Diary of a Queer Kid Chapter Two: The Battlefield Awaits

By Ashley Simango

First thing’s first, it feels good. Good to escape the matrix built around me. Good to see myself grow out of the timid shell. But there is a glitch that l never saw coming. Remember the escape? Remember me telling myself that l was ready to go out of my comfort zone? Remember me telling my anxiety head-on that it no longer had a hold on me? That didn’t quite go according to plan. Now, chapter two is the battlefield awaits. Chapter two is me realizing that making a decision to escape and actually pushing myself are two completely different missions, with the latter mission sometimes seeming impossible. It is preparing my armor for the battlefield, the next course in the diary of a queer kid.

Here is one thing that l am pretty sure you never really gave thought to in ‘the escape’. What comfort zone was l going to need to get out of? Whose expectations was l being controlled by? Why was my life ‘pre-set’? What drove me to escape the matrix l was in? What really was my story?

Life isn’t always as easy as everyone wants it to be, but being that one ‘plus-sized’ kid didn’t make it any easier. It only occurred to me when l was in kindergarten, being around children my age, that maybe l was a bit bigger than l should have been. lt was during my orientation that l realised my chair was the only one that squeaked whenever l sat down. l was the only one out of breath after a short run to the classroom. That was okay, until everyone seemed to point it out at every chance they got. At school, at church, during family gatherings, that seemed to be the very first thing that everyone noticed. l vividly remember one incident in particular, at something called a ‘roora’ in my family. This is a tradition in which the family of the groom-to-be comes to pay bride price for the daughter that they intend to marry. As soon as l stepped foot in the house, l regretted coming. My cousins were not so subtle with their words and said ‘we honestly thought by this time you would be slim’. My mom in that instance went on to say, ’we always try to tell her but she doesn’t listen’. At one point, my uncle bluntly said, ’no one likes fat people Ashley’. As l grew more, it got more and more ironic how no one ever noticed the tears threatening to escape my eyes every time someone audibly recognized how big l was.

But that’s not the problem. The aftermath is the problem. This is the part when you start asking yourself questions like why did your loved ones allow you to be trolled like that? Even better, why did your loved ones agree with everyone else, how could they do that in a public space?

The moment you don’t feel safe being vulnerable with those closest to you at an age as young as six is the moment you lose it. At least that was how l lost myself. The moments l was consistently given reasons to keep to myself are where it all began. l believed my parents were meant to shield me from the coldness of the world, from the projections of people who needed to heal but didnt even know it. Subconsciously they made me a victim of their own unhealed trauma. When l heard and saw my parents take part in conversations that body shamed me, l lost all reason to trust my loved ones with my emotions. l lost confidence in their ability to stand up for me when the whole world was against me. So l became that person for myself. I had to learn to clap for myself when no one else did. l had to learn to validate myself and tell myself that l matter. l had to learn to remind myself to love myself enough to take care of my mental space. l had to be my own safe space, l had to be my own cheerleader. l had to be my own epitome of intrinsic motivation.

Like l mentioned in ‘the escape’, l was the kid who appeared to never have anything to say when l really had too much to say. Without anyone to cheer me on, without anyone to applaud me for my tiny milestones, l subconsciously made myself a pawn in everyone’s game. l was desperate for appreciation. l was desperate for validation. l was desperate to hear anyone say that l was doing the right thing so l made sure that at every point l had to be pleasing everyone around me. l could write an endless book on this alone but this is just preparation for the battlefield, the next chapter is yet to come. The desperate need for external validation alone drove me further and further away from myself. lt took me to a place of deep hurt, a place of isolation. In the end, l became either the stuck-up kid trying to please everyone or the kid who remained in the shadows trying to figure out just how she let herself go like that.

Adjusting my life to suit the needs of others was not the best move l could have made but with it came the joy of comfort. l could afford to remain in my comfort zone in all aspects of my life simply because no one expected me to do anything out of the ordinary. One thing about me, l always try to think before I act, l try to make sense out of a situation before compelling myself to react to it. This earned me the ‘slow’ title. l have heard my fair share of ‘Ashley, you have no sense of urgency, you are slow’. l adjusted accordingly to that title such that l never gave anyone a chance to see the side of me that brainstorms. The side that can cook up a good impromptu speech in 10 seconds. The side of me that makes quick and sound decisions. l created a comfort zone around myself, one in which l was slow, with no sense of urgency, obese, nonchalant and basic. That’s how l got into my different comfort zones, the comfort zones l decided to make a conscious effort to escape. Escaping that comfort zone means a lot to me because it translates to allowing myself to travel back in the past and feel all the emotions that l have been running away from. lt means being brave enough to reopen old wounds and leave them as healed scars.

Then remains the battlefield. The arena where the old Ashley and the new Ashley battle it out. This is the arena where the fear of mediocrity battles the fear of change. This is the arena where the battle will either make or break me. This is the battlefield in yet another installment of ‘Diary of a Queer Kid’.

8 May, 2023