My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Be True To Yourself


This is something I feel like writing up for the young ones, those in their teens who feel like they don't have a space in the world because they're too different. I'm going to share my experiences growing up, and I hope that I can provide some consolation those who are going through something similar. 

Even though society has progressed quite a bit in many places since I grew up in the late '80s, '90s and early '00s, there's still a level of expected conformity ("be yourself, but not like that"). I have resisted this since my mid-to-late teens after all my trying to fit in failed rather catastrophically - all my attempts to imitate my cool peers and act like the others, to seem like just an ordinary member of whatever demographic my current school had, always resulted in my being exposed as a poseur, and me constantly double-thinking myself. I ended up literally driving myself mad with worry, spiralling into deep anxiety about being found out and exposed as the fraud I was, and deeply miserable because I felt there was no place in the world for the real me underneath the disguise. 

I became deeply, deeply unhappy, self-destructive and quite mentally ill. I descended into my own personal hell, one fuelled also by the abusive and traumatic experiences I had survived, as well as this sense of alienation and the unhappiness I felt in my fake existence. I don't want to recall the exact specifics of how bad it got, but it really was the most awful head-space I have ever been. 

One of the things about me, which I have alluded to on this blog before, but which I haven't spelled out exactly, is that I am neurodivergent. I have Asperger's, which I had suspected for a long time, but it was only about 3 years ago I went to a specialist centre  and was officially diagnosed. It is suspected that I have quite severe dyspraxia, too, and possibly ADHD, but the symptomatic overlap with Asperger's makes it difficult to diagnose, plus there is no NHS service in my region for adults to seek official diagnosis or treatment for either ADHD or dyspraxia. This means there are many ways in which I fundamentally can't be normal, however hard I try to be. 

[I didn't want to admit it, because I am worried that in doing so, people will just see me as someone with Asperger's, and this will be used to overshadow and 'explain' me away, as if all people with Asperger's are the same, and as if Asperger's is all there is to me]

When I was a teen, I didn't know why I was so different, struggled so hard socially, why I everyone seemed so alien and confusing to me, why it seemed like my senses were so much keener than others, why crowds seemed so awful and chaotic to me, why I couldn't see the logic in other humans, why everyone seemed to think, in some fundamental way, differently from me. I sought out explanations, some quite fanciful, I will admit, but they were all lacking. I tried my best to blend in, to capitulate to the rather socially conservative expectations being put on me , to be what others wanted, but eventually I realised that this was impossible. Some of it is my inherent nature - Asperger's, bisexuality, my being essentially agender, these are inherent traits - some of it is something between personality and choice, where my underlying nature probably contributes significantly, but ultimately it is my choice; I'm Neo-Pagan, I'm Goth, I'm a Romantic, I'm a little bit "hippie", passionately green, and have a lot of 'eccentric' tastes and interests, some of it was just my background; there are people who don't have much care for immigrants and their children, or for those who are poor, or come from unconventional families. 

Even if I made all the "normal" choices, I would still be innately different - I still was, when I tried to - and I was miserable because I was suppressing all the things that made me happy. If you cut yourself off from the things you enjoy to fit in better, all you'll do is limit your own happiness, and probably still not fit in any better, or at least, that's what happened to me. Eventually, at about 14 or 15, I gave up pretending and ran headlong into being different. Sometimes I was awkward, obsessive and a bit cringe-worthy growing up (I'd get a bit obsessive about fandoms, and was also a bit of a 'weeaboo' for a while), sometimes I did things out of petty defiance, and sometimes I took 'flying my freak-flag high' a bit too far, sometimes I experimented with different identities trying to find my own, but eventually I levelled out and found myself. I do think there's a place in the world for tact, for moderation (especially as I have obsessive tendencies), and situational awareness, but I learned that there are always ways of being true to myself. 

I learned a lot. I realised that often the world will not just automatically make a space for those who are a little too different, so it is up to us to make our own spaces, and to seek out the others like us. I learned that politeness, compassion and competence can get people to see past difference, especially with patience and kindness. I came to see that being true to myself, and giving myself the freedom of divorcing myself from the pressure to live up to other's expectations, was the key to my happiness. I learned not to really care anymore about the opinions of strangers and busybodies, and to live for myself. Life wasn't about external acceptance, and my self-esteem was no longer predicated entirely on validation from others. 

