Within the past couple of years, I’ve gotten a lot more out of seeing photos of my younger self than I ever did before. I always enjoyed looking at photos of me as a small child, but now I find that I’m putting myself in Young Jenny’s place, trying to remember what it felt like to be that age, recapturing who I was and who I wanted to be at the time.
I’m not quite obsessed, but I’ve definitely become somewhat fixated on old photos of me, especially those from before age 8, which is when I got glasses, stupidly cut my hair really short, and moved across the country. Because that is when I started being forced inward, when the bullying and othering started at school.
I’ve gotten a lot out of really studying photos from before that point, remembering who I really was inside before all the trauma. But I’ve also gotten a lot out of studying photos from later, after I was affected by my surroundings. I am not yet sure whether I’ll share any of those later photos, as my awkward phase was… long.
But back to the early photos! I love spending time with Young Jenny. I had few cares in the world, and was just… me. All me, all the time.
This is the attitude I am now trying to recapture, to cast off the autistic masks, cast off caring about what anyone else thinks. Cast off that which does not serve me and forces me further inward. I want to throw open the curtains that I’ve put around myself for protection, some of which are over 40 years old at this point.*
So, if you see me skipping around in public, you’ll know I’ve succeeded.
If you see or hear me comfortable being weird in public, you’ll know I’ve succeeded.
Please be supportive and kind, because my confidence is extremely fragile.
*I’m currently able to do it in a select few contexts and with a select few people. If you’ve seen me unmasked, you have proven to be a safe person and are on a very short list.
P.S. I also love thinking about all that she has in front of her. In addition to all the struggles and trauma she would experience, this girl would go on to learn so many interesting things and have so many interesting experiences. She’d get to go to a nerdy high school that provided an excellent education and, many years later, connections with so many friends, new and old. She traveled to so many interesting places. She wrote and published books and so many blog posts. She experienced love and heartache. She bore two children, the most amazing people she’s ever met. And she finally found her ideal match at the age of 39, someone who was an instant fixture and will remain so for as long as is humanly possible. She’s got so much ahead of her. And me? I have so much still ahead of me too. I need to constantly remind myself of that.
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