When I was younger, I was plagued with doubt. I did not seem to fit the mould and I thought that I ought to. I was different in so many ways.
The doubts started just before the end of primary school. I could sense that I was not as popular and it hurt. The happy carefree child that had laughed and danced through the early years started to feel self conscious. Things were about to get worse.
Big school started at eleven and so did the systematic bullying. The daily humiliation of the school playground took its toll. I stopped being me but the bullying continued. At sixteen I was suicidal and anxious and by eighteen I had surrendered my dreams and dropped out.
I often refer to my twenties as the lost years. I battled depression and failed. I bought a house and tried to fit into a suburban life that didn’t fit. As I approached thirty I lost my job and I felt worthless.
I met a woman on a plane. She was an English teacher and she reached out to me. The conversation with her didn’t change my life but it did help me turn a corner. Her positivity helped me see the hurdles I saw could be overcome.
I trained to be a teacher. I taught. I perfected my craft. I took risks in the classroom. I took risks outside of the classroom. I grew. I worked. I became less self conscious and more self aware.
Now I’m fifty one. I do not fit the mould and I ought not too. I am different in so many ways. In becoming me I have learnt that surviving is not living but it is important. I survived and now my life is on my terms.
So, if you are struggling, hurt, bullied or victimised please do not give up. We all have a place in life. The more unique your place is, the harder your struggle may be to get there. Breaking the mould isn’t easy but when you do, life can be anything you want it to be.
You only live once they say. YOLO says a generation who have not lived much as yet. I feel I have had many lives before this one. Each different, and each separated, so that my life is more like the different scenes of a play than a novel.
Dancing round the garden with a hole in my sock and my 99p sunglasses, I was a happy child who loved his mum. Bright yet wilful, I found it hard to settle at school and as I started to mature I realised that boys like me loved their mums because the world outside didn’t like fairies in the garden.
With my bleached hair covering half my face I declared to the no one that was listening my theory on music. The B52s were great and obviously Talking Heads were seminal. Grace was thrown in as reference to the cool indie gay I thought I was. He bore no resemblance to the plain fat boy staring at me in the mirror who dreamt of dance floors
Once I had a house with a gate and a privet hedge that required more attention than it got. I worked for the council and let out my spare room to meet the mortgage. I hated life and it seemed life hated me back. I was bored and realised, once again, that if you don’t fit you shouldn’t force it. I stopped going out and just stayed in.
Slovakia was an unexpected move. The grief of my early departed mother was set aside and I tried on some wings. I was no angel but sometimes I felt like a benevolent god in the classroom. I accepted life and being a foreigner, allowed myself to stand out from the crowd in so many ways.
Tired of London…
A decade in the capital was squandered in never ending round of parties and nightclubs. My career soared and so did my anxiety. Each promotion fuelling an ever more chaotic social life and an ever darker horizon. When I left London I moved to the quiet gravelled beaches of the east and walked myself into sanity. I found a sobriety and a calm in the flat landscape with large skies. I thought I’d never leave.
I sold it all. Everything I own can fit in a suitcase. I have nothing. I have no one. I have a freedom that makes me dizzy. My past is gone and here I am living in the moment. Inner calm has been hard won and I exercise my mind to exorcise its demons. The fairy has left the garden behind and dances on the world’s stage. Have I reincarnated myself until I have found nirvana or are there more short stories still to come.
As you like it
I run away from who I am or perhaps run towards the who I want to be. I have only had one life but my goodness I have played all the parts. All the world’s a stage, and even in Shakespeare’s day we were allowed to live multiple lives. So to the YOLO generation I say this – you just don’t know what’s coming next and that, for me is the greatest gift. Live life as you like it and if you don’t like it, change it until you do.
We are born alone, live alone, die alone. My existential existence might be an excuse. I am really an individual or just too scared to trust other people.
I met this man. Just once. Just six and twenty crazy hours of being with someone who accepted me. He didn’t just accept me for being me, though that in itself would be awesome, he accepted me into his life. He moved over and made some space for me and without words he said walk with me a while.
I love words but he showed me in his deeds who he thinks I am. He sees a me I haven’t seen. He knows a someone I had forgotten I once wanted to be. When he left me, he didn’t leave because he lingers in my mind.
I met this man. Just once. I was born alone and I might die alone but I think I might want to walk with him a while. I won’t throw caution to the wind but I might put it away along with my fears and live life. I will meet this man again but he has already changed my existence.
I am a traveller of sorts. A meanderer who has no set path or clear destination. After a year in one country you might argue I am settled, but my journey is more than merely physical.
I see the collectors of experience. They meticulously checklist their way through tomorrow’s memories without even stopping to whistle. Cultures are sipped and palates rarely cleansed before the next new taste is up for consumption.
I am no different. Instead of travelling through countries, I travel through people. Life is kept fresh by keeping the door to my mind wide open to passing souls who come, and sometimes go, with ease. Rapport is something that can build in a moment, especially with those rare few who resonate with the deepest vibrations of my soul.
This weekend I met man, so earnest and passionate and we talked. Stories of youth were shared and the depressingly universal experiences of growing up gay were bemoaned. My new friend was interested in self esteem and bullying, and the role educators can play in breaking the cycle of depression and self harm for young gay men. Bad histories were being turned into better tomorrows by his actions. It was talk that went somewhere.
We may not meet again but we are connected. A good conversation can change the course of life. I may not be the fastest traveller but he has moved me and shown me places I never expected to see.
Most of the time I just am. I forget the people surrounding me and I just feel and experience the sensuality of existence. My secret life is lived in full view and I am oblivious to the reactions of those around me.
Being born with a disability, I suspect I’m noticed often. My disability is not crippling or painful. It’s not even terribly noticeable. A funny walk and a limp wrist is how it manifests. It’s so easy to parody and some people are acutely cruel in their observation and mimicry.
Some people think I walk this way because I am gay. I am gay. I also have cerebral palsy. I walk this way because this is who I am.
However I only notice the reactions of others when they intrude into my world. Most of the time I live in my world. I have my few friends and my many pleasures. Not alone or cut off but perhaps at a slight remove from what others deem to be reality. In my spectrum disordered world, I am cocooned in my the beautiful landscapes of my mind. Aspergers is another gift the universe bestowed upon me.
We are all different. We are all unique. We all have intersecting facets that make us who we are. We are born different and now is the time has come to acknowledge our differences, to love our diversity, and to see the beauty of the other.
I am beautiful. You are beautiful too. I’m sorry I don’t notice you more often.
We all see the world differently. Perspectives can change with time and place. However difference can unite us or divide us. It is up to us to decide on that.
I am a gay. That makes me somehow different. In my life, that difference has been the source of intense hatred from some and touchingly profound love from others. Being outside, my brothers and sisters showed me what solidarity can look like. Being outside, sometimes I really needed them. My family never cast me out and indeed, love and acceptance has been more of a motif than hate.
Hate is strong though. The power of seemingly isolated incidents can butterfly effect into a tsunami that crushes self esteem and inhibits self expression. I remember so many of the acts of hate, so vividly. Why then can’t I recall the individual kindnesses with the same focus too.
I am going to change my perspective. Acts of love need to be marked and gratitude needs to be both registered within and expressed without. I am surrounded by love, not hate, and the bubble I float in should not be popped by the occasional small prick.
From today I will see the world differently.
The road less travelled is quite busy these days. The alternative has become a norm and there is now an accessible shuttle bus that will pick you up from the fork in the road.
The road has become a system and might even be a network. Even the Asperger Path has more footfall. What was once unknown, is gaining visibility and it’s not all geek chic and misapplied logic.
Of course my path is actually the cis gendered, white privileged, physically disabled, gay fabulous, Asperger Path. Whilst that path might be well dressed and well heeled, it’s a bit of a mouthful, so I celebrate only my most recent label. It’s my most recent fork on my journey through this yellow wood life. However, there are many paths and I’m not the only unicorn dancing in the trees.
