Emma Barnes
3 min readJan 1, 2024



My high school fancied itself as a time lord, abolishing the five-day working week and administering its own six-day construct. It pushed a day of activities into the following Monday and then pushed two days into the Monday-Tuesday after that, and so on, until the entire school breathed a sigh of relief in week seven, as “Day 1” and Monday aligned once again.

MC Escher may have made an easier-to-follow calendar

You might ask why they did such a thing. Judging by the way they spruiked their chronometer to prospective parents, it may have been a marketing invention. According to the speil, they had such a variety of activities for their young soliders that five days wouldn’t contain them all. But It’s hard to believe that nobody in their esteemed institution could jimmy up a five-day workaround. Twelve hundred children and two hundred staff carrying the conflict in their bodies day after day, week after interminable week was the alternative, and it wasn’t a way to create flourishing organisms. More like submissive ones.

There was more going on than than just activities and submission, however. The school’s pride was crammed into that calendar too. Polyrhythmic scheduling became a part of our identities. Our “intelligence”. We were clever little boys.

During our first year, we cracked jokes about it.

“Day Three. Monday, naturally”, mocked someone to muffled amusement as the cane-carrying master glared and barked: “Silence! You will fill in your day sheet in silence in this classroom.”

We had been infected but we did not yet know the disease. Our laughter was light. Symptoms only emerged in our second year: No more sedition. No jibes when a public holiday threw the re-alignment out by extra week, rolling our Sisyphean ball a little way back down the hill. We groaned instead. But our groans faded too, even faster than our jokes had done in the first year. After all, one doesn’t vocalise a discomfort among others who are silently enduring the exact same. Silently, humourlessly, we drudged. Our silence fermented into anaesthetic. By our third year, we were storm troopers. Assimilated.

I was 12 years old when it began. And eighteen when it finished. And I never broke like the others. I was still making jokes about it during the leaving exams. They fell flat. Nobody thought it was silly any more. It just was.

Look, I didn’t try to keep immunity. Quite the opposite. I carefully mimicked the symptoms: drudgerous groans in year two and nonchalance in year three. I practiced the nonsense by copying the janky calendar across many months, trying to see some coherent long-term sense and put the mutherfucker in my body. But nothing embedded. I simply couldn’t absorb it like the others. Although I pantomimed the behaviour of those around me I couldn’t stop trying jokes, no matter how flat they fell.

Now that I’m thirty years on from graduating high school, I realise it’s not just my Orwellian school calendar that never entered my body. It’s all the artifices: Clocks, calendars, linear time, money, small talk, the nuclear family, the gender binary, private property, neuronormativity, etc… Not a single one landed in my body. I never became them*. I just pretended to.

Shedding them has been a lot like leaving school. Friends have vanished. Routines have changed. Possibilities have grown in some ways and shrunk in others. Mostly, however, I sense less safety and more hope. Instead of dragging the ball up the mountain, I’m walking around it. The path is longer and ball is still there but the view is altogether different.

*Of course, those artifices which put me atop their heirarchies were much more comfortable to tolerate. They barely itched. And I didn’t make jokes about them. Something felt off, sure. But I had no idea how to sculpt a joke at their expense until I learned about them from those under their boot. Under my boot.



Emma Barnes

Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram