Listen: There are things we are supposed to want out of life, and there are the means by which we are supposed to attain them. There are cultural events, life milestones, rites of passage, and personal interactions which we are supposed to eagerly anticipate, and those we are supposed to bemoan. There are standards of comportment we are supposed to uphold, degrees of amiability we are supposed to project, and durations of eye contact we are supposed to maintain.
We are supposed to know when to laugh and when not to laugh. We are supposed to stand a certain way and sit in a certain way, and ways in which we are not supposed to stand or sit. We are supposed to have street smarts, as opposed to book smarts, but we should have enough street smarts to know how to attain those book smarts. We are supposed to be honest, except when we aren’t supposed to be. We are supposed to be careful and we are supposed to take big risks.
We are supposed to have jobs and we are supposed to seek to advance in both position and compensation in these jobs. We are supposed to look forward to lunch. We are supposed to care a great deal about food and eating and sporting events and and acts of geographical transit and the weather. We are supposed to care a great deal about many, many things, and we are supposed to know what those are without being informed in advance.
I have lived my life riven by “suppostas.” From the very first moment I realized that the world had expectations of me beyond the routine of elementary school classrooms, I was in a state of near constant bewilderment as to how I should go about my existence. All rules were unspoken and yet somehow universally understood and viciously enforced. I never received instructions, only penalties for failing to follow them.
So I flailed about in search of guidance; examples to follow and role models to emulate. But I never found any templates that I could build upon, no maps I could interpret, no ciphers I could even attempt to break. In day-to-day moments, there were ways to sit, to stand, to walk, to move, or not move, and I coudn’t make sense of them, which often meant defaulting to keeping very still. In…