While being sick in my bed, I don’t have a lot to do but daydream. Sure, I’ve watched some movies (Oh Greta Gerwig, your Little Women makes my heart ache it’s so good.) I’ve listened to a lot of ASMR. Done some writing, of course.
But mostly I’ve slept and daydreamed.
And in all this dreaming I’ve begun to wonder, Who am I?
No, the coronavirus does not also include amnesia now in its list of symptoms. No, just now that I am post Autism diagnosis so late in my life and I am living without a mask for the first time in years…so I’m wondering who I am, for real.
Well, for that, I think I should start with what I was. I was definitely a performer. First in the theatre itself. I spent a lot of years in semi-lead roles and secondary parts. Nothing to sneeze at. Performing throughout high school and the years in college before I dropped out. Then after I dropped out, my mother’s school failed to pass a referendum. So they cut the middle school play due to financial reasons. This didn’t sit well with my mother, so she brought me in as a ringer to direct a show. When I say ringer here, I mean “for free.”
But that decision turned into a program between my mother and I that spanned almost two decades. I wrote and directed several shows, published one with an international publisher and continued to publish the rest on my own. I’ve created online courses on directing, costuming, and set design. My shows have been performed by schools all over the world, and I don’t mind saying, have made many, many children happy.
So, I’ve done things. I was successful despite my difficulties. But I was still not completely myself. Part of that was being queer, but by in large, it was because I knew I was different.
And because I was different, I was also just a little bit lying. That’s why the subtitle to my blog is “honestly.” Because even before my diagnosis, before I knew what I was, I knew that I was tired of hiding who I was. Tired of performing a reflection of what people thought I should be.
That kind of performance, that kind of masking, it tears you apart. You begin to fracture your personality for the consumption of others. Carve away at your soul, just to make sure that you are palatable to everyone. So no one sees the truth. So no one is angry with you, for being yourself. (It’s a lot like, a less evil version of horcruxes, only the person you are murdering is yourself. You do it to protect yourself, but in the end, it destroys you.)
But that kind of brings me to a different, more hopeful thought. Once you reach the realization that you have been masking for a very long time, or in my case, three decades, you start to grieve for the time that you lost. (It’s interesting that parents often grieve an Autism diagnosis, not knowing that without that diagnosis, their child could be grieving a misspent life. Maybe if they knew that it wouldn’t be so hard.) In grieving the lost time, you can go down a really dark hole. I was really starting down that hole when I came upon a post from Autistic Women and Non-Binary Network, it was a quote and a link to a blog from another adult autistic woman.
“Despite my late discovery of being autistic, I am learning to flick on the switch of possibility and reinvention, instead of obsessing over lost time”
Possibility. It was so simple. Now that I was aware and open about who I was, everything seemed possible. I could be who I really wanted to be, an open, honest, person, who helped others by example.
It is literally all I have ever wanted. To help others. It is my calling. More than theatre, more than writing, I want to help. All the children, my students, that I failed to connect with on a deeper level because of my mask. I will devote my life to overcoming that regret.
I will still honor the person that I was, the innocuous nuggets of truth that managed to surface over the years. Like the fact that I am a huge Harry Potter nerd (see horcruxes above) or my love of science fiction and comic book movies. My years teaching in theatre. My love of writing and reading.
But I will also eat more pineapples. And wear more tights. I love tights. I might even perm my hair. Color my hair more! Pink! It’s gonna get wild folks. More than anything, I’m not going to live afraid.
Because this is a rebirth. This is who I am.