because it was something I could do alone. I could do it early in the morning or in the evening. If there were people outside, I could just run past them in a second, not giving them a chance to observe me. Over time I became acquainted with other runners. Not in the sense that we socialized at dinner and such but there would be that “head nod”, that wink, that smile of affirmation and recognition. I realized I had become part if an elite group. I was an athlete of sorts. With each pounding stride, I was running away from my tortured past, my poor body image. I started to look for another physical challenge. Full contact karate seemed perfect.


I joined the Harlem Goju karate dojo in Harlem, miles away from my Brooklyn home. Classes were free and that attracted me. I soon found out why. The class was comically located across the street from Harlem Hospital, which came in handy because class was dangerous. Not dangerous in the sense that the sensei, Sam McGee, was a sadist, he wasn’t. It was that the karate taught was traditional, bare knuckle, full contact, no headgear. You could really get hurt, lose teeth, along with your consciousness.

It was perfect.

I had a lot of anger and resentment in me, both at myself and at my peers, who had rejected me when I was growing up. Because the training was hard and the fighting real, I had ample opportunity to test myself and channel that anger in a positive direction. I even obtained a black belt in the school and went on to study many other martial arts over the years. I also found that the people I encountered in martial arts circles were more accepting and affirming of me, regardless of my appearance. I believe it’s because there’s something about the warrior arts that develops a certain type of character in people. You realize what really matters is who you are inside and that makes you who you are. You learn that anyone can look good but can they perform good? Can they weather life’s storms? Are they humble? Can they bounce back from loss? I had proven I could and had been in the company of giants, and realized to my surprise, I had become one myself.


There’s so much more to say. I could say how I nurtured a talent for art that opened doors for me socially and financially, leading me to become one of New York City’s most sought after corporate and private caricature entertainers, EBOOK authors, Creative Caricature Marketing Consultant. I could mention how being a journal writer throughout my youthful pain, makes blogging and article writing like this one, a snap for me to do. I could tell you I’ve literally brought crowds of people to their feet with thundering applause as a lecturer, poet and speaker. Or finally, I could tell you of the wonderful woman I’ve been married to for over twenty years and the two smart, gorgeous kids (objectively speaking, even by the world’s standards!) who are socially conscious academic giants, about to be unleashed on the world. But I think I will choose to tell about the Love of God, who died so you might have abundant life and then imparts that life to you so that you can have a strong self-image that offsets the false body image you have. It’s a false image because it’s a SELF-image. God makes all things beautiful.

Yes. I prefer to end it here.

Thanks for your attention.

This is my confession.

Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011


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