In one of my favorite movies, The NeverEnding Story, the pivotal climax occurs when the young protagonist, the introverted, avid reader named Bastian is desperately called upon by the characters in the book he’s reading to give their Empress a new name in order to save their world, Fantasia, the collective pool of pediatric imagination, from destruction by mass negligence.
In the dramatic scene, Bastian courageously climbs the steps leading to a rickety old window that won’t stay securely closed, and, in the middle of a raging and scene-appropriate thunderstorm, he proceeds to holler out his mother’s name into the howling wind and rain, which obscure the audio such that it’s unintelligible for the movie viewer.
Recently, I’ve done something similar. Except that there is no wind or thunderstorm, nor is there an incompetent window in a freaky old attic, nor is it my mother’s name.
There is, however, a real story, with real characters, and probably enough posts on this blog already to convert to a book (a readers’ (plural) wish that I will eventually grant (thank you and a big shout-out to the many who have offered so much encouragement!))
Because the posts–and their words and topics–are indeed real. The stories, thoughts, victories, struggles, opinions, and memories I share are also indeed real. Everything mentioned and written about here is 100% honest truth, as the Bio on the About page currently states.
Up until this point, I had simply signed my comments where applicable as “The Silent Wave” or, more fully, “The Silent Wave Blog writer”, usually followed by at least one emoji (of course; or 17).
People have affectionately moulded this into various more personal forms, including “SW”, “TSW”, and my favorite, “Ms. Wave”.
Some of you have already picked up on this name change, which tells me that people really do read the About pages on blogs (which is really cool!), because so far, that had been the only “rainy window” from which my new pseudonym has been called out.
More visible was the Gravatar avatar change, from the (caution: personal opinion ahead) beautiful and vague, yet soul-penetrating and semi-eerie single blue eye to an avatar that bears surprising resemblance to the real me (except 10-15 years younger) on a really good day in real life. (Another big thank-you and shout-out to those who have complimented me on that, too!)
For the cheap seats, my pseudonym is Laina. Lovely fellow blog-writer Mamautistic, in a recent post, has unknowingly inspired me to tack on a last name for completeness. As of early this morning, I was less clear about what that name should be.
For me, a chosen name (be it a social media handle or what-have-you) has to have a significant meaning, a deep symbolism that, in an inside joke with myself, pays some kind of tribute or headnod to someone special, a life-changing event or concept, or something along those lines. The meaning of the name Laina is that it’s a spin off of the middle name of someone close to me who, in a reversal of roles since they are younger, serves as a role model for me.
That was an easy play to call; the surname would prove to be more enigmatic. (Caution: massive Info-Dump ahead…)
I considered Wolfe, since I’ve often described myself as a lone one and it seems to work; I also consider the Wolf a kindred spirit animal of sorts. I also considered Madison, a tribute to–and the full name of–our beautiful little cat (my grieving for whom I’ve written about here), whose spirit, still brighter and larger than life itself, remains forever intertwined with ours. I also thought about Sphinx, Wanderlust, Shakti, and a few other awesome-sounding, meaning-filled terms I’ve loved over the years.
I finally decided on Eartharcher. I considered Archer by itself, but then realized that pronouncing “Laina Archer” might be a bit awkward for some, as the two adjacent “a”s (the last letter of Laina and the first letter of Archer) might not roll off the tongue without a momentary stumble at times.
The “archer” part has significant meaning for me; it’s the mascot of the astrological sign of Sagittarius, and although that’s not my astrological Sun sign, Sagittarius was the first one I learned to identify by symbol as a little kid, long before even learning my own (Virgo). In fact, I would get downright excited when I would spot it on the astrological wheel among the other Sun sign symbols. When eventually read up on it, that excitement was justified; I exhibit plenty of those characteristics – exploring, needing space, innocent/well-meaning bluntness (whoops), impatience when cornered/confined, a thirst for knowledge, a seeker of truth, and a warrior for justice.
The “Earth” part is pretty straightforward. At this juncture, I currently inhabit it. It’s also the physical/material theater in which we all currently co-reside and connect. Also, I’m pretty earthy. My own astrological Sun sign, Virgo, is also an earth sign.
Of course, the word pseudonym, by its very nature, implies that the name itself is not my real one. And of course, the avatar image is not an actual photo of me.
Those two details are the only lies I’m ever going to tell you.
Telling you these two lies may run against the moral codes of some, and I respect that. However, I think that the benefits of telling these two lies outweigh the potential moral conundrum. I have my reasons; I’ll share them.
1 – Truth, Honesty, Baggage-Free:
Telling these two lies allows me to be 100% truthful about everything else. The “everything else” consists of topics that matter. Topics that change perceptions, alter paths, save lives. Topics that demonstrate evidence that comforts others by showing them that they’re not alone. That they, too, are not weird or broken or inadequate or any of the other put-downs that get hurled at us and write the book of who we are and who we become.
