I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost six months now, but I couldn’t think of a good way to talk about it. Heck, even talking about it directly at all seemed completely impossible. Well, I’m sensing a convergence of several things on my relatively near horizon, and that gave me a fun idea about how to write this post. Here goes…
Hi! My name is Hadley. I was born in Massachusetts in 1988. I was always really excited to be in the world. Everything was new. Everything was great. I started school in 1993 and quickly learned that I was different. I couldn’t tell how, I just was. By the time my second year of school rolled around, things were just too much to handle. There was some kind of misalignment. I couldn’t understand what it was. There were no options I was aware of. I often lamented out loud how it seemed like I was just irreconcilably different. Eventually I faded away. Life kept going on, but I wasn’t really that present.
I started building things and dumping as much creativity into the world as I could. I still tried to fit in. In middle school, I played baseball. I was terrible at it. I didn’t like doing it, but it seemed to make my dad happy when I had a few good moments. The most fun I ever had was my second to last year playing. The team I was on was awful and we lost every game. At least then there was no pressure. Even then though, I could tell I just didn’t fit on the team.
By that time, puberty had kicked in like an unwelcome party guest. It was a confusing time. It was a frustrating time. Leading up to it, I was so scared I’d be one of the first people to go through it. I’d long understood the changes, at least in an academic sense, but going through them firsthand was entirely different. Some things were gradual enough that I never even noticed. My voice changing was one of those. I honestly don’t even think it changed that much. Growing taller too. I never did get that tall, so I guess it just seemed like a continuation of getting taller as a child. Facial hair I absolutely could’ve done without. I was ashamed of it and scared to ask my parents what to do. I guess in a way, having mostly checked out earlier, I was disconnected from all those changes. They happened, but I pretended not to notice. I just checked out even further.
There were times when I noticed others were becoming different. They seemed to embrace the changes with open arms. My best friend I remember really came into his own. By the end of high school, he became really popular. Confident. Very much into girls in a way I just didn’t understand. Most of my friends ended up being like that. Even the ones who were clumsy about it.
Eventually I made my way into college naively expecting things would improve and be different there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My freshman year there was probably the worst year of my life. If I hadn’t already clamped down, I certainly did after that. Subsequent years weren’t nearly as bad, but I absolutely felt damaged beyond all repair. The only hope that kept me going was that I would be able to get a good-paying job when I graduated.
By my senior year though, even my hopes about getting a good job were fading. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to get a job. I worked hard to get one and did get one, but all the closing off had finally taken hold of my talent and interest in the field I was studying. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. All my passion was gone. Graduating, moving out on my own, and starting a “career” was like a shot of adrenaline to a dying heart. It boosted me for around 6 months, but then I was back to the same old track to nowhere.
By this time, I had all but forgotten about who I used to be. That person was long gone. After bouncing around on the bottom for a while, I could tell this was just no way forward. The closing off had taken everything. I was just existing for the sake of it. A shell going through the motions.
But that brings me to now. That was the past. Painful as it was, what’s done is done. I can no more change those things than I can turn off gravity. I’m not sure how I found her, but I found her, or maybe she found me. Sitting quietly on the bottom, waiting for the end, she found me. Maybe she knew I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t push her away this time. She was me. I was her. I am her.
Suddenly as if by magic, things began to seem real again. A future that wasn’t there suddenly was. A shell has no future. It’s just a shell. People have futures. She’s a person. She has a future. I have a future.
Let me tell you about my future. My hair is longer. Longer than it’s ever been before. Sometimes I put a bow barrette in it to keep it in place. Most of the time I just have a nice headband. When I look at myself in the mirror, I smile instead of looking away. It almost brings me to tears imagining all the years I wasted hating myself. I wear brightly colored clothes. A fun t-shirt with a reference to one of my favorite movies. Maybe a skirt or sun dress if the weather is nice. Instead of bland shoes, I have colorful but simple shoes. I replaced the laces on them to be blue instead of white.
I have a classic car that I love; a first generation Toyota MR2. I feel great driving it around. Sometimes people talk to me about it when I park to go to the coffee shop. Some people are surprised to see a young woman who knows so much about such an interesting car. I love talking to them about it. I love how it makes me feel when I’m driving it. My hair blowing in the wind from the t-top. Cute sunglasses and pride knowing I’m exactly who I want to be. I’m excited to be in the world again.
Even though things might not always be great (I still have many of the same real-world problems as before), I have a far more positive attitude and feel well-equipped to tackle problems. I even feel like getting into a relationship and having that in my life is something I’d welcome. Unlike before where it felt like a necessary addition, the lack of which caused me to feel inferior, it now feels like a bonus. It’s ok if that’s not part of my life, because I’m happy as myself. I’m the real me. I’m not really sure to whom I’m attracted. I think I’m still rather asexual, but it doesn’t provide as much definition for me as it once did. My new confidence makes me far more attractive to potential partners and I’m far more ready to be in that role. I’m not squicked out by it as much. Imagining myself with a partner in a sexual situation makes me feel happy instead of gross.
That’s the future I want. That’s the future I need. That’s the future that’s possible for me. Hadley didn’t find me. I didn’t find her. I am her. I am Hadley.