“You’re such a character, Ava!” Over the course of my lifetime, I have easily heard that sentence hundreds of times. Sometimes it’s out of condescension, sometimes endearment, but I do not want to be endeared, I want to be understood. Understanding is the basis of all respect, and without that basic understanding, I cannot truly be respected, even if I am still cared for. People call me a character because of how I speak, because of how easily I cry, because of the way I sit and stare into the wall. I possess self awareness, at least to a decent degree, even if it doesn’t come across as such. I’m a complicated person (as all people are, even if they don’t know it), I do not pride myself on being complicated, but I do pride myself on being aggressively neurodivergent and surviving this world, because let’s face it, that is an achievement — even though it shouldn’t have to be.
Characters are literary constructs, created by one person — maybe eventually the characters are developed by other writers, made into something new, something potentially greater than their origins, but characters are not people. When someone comes up with a character, they’re using all of their life experiences, all of their biases, prejudice, idealisms, everything they are into fueling their imagination. I am not imaginary (realistically, we can go Dada another day), nor was I created by one person, I was made by two people, then moulded by the society I was forced into since the 28th of September just over seventeen years ago.
Whether someone is a great writer, a poor one, someone with major life experiences or someone who has never left their room — one cannot create the depth of another human being.
I have never really understood why people call me a character, because I am far from a simple person, and in literature, characters are made to mostly represent one theme; I represent many, many things. I know that people call me a character because I behave unusually, and am not average to any degree — calling me a character dehumanises me, even though I know that is not the intention of the person I’m speaking to. Not only does it confuse me to be called that, but it makes me feel isolated from whomever I’m speaking with.
Just because I am unusual, doesn’t mean that I’m not human — in fact, the very state of the human condition is one of major complications, to be human is to not really make sense to society.
I know that because of my various conditions; mental, emotional, physical — I am unusual. In writing, typically, one doesn’t create a character who has P.T.S.D. and is autistic. This isn’t because people who have both conditions are unheard of (in fact, they’re very heard of), but when writing, people tend to not overcomplicate the pathos of the character — instead, giving them one main condition that affects their personally philosophy, so it is easy for the reader to understand. In my life, there is no reader, my desire is not to be easy to consume, it is to be seen exactly as I am.
Because in literature, often when a character has a condition like P.T.S.D. or autism, that represents most of their conflicts in the story. People who don’t have those conditions and who do not grow up around people who do get most of their information about those conditions from the media — from fiction.
It’s never the people who have the same conditions as I, or people who grew up around my conditions who say “You’re such a character, Ava,” it’s the people who have let their expectations be guided by fiction — even, and especially when they don’t know that is the case.
When I make friends with someone, and they find out some of my conditions, often, they think I am a hypochondriac, but in truth, I have been diagnosed with most of these for the majority of my life — and I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, it’s only natural I have various neuroses.
When the friend accepts all that, they then may try to figure out why I am the way that I am, connecting point A to point B, “Oh, it makes sense why you freak out in crowds, you’re autistic,” but in reality, it’s not so simple. One cannot really know if my fear of crowds is autism, or P.T.S.D. — or whether it is from my genes or from my upbringing.
Autism is from my genes — I come from a long line of autistic people, both sides of my family. The P.T.S.D., that’s trauma, I wasn’t born traumatised, nobody is. When I was brought into this world, I already had an Autistic, A.D.D., A.D.H.D., dyslexic, O.C.D. brain — that’s just my neurology. Life experience is what gave me my P.T.S.D., and other illnesses that I do not feel comfortable telling the world just yet. Calling my behaviour just autism is to ignore the P.T.S.D., when I do something out of anxiety, and vice versa. To do so is an oversimplification.
Furthermore, to say something is because of my autism is like saying to someone, “That’s because of your enormous breasts.” As an autistic person with big perky jewtits, someone commenting on my body in such a manner is the same level of respect as commenting on my autism in the same way. Sexual harrasment is no longer acceptable, and the same should be true of abelism. That manner of speaking is always disrespectful, and for someone to care about liberation and social equality, and making me, Ava, feel safe, one needs to care as deeply about my autism as they do my big, round jewtits — speaking about both in a consistent manner. Disrespect is disrespect, even if that isn’t the intention.
I like to view my brain as it is today as a chemical reaction, not a physical one. In a physical reaction, it’s easy to trace back the steps of the process, in a chemical reaction, results cannot be undone — I cannot be undone, nor does my brain split up my different conditions across my behaviours. I wouldn’t want to be undone, even if it means I cannot be understood, even if it means I’m a character. As Popeye says, “I am what I am, and that’s all what I am,” and who doesn’t love Popeye? Now that’s a character!
Maybe I’m an idealist, but one day I dream of being understood by lots of people. Not out of a need for popularity (maybe a little out of a want for that, not a need), but because I know that most people like me, most autistic people, most traumatised people, feel they need to hide — but they should never, ever have to. For people like me, it’s usually a choice between fading into obscurity, socially, or becoming an object of humour, or worse, a lolcow. But I don’t want to be obscured, nor do I want to be laughed at (usually) — I’m no character, I am flesh and blood, pumping heart, and big beautiful jewtits, a balance of sincerity and irony, truthful in my heart, but able to laugh, and keep laughing.
At first, I couldn’t make sense of being a character, because as far as I know, the reality I live in is the real one, not a stage play, comic, or novel. It’s easy to dismiss odd people as characters, to ignore our depth, our struggles, our humour while humouring us. I never want to be humoured, I’m no child, no character, Ava Zeldman, that’s what I am, all that I am, all that I could want to be.