bookmark_borderA week with too many things going wrong

During the past week or so, too many things have been going wrong. Too many mistakes, fails, mishaps, fiascos. None of the things are particularly serious in themselves, but combined, they feel like an avalanche, a cascade, a tidal wave of badness.

It started with a UPS fiasco. I bought a retired American Girl doll named Caroline from an Amazon seller, but the UPS driver could not find my house. I received an email prompting me to go to the UPS website to either confirm or correct my address, and I confirmed that I had entered my address correctly. The same exact thing, however, happened again the following day. I emailed UPS to give them directions to my house, but the same thing happened yet again! So I called them (something that is very difficult for me due to my shyness). The driver was finally able to find my house, but not until I had already left for work (I work afternoons / evenings). This would be fine, except for the fact that a signature was required for the delivery. So UPS informed me that they were sending my package to a convenience store that doubles as a UPS access point. I figured, therefore, that I would be able pick up my package up the next day before work, but it didn’t actually get to the convenience store until late afternoon. So I had to wait until the day after that. On that day, as I was about to leave for the convenience store, my mom texted, much earlier than I was anticipating, to let me know that she was ready to meet for lunch before work. So I had to wait another day. Finally, I made it to the convenience store and excitedly told the cashier I was there to pick up a UPS package. She asked for my ID, which, to my dismay, I realized I did not have. (I had brought my credit card, debit card, and subway pass, just in case I might need them, but it didn’t occur to me to bring my license.) Because an ID was required to pick up my package, I returned home empty-handed, having made the 40-minute round trip walk for nothing.

(Wow, that paragraph turned out to be really long!)

The fiascos continued from that point, with the following being a few examples:

  • When I went to Starbucks before work, they got my drink wrong, giving me a smaller size than what I had paid for. I brought it back (difficult for me due to my shyness) and they got it wrong again!
  • My neighbor called me, texted me, and then began banging on my door all while I was in the middle of a therapy appointment via zoom. I was having tree work done in my yard, and feared that something seriously bad had happened, such as a tree falling on my neighbor’s house and destroying it. I didn’t know whether to continue with the therapy appointment or to tell my therapist that an emergency was happening and that I had to go. I opted for the first option, but was so distracted that I wasn’t able to absorb anything my therapist was saying. It turned out that my neighbor’s issue was not urgent or time-sensitive at all.
  • I was asked to work an overnight shift, and my parents and I made plans to have dinner at a nearby restaurant before work, something that I really enjoy but don’t often get to do because I usually work at dinnertime. I packed a bag of the things that I would need for work and put it in the trunk of my mom’s car. Before dinner, I worked out on my parents’ exercise bike (which I use sometimes because I don’t own one myself). We got into my dad’s car, drove to the restaurant, and parked outside it. I opened the trunk and was appalled to find no bag inside. Neither my parents nor I put two and two together to realize that because the car that was used to drive from my house to my parents’ house was a different car than the one used to drive from my parents’ house to the restaurant, I would need to move my bag from one trunk to the other. I ended up in tears and feeling so sick that I was unable to eat anything, and my dad ended up having to drive back to the house to get the bag.
  • At work, I was assigned a block of time to collect shopping carts in the parking lot, but I didn’t, because I didn’t know I was supposed to do that during that block of time. (I really enjoy collecting shopping carts too; I just completely forgot that I was supposed to do it.)
  • I decided to walk around the pond near my house and take photos of the pretty trees, because the white and pink flowers were beginning to bloom and looked really beautiful. When I reached the beautiful trees, I took my camera out of my purse, turned it on, composed the shot, and pushed the shutter button. Nothing happened. I pressed the shutter again and again, but no matter how hard I tried, my camera was unable to take photos.
  • An extremely embarrassing incident happened at work, in which I got one customer confused with another and said something to him that made absolutely no sense, because I thought he was the other customer.

