Adapting to various and often difficult situations is an unavoidable hurdle in adult life. Not just adult life, as you have to combat unfavourable situations throughout your entire life, I just feel that as an adult storming out the room, having a tantrum or punching things isn’t really as acceptable when dealing with the above (although not everyone seems to have gotten that memo.)
I long for the days when I was angst riddled teen and whenever I didn’t like what I heard or had to deal with problems or problematic people, I’d just throw some shade, flip my excessively long fringe and then put my headphones back in (punk rock!) Sadly, such behaviour doesn’t merit a particularly good response at this age, so over the last few years I’ve been forced to change how I handle myself in times of ‘crisis’ (that and my headphones broke.)
Whilst growing up I had to alter certain aspects of myself in order to pass through the murkier periods of my life. When I was younger in high school, my squeaky fem voice ushered in a hoard of questions and remarks about my sexuality – especially during the testosterone filled PE lessons. So to adapt I had to muster from the lowest depths of my bowels the manliest bark possible, either that or simply stop talking. I chose the latter, as there was a period in my life where my voice was so high-pitched only dogs could hear me. There was no masking that. This was the first time in my life where I actually recall having to change aspects of who I was in order to survive. I know people will say ‘just be yourself’ but to be perfectly blunt that shit doesn’t fly in a small town when you’re only the gay in school – high school was a fucking warzone; I did what I could to survive – including taking several girlfriends. I remember I always stuttered when my straight friends asked ‘so who do you like?’ ‘Oh, wow, that’s such a tough question. I mean all the girls are so hot. Tits. Fanny. I mean, yeah. Love that. Um, can I get back to you?’ I had so many girl crushes, but never actually fancied any of them. Literally that question was the bane of the first couple of years of school for me. Then I half came out, that infamous ‘I’m bi-sexual’ stage and that particular question stopped -as did the invites to stay over at friends’ houses.
So up until around 3rd and 4th year I had to adapt in the terms of reigning in and concealing my gender preference. I became a chameleon of sexuality; learning to adapt to whatever environment I was in. I carried this ability with me for over a decade. As I grew up I made new friends, more open minded friends (some a lot more so than others *ahem*) but even then the vast majority of my friendship circle was guys. I had a four or five close female friends (enough to constitute a coven) but the vast majority were straight guys, and as such I adopted a lot of traits displayed by them – yet remaining defiantly camp, but in a blockish way. For example: I always loved a day-long xbox session, but I always played as female characters in games. If we were having a jam I’d always be willing to play in drop C, but often would add the more sensitive riffs or chord progressions – which if you’re in an alt/metal band doesn’t really go down well. When they had issues with their girlfriends being moody I was there to say ‘yeah man, fuck her!’ swiftly followed by ‘but maybe what she’s feeling is…’
Now, as I stumble through the remainder of my twenties I’ve had to apply these skills in a new way. Over the last few years my mental has taken some major highs and lows. I’ve had suicide attempts, eating-disorders, low moods, alcohol problems… there’s been a lot I’ve had to work through; I’ve had to adapt and change a lot in order to fix these problems, in order to survive and beat them. All those problems I just mentioned are all massive; they took a lot of time to resolve. But in terms of my day-to-day life, I still need to adapt and control myself. If there’s a work colleague I don’t get on with, resisting the urge to verbally confront them is difficult. But in order for me to progress and succeeded I needed to alter my response to the situation. Same applies socially; there is someone that is particularly punching away at my patience right now. My natural go-to would be to put him in his place, but by doing that it can cause a ripple effect and impact other friendships, so I need to adapt and accept that person is set in their ways and at the end of the day his presence shouldn’t even register. I’m the bigger person. Always be the bigger person.
Ironically, the aspects of my sexuality I felt obligated to mask when I was younger I now I find myself needing to embrace in order to fit in with my new friends and social life. Until I moved to Glasgow I never thought I’d have a circle of homosexual friends – my own gaggle of gays. The idea was completely alien to me. I never thought I’d go clubbing or be on the gay ‘scene’. I never thought I’d wear makeup, or worry about my eyebrows – yet I do. I’ve changed and I guess it was all another subconscious effort to adapt to my new surroundings. Even yesterday at work during lunch, there are lot more ‘lad’ types in my new store and they were discussing football and betting, and I was sat there completely bewildered as I didn’t have a clue how to sneak into the conversation. I toyed with the idea of shouting “yes, vagina, slay!” but that was the spirit of my repressed 13-year-old-self attempting to get out.
Adapting is key to growing and it’s a necessity if you want to survive this world – I only wish I’d learned how to adapt much earlier. Or rather, where adapting would have been useful. Every day is a learning day for me, particularly because I’m now gifted with the ability to feel things again thanks to change of medication. So everything is fresh, every situation I encounter new, every confrontation an opportunity to demonstrate my ability to adapt, to conquer, to succeeded.
*My voice eventually broke when I was 16, on the day when we had a concert, and I had a solo in the choir. We were singing Lloyd Weber’s ‘Pie Jesu’. Puberty struck me at the wrong time and I’ve never forgiven it for how flat I was during that farce of a performance.