This is going to be an extremely difficult article to write. I’ve got some important news to share with everyone, and I figured I’d do it via blogging, in an attempt to sort through the tangled mess in my brain. As of the 1st of October, Seeing Double is coming to an end. I’ll still be doing the odd blog post and workshop, but these will take place less frequently, while I focus on my other job as a skills mentor for autistic adults. You know, the job that has a steady wage, set working hours, a pension plan and involves actual face to face contact with other human beings? That’s the job I want to keep doing. Not the artsy social enterprise. This decision is going to leave some people (myself included) a little disappointed. But after a lot of soul searching I’ve decided it’s the right thing to do.
Nonetheless, Seeing Double has been a huge part of my life for two years. I’ve achieved things I never thought possible, met some wonderful people and learned a great deal about myself. So I figured I owe you all an explanation for quitting.
This may sound a little weird, but the explanation part is mostly for my deceased mother. Jane Hughes was a guest blogger, founding member of Seeing Double and organized the financial side of the business. She passed away from lung cancer several months ago. While in the hospice, the last coherent thing Jane said to me was ‘promise me you won’t give up on Seeing Double.’ I did my best, and I managed to make the business work for a while, but it’s not working anymore. Things aren’t the same without Jane cheering me on, and I can no longer find the energy to keep being creative and drawing on my own experiences to teach others about autism. There are lots of other reasons why Seeing Double can’t continue (mostly financial) but the bottom line is I’m giving up. I’m breaking the promise I made to a dead woman. Does that mean I’m a terrible person?
If Jane was alive and begging me not to give up on Seeing Double, it would be okay. I could just throw a post teenage strop and tell her she’s too controlling and needs to give me space to make my own decisions. But you can’t get mad at a dead person. So instead I’ve just been getting drunk. And feeling guilty. And struggling to organize my thoughts. Maybe I am a terrible person for breaking my promise to her. Then again, maybe the last thing my dying mother said to me shouldn’t have been about work. Why couldn’t she have just said ‘I love you’? Why couldn’t she have just switched off the business woman part of her brain for five fucking minutes? I remember one day when my Mum came home after a small operation. She’d been prescribed Valium to make sure things went smoothly and I was a little worried about what kind of state she’d be in. Jane walked into the living room completely baked, eyes glazed over, a big stupid grin on her face… and the first thing she reached for was her coaching paperwork. Jane the business woman. I don’t think my mother ever had an off switch. I mean, she’s been dead for months and it still feels like she’s controlling everything. I miss her so much.
So I’m breaking my promise. The social enterprise Jane helped me set up is dissolving. But it’s not just me being a callous daughter. There’s also an issue with funding. Or rather, a lack of funding. For the last two years 2:28 have provided me with enough business grant to pay myself with a small wage and cover business expenses. But that source of money isn’t sustainable. And people don’t seem to be prepared to pay for any of the services I offer. I spent the first year of Seeing Double working hard and pouring myself into the project. I was really proud of some of the things I produced. But when you spend a week planning a disability awareness themed poetry workshop, when you give up your Saturday and travel several miles to deliver the workshop, everything goes well and you’re told that it was helpful and inspiring but you don’t get paid a penny, it can be pretty disheartening. When someone flicks through your book and tells you it’s amazing and you’re really talented and you need to carry on writing, but doesn’t buy the book or offer you any kind of practical support, it can be pretty annoying.
Writers, artists and activists have to eat, sleep and pay the bills too. Creative projects don’t just fall out of our arses whilst we manage to flawlessly maintain a 9-5 job, romantic relationship and an active social life. They demand a hell of a lot of time, energy and money. And they’re the only thing that people expect to get for free. You wouldn’t waltz into Asda, eat a banana without paying and inform the cashier that their bananas are inspiring, you eating their banana was great exposure for their work and they shouldn’t give up on selling bananas, because one day they’ll have their big break. Yet people do that to creative folks all the time.
I can’t work for free anymore. I just don’t have the energy. And continuing to do so wouldn’t make sense when I have a paid job that I can take more shifts for, and a desire to move out of my Dad’s house before I turn thirty. That’s one of the reasons why Seeing Double is coming to an end. For a while I’ve been struggling to find a fresh angle on the whole autism awareness thing. Despite an early diagnosis, I didn’t really “come out” as having Asperger’s until I was nineteen. After all those years of silence, it’s not surprising that for a while autism was all I wanted to talk about. I wrote reams and reams on the subject, I did workshops, delivered training, performed poems and for a while people found it useful and insightful. But at the moment, it feels like I have nothing more to say on the matter. I’m ready to stop talking about autism constantly and just live my life, exploring other fascinating things. I’ll always have that heightened sense of self awareness. I’ll always feel more able to accept myself and the people around me, because I know it’s not my fault that my brain is wired differently. But I no longer feel the need to be constantly talking about it.
For the last few months, trying to maintain Seeing Double has been a bit like carrying around a corpse. As sad as I am that things are coming to an end, as guilty as I feel for breaking my promise, as worried as I feel about losing my urge to create entirely and becoming another soulless 9:00-5:00 drone who does nothing outside of work but drink and watch Netflix, I’m relieved that I can finally put that corpse in the ground.
So what happens next? Well you can expect weekly blog articles until the end of September. After that I’ll still update, but it’s likely to be a lot more sporadic. I may stop writing altogether for a while, because my brain really needs a break. During September I’ll be doing some networking in the Bradford poetry scene in order to promote The Poetry of Autism: Eyes of Perspective. After that, I’ll be focusing on my other job. I do have a poetry performance planned for October, but there’s going to be no quota to fill, no set hours, no contract and no wages. If I do anything creative, or anything related to autism awareness, it will be because I want to. Not because I have to. Thanks so much for reading my blog, and for sticking with me on this journey. It’s been wonderful, and terrifying, and I’m glad I got to share it with you.