None of these things are the end of the world, exactly, but with so many of them happening within a relatively short amount of time, I am stressed, angry with myself, and filled with self-doubt. My life has been filled recently with one setback after another, and I haven’t been able to fully recover from each setback before the next one happens. I keep getting knocked off-balance, and there is no time to re-stabilize before I am knocked off balance again.

Some of these fiascos are just bad luck (e.g. Starbucks, my neighbor, my camera), while others (not bringing my license, failing to ensure that my bag was in the correct trunk, mixing up my work schedule, mixing up two customers) are arguably my fault.

The fact that I am on the autism spectrum relates to this string of fiascos in two ways: first because my brain is more likely to fail at certain types of tasks, and also because I tend to become more upset than the average person when a relatively minor fiasco happens.

I have a very high IQ, and my brain can do many things that the average person’s can’t. But I also have a disability, namely autism. Although I excel at math, reading comprehension, memorizing facts, and understanding complicated logical concepts, I struggle with things that most people consider to be “common sense.” I tend to forget / misplace / lose track of things; I tend to do badly with social interaction, which includes recognizing and remembering people; I tend in general to fail at things that others find simple.

I also tend to become completely unglued when an unexpected problem occurs.

As I exited the convenience store and walked, dazed, through the parking lot, I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration (at myself, not at the cashier, because the ID requirement logically makes sense). I could feel heat rushing through my body. It felt like the world was spinning around me and I was lost at sea without a paddle, buffeted about by the waves. Even though I knew logically that nothing disastrous had happened – there was nothing time-sensitive within the package, and I could go back and pick it up the following day – I was overwhelmed with emotional upset.

Similarly, the moment I discovered that my camera was inexplicably not working, I was filled with rage so strong that I wanted to kick the nearby wooden bench and smash it to pieces. As I repeatedly turned my camera off and back on again, scrolled through all the different menus trying to figure out what had caused the problem, and tried every possible combination of settings, a lump formed in my throat and tears came to my eyes. Despite knowing logically that I could take pictures with my phone instead, I was overwhelmed with emotional upset by the fact that I was expecting my camera to work the way that it usually does, and it didn’t do that.

The reason these types of things are so upsetting to me is because, as an autistic person, I start each day with a picture in my head of what is going to happen. I expect and need things to go according to this picture. When they fail to do so, my brain basically goes crazy.

In that moment outside the convenience store, all I could think about was that I had planned to pick up my package that day. Not the following day.

In that moment at the pond, all I could think about was that I had planned to walk around the pond and take pictures with my camera. Not with my phone.

I could not access logic in those moments, because I was so overwhelmed by the fact that things did not go according to the picture in my head. Knowing intellectually that the problem wasn’t a big deal didn’t make me feel any better. I couldn’t move on to alternative plans, such as picking up my package the next day or taking pictures with my phone, because my brain was stuck on the picture of how the day was supposed to go.

So over the past weeks I’ve been beating myself up, both about this series of fails and about my reaction to them. I know that I tend to lose track of simple things, so I use compensatory strategies such as setting reminders, using calendars and checklists, and double checking to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I know that I struggle with facial recognition, so I make a deliberate effort to remember people’s features, hats, and clothing items. I’ve been beating myself up about the fact that despite being aware of my weaknesses and taking measures to compensate for them, I still failed. And I know intellectually that picking up my package the next day and taking pictures with my phone are perfectly good options, so I’ve been beating myself up for emotionally falling to pieces over what are objectively minor setbacks.

I am generally perceived as being relatively “high-functioning” compared to other people on the spectrum, and other people with disabilities. I live by myself, I work full-time, I don’t go to a day program, and I don’t have a legal guardian or conservator. I take pride in these things and, quite frankly, want it to stay this way. It is important to me to live a life in which I move about freely and make my own decisions, as opposed to being supervised at all times and having my schedule and activities organized by someone else. I don’t want to be a burden, or a pain in the butt, to the people around me. I don’t want to be erupting in emotional outbursts, ruining dinner plans, requiring people to rescue me from crises, or disrupting people’s days with my needs. I want to be a competent person, both at my job and at the tasks that need to be done outside of work. I want to be a person who is calm, logical, and put-together. I want to be able to complete my activities of daily living independently. I don’t want to be dependent on others.

