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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

My surround sound

“Crazy” is a term people often use to dismiss the neurodivergence they see in others. It is also a term often used to describe women/non-men with outspoken opinions. Internalized ableism and sexism push me to question myself … am I crazy? Probably. No … no, I’m not. Yes, and so what if I am! No, I can’t be. Because if I’m crazy, then who isn’t? The questions arise anytime I talk to people. Am I making sense? Why are people laughing? Was that funny? Am I funny? Now why are they making that face? Am I scary? Am I stupid? What am I talking about? I should stop talking. Have people been listening? Am I even human? Yeah, I do my own gaslighting.

It only takes a few people calling you crazy before you start to question your entire worldview. A professor looking a little too concerned. A partner questioning every statement you make. A friend calling you “insane, but in a good way.” Then the next time you are visited by a troubling thought or concern, you think, “Maybe this is something I keep to myself.” It’s a smothering feeling.

The best relief for this feeling? I don’t know. I’ve spent countless years doing intense research with the planet’s best scientists (my six braincells and several unverified online sources), and still, I don’t know. But while the cause remains untreated, I have discovered a personal remedy for the symptom. When I feel that pain like a fire in my mouth, like maybe I might really be crazy, I fasten my headphones and surround myself with the voices of other “crazy” people who topped the charts.

When news developments leave tears stinging my eyes, Marvin Gaye asks me, “Who really cares to save a world that is destined to die?” and I at least feel less alone in wondering. When I feel like the black sheep among my friends and my family, Nina Simone reminds me that I may feel like I “ain’t got no love,” but “I got life,” and I start to feel like the most content person on Earth. When my inbox is overflowing with demands and unsolicited recommendations, Billy Joel belts, “I don’t care what you say anymore; this is my life!” and somehow, I regain my agency. When I feel like no one really cares to know me, Joni Mitchell comforts me, whistling, “we all come and go unknown,” and I feel blessed to at least know myself. And when people call me crazy, both Fiona Apple and I shout at the top of our lungs, “KICK ME UNDER THE TABLE ALL YOU WANT; I WON’T SHUT UP! I  WON’T SHUT UP!” and I don’t shut up.

It matters to me that I’m only as crazy as the people who inspire me, which, to me, is not crazy at all. When I’ve got my headphones on, know that I am finally in good company. I sing or hum along to my music, and it feels like finally letting out a pressurized scream. That is my freedom. I am no longer sitting in a room full of people and wondering how in the world I belong. I am not wondering if I am crazy. I am backed by an army of great minds, artists, free thinkers, pioneers. People who, like me, feel intense emotions and let those emotions add color to their work. People who sometimes cry on Zoom. People who sometimes laugh without explanation. People who sometimes fall silent for days. People who sometimes see the world with such wonder, it’s like the first time they’ve ever opened their eyes. People who are willing to go on record being authentically themselves because, deep down, they know they have never been crazy a moment in their lives. People who know they have always been sound. They surround me, my good company, my surround sound.

And “crazy?” “Crazy” is just a word people use to describe the things, ideas and people for which they are not willing to make room. Good thing I never cared much for the will of others. I’ve found space for myself in the silences between each track on my records.

I think if you can make room for music, then you can make room for me. I promise to make room for you. Because you’re not crazy, and neither am I. 

Theresa Azemar is a senior and the director of this year’s Show Some Skin. Show Some Skin is a student-run initiative committed to giving voice to unspoken narratives about identity and difference. Using the art of storytelling as a catalyst for positive social change across campus, we seek to make Notre Dame a more open and welcoming place for all. If you are interested in breaking the silence and getting involved with Show Some Skin, email

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.