I also met other people with common interests, and while I will say that my self-worth comes from inner acceptance, it is certainly easier in life when you have support from others. I'm naturally a bit of an introvert, and not the most actively social individual, but even I have found a value in community; a tree can be strong and sturdy on its own, an ancient solitary oak living hundreds of years, even over a millennia, but a whole forest is something else. Goth and Neo-Paganism have been where I have found like-minded individuals, and a sense of homecoming; certainly I'm different even from other Goths, and Neo-Pagans, and will probably always be something of an anomaly in all situations, but this subculture is where I've found my people, and there's something to knowing I'm not completely alien in this world. I don't have to pretend around other Pagans and Goths, I don't have to hide who I am. 

I also learned that it was a waste of energy and time, as well as quite misguided, to be consumed with bitterness at the rest of the world, to define myself by opposition to others, to rail against the "conformists" as terrible people, and bristle with defiance. Instead, I would focus simply on being myself and doing what I enjoyed. 

What this little bit of autobiography is trying to say is this: be yourself, live life for you, and don't let the world break your spirit if it wants you to be something you're fundamentally not. This world has many strange people who are proud of being strange, and who have found, or carved out, their own niche, and have happy, successful lives - even if some of them measure success by different yardsticks. Often the road less travelled is a harder, rougher path, but it is worth it for what you find on the journey. As long as you aren't hurting either yourself or others, do what you enjoy and live life your own way. 

10 comments:

  1. I identify with this so much! Even trying to be normal, trying to be liked in school I was too weird! When I met my boyfriend (now partner) in year 11 it was so good to finally have someone get me! Even after that it took years to find others who would love, not tolerate me! No big surprise they are all alternative or odd!

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    1. Most of my friends are 'odd' or 'different' in one way or another - a lot of them are fellow Goths, but there's hippies, bikers, metalheads, scene kids, and punks, nerds and a few people who are just unclassifiable "odd". There's plenty of differences even among the different, and that's what keeps things interesting.

      It is no nice to have finally made friends with people just as blessedly strange as myself who actually understand me!

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  2. Great post!
    I see nothing wrong with having Aspergers - I'm actually being screened for it nowadays (I'm 22). I view it as a positive thing!

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    1. I don't think having Asperger's as a bad thing overall - yes it has its downsides (especially when it comes to sensory processing, executive functioning and understanding people who... are a little bit more unpredictable) but it has a lot of benefits; I am a natural systems thinker and problem-solver in ways that a lot of neurotypical people aren't, and I have an eidetic memory for visual things, so it's definitely got plus points too. I think, just as neurotypical thinking does, Asperger's thinking has its advantages and disadvantages, but one of the big problems is how other people don't understand that it's simply a difference, innate and neurological, and not "bad behaviour" if I fail to live up to neurotypical standards of behaviour.

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  3. You've given some very sage advice here. Let's also keep in mind that those who have made many of the most important contributions to the world are or were different. I'm thinking music, the arts, literature, etc. It's viewing the world differently that sparks the creative flame.

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    1. MOST people who made a significant contribution to the world were a little bit odd at least; viewing the world differently gives people the chance to do something novel and original, and combined with intelligence, hard work and talent, leads to something special. I have the hard work part, but I think I lack the talent part!

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  4. I am feeling this so much right now. I'm currently doing an internship that I absolutely hate, not because of the internship, or the people that I work with, but because I'm seriously just forcing myself to try and be responsible and get my qualifications to be a teacher, when I'm pretty much the last person who should be teaching. I get no pleasure out of this, at all, it just stresses me out to the point where I'm just exhausted at the end of the week and want to do nothing but sleep.

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    1. If you don't want to be a teacher, and it is exhausting you this much then perhaps you should think about a different career. Sometimes it is only by trying something that we learn it is not for us - I used to think I wanted to be an architect or architectural technician, and wanted to go down a very technical design/engineering route, and now I've learned that what I really want is to be an architectural historian - but it took two years of university to learn that.

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  5. I loved your perspective. I suffer from social anxiety and selective mutism,this makes me somewhat a target for people. I recently started going to college and studying psychology and English I feel I have found my place.

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    1. I'm glad things are improving for you now you're at college. I have social anxiety secondary to my Asperger's; I know I have issues socially because of the Asperger's, and thus I became really apprehensive about socialising because I'm worried my Asperger's will mean that I'll end up doing something to upset someone or embarrass myself, and I know that I'm socially awkward, so I end up anxious about it... making me MORE social awkward! I'm getting better at dealing with it - some of that is not pushing myself too far with the socialising, giving myself enough solitary time.

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