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Let authenticity drive the bus
Welcome to the new email-based musings from Sara Eatherton-Goff: Life and Other Stories.
I have various interests, passions, and desires. We all do, I’m sure. And this time around, I’m choosing to not focus on one theme or niche with my writing.
I’ve worked several different jobs since I was 13 years old. I've been:
a restaurant busser (my first job!… illegally at 13)
a customer service rep
an office assistant
an office manager
Vice President of a small company
an opera singer
a traveling sales associate
an organization downsizing contractor / a “down-sizer” (a subcontractor helping companies close or downsize with minimal fallout—sounds terrible, but mostly I helped laid-off employees find new employment)
a brief stint in insurance…
a restaurant server
a (brief) stay-at-home mom
a Mary Kay consultant (learned a lot, at least…)
a website designer/front-end web developer
an entrepreneur business consultant and strategist
and a freelance writer
And I’ve seemingly been a different person with each job and with each stage of life.
Within the past few years, I realized I’d only ever made professional decisions based on what other people said I was good at. Or because of something others wanted or needed from me.
Marketing experts will tell you that’s the key to professional success: Find people’s pain points and sell them a solution. But after at least 8 major Autistic burnouts1 (not including health downtimes) I can tell you that this method of "professional success" isn't for everyone, or maybe just not for every single neurotype.
I can hear my old Mary Kay network of directors at their rented meeting space in Sarasota, Florida. They'd constantly say in one way or another that we have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. When we’re comfortable, we’re stagnant.
I disagree, to a point.
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I’ve also had a slew of health issues and, later, diagnoses—most of which doctors blamed on me being fat. Only until we moved to Seattle in 2018 was my body finally acknowledged as a symptom and not the problem.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2019. During the Covid lockdowns of 2020, we discovered that our household members are all Autistic. And in early 2022, myself and my three children were officially diagnosed. My husband, Brian, self-identifies as Autistic (perfectly valid), and as it namely affects him socially and communicatively, he’s found no need to seek official diagnosis.
With every twist and turn in life, I’ve molded myself into whoever someone else needed me to be. It was a survival strategy of a neurodivergent mind. I feared rejection, and feared being thought of (or found out) as an imposter.
I didn’t deceive to be deceptive. I camouflaged the version of myself that revealed the most vile pieces of others so I’d never have to see that side of people again.
“Everyone masks [their true selves],” an Allistic (a non-Autistic)4 person always seems to chime in. But, as an Autistic person trying to survive a world not built to include us, you keep masking5 to get by. Because the rejection of society is far worse than the thought-to-be IBS you suffer from, or the chronic headaches, or the severe anxiety and, often, depression—symptoms that seem synonymous with Autistic people.6
Then once you (think you) get everything figured out, you know it’s best to unmask7 your authentic self. Beneath, you have years—layers—of your carefully crafted persona. A persona which allowed you to skulk through society undetected. You begin peeling back those layers. And by the time you begin, you’re unraveling a canvas that’s been painted over so many times, there’s no way of differentiating which layer is actually you anymore. It’s such a mess, you wish you unrolled a blank canvas, instead.
In my case, to begin unmasking and defining my authentic self, I started by identifying the things I knew were true about myself:
I love writing, singing, reading and consuming stories from all mediums.
I love the Visual Arts, too.
I love my family, my “chosen family,” and friends. And I love figuring out relational things, growing socially, etc.
I like, but simultaneously hate, the outdoors. Mainly due to potential bugs, feeling unclean is a major sensory issue, and my mast cell condition makes heat and sun exposure dangerous. (Probably compounded with the pain of EDS,8 too, makes the outdoors difficult to traverse.)
I far prefer living in a metropolis and visiting the suburbs, the woods, etc. Even as a family with three kids.
I have an overwrought sense of justice.
I’m a humanist.
I love makeup and skin care, and learning how to improve skin health and appearance (without cosmetic procedures).
I’m obsessed with indoor plants, and want to share more about “plant parenthood.”
I’m intrigued by sociology, psychology, anthropology, and studies on neurodivergence.
And I’m interested in health and wellness catered to people with chronic illness and physical disabilities. (Not the woo-woo crap that ravaged my skin and made me sicker, but the science-backed kind.)
And I like to talk and write about these topics, as varied as they may be.
Life and Other Stories is where all these topics end up.
Substack has a neat feature where you can create various newsletters under one account, so splitting up niche ideas could be a good idea (down the road). But, right now, that's not the avenue for me. However, I did take a few hours to update the tags on posts to better organize topics for you. Featured on the homepage are the top tags I contribute to, like Productivity, Personal Growth, Chronic Illness, Disability, and Essays. But there are numerous other tags, like the “Forever Free” one, featuring all the messages that will, well, remain free reading, indefinitely.
(When you become a subscriber, I break down all the more niche tags for you in the Welcome email.)
My goal is to not run myself into the ground like I’ve done with past ventures. So one newsletter is where I’m at for the time being, and tags are our friends that you can use to isolate the topics you’re most interested in.
However, over the past decade, I’ve found there are people who enjoy and care about the same things I do, no matter the vastness. I write and share because I love to, and enjoy when others do, too. And because I genuinely want to contribute even a tiny takeaway you can utilize in your life, to communicate with, and to connect with others, so I keep writing and sharing.
I’m weird. I’m scattered. I’m kind-hearted. And I’m extremely flawed.
You’re welcome to challenge and engage with me. And you’re welcome to skip whatever topic I share that isn’t of interest to you, too.
I’m on a mission to continue figuring out who I am without the social mask I spent decades creating. And I’m ecstatic that you’re journeying with me.
Thank you for reading this re-“Intro” letter. If you take anything from this, let it be that I care about you and about what you want to read from me.
Right now, I’m focusing on finding my Authentic Self by exploring the past, present, and building toward a future I can be proud of and comfortable in. And I'll do my best to offer plenty of nuggets, takeaways, and entertaining bits for you to collect along the way.
Thanks, again, for joining me. And thanks for reading.
Where do I suggest you start, you ask?
Here are a few pieces of variety from the past that, I hope, will offer a window into what you can expect in the future are:
Energy-Level Thinking & Planning, on planning and organization, Substack (Paid)
Open, flash fiction, Substack (Paid)
But You Don’t Look Autistic, essay on Autism and Autistic women, Invisible Illness
The Edible, essay on my previous cannabis experiences (although things have changed… maybe an update in the future is necessary), Substack (Paid)
Never Getting “Better,” But (Hopefully) Getting Closer, musing on chronic illness, Substack (Paid)
When You’re Enough, musing on personal growth, Substack (Paid)
What constitutes a “job” anyway?, essay on stay-at-home parents, Substack
Enjoy. And thank you.
This newsletter comes out Sunday mornings (U.S.). You can help keep them coming by becoming a paid subscriber, buying my planner for professionals, buying me a “cup of coffee,” and even sharing and “Liking” this post helps, too.
I appreciate you whether you contribute a lot, a little, or even if you can’t right now. Thanks for being a subscriber, and thanks for reading.
What is Executive Dysfunction? Signs and Symptoms of EFD, ADDitude Magazine
Autism’s Clinical Companions: Frequent Comorbidities with ASD, Children’s Hospital of Philedelphia