In the previous post on this subject, I covered my various personas, or avatars, I adopted during various phases of my life. I took on (at first) and created (later on) these personas/avatars in order to accomplish one of two things, depending on my level of self-confidence: I either wanted to 1) fit in, out of conformity (lower self-confidence) or 2) branch out in uniqueness (higher self-confidence).
Make no mistake, though…even in the case of creating a persona to branch out as a unique individual, there were certain parameters, “Do Not Cross” lines. Some were set by my parents (“no way, you are not dying your hair pink!!”); others were set by my peers (no one else had a nose ring, either….damn); and still others were set by me (uhhh, I do not feel comfortable wearing “short” shorts–or any shorts for that matter).
Also, I was not branching out as an individual in order to call attention to myself; that’s just not my style. Rather, it was more of a subtle rebellion, a subtle personal statement. I would stay within my Comfort Zone, play by other peoples’ rules, and life was fine.
Regardless, even from within the confines of my various cages, I still found paths to self-expression on the down-low. In that recent post, you witnessed it begin to blossom, as I found my artistic nerdy self, and began to feel somewhat comfortable in it. This post will pick up where that one left off.
After one go-round (attempt) at university, a three-point-five-year stint in which I changed my major something like four or five times and still ended up unfulfilled and confused, I pressed “Pause” on my university career, working part-time until I could collect my thoughts and channel my energy toward one focus, one direction. That would take a few years. In the meantime, I became the Country Girl. Long-sleeved western shirts and slim, boot-cut jeans (even in 100-degree-Fahrenheit heat), I even had two proper cowboy hats: the white straw hat was for summer, and the black felt one for winter. I cranked the contemporary country music out through the open windows of my V8 pickup truck. I was sun-bleached and heat-resistant. I enjoyed the dry high plains of North Texas, complete with its gigantic and turbulent sky. I had come home. Although a biological female, I was “gentlemanly”. I felt at home on a ranch, driving past the rolling hills, fields of longhorn cattle. I would even moo out the window, at the cattle. Hey, at least I said hi. 🙂
Within a few years of spinning my brain-wheels regarding the whole “what do I want to do with my life?” question, I finally enrolled back in university, along with my partner. During this time, we took a Comparative World Religions class. On the first day, we began to cover the basic tenets of Hinduism and a light bulb went off in my head. Like my neurotype, I had never been able to find a term for my beliefs. So far, the fundamental beliefs common to (almost) all Hindus was the closest I’d ever been able to pinpoint. My jaw dropped, I turned to my partner, and excitedly whispered, “we’re basically Hindu!!”
From there, I bought books on Hinduism. I really felt at home with the philosophy, the way of life, and I began to adopt it. By then, I was also becoming a massage therapist, and that training also exerted its influence. I began to dabble in chakra healing, Ayurvedic medicine, contemporary music from India (both the world-fusion-type out of the UK with the Indian flair, and the Bollywood music used in Indian movies), their methods of eating and lifestyle, and even their clothing. Champa incense reigned in our house, and I would often be seen wearing salvar kameez (a long shirt and loose pants–generally women’s casual clothing). I loved how they looked and felt on me. I actually went through a Hindu initiation, and became Jyoti (which means “light”); that was the Jyoti Me, AKA the Multicultural Me.
A few years after that, we found ourselves in medical school. I still wore loose shirts from the local Indian grocery store and medium-fit jeans (not too slim, not too baggy), and listened to a variety of electronic fusion known as “ambient dub” or “downtempo/chillout” during the commute to school and back home. I was a vegetarian, Pitta-pacifying style. I used essential oils (lightly) for perfume, and burned candles. I also studied numerology and dharma, and a variety of other subject matter before bed each night. That made up the Med School Me, with additional equal parts “studious” and “brain-fried”. I also had a dual nighttime life as a home-studio-based massage therapist, during which I had to be the “Nurturing Therapist” in addition to the Fried Med School Me.
About mid-way through med school, my partner and I got married. By then, I had also taken on the study of Wicca and Paganism as a whole. (Wicca is a form of Neo-Paganism; Paganism itself is quite the umbrella term.) I had always felt very in-tune with the annual cycle of seasons, the monthly cycle of the moon, a person’s personal energy, which I perceive as a splinter of sorts from a universal energy, and I see the beauty in the yin and yang, realizing gradually that there is no pure good or evil; it’s various shades of gray–or, as I prefer to see it, color. That became the Pagan/Wiccan/Witch Me. That was rather fun! I continue to identify as Pagan-Pantheist.
During the latter part of med school, as we were putting in our clinic hours, we discovered the TV show “House MD”, which remains one of my favorite series to this day. I loved Dr. House himself, but didn’t have the guts to emulate him. I didn’t really have the capability to be that much of an ass. I also wasn’t confident enough in my medical knowledge, nor had I encountered patients that (might have) “warranted” that kind of treatment. Instead, I found comfort in the character Dr. Allison Cameron; she harbored long-standing emotional pain from previous events, like I had, and she was also unsure of herself and had a tough time standing up for herself, as I did. She was also pretty pious when it came to her job–ethics on steroids–like I was. So hers were easy shoes to fill, and I took on that persona at the clinic at school, which was The Clinic Me.
Once out of med school and in our own practice, I quickly realized (the hard way) that continuing to own the Dr. Cameron persona was not going to bode well. I didn’t know what else to do, though. So I stumbled around for a few years…
…which brings us up to the present day.
