Sometimes when I’d move or graduate to a new school, or even just at the beginning of a new school year, I’d try to reinvent myself. To be someone different from who I was before (who I previously showed outwardly to the world, at least). It usually lasted only part of a day, and then both my need to feel safe and the external forces at play (AKA my peers) pushed me back into my shell. I wanted to show more of myself and be more of myself while among them, but each time I quickly learned that it wasn’t safe. It was better to just be quiet, to be small and not take up space.

In retrospect, it’s finally clear to me that what I was trying to do was to unmask. I really wanted to be safe expressing myself at school, but I never was, not unless I was only with a small handful of friends.

I kept trying, though, whenever there was some kind of refresh, but it never worked. Kids are cruel. School is a hard place, socially. And I’d long-since been conditioned to protect myself in the face of any ridicule.

But each time I tried, I kept thinking, “​This​ time I’m going to be myself. This time I’m going to talk to more people and answer questions out loud in class after raising my hand. This time people will get to know more of me.” Of course, I probably didn’t have all those words at the time. But that was the general intention.

It’s been five years now since I figured out I was autistic, and I’m still having epiphanies like this about my own childhood. I know the epiphanies will keep coming for the rest of my life.

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