Interview by Dina Mishev
Photograph by Rugile Kaladyte
It’s a heavy burden for a sixteen-year-old—being an inspiration. “I get that a lot,” says Aylin—pronounced “Eileen”—Marsteller. “I don’t really see myself that way, though,” she says. “Because I’m not really sure how to reply, I think a lot of the time I just smile and say, ‘Thanks,’ when someone says that.” When asked how she describes herself, Marsteller, a sophomore this year, pauses before answering, “I’m very cheerful most of the time. I love to encourage people.” While these qualities are certainly inspiring, they’re not why so many people in the community approach her. Marsteller is legally blind (her vision is 20/1000; 20/200 is legally blind). And she hunts, runs cross-country, and races Nordic for Jackson Hole High School. (Marsteller fell from a three-story building when she was three, suffering a brain injury and losing significant strength and mobility on her left side, and most of her eyesight.) She also plays Angry Birds, texts “way too much,” and, according to a fellow choir member, is a “beautiful singer.” (Marsteller sings soprano.) “I just don’t see that I’m that special for doing what I do,” she says. “Like everyone, I’ve got goals, and there are things I need to do to reach them.”
Q: So what are some of your goals?
A: I’d like to be a veterinarian, or maybe go to a music college and teach voice lessons someday. I love animals, at least most animals. My mom likes some animals that I don’t know how she likes them, like snakes.
Q: Favorite musicians or songs?
A: Oh, I have lots of favorites, and they’re all different kinds of music, from Christian to country to pop.
Q: How did you get into singing?
A: I don’t remember. I’ve just always loved music and singing. I’ve been in choir for four years now.
Q: This is your second year running cross-country for the Lady Broncs. Is running as natural for you as singing?
A: No. I didn’t necessarily like running when I started, but my parents wanted me to do some sport after I stopped swimming. I went over the list of sports and I thought running might not be so bad. Cheerleading was definitely not me.
Q: Have you come to like running?
A: It took a while, but I do actually like it now. I’m doing something I didn’t know my body was capable of!
Q: How blind are you?
A: I can see colors and shadows and outlines of things, but can’t see details. If my mom is by the sink, I can tell there’s a person there, but couldn’t tell you who it is.
Q: Cross-country races are on trails over uneven terrain. How do you manage?
A: My coach pairs me with one of my teammates to be my guide. All of my teammates got trained to guide me. They just tell me what is coming up—stuff like, “Go to the right” or “There’s a hill ahead.”
Q: Have you ever fallen?
A: Yes, but it was on the track, which is smooth! I didn’t understand how I fell. I thought, “This is weird!”
Q: How do you approach trying something new?
A: Things that are unknown to me and where I don’t know what to expect can be a little scary, and I’m skeptical of them. Sometimes, though, I just jump right in; other times, my parents need to encourage me.
Q: Can you give an example?
A: I was terrified to go on a roller coaster, but my parents thought I’d like it, so they pushed me. I was almost crying, but then it was so awesome.
Q: And what about something you jumped into?
A: I saw other people Nordic ski and thought it didn’t look too hard. As soon as I was doing it, I realized the people I saw, though, had just been really good. I fell a lot. I’d just laugh at myself as I struggled to learn. Sometimes falls hurt, but not enough to cry.