My grandmother told me recently I’m the emotional equivalent of Benjamin Button. You know, Brad Pitt’s character who ages in reverse. Now first let me say I love my Nan. She’s legitimately one of my favorite people on the planet. That being said, she can come up with some of the most brutal takes I’ve ever heard in my life.
The thing is though, she’s never wrong and she wasn’t wrong this time either. I have aged, emotionally, very much in reverse. As a little kid I sounded more like your average senior citizen than a pre schooler. I was largely more at ease talking to adults than kids my own age. That might partially be attributed just to me thinking I was a grown up at the age of five, but I think my disability had a lot to do with it too.
Not unlike many disabled kids, growing up I spent a lot of time around doctors and in hospitals. I’ve always been very open and friendly, speaking early and well, and refusing to stop ever since. On top of that I was fortunate to have medical professionals who wanted to make sure I understood, to the best of my ability, what was happening with my health. I learned to talk to my doctors both about myself and just to make small talk. This carried over into my other relationships with adults in my life creating me, a small-scale senior citizen.
All throughout school teachers told my parents, me and even other teachers how mature I was. I quickly picked up that this was a good thing and did my best to always act mature. As I got older I managed to strike a better balance between that maturity and being able to relate and socialize with my peers. However being disabled creates its own challenges for socializing and outside of school itself there wasn’t much in the way of relationship building until middle school. But even in afterschool activities I found myself gravitating more toward teachers and counselors and less toward my peers and this continued through high school.
Then college happened. Ah college, the great awakening…of my rampant nerdiness. What had started as an affinity for YA fantasy/scifi and a years long love of the Shrek franchise, blossomed into an appreciation for anime, Star Trek and that holy grail of geek, comic book conventions. I welcomed it all. Somewhere along the way the little kid that I probably should have let out to play more often hijacked my personality. It turns out she’s a pretty good co-pilot.
In the last few years I have more and more unabashedly embraced the things I enjoy. I have delved deep into fandoms and discovered countless people who have the same love of these worlds and characters. I can honestly say a few of these fandoms are what have brought me out of some of the deepest darkest holes my mental health has put me in. I’m grateful for that. And I honestly don’t think it would have been possible if I hadn’t “grown up backwards”.
So yeah, I’m the emotional equivalent of Benjamin Button. But that just means that I’m an adult who’s learning how to enjoy and cultivate the good in life. I think that’s a skill we could all use, regardless of age.