This is where I am stuck…I get Aphantasia, I understand that I don’t have a “Mind’s Eye” and that every reference I have ever made to “seeing” something in my head or “visualization” has always been euphemistic or metaphoric (and, group in with that every reference I heard everyone else say about them “seeing” in their mind). And I have known this for over a year now, but what I don’t find anywhere is the “HOW might my entire life have been different had I either not had Aphantasia or had I KNOWN what was actually going on in other peoples’ minds.
Here is a post I made on Stephen Levithan’s “3 Things I Learned From Having Multisensory Aphantasia That Changed My Understanding Of The World” Article. I am reposting it here so more people can see it (and more people can give some feedback, perhaps). Further, I am posting this because I really think I acted recklessly, cavalier, and irresponsible in my decisions because I couldn’t see something in the future that could be detrimental. I believed I was “manifesting my own destiny” and “visualizing what I wanted” when I never really could have been able to. And even further, I know, like I KNOW KNOW, given my decision-making habits and all of my attempts to change the course of my life, I KNOW that if I would have been able to visualize something other than just the present, to see something into the future, I wouldn’t have deemed not seeing children or a family as me “not wanting children or a family”. I wouldn’t have so abruptly quit my law practice and burned all my bridges on purpose. Really, I never would have become a lawyer at all. Here’s what I wrote:
I. Am. Legitimately. Shook. About all of this…
I found out about my Aphantasia maybe a year ago. It was a HUGE deal to me, but it didn’t seem to be to anyone else (except my therapist, lol), but after a month or two of me incessantly talking about it, I finally took a bite of the “imaginary apple” that is “we, Aphantasics, simply experience life differently”. I mean, I had made it this far in my 42 years on this planet, so I thought “it is what it is” and moved on not giving it much thought thereafter. Until now…
From the age of 11 (until about a year or two ago) I worked in the legal field along with the mortgage banking industry. They were family businesses, so I started as the copyboy at our Mortgage Company and remained there, increasing my duties, all the way through college, at which point I was managing the Mortgage Company and I had a pretty significant role in our Family’s Law Firm. I ultimately became an Attorney (which I never wanted to do, but I could never figure out anything else to do), specializing in Real Estate Transactions, both Residential and Commercial, and my business and I flourished, adding employees, pushing closing after closing and transaction after transaction, exceeding expectation after expectation and winning award after award. I was like a phenom, well respected, and made a TON of money. But I hated it. And after practicing law for 15 years (and working in the same building for 30 of my 42 years in this life) I could no longer take it and pretty abruptly I just quit, let my entire staff go, and burned every bridge I could in the process so I could never go back.
Stupid? Perhaps. However, I had to get out. Had I stayed I was going to (a) end up in jail or disbarred (l because I refused to conform, I never fit what the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court deemed to be a “normal” Attorney, and my mouth doesn’t stop, especially then, so not was a matter of time before they disbarred me on some technicality, as they were starting to get all over me for things that I couldn’t have done wrong)…so, I disbarred myself first lol) or (b) that job was going to kill me medically from a heart attack or something. I was simply PERPETUALLY angry and just a mean person…and the sleep deprivation! There were literally weeks that I worked 100 hours…I documented them, it was pure utter insanity.
(I will try and be as concise as possible for the remainder of this, but since adjectives and descriptions are the pictures that I “see” in my head, brevity is not a strong point for me (but at least I know why FINALLY)).
Now, as I stated above, I never wanted to be a Lawyer. I had a scholarship to PittLaw but I never showed up my first year. I took a year off and moved to LA to be an actor. That didn’t work out so I started at PittLaw the year after Undergrad (they held my scholarship, so that was dope). Then I quit law school after the first semester. Then I tried to go back and quit again. Then I finally went back 2 years later and finished and then came back home to start my Practice.
