New year / Old me
Sometimes, I feel like I am trapped in a glass box – the more I grow, the tighter the squeeze. Above me, there is the infamous glass ceiling – the one every woman must smash. At least it is not as thick as it used to be. Still, it remains almost invisible. But it is still there.
Either side of me the two walls are locked in racial opposition. On my right is my white heritage – English and proud. On my left is my black heritage – Jamaican and proud. Like millions of others – my existence bridges the gap, serving as a mediator.
The final two walls serve to connect my cultural existence. At my back is my family – the foundations of my existence – but most of all my daughter. It is her existence that roots me and inspires me to keep fighting. When my partner came along, he stood on the other side holding the structure intact.
The fourth wall is opaque. It was impossible to see through as a child. As I got older I started to feel a cold draft from it, so I raised and drew the curtains. It got a little warmer, but then I noticed that the curtains had frozen.
The ice spread to the other walls so I did the only thing I could do – smash through the ice. It is an ongoing battle – one I cannot afford to lose. Every now and then, I attack the fourth wall and I get a glimpse of what is on the other side: multiple houses, brand new cars, holidays and watches. The poison of greed is corruption, but not everyone is affected.
If you are a man you have no glass ceiling – you have a wooden one. You cannot see the stars beyond and have been taught not to embrace your emotions. If you’re monocultural you have no left or right walls. If you have no family then you have no back wall. If your wealthy there is no fourth wall; there is no coldness, no walls or restrictions. You have a freedom most of us can only imagine. If you have any type of disability – you have no floor. It must be built by the scaffolds of society – and if society itself is your disability…..
Before I knew anything about autism, I had built my own floor based on my perceptions of the structures that society operates within. Shortly after my diagnosis, I found those unstable foundations had begun to crumble. Subsequently, they collapsed and I was forced to rebuild.
I am still in the process of understanding my experiences. Each day I get stronger, more confident. Reflecting back on my life prior to awareness of autism, I realised that if I had built my own support without knowing what I was doing then I could do it again.
The first phase that I attempted to help rebuild my life centred on what I was reading about autism. The descriptions are given by those with the condition alongside the externalist medical criteria and research mostly agree that autism is a disability. Not everyone agrees – some feel that it is a natural difference that is misunderstood.
As I dug deeper I started to reflect on how I perceived autism was affecting my behaviour. Prior to diagnosis, I had my own way of moving. Post diagnosis I stimmed typically by hand flapping and rocking. I started to incorporate the moves back into music by dancing like I used to before I had ever heard of the condition. This improved my back, arms and neck that had become unbearably painful over the last few years.
The gaps in knowledge I was exploring through academia became personal. My experience was not being reflected in any of the knowledge that has been produced thus far. How can I be autistic yet have such a distinct experience?
Perhaps it is the glass box that distorts peoples view of my reality. Autistic people perhaps can be stubborn, but we are also impressionable. Tell us we cannot do something and to a certain extent we will believe you.
We have made a little progress to dismantle the toxic scaffolds of society that are rotten to the core. More work needs to be done to identify the ones that appear stable but are in fact poisoned from within.
This year will be interesting. I wonder where we will end up.