Weeks like this make me doubt myself – my own competence, my own capabilities, and my own ability to function in the world. Recently my new statues have arrived, something that I know intellectually is far more important than any of the fiascos that I’ve described. These past weeks should have been filled with joy and excitement, but instead they’ve been filled with emotional turmoil. Hopefully I will have a relatively fiasco-free stretch of days, and what I know intellectually to be true will also feel true emotionally.

bookmark_borderThe statue family expands…

On Tuesday, April 2, at about 9:30 p.m. a large black truck pulled into my driveway. Inside it were two new statues, coming to live with me. 

That’s right, two.

One of these statues was Robert E. Lee. This statue, I had been anticipating for a while. About a year ago, I paid the deposit for him, and over the course of the year I received pictures documenting the process of creating him, from sketch to clay model to molds to finished product. Watching my statue come into the world was such a cool experience. Once the finishing touches were complete, I put the delivery date on my calendar, and I was eagerly anticipating seeing my new statue in person.

Four days before Lee’s arrival, the company that makes the statues asked me if, by any chance, I might want a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest as well. This statue had been made at the same time as Lee, for a different person, but the original buyer had backed out. I thought it over for about 24 hours and, being me, said yes. 

So, wrapped in blankets inside the truck on that cold and drizzly night were two new statues: one that was made for me and one that I adopted. Forrest was closest to the door, and a little ways further inside the truck was Lee. The statues were lifted out of the truck and placed in their new home. 

Here is what they look like in daylight. In my opinion, they are the most beautiful sight imaginable. 

From left to right: 

General Robert E. Lee. He’s 4 ft tall, weighs 130 lbs, and is based on the statue that used to be in the state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia, as well as the one that used to be in Washington, D.C. He is one of a batch of 10 Lee statues that were made.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He is 4 ft tall, weighs 90 lbs, and is one of a batch of 5. Because he was a cavalry general, most statues depict him on horseback, and this is the first time a standing statue of Forrest has ever existed.

And of course… General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who has been with me for one and a half years now. He is happy to have some friends!

I am having some landscaping work done in the yard, which is why Stonewall is not in his usual spot. For now, the statues are hanging out in this gravelly area off to the side. The weather has been rainy and yucky for the statues’ first week in their new home. Hopefully they don’t mind it too much! Once the weather improves, I will get them set up in a prettier, more permanent way.

I love the statues and am so happy to have them here. They mean so much to me.  

bookmark_borderPrevious me would have loved going to a Red Sox event…

On Saturday there was an open house at Fenway Park to celebrate the new baseball season. It featured autograph signings by former Red Sox players, photo ops, mascots, and a chance to run/walk around the bases on the field.

This is the type of event that previous me would have been all over. I would have set my alarm, walked to the train station, and taken the Orange Line and then the Green Line to get to the ballpark. I would have jumped at the chance to add to my autograph collection, take a selfie, and post the fun pictures on social media.

I didn’t go to the Red Sox event.

Current me is very different from previous me.

Due to the way that the city of Boston and its sports teams handled the statue genocide – by failing to speak out against it and in some ways by actively supporting it – I’m not the enthusiastic Red Sox (or Bruins or Celtics, for that matter) fan that I once was.

My job situation and daily routine are also completely different. I work in the evenings and therefore tend to go to bed late and get up late. I don’t have to set an alarm for work, as I did for my 9-5 job, so I avoid doing so at all to the maximum extent possible.

Additionally, as a single adult, I do unfortunately feel awkward asking famous athletes for photos and autographs. I think it’s wrong that our society considers these types of things to be “for kids,” because I believe that all people should be treated equally regardless of age, but unfortunately it does. I am now too old to pass for a teenager, and I feel that I will be perceived as weirder and weirder the older I get.