I am telling you all of this for a specific reason. That is because in between all of those times of quitting law school or not even starting law school and all that time that I spent in between my stints in law school I was simply never ever able to find something else to do with my life. It was like I was bred for law and that was it. Like, I’m pretty smart, especially at school, so maybe I’d go back to school…but for what? Or maybe I’ll start my own business doing something creative…but what? I further stated earlier that I burned every bridge when I quit my Practice a year and a half ago…why? Because I knew I’d go back like I always did…like the burning of the bridges would FORCE me to find a new career path.
But here I sit, all these years later and all those accolades later and all that money is gone, all of my retirement is gone and I might lose my condo now and I still cannot think of what to do next for work. Months and months passed where I was thinking that there is something wrong with my psychologically and of me having to deal with my family all looking at me like I’m crazy and “You have to find a job, Chetty” and I thought the answer would pop up at some time here…but it never did. And then, last week, it dawned on me…I always reverted back to law because I AM UNABLE TO TRAVEL A PATH THAT I HAVE NOT ALREADY EXPERIENCED. In other words, my inability to visualize or imagine hindered my ability to find a career that I actually would have enjoyed. I’ve always been good at whatever it was that I was doing, but only if there was a syllabus or if the path was laid out for me, as in my family businesses. Take that away and put a fork in the road (which I never knew people could ACTUALLY VISUALIZE) and I’m simply standing at the edge of what is happening in the present moment and that’s it.
I get all of the things and revelations that everyone with Aphantasia talks about…the “oh, you’re for real when you visualize stuff…it’s not a metaphor or euphemistic”. And that was a shock…but no one (that I have seen yet, at least) discusses HOW THEY MAY HAVE DONE THINGS DIFFERENTLY had they known that almost EVERYONE in society experiences life differently than we do. I liken being able to see images and to foretell through visual experiences how certain actions one takes will or could end up as a superpower. Fore, had I been able to FORESEE losing my Condo in a literal sense, maybe I wouldn’t have made the decision to quit to abruptly or to burn all the bridges.
Don’t get me wrong, I KNEW that if I couldn’t pay my mortgage I would lose my house…but I had never EXPERIENCED it before so it wasn’t that real to me. FURTHER, had I KNOWN that I was going to feel the same way (directionless) still at 42 as I did when I was 18, I wouldn’t have done those things or acted (as others would tell me, and which I didn’t understand until now) as reckless or cavalier in my decision making. The fact that I couldn’t see or imagine other avenues or trajectories for me to travel for a career AND THE FACT THAT OTHERS COULD AND CAN would have changed everything about my life.
I have never regretted a moment in my life…I am a poster child for only looking forward and from learning from things in the past, but had I had ANY idea that I was being hindered so intensely with an inability to foresee or imagine or whatever, I would have sought counsel or understood WHY I thought I had to be a lawyer. I mean, I wouldn’t have ever even applied to law school in the first place. I felt so dumb for not being able to see another career path. I tried and I tried and I always boomeranged back to law.
Now I up that creek…I’ll figure it out…I always do, and I’m blessed to see how my Aphantasia affected how the first 42 years of my life panned out…and I’m further blessed for all of the great fortunes I have been given in this life, but my sole purpose for writing this epistle on your page (sorry, this is where this landed haha), is to raise awareness so that other people that experience life the way we do can UNDERSTAND that other people can visualize things they have never experienced. And from that visualization they can make a somewhat “educated” guess as to whether or not they should “decide” to go that route or not. I always thought I just didn’t want a family or kids…it never dawned on me that just because I couldn’t SEE IT in my future doesn’t mean that I necessarily don’t want it! I just wasn’t able to see all the joy children bring to a parent because I never experienced it.
That you for listening or reading if you even made it this far. I’m doing my best to accept this and get passed it, but it’s going to take me a minute, but I just don’t want someone else to get stuck in a lifelong rut because they didn’t realize that other people have something they don’t have…a mind’s eye. I literally probably would have done everything different had I only known. At least I know now…
If anyone has anything they’d like to add or any guidance as I am now moving forward, that would be spectacular and much appreciated. I feel defeated and, even worse, I could have never known this as Aphantasia was only named 6 years ago. It’s almost as if I wish I never found out about it sometimes…thank you.