Thursday, 3 April 2014


Jack sat in his box on an impossibly high shelf; out of bounds of the working class, middle class, wealthy and the dregs of society. He wasn't above them or beneath them, but was forgotten. There was no defined place for a man with quirks; quirks which meant he couldn't interact or hold down a regular job. But Jack being a gentle and contented soul made the best of what he was and didn't mind being on the periphery.
Even as a young man, Jack had never felt he was 'all wrong' as he'd been told and put what skills he had to good use; made up for what people said were his inadequacies. He worked in spurts: six months repairing bicycles, three months in a bakery, two months loading and unloading stock in a warehouse, and a month of Saturdays delivering newspapers, and between each job he took a break for the world he found himself in taxed him. He had to concentrate ten times more than the average person or he'd misread its cues. It was exhausting!
People thought him odd and avoided engaging with him, but while this hurt, it released him from trying to be what he knew he could never be: a fully integrated member of society. He would never work like that and preferred to be a part-timer: there, but only sometimes seen. And it was comforting to have his box, at all times, around him.
Then, when Jack was 46, everything changed...
He got given a brand new box, a new label, and was moved to a lower shelf, which brought him closer to 'normal' people. There, he found others who had for many years coped with life like him. Some were ecstatic at this new positioning, some were cross at being newly labelled, and some were still processing the fact that what they thought was normal functioning had been wrong.
Now everyone wanted in: to say they had this, had that, which was why they couldn't do such and such and which explained their inability or unwillingness to be social. Quirks were no longer just that, they had deeper reasons and were strategic mechanisms.
Jack hated his new box because instead of reassuring him, it made him feel more vulnerable. When he tried to engage, people automatically made assumptions and therefore didn't treat him as equal. What's more the new spectrum was so broad, everyone presented symptoms or tried to prescribe them to other people. Yet again, differentness was being lost and not being valued.
With so many people picking their boxes and placing themselves on this sliding personality and behavioural scale, Jack mourned the loss of his uniqueness. He had been robbed of what he had seen as his traits and twitches. And although, he shied away from saying the magic word, (the term of his diagnosis), somehow his likes/dislikes were accounted for and his needs were accommodated. But instead of feeling functioning, Jack felt more disordered.
He determined that he would abandon this classified box that said ensconced in here you can be you, and left the lower shelf he'd been moved to and where he was told he must sit. Relief surged through him as he ripped off the label so recently given him.
He'd always known who and what he was; he didn't need a box or a label for society to recognise or accept him. If Jack ever went back in his box, it would be one of his own making.