But most of all, I have found over the past four years that I gain the most happiness from focusing on my inner world and not focusing on the outer one as much. The activities that I gravitate towards consist of drawing, writing, spending time with my statues, and organizing my toy soldiers and dolls. I am not as strongly drawn to activities such as following sports, walking around Boston, photographing the city, and attending events.

Our society has this idea that withdrawing from the outside world is somehow unhealthy, or even a “symptom” of depression. But I have found that this is the healthiest way for me to live. I wish more than anything that the terrible events of the past four years didn’t happen, but they did. Given this reality, it makes me happier to focus on the historical figures that I love, and the imaginary world in which they reside, rather than on the society that has hurt and rejected me. And I have read that doing fewer activities is exactly what helps with recovering from autistic burnout, something that I’ve been struggling with for many years.

So for now, I am making a deliberate decision to live a slower-paced life with more free time. I am going to do the things that I feel like doing, rather than pushing myself to get up before my body naturally wants to in order to attend events that I don’t have the energy for. I am going to do activities that bring me joy, rather than ones that are filled with reminders of the trauma that I’ve experienced. (Of course, some activities have the potential for both these things, which can make the decision about whether to do them or not difficult, but I will deal with those as they come up.)

bookmark_borderSensory sensitivities aren’t as bad when you don’t have to hide them

Yesterday I was walking to the train station after work, and I was in agony. As an autistic person, I have severe sensory sensitivity to wind. As I speed-walked down the sidewalks and ran across the streets, trying to get to the station as quickly as possible, air blasted brutally and relentlessly in my face, freezing my cheeks and nose and causing excruciating pain throughout my entire body. 

As I waited for the train, exhausted and trying to recover from the assault, I dreaded the walk at the other end of the commute, from the train station near my house, to my house itself. This walk is more than twice as long as the one from work to the station, and there was no reason to believe the wind would be any less vicious. Because I had gotten out of work a few minutes late, there was no way I could catch the bus from the station.

After getting off of the train, I took my time securing my hat on my head, putting on my gloves, and making sure my scarf covered as much of my face and neck as possible. By the time I stepped out into the painful conditions, the crowd of people from the train had dispersed. Because there was no one to feel self-conscious in front of, I muttered under my breath as I walked. I complained, sometimes profanely, about how painful and horrible the wind was, about how wrong it was that work got out late and cause me to miss the bus, about how bizarre it was people could walk around and exist in these conditions as if nothing was wrong, and about why the heck humans hadn’t invented a way of preventing such atrocious weather conditions from occurring. 

A remarkable thing happened as I made my angry way through the streets: the wind wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

When the ice-cold blasts of air started to increase in frequency and severity, I turned around and walked backwards. That way, the back of my head sustained the brunt of the assault, as opposed to the bare skin of my face. This slowed down my progress considerably, and I must have looked like a complete lunatic to anyone who happened to be observing from the houses that lined the streets, or the cars that occasionally passed by.

But miraculously, it worked. Freed from the obligation to act in a socially acceptable manner, I was able to take the measures that I needed to take in order to minimize the pain. Wearing the warmest clothing possible, walking as quickly as possible, walking backwards when the direction of the wind demanded it, and expressing my anger and pain, all combined to reduce the amount of suffering that I was subjected to.

My past self, if faced with this same situation, might have forced herself to walk quietly and forward-facing at all times, perhaps even with a smile on her face. And then, upon arriving home, she would probably have commenced screaming, kicking furniture, and throwing things immediately after stepping through the door. But because I gave myself permission to do what my body needed, regardless of how it looked to other people, I was able to survive the journey home with a minimum of suffering. 

In the autistic community, the act of forcing oneself to appear socially acceptable is known as masking. This is something that I’ve done to a very high degree for almost my entire life. When I mask, I force myself to hide my sensory sensitivities and other autistic traits. I pretend that I am okay when I am not, I pretend that I am happy when I am miserable, and I pretend to like things that I don’t. I force myself to behave the way that “normal” people behave, even when it goes against my preferences, needs, and true nature.