Cloaking myself in the new name-and-pic “duds” also allows me to step into a shiny untainted version of myself, in which I’m not bogged down by previous baggage–scars earned through criticism and conflict, fighting battles and getting battered. Doing this means that I feel even freer to be even more honest and candid, because there’s little to zero shame or reverberations of old tapes and moldy feelings holding me back, making me pick up where my childhood left off and continue to doubt myself. I can become more expressive, more genuine.
I promise, this persona is not simply a side-stage, where what I reveal is carefully selected and whitewashed to “impress” an audience, or packaged into a Marketable Me that’s easy to swallow. It’s not a false picture or a half-truth.
This persona is simply me in a parallel universe, one in which I haven’t been shackled up in any chains and mocked for making the mistake of letting the world at large see my true self.
But it really is me in there. A me that hasn’t gotten burned. A me without the dents, cracks, or scuff marks. The me that I was supposed to be.
The me that should have been, dammit.
2 – Professionally Closeted:
Both my occupation and position in my geographical community put me in a fairly delicate situation. Other than the four work-related people I’ve come out as Aspie/autistic to, I’m not (yet) in a position in which I’m able to shout my status from the rooftops unto the world at large yet. General society still clings to stereotypes, harbors unquestioned misconceptions, and jumps to erroneous and lazy conclusions. My competence, my licensure, and possibly even my livelihood (the latter of which is fragile enough as it is) could be thrown into jeopardy overnight, and my magic flying carpet could be yanked right out from under me.
My professional world is not yet ready for me, and acceptance may take a longer time to reach than most.
It’s an inconvenient, ugly, and shameful (on the part of the rest of the world) truth, but my hands are tied; I have no choice but to play the reindeer game. It’s the only way I can help feed ourselves and pay the rent.
But I’m probably preaching to the choir; I’m certain that more than a few of you know exactly what I’m talking about, probably because you’re in the same boat, or you know someone who is. Or maybe you don’t, but you can empathize anyway (three cheers for busting the “lack of empathy” stereotype!) 😉
I have been fairly vague about details, careful not to spill any beans lest anyone (offline, most likely NT) put two and two together and “out” me prematurely. I’m not concerned about anyone on the spectrum or any of our allies doing that. Nor do I think it would be done in malice or with wrongful intentions. It would probably be a curious neurotypical member of clientele whose intentions are innocent enough. But I wouldn’t be able to exert much influence over their reaction to finding out. I wouldn’t be there to temper the speed and direction of their thought trains. Nor would I be able to have any say over what would be done with that information afterward (even if the response was neutral or positive).
3 – Integrity, Purity:
Another reason why I obscure my details is to maintain the purity and integrity of my writing and my identity. I’m not trying to sell anyone anything. This blog is strictly, at this point, a volunteer labor of love. By remaining anonymous, I can put my money where my mouth is and demonstrate that. 🙂
(There may indeed come a time when I write a book, or perhaps I come fully “out” in professional life and decide that my true calling actually lies in the niche of offering effective support for people who are specifically on the spectrum, but that’s speculation into the distant future, a range too long to bring into clear focus right now. Should that day ever come, where I venture into a more commercial direction, I’ll take Google’s long-forgotten “don’t be evil” torch and carry it proudly, living it fully, without dropping it or extinguishing it. But for now, that’s neither here nor there. Let’s just say that I won’t ever be an arse; I’ll be who I’ve always been: an ordinary member of our extraordinary community.)
So anyway, the decision to sacrifice the mundane details is the only way (at this time) in which I can disclose other more important details. I swap out ones that don’t make a significant impact in favor of those that do.
Worry Not 🙂
Despite the surface changes–the name and the avatar, my continued journey with all of you up (not down) this path continues as it always has. I’m still the same fundamental person inside. True to form, routine rules and change sucks, so I change as little as possible…except for the natural evolution of life, that is.
And for me to make the decision to change and implement said change, it has to be worth it. There has to be something in it for me. More importantly, there has to be something in it for you. And those benefits have to outweigh the time and effort it takes to make those changes.
And in making these cosmetic/surface changes, I think, in fact, that the answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above.
The something in it for me is that I get to become closer to a lot of you. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I hadn’t expected, but it was a really pleasant surprise. It’s not that I didn’t feel close to you before, but over the past few days, something has transformed, deepened, strengthened. My theory is that it feels more personal to have a name and a face, even if slightly deviated, to attach to the entity (me).
The something in it for you, I’m guessing is similar to what’s in it for me, except from your perspective. I know that for some of you, having that name and that face to mentally attach to the name, blog, and social media profile is comforting and connecting.
The effort and time it took? Negligible.
Oh yeah 🙂
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(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)