BOZEMAN, Mont. - Imagine going your whole life seeing things totally differently than everyone else and not even knowing it. That’s how one Hamilton man lived until recently.
What’s your favorite color? It’s an easy question to answer for most people. For Kyle Perkins, that’s a loaded question.
Life, for the Hamilton native, was dull; not because of what he did, but because of how his eyes saw it. He didn't know he was colorblind until he'd been alive for nearly two decades.
Kyle suffers from deuteranomaly, which means he has problems seeing red and green, with the green cones in his eyes weakened. Without red and green, the world looks dull as most things are tinged in grey. Food loses its appeal.
"He would eat because he’d get hungry," says mom Niki Perkins, "but he never ate because something looked good.”
He was underweight, and even the beauty of his home state was lost on him. Kyle grew up thinking Montana - famous for its green mountains in the summertime - was boring and unattractive; even in the most colorful months of the year, it was just a lot of grey. In the stark winter months, it was worse: nothing but whites and greys.
“Sunsets, I’ve only seen as yellow," he says. "I’ve never seen oranges or pinks or anything that comes off it.”
Colorblindness put him at a disadvantage he didn’t even realize. Which pepper to buy? Did the stoplight just turn? These are questions Kyle didn’t even know he struggled to answer.
In his first year of studying psychology at Montana State University, Kyle had a shocking realization during a seminar.
“They had this test, you know those ink-blot tests. They’d be like, ‘Okay well, what color is in here?’" Kyle didn't see anything, but nearly all of his classmates answered.
"I’m like, ‘Um wait, what?’" he recalled.
It was a test for colorblindness. Suddenly, there was a name for the thing that had been making his life just a little harder. With that diagnosis, Kyle started looking for solutions. He found one that could change everything in an instant.
EnChroma glasses let people with different kinds of colorblindness see what they normally couldn’t.
A classic agreement was made between Kyle and his parents - who now say they didn't quite realize the impact the glasses would have. Niki and her husband told Kyle that if he could get a 4.0 that semester, they would buy the glasses.
After Kyle reached the goal, the family traveled to California - where EnChroma is based - to get the glasses.
“I can still remember exactly what I was looking at, like it’s imprinted," says Kyle.
Like a kid in a candy store, every moment became a treat for the college senior.
"He looks at the salmon, and he goes, ‘What is that?’ and I said, ‘That’s salmon, Kyle,'" Niki recalls. "He’s like, ‘Salmon – that's a color? That always looked brown to me!’ He did not even realize, like, light pink was a color.”
Now, Kyle can paint the town red, green, light pink - or any color he wants – and appreciate it for the first time.
“Every time it just filled me so much with like joy and stuff that I can experience like everything over,” he says.
So, the answer to that big question: what is Kyle's favorite color?
Laughing, he responds: "I don’t know, I don’t know now, because there’s so many – like each one just looks so beautiful to me. Aquamarine, like a blue-green, looks really nice to me. I’ve never seen that. Fuschia, I think it’s called, purple and pink mix. Those colors look like really cool to me now.”