I wonder how much of autistic people’s suffering is caused by sensory issues themselves, versus how much of our suffering is caused by depriving ourselves of the things that we need to manage the sensory issues, out of the belief that these things would look “weird.” Is it autism itself that makes life difficult, or is it masking?

To a large degree, I think the answer is the latter. Masking is something that I am trying to do less of. I am no longer willing to deprive myself of the things that I need, and subject myself to needless suffering, for the sake of looking “normal.”

bookmark_borderNewspapers and reminders of trauma

One of numerous activities that I’ve given up since the statue genocide happened is reading the newspaper.

I used to read the Boston Globe every day, as well as two small local papers every week. But now the news is so filled with triggers, opinions that make me angry, and reminders of the horrible things that have happened, that I’ve decided to give it up. I have always valued being informed about world events, politics, and the happenings in my community, and have always found the news interesting. But these benefits are no longer worth the pain that consuming news now causes.

Last week, my dad visited my uncle at his new apartment and picked up a copy of that town’s local paper. Thinking he was being nice, he gave it to me, and against my better judgment I decided to read it.

Despite the fact that it was only a small, local weekly newspaper, I could feel my mood steadily decline while reading it.

A column about how the town was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day immediately triggered comparisons with how our society treats Columbus Day. Why is one ethnic group’s holiday embraced almost universally, with parades, the wearing of the green, playing of traditional Irish music, and consumption of traditional Irish food and drink, while another ethnic group’s holiday is either ignored, condemned, attacked, protested against, or abolished entirely?

I became angry when reading a press release from the office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, which bragged about the “just and equitable” district she was creating by securing funding for childcare and programs to help young parents. How is it just or equitable to discriminate against people who do not have children? I found myself wondering.

Similar thoughts were brought forth by an article about a housing voucher program, which was described by the town’s mayor as particularly important because of the disproportionate impact of the housing crisis on people of color and families with young children. Again, I wondered why, in the eyes of society, do white people and people without children always seem to matter less?

The “Beacon Hill Roll Call” column reminded me of the bills to abolish Columbus Day, to force people to undergo medical procedures against their will, and to discriminate against people like me in various other ways, which have been considered by the state legislature at various points in time, some of which unfortunately are still under consideration.

An editorial about Women’s History Month brought to mind thoughts about why other heritage months, such as Confederate History Month and Italian Heritage Month, are not celebrated with equal enthusiasm.

Even an article about subway track work and station improvements caused a pang of sadness. As an autistic person, my special interest is history and statues, exactly the thing that our society over the past four years has decided to destroy. I know several fellow autistic people whose special interest is trains, and I know that they would enjoy reading about these new MBTA developments. It was bittersweet to think about how others are still able to enjoy news about their special interests, while for mine the only available news centers on condemnation and destruction.

The “On This Day In History” feature, something that had been my favorite part of every newspaper since I was 10 years old, reminded me of how much things have changed. I learned that on that particular date, Hernan Cortez had landed in what is now Mexico, and Jefferson Davis had signed a bill authorizing slaves to fight in the Confederate Army. These would simply have been interesting facts to my past self, but now I cannot hear the names of Cortez or Davis without being reminded of how our society has decided to attack, condemn, and largely obliterate from existence, these historical figures.

Because I have always found news interesting and have always valued being informed, my goal has been to one day add the news back into my life. But I have found that right now, the best way of building a life that is worth living is to turn towards my inner world and away from the outer one. Drawing, writing stories about my imaginary world, organizing my toy soldiers, figurines, and dolls, and spending time with my Stonewall statue… these are the activities that bring comfort, joy, peace, and a sense of control. The news, on the other hand, is filled with nothing but oppression, meanness, and injustice.

