With no in-person visits or bus rides to suggest that perhaps I fit myself into society a little better, I was free to follow my interests (and my ADHD) to their fullest potential.
In middle school, I used to proclaim loudly that “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me” while I obsessively tracked everyone’s reaction to what I wore and how I acted. The advice to “just be yourself” is common, but pretty hard to follow. What if who you are is really weird?
As a trans guy in America, I already exist way outside of the norms of society, according to many. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t holding back! 2020 was the year that finally pushed me to lean into my own weirdness completely. It’s been great, despite the difficulties of the past year.
I’m medically high risk for COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, I suffered from a good deal of social anxiety. A couple of weeks into sheltering in place, I worried that this experience would leave me unable to talk to other human beings at all.
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It turns out, getting more comfortable in your own skin has the opposite effect.
“I ordered the incubator, it’s time for quaran-quail!” I said to my partner in the spring.
Because we already had backyard ducks, the leap into more pandemic poultry-keeping was small. It was fun for our kid (and the adults) to have the exciting project of hatching tiny eggs to distract us when the country first began grappling with the virus. After a lot of research, I decided that pint-sized Japanese quail would be a good fit for our limited space. We ordered miniature blue hatching eggs off eBay, and ended up with nine tiny birds in an enclosure my 5-year-old and I built from scrap wood.
At some point, I also started consuming history books (via the library app on my phone) at breakneck speed. And then, finally, I got the shirt of my dreams, which I ordered from a family of revolutionary war re-enactors and waited six weeks for.
The shirt of my dreams is a historically accurate, 100% linen 18th century men’s shirt. It has billowy sleeves and if not tucked into my pants, falls just past my knees. The first time I saw it in person, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of fabric involved.
By September, I had become the kind of guy who wanders around the garden in a combination of historical menswear and faded sweatpants, casually referring to himself as “basically a hobbit.” With no in-person visits or bus rides to suggest that perhaps I fit myself into society a little better, I was free to follow my interests (and my ADHD) to their fullest potential. Homeschooling my daughter, who was not up for remote learning, helped me remember how much I love doing research and learning about how kids’ brains work. I also worked on a novel, though it’s still unfinished.
As the year comes to a close, I’m not the same person I was 12 months ago. Things have been hard, but I’m also grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to get to know myself better. And rather than rejecting me for being a weirdo, my friends seem ready to chat about historical blacksmithing, various educational philosophies, or the fact that medieval people ate dinner by 11 a.m.
I’m still saving up for my 18th century waistcoat, however, because those things are pricey.