2023: The year I chose to be a cycle breaker

Last year was full of heartbreak.

I’m glad to have made some positive memories, because I don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t been around accepting and kind people when I had.

When given the choice between kindness and shame, kindness is the best one — every single time.

Highlights & lowlights

AKA the positive and the negative that happened in my life in 2023.

1. I went no-contact with my maternal aunt.

Ish hit the fan. My dad gaslit me, saying that I was at fault for my car getting stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere, because I left “the best place” for me to be. 🥴

2005 PT Cruiser sideways on a dirt road, in front of some trees, stuck
I thought, “Great. Maybe this is where I die.”

A whole lot of people decided I was ungrateful and disrespectful when I was literally trying to meet my needs as an autistic person in the middle of nowhere with a car that needed fixing.

Toxic relationships affect mental and physical health.

I entered a state wherein I was over trying to resolve the conflict and save relationships with people who had no issue with their own behavior and found my boundaries “selfish”.

2. I realized how alone I was, and how no one was going to save me except myself.

That’s not a good thing. I don’t want the kind of miserable life where I’m constantly struggling. I want to be part of a family and community that legit cares for each other.

That line is said in so many villain-hero plots — then the protagonist’s friends show up.

At one point, I called 911 for help from a small town, and 911 couldn’t help. Knowing I was alone like that, in the middle of nowhere, and 911 couldn’t even help me and hung up on me — that changed me irrevocably.

This epiphany helped me relieve the pain felt from relatives who care most about themselves and their own comforts whilst one of the people they dare have the audacity to say they “love” and recognize as “family” was homeless due to their incessant criticism and autistic burnout.

3. I completely relapsed in eating disorder recovery.

I mean, I knew it was going to happen. I spent a lot of time floating and bobbing for air before accepting that, yeah, I relapsed. Completely.

Sitting on bed with mint chocolate chip ice cream in lap (faceless, aerial view)
Atypical anorexia recovery comfort food 😋

4. I learned how to run an online business.

Like, the actual way to do it — not the one where you sit in a pile of dirt and hope for the best while people dump dirt on you.

I’m looking forward to implementing what I learned last year in 2024.

5. I changed my blog name to one that I really, really love.

And I mean love.

I love Lemon & Lively as a blog name. I liked Autistic Jane, too, and briefly considered switching back, but someone already took the Instagram handle — so it’s ruined now. 😅

When I blogged under Autistic Jane, I was still masking my autism…I know I felt a lot of pressure to be a particular way, and I was so keen to escape the identity crisis spiral that I relented and chose something niche.

It felt like me, but it also didn’t.

I’m autistic, and my autism defines me. I also received a lot more criticism, and had more people trolling my channels and blog than I could manage mentally.

6. I moved into a bedroom in a stranger’s house.

Because, you know, crappy family. 🤷‍♀️

Full-sized bed with three pillows and a blue-checkered quilt, plus a nightstand to the left and a desk to the right
It wasn’t much, but it was something. I slept better the first night than I had in too long.

I hadn’t felt as though the room I stayed in in my aunt’s was mine. Her home never felt like “home”, even though she told me that I could call it “my room” and “my home”.

She wasn’t warm and welcoming; she was cold, callous and cruel.

Staying with Charlise was only temporary, and her son’s old room was full of his stuff. I wasn’t moving in.

So this bedroom…I cried.

7. I tried new things that didn’t work out.

I learned a lot from throwing myself into something before I was ready.

8. I had a better year overall once Charlise was back in my life.

Charlise is my cousin, but she’s like my older sister. To her kids, I’m their aunt.

She and her husband finally gained custody of his stepdaughter, who asked me what I was to her — so I surfed the internet for answers.

Whether I’m an aunt to my cousin’s siblings boils down to cultures. Americans generally stick to “my cousin’s kids” and “Cousin [Name]”.

Iah + Fionna in front of a faux glitter rainbow backdrop
Iah (4) + Fionna (9)

I read a lot of Korean webtoons, so the concept of not having cousins “x removed” is not new to me. Although I’m not thoroughly knowledgeable in Korean honorifics, I think some of them are endearing.

I like being called “aunt”, since I’m 18 years older than my youngest sister and my maternal siblings are probably out of the picture for life since they’ve been brainwashed.

  • She made copycat Panera Bread broccoli cheese soup, and I LOVED it. I don’t even like broccoli.
  • I feel as though I made a lot of positive, core memories with my cousins and will forever be grateful for it.
  • She introduced me to Crumbl Cookies.
  • I had an awesome birthday — something I was seriously worried about — thanks to her.

9. I attended my first Pride.

Me + Iah in front of a faux glitter rainbow backdrop
Me + Iah (4). Zelda’s in the baby carrier on my back!

It was overwhelming. Lots of people. I bought my nieces food truck snow cones they abandoned after a few bites, covered the PTX Diverse booth for Char a few times, and sat on the floor most of the time.

So…I wasted about $10 on snow cones, but they clearly enjoyed the idea of their snow cones — and that was worth it, IMO.

I’d never eaten from any food trucks before, and I ate from several.

Pride Frisco booth at Princeton, TX Diverse (nonprofit)'s Pride 2023 event
Pride Frisco, PTXD Pride 2023

I also met some of the vendors, as I took photos for PTXD, and…my G, being around so many people who are accepting of you regardless of sexual orientation is such a validating experience that I don’t have the words for.

10. I tried Crumbl Cookies!

Pink box of 4 Cookie Butter Lava Cookies by Crumbl Cookies
Cookie Butter Lava Cookies

They’re so tasty, but my autistic self would prefer specific flavors only.

Single pink box of Raspberry Cheesecake Cookie
Raspberry Cheesecake Cookie, my free birthday cookie from Crumbl 🍪💖🎉

I want to try making some copycat recipes, since I love Crumbl so much. I’ve not had any since grocery prices have risen so much. 😭

I think my decision to leave my aunt’s house was the best one I made for myself and my cat.

For me, it was the choice between being a cycle breaker and deteriorating. ✨

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