Perhaps this will change one day, but perhaps not. Maybe my healing will progress, my resilience will increase, my mental state will stabilize, and the world will change for the better, to the point where I will be able to add the news back into my life. But for now, it’s best that I stay away from it.

bookmark_borderPain and perspective

It’s difficult to live in a world that has decided to destroy everything that makes my life worth living. My existence over the past four years has been filled with pain so excruciating that prior to spring 2020, not only had I never before experienced such pain, but it hadn’t occurred to me that such pain was even possible. Over the past four years, I’ve worked to find some way of continuing on, some way of building a life of meaning and purpose in a society that believes I shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

Living this way is laborious, exhausting, and often demoralizing. But to some extent my efforts have been successful. I have dedicated my life to honoring the historical figures that I love. I advocate for them through my writing, which takes the form of this blog, emails to public officials, and hopefully one day a book. I keep them alive through my artwork, which I sell on my art website and at local craft fairs and festivals, through my Historical Heroes Blog, through collecting dolls and figurines depicting them, and through bringing new statues into the world. Additionally, I have tried to make my day-to-day life as rewarding as possible by eliminating unpleasant obligations and incorporating activities that bring me joy. Particularly over the past two years, these efforts have begun to pay off. Often, I do experience a sense of meaning and purpose. Often, I do feel that my life is worth living.

But not always. Sometimes the excruciating pain attacks. This might happen if a new atrocity is committed, or perhaps if I merely have a bad day. And when the excruciating pain attacks, it takes over my entire soul, so that nothing other than the pain exists. The thing about the excruciating pain is that it creates something of a catch-22. There are three theoretical ways of abating the misery, of making the situation just a tiny bit better. But the nature of the excruciating pain makes every option impossible, inappropriate, ineffective, or all of the above.

The three options are as follows:

  1. Expressing my anger and grief about the terrible thing that happened. This is certainly right, because anger and grief are the appropriate responses when a terrible thing happens. But when the agony is attacking, this can feel pointless. No words are adequate to express the full magnitude of what happened. Ranting wildly, in the strongest language imaginable, would be 100% justified but would also accomplish nothing other than making me look unhinged, which would be counterproductive with respect to my goal of advocating for the historical figures.
  2. Finding some positive aspect of the situation, or of historical figures in general. This might entail focusing on the statues that still remain, making new art depicting the historical figures, or reading about their lives. But when the agony is attacking, it feels as if everything with regards to historical figures is going badly, even if my logical brain knows that this is not 100% true. Focusing on the positive seems hollow and empty, a failure to acknowledge the full magnitude of the bad thing that happened.
  3. Ignoring the situation, and the historical figure topic entirely, and focusing on something else. This seems to be the worst of the three options. When something horrible happens to a historical figure, everything else in the world is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Thinking about, talking about, making a post about, or even caring about pets, food, sports, friends, or family, to give just a few examples, would represent a complete failure to acknowledge the badness of what has happened. Doing so would be petty, superficial, and callous.

When the excruciating pain strikes, it’s as if I am at the bottom of a pit, with no way to climb out. The walls of the pit are perfectly smooth, with no handholds, nothing to grab onto, no protruding pieces of rock on which I might be able to step. I cannot gain purchase, cannot hoist myself out. All possible ways of climbing out of the pit are closed off to me.

But over the past years, I’ve discovered that there is a fourth way out of the excruciating pain, albeit a way that I have no control over: time.

In time, the excruciating pain always subsides. Not permanently, alas, because it keeps recurring. But every time that the pain has attacked, it has eventually gone away. The agony that was nearly omnipresent from spring 2020 to summer 2022 has, since then, alternated with stretches of relatively okay days, days on which I experience a sense of meaning and purpose, and a sense that life is worth living.

I’ve gained a sense of perspective that I didn’t have when the statue genocide began. Although the excruciating pain, when it attacks, is all-consuming, I am now able to recognize, intellectually if not emotionally, that it is temporary.

While waiting for the agony to go away, I have found that the best thing to do is something productive. If the floor needs to be swept, I sweep the floor; if I haven’t exercised yet that day, I exercise; if it is nighttime, I go to bed. These things aren’t exactly fun, but they are useful. When I am in excruciating pain, I am going to be miserable no matter what I do, so I might as well do something that, once the pain subsides, I will be glad that I did.

