So, it has been a couple of weeks since I’ve last posted.
I still have many ideas that I would like to discuss. I have put them on hold for a while because semester two is well underway and I have more than enough to work on. The first deadline is due at the end of this month and the most challenging aspect of this assignment is working within a group. I am confident with the program we are using, but the rest of the group is not, therefore I am trying hard not to let my growing confidence become intolerable arrogance. This presents quite a challenge.
The week before last, during one of my meetings with my mentor, I started to understand why I lost my confidence and why I feel hopeless yet determined to succeed. Whenever someone tells me that I am intelligent, or that I have impressive achievements, or that I am hard on myself when I discuss my shortcomings: somehow it does not feel right. It does not compute.
The realisation I had, was that I put too much credibility in the things people say to me. In the past, this had meant that I had grown overconfident and was unaware of my weaknesses because I would pick and choose what sounded like what I wanted to hear and automatically believe it. When reality refused to comply, I was shot into the other direction whereby I would only believe the negative comments made by others throughout my life.
I still take literally everything that people say to me including all the bad stuff. It is a bit of a mystery, why I am more likely to believe negative descriptions of myself, rather than positive ones. I have come to realise part of the reason is because when people comment on others’ lives, they use each other for comparison for achievement. I maintain the idea that it is not wise to use other people as measuring rods, yet this is something that I unconsciously continue to do.
The benefit of being aware of this has allowed me to analyse which beliefs continue to be influenced by external forces. This enables me to acknowledge and disregard what I cannot do while working towards what I can do. In the last few years, I have found it quite difficult to maintain employment. This is not necessarily because of the things that I cannot do, but it is because of the things I can do quite well. The experience of losing employment (specifically in January 2016) destroyed my confidence. The inadequacies of other people caused this situation, although I can trace the decline of my confidence back almost a decade.
Last week I discovered a funding proposal for a PhD that is in the Cultural Studies, Humanities, Performing and Creative Arts. As I was reading the specification, I realised that I could create a project that spans the entire criteria. This line of thought began when I found my Year 9 SATs results a few weeks earlier. I had achieved Level 8 in music (above average is stated as Level 6), even though I do not consider myself to be a musician.
Then I remembered that I did have the potential to become a musician: I learnt to play the drums and achieved distinction in my exam, I learnt how to produce music using an early version of Reason, and I had even written several spoken word poems and recorded one in a studio. My grandmother had a keyboard which I taught myself to use and I still have this keyboard tucked away in my spare room.
In the last semester of university, I submitted a project proposal which utilises my personal contacts within the local music industry. I had put aside this plan so I could focus on the more epistemological aspects of Autism. As I was reading the funding proposal the PhD, I remembered the other type of creative art was engaged in during childhood and early adulthood.
I can still feel the heartbreak even as I write this. I have harboured this pain for over 10 years and have never truly recovered from it. I was around five when I started ballet and had once dreamed of pursuing a career in dance. In 2006 I took my last exam and had to quit because of financial difficulties. Although I had continued to create dances to keep fit, I never performed in another show or took part in another in a competition. I buried my dance past and locked all my trophies away.
Last week something changed. When I was considering a project for the PhD, I realised that I had never really documented, or even written down, my dance qualifications. I found the folder containing all my dance certificates and one by one logged the details into a spreadsheet. 52 dance exams, at least 8 dance competitions, and 20 years of performing two shows a year. I had achieved distinction, highly commended, honours the clear majority of those exams. I had even won key national competitions too.
Am I truly over dance? I have been running away from the negative feelings that my failure to earn enough money had created. I realised that by looking at it as a failure, I was not giving true justification for my experience and the skills I have developed over the years.
Confidence. This is what I was looking for – how can I reclaim my confidence?
I remember during all those exams, each show and dance competition; the way I handled my anxiety, my nerves and persisted to the best of my ability. That was not an act – it was a performance. Now I consider that my problems with anxiety and confidence only really started after I stopped dancing. This used to be such a huge part of my life and I just gave it up.
I am not certain whether I will be able to participate in the level of dance that I left, however the skills I learned from performing – strength and courage – can help me build the confidence to achieve that which I want to achieve.
Mixed Face; An Answer to the Question: Am I Autistic? focused more on my intellectual pathway. I did briefly mention dancing; however, it was quickly dismissed. Now, I am starting to believe that I can truly unite every aspect of my interests.
Perhaps this was the reason it all happened in the first place…..