Currently, I can see that various facets of my life have each made their mark. I sometimes see myself as an amalgam of sorts, depending on my environment. I think that’s probably true for most people, to an extent, whether they’re on or off the spectrum. But it plays a pretty central role in my life, likely more than it might if I were neurotypical (shudder to think lol).
Here’s the current breakdown as I see it…
Office Me #1 is the Tough-Love Empath. I’m quite sensitive to what my clientele are experiencing, and I try to get–and remain–in tune with them. However, I’m no longer an apologetic pushover, like I had been in my early days. In fact, I can be quite blunt when I need to be. I actually told one person flat-out “you have some decisions to make”. And I didn’t follow it up with a wry grin or a nervous chuckle. Instead, I deadpanned, looking them straight in the eyes. I don’t usually have to be such a hard-ass, but I’m really glad I can be when it’s appropriate. I don’t do or say anything that’s not 1) for their own good, and/or 2) for our own survival. Everything I say is either fact or my own opinion, and I let them know which it is. I’ve almost shifted into the Super-Cerebral Me when interacting with clientele at work.
Office Me #2 can come out of hiding when the “peopling” is done for the day, and that avatar/persona is “The Biochemistry Nerd”, “The Brainy Research Analyst”, and something akin to a Dr. House team member, all rolled into one. You’re probably going to giggle–I even made a custom Pandora radio station known as “House MD” and it plays songs either directly from–or similar to–the music actually played on the TV show. It makes me feel smarter, more intelligent, more capable. It helps me focus. It helps me achieve that “in the zone” sensation of deep thought, where the rest of the world melts away and all that’s left is you, your laptop, and a wealth of information ripe for the picking like apples on a tree. I feel all contemplative and genius during those times. I feel like I’m living according to my identity. I feel like I’ve entered the jet stream.
Travel/Conference Me comes out whenever I have to travel out of town to attend professional conferences (which is often); these last for an extended weekend, and I’m usually surrounded by 200-250 people at a time. Usually, I can indeed find one or two people (sometimes more, and sometimes none) to hang with, even if it’s going to lunch or dinner (I don’t like to eat alone, but must often weigh the uncomfortable experience of eating alone with the level of comfort I feel around the people I’ve selected as “potential candidates” to hang out with, too). I rarely hang out with anyone past dinner, though; I usually like to hole up in my hotel room, duplicating the home-based scenario below.
These conferences are slightly more casual than meeting with people at the office, but definitely more formal than my usual weekend approach and clothing. I have to give the impression that I’m “dignified” and “semi-lady-like”, despite the fact that I stubbornly continue to include (clean) jeans in my repertoire.
Social Me isn’t exactly…social. It’s the now-rarer occasion in which I actually leave the house to go hang out with the two friends (who happen to be husband and wife) that we have in our town. (All my other friends–there is a handful–live in other places, the closest of which is 250 miles.) We’re comfortable enough with this couple that we talk and laugh, joking around and shooting the breeze. We go out for lunch or dinner (on a weekend) or go bowling. We’re all peaceful, responsible, and sound-minded/nonviolent firearms enthusiasts to varying degrees, and we’re also all amateur radio operators. We’re all also very quirky and fairly intelligent, so we’ve got plenty to do and talk about. But that’s generally the extent of my sociability. After a few hours out, I come home and start slacking off.
There’s also a Gypsy Me, who likes to go on road trips, usually lasting only that day, and during which I love to crank the tunes on the stereo (a massive iPod Classic playlist of mostly-eclectic music that fits the scene and creates an augmenting backdrop) and visit remote desert-like places within 100-200 miles of where we live. I’m happiest on an open road, with no traffic, and–if possible–the windows down (at least part-way). I’m happiest in motion; maybe on some internal level, I instinctively know that motion is life. The turning of the wheels and the purring of the engine are like second and third heartbeats. I do feel cleansed and more alive, reset and refreshed, after such a day-trip. I know the highway–and its amenities like truck stops and picnic areas–very well, and I feel like those remote regions are like a second home to me. I was definitely born to travel, to keep moving. The desert simply sings to me, reaching in, grabbing my soul, and shaking it violently but pleasurably.
I still do like to visit the ranch; the Country Me has evolved into Ranch Me, where I admire the cacti, the scorpions, the creeks with the crowds of daddy long-leg spiders, the (huge) buzzards (AKA vultures; their wingspan is five to six feet, or almost two meters), the deer prancing in the grass, the big knobby Live Oak trees, and the weeds with sticky-burrs on them (hence, the long jeans). I love a good long day of heavy physical labor at times; it resets my soul, bringing my overactive mind and semi-underactive body back into sync with each other.
At-Home Me just wants to kick off my shoes, throw on light sweat pants, and it doesn’t matter if I comb my hair. I grab my chocolate, my mobile, my laptop, the remote control, and a cat, and park my butt on the couch. I have to get up and go outside or walk around the apartment every few hours; I’m prone to restlessness and might get a little antsy if I don’t. But other than that, I’m quite happy doing nothing.
There are definitely (frequent) times in which I’ll mosey on into the home office, sit down at the desktop computer, turn on a playlist of tunes, and either beller along or hunt for digital artwork or–surprise, surprise–write a blog post.
And with that, I thank you kindly for reading this one! 🙂 ❤
(Image Credit: Minjae Lee)