This pain is probably something that I will need to deal with, to struggle with, to manage, for the rest of my life. It is only logical to experience agonizing and excruciating pain when people have done appallingly awful things. So I continue to fight for both myself and the historical figures. Despite the frequent setbacks and obstacles that I face, I continue to build bit by bit a life of meaning and purpose, a life that is worth living.

bookmark_border“A light dusting of snow” – a poem by me

The sun beckons with the promise of spring
But the wind still howls
And rips through the air with bitter cold claws.
Geese congregate on the grass
By the pond, still frozen solid;
A light dusting of snow coats the ground.
All is deserted and quiet,
Save for ducks quacking as they waddle around.

A light dusting of snow coats the ground,
Newly fallen this time.
The picnic table, plants, and stone wall
Like eerie black shadows against the white background.
The big tree looms overhead
And the statue, as always, stands guard
With white flakes clinging his hat and shoulders.
All is peaceful and quiet.

bookmark_borderThe statues weren’t hurting anyone, and neither was I

Everyone else wore jeans and t-shirts. I wore jumpers, plaid skirts, cardigans, Mary Janes.

Everyone else got their hair highlighted and wore makeup. I wore hair ribbons and pigtails.

Everyone else spoke in the latest slang in order to sound “cool.” I used big words and spoke formally.

Everyone else IM’d with their friends after school. I went online to read about historical figures. I made drawings and paper dolls of them.

Everyone played the same computer games, listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows and movies. Everyone except for me.

I collected dolls, toy soldiers, Beanie Babies, and model horses. Everyone called me babyish and weird.

I picked my nose, and the other kids whispered to each other about how gross I was. I picked at my face and scalp instead, but the other kids still whispered to each other about me, and how weird I was. So instead I went through my hair and took out the strands that had become detached, tidying and cleaning up my hair, but the other kids commented on how gross and weird that was as well. So I forced myself to sit, uncomfortable and bored out of my mind, with nothing to occupy my hands.

I was not hurting anyone. I was not hurting anyone by dressing the way that looked good to me, moving and organizing my body in the way that felt good to me, spending my time and energy pursuing the things that I was interested in. I was not hurting anyone by existing in the world as my authentic self, in a way that was different from other people.

The statues are the same as me. They dressed differently from people today, looked differently, spoke differently, thought differently.

Therefore, the statues weren’t hurting anyone either.

The statues symbolized people like me, people who are different. The statues symbolized the idea that people like me have a right to be included in society. When people tore down the statues, that is what they attacked.

Seeing those statues standing, in public parks and city squares, told me that I had the right to exist, even though I am different from others. Because those statues were different from other people, and they had the right to exist.

When people tore down the statues, they took that away from me.

When mayors and city councils ordered the statues removed, they were literally redesigning public spaces in order to communicate that people like me do not have the right to exist there, in order to ensure that people like me would feel excluded.

This is not being inclusive, or ensuring that everyone feels welcome. It is the exact opposite.

When people tore down the statues, they did so because they believe that a person who dresses differently, looks differently, moves differently, speaks differently, and thinks differently should not be allowed to exist.

When people tore down the statues, they did so because they believe, through some perverse logic that is incomprehensible to me, that their right to be surrounded entirely and exclusively by people who dress like them, look like them, move like them, speak like them, and think like them, outweighs my right to exist.

This is not diversity. It is the exact opposite.

This is why Confederate statues and Christopher Columbus statues are so important.

This is why the issue of statues is personal to me.

This is why I will never forget what people did to the statues, why I will never move on, why I will never stop writing and posting about the statues, why I will never focus on other, more important issues.

Because there are no issues more important than this.

I wasn’t hurting anyone by existing, and neither were the statues.

bookmark_borderAnother untitled poem

Trucks rumble up and down the hill,
Carting away debris.
The air is still and cold.
Fog lingers,
Clinging to the trees
And hovering above the water.
The hammering of construction workers
Can be heard far in the distance.
Sunlight cuts through the fog,
Gradually warming me.
Geese call out,
Honks echoing through the still air.
Lazily, they bob along,
Spreading out across the pond’s surface.

December 2023