My name is Rowan. I use they/them pronouns. At the age of 36, going on 37, I am only now beginning to understand who I really am. See, during the 2021 federal election, I had a major burnout meltdown situation manifest. I now know that this is common in high-masking Autistic people, of which have realized I am one: being classified as “gifted” in school, taking special interest in psychology, or acting, or animals, or similar, wondering why life is so hard but imagining it must be that way for everyone, a decline in work/life success, and then a major burnout or series of burnouts. The prognosis is not great in terms of being able to work again, but the confusion, suffering in silence, and ignoring my needs and wants is a thing of the past.
I find it extremely difficult to write “About” pages. Back when I was writing my biography for my singing gigs, it was easy, in the same way that the work itself was easy: I knew exactly what was expected of me, what to say and do in every situation, and if I didn’t, I could just copy what others were doing. My singing degrees were helpful in exactly that way: they were training us to be able to say and do all the right things in any professional situation we would find ourselves in, so that we could be successful. It was a helpful structure for me.
Now that I am in the process of learning more about myself, about Autism, and putting the pieces of my past together in this context, I am unsure how to write this “About” page. What is this website about, anyway? Who will read it? How much about myself do I even want to disclose? Will I be judged, discriminated against, or accused of being inappropriate? Is this going to be just the way I feel at this phase in my life, and I’ll have to re-write it in a week or a month? This is a good example of the thinking “software” that runs constantly in my mind before I do or say anything in front of another human. The algorithm will eventually prompt me to either camouflage (hide myself, sink into the background), or compensate (do something that helps me to keep up with what is expected of me). That’s what masking is.
Anyway, I know that an About page is for credentials. The external reasons I am qualified to take up this space in my little corner of the internet. In that case, here they are: BMus in Voice Performance at Canadian Mennonite University, MMus in Opera Performance and Artist Diploma in Voice Performance at McGill University; always on the honour roll. I am trained to teach “Business English” through TEFL, 500-hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training, Reiki Master Certificate, Diversity, Inclusion, and Culture in Psychedelics from the Chacruna Institute. I have run for federal office, and I ran a queer, anticapitalist marketing agency for about 6 years, prior to my burnout. I find these facts sort of boring and disconnected from reality, even though they point to life experiences that have gotten me to where I am today.
Some of my life experiences that feel the most important to who I am today are the ones that are not tied to career or academics; they are the things I have done because I was passionate about or fascinated by them. I have always loved horses with an unmatched purity of heart. Even when I wasn’t able to be with horses on a regular basis, I could feel my love for them. I have had multiple other special interests over the years that I loved: Latin and Argentine tango dance, painting and drawing, pottery, writing songs and poetry, foraging and growing mushrooms, gardening. I am interested in psychopharmacology and the human nervous system in general, although I don’t have any formal training.
I think what I bring to all my relationships and everything I do, is openness and vulnerability. I have something that is perceived as courage, but is actually an obliviousness to the idea that I should be afraid of opening myself up and trusting that things will be alright. It’s a kind of innocence, that I’ve learned many Autistic people embody. I’ve been made fun of for it, and I’ve been admired for it, and now I’m fairly sure it is one of the best things about me. I trust that people mean what they say, and I do my best to speak the truth about myself.