My point is that bucking trends has become one. So if we are all getting a bit freaky let’s try and make sure we respect each other’s freakiness. It’s a wonderful diverse world out there so let’s celebrate our hyper diversity every time our own particular fork crosses another pass.
Crossroads could easily be roundabouts, so swing out sisters, brothers and gender others because I am spinning some unconditional love and acceptance. After all we are all unicorns and we are all special. Le freak, c’est chic.
My life has changed. I was once afraid of someone. They cast a shadow over me, and I could see no escape. I tried to run but no matter where I went, they were just behind me. I was haunted. My self esteem was battered and I sought validation from anyone and everyone. I was desperately seeking a seal of approval in the hope that it might chase the shadow away.
One day I stopped running. I sat down and waited. I faced my fears, and I braced myself for whatever might happen. The truth he gave me was not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. This man I had tried to evade was strong but he wasn't unreasonable. His demands were fairly simple and I agreed to them.
Now I am my own man. I am in my skin and so happy to be there. I am riddled with faults, yet I am beautiful. I will never be perfect, but I try everyday to be a better person, and, sometimes, I succeed.
The man I had been running away from was myself. So many years I hid who I was, not just from the world, but from me. I was scared of what people would think of this. However, this is who I am. Every piece of grit and glitter, every obstacle I have overcome has made me unique. You can thrust labels on me and goodness knows I like a label. Spastic, Camp, or Aspergers are all worn like Chanel for I am as strong as an ox, as cool as cucumber, and as crazy as a coconut. I no longer worry about what anyone thinks because I have found the key to my happiness is just being me.
He says he loves me. He says it when no one can hear. I know he loves me. He shows me when no one can see. Love should be so simple but life is so complex.
He wants to keep me away from the public eye so that my very existence cannot taint him. Yet the thing he is afraid of isn’t me. It it inside of him. It goes where he goes and he cannot escape himself. These feelings he wants to suppress overflow like lava and each eruption confirms that he is not who he wants to be. So he has placed our love in a cage. A well defined place with limits and boundaries. He puts me in purdah behind a rainbow screen and, because he can’t deny himself, he denies me.
At the moment he hates himself and by seeing all that he hates in himself reflected in me, he hates me. He could start down the long road to self acceptance. If he could learn to love himself as he is, our love would be so different. I cannot tell him what to do. He needs to make these decisions for himself.
I am what I am. I am my own special creation. But so is he.
Desire can easily make a wise man foolish. I have a crush on someone. At fifty I suddenly find myself feeling as giddy as a fifteen year old. The first time we met he scampered over and told me all about his life and work. I listened but was distracted. I couldn’t decide if his sunny smile was broader than his feet. Both were irresistible and, being shy in the presence of beauty, I studied his feet more.
The second time we met he had forgotten my name. I remembered his and, much my shame, had practiced saying hello in Khmer so that I might charm him. He was as puppy-like as before. His broad, welcoming smile comes so easily and it’s hard to believe he only had the same number of teeth as any other mortal. I saw his eyes sparkling and then spent a while contemplating his feet, naked save for a plastic Y strap disappearing into his rather excitingly spaced toes.
Last night I saw him again. He regaled me with tales of traditional games that will be played in the run up to the New Year celebrations. How I want him to wet my face and blow flour all over me. Or perhaps in the tug of war I can encircle his slender waist with my arm and add some weight to his team. As we talked I found his excitement quite contagious. My smile must have mirrored his and he said my smile puts a light in his heart. I caught his eye, just for a moment before, feeling my colour rise, I dropped my gaze to his toes, which flex constantly as he talks.
He wants to visit me at my home before the New Year. Cambodian custom demands footwear be left by the door and finally I will see those capivating, dark feet fully naked on my floor. I am not foolish enough to risk clouding a beautiful smile so I will be a perfect host and offer my guest tea and cake rather than a foot rub. I may feel as giddy as a fifteen year old but experience has made me a wise old man.