Anyone who knows me well knows that banal things make me laugh the most. Someone being silly can have me laughing nonstop making others wonder how something so ridiculous can be so entertaining. What excites most people bores me: sports, clubs/bars, beaches, the high life, and car toys. I need something deeper in my life: meaning. Everyone needs meaning but not everyone actively pursues it. I've been feeling very unfulfilled and unaccomplished for the longest time. The autistic in me is afraid of change, the unknown, and failure. I kept making excuses to myself about how I have a functional routine going on in my life and that I shouldn't mess that up. I was stuck somewhere between comfortable and unchallenged. It's a very blah place to be.
Friend/author/scholar: If you could do anything at all in the world, what would you do?
Me: Go back to school.
That's when I realized that the only thing that could ever make me happy was by continuing to grow. Someone told me a while back that when I find what it is that's meant for me, I'll know. I've been flirting with the idea of going back to school for years now, but like a wedding dress, my choice of program has to be THE ONE. I recently came across an undergrad title I hadn't seen before. Something clicked, it was like Eureka! I'm thinking 'I've been searching for you my whole life!'. It instantly created a domino effect of ideas in my mind from what graduate/ phd level education that could lead to, to projects I could create and books I could write afterwards.
I stayed behind today at the office and sent in my university application. There's still room in my program of choice so I will find out in a few weeks if I got accepted. I don't want to get my hopes up but I'm feeling pretty confident about my likelihood of being accepted. I'll keep you posted! I won't say what school or program it is to create some illusion of privacy in my blog, and to keep some mystery. What I will tell you is that one day I will master my special interest and use that mastery to create something that is meaningful.
There's no man, amount of money, or worldly comfort that can replace the satisfaction my special interest gives me. I mean, if God sends any of those as a blessing along the way, that's cool, but I need to immerse myself in my world to be happy. I can't make someone else happy if I'm not happy. The love of my life, my one and only, is my passion. I have to follow it.
Some sensory seeking autistic children like to chew non-edible items. The extent to which biting occurs differs in each person. Some parents have to cover the legs of their wooden furniture to keep their children safe. As for myself, my habits were a lot more subtle. I was like a gerbil; I chewed entire pencils, water bottle caps, and plastic cutlery.
Friend: Were you at Carlingwood Mall today?
Me: Yeah, how did you know?
Friend: I found one of your distinctively chewed forks in the parking lot.
Yup. It was a known thing. I've gotten better with age, mainly because my friend started ripping things right out of my mouth the second she'd catch me chewing. I'd attempt to dodge it but she was too quick. There are alternative items to nibble on such as chew toys for children on the spectrum for age-ranges way past the teething phase. There are adult versions of these toys but I won't be jumping on that bandwagon. I'm a changed person now. My days of getting my fix from biting things are behind me. I even got an instrument that prevents me from grinding my teeth to keep my gums sober.
Dentist: Bite this mould softly please so that we can fit your night guard properly.
Despite choosing snacks according to texture as opposed to taste, I never overate because I ate slowly sinking my teeth into soft foods such as jello, pâté, cheese, and soft chocolate, to name a few. I've outgrown most of my biting habits...except biting my lips. Sometimes I bite my tongue too but that's not a bad thing. ;)
Vulgarity is an abuse of language that serves multiple purposes: to emphasize meaning, attempt to impress (or oppress), and offend. People have often been shocked when they've witnessed me using colourful language; they don't expect it from me. I was surprised myself when I found that many autistic advocates swear in their blogs (verbal and nonverbal alike). Maybe a part of it is because I internalized the infantilization of autistic people. Being gullible, naive, and even good-hearted doesn't equate to innocence. By definition, maturity is the loss of innocence by gaining the knowledge needed to make it out into the world. Though people may not always be the delicate flowers they appear to be, that doesn't reflect on character. The truth is quite the opposite: there's a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty. Bad words used to make me uncomfortable but as I got older, they helped me spot trustworthy people. That's not to say that people with a clean vocabulary aren't truthful. Good manners help build relationships and get along in society, but "all that glitters is not gold" (J.R.R. Tolkien).
When I think of words I dislike, I don't think of the ones that get censored on tv or bleeped out in songs. The words that hurt the most are used in everyday conversations and usually don't grab anyone's attention: loner, reject, and loser. The negative meaning behind a socially acceptable word is more hurtful than the crudest word ever spoken. The cruelest word ever spoken is also the kindest: friend. I hated the word. It offended me. I couldn't use a word I didn't understand. Friend. I always wanted a friend. Just one. I always lied through my teeth every time I'd come home from a new setting and my mom asked me if I had made any friends. A word that brought joy to others brought me great sorrow. Friend was like a cruel joke that I wasn't getting. I don't get friends, I don't get the joke. I never got into trouble in elementary school for using the F word because I had no friend to say it to. It seemed like the other kids bonded over things they weren't supposed to say or do and disliking the same things and people. Counter-culture was the "it" thing, still is, and probably always will be. Depending on the motive, the "it" thing can reflect our lower nature which prevents us from reaching our highest communicative capacities. That being said, I understand the occasional need and/or slip-ups of releasing verbal tension between F words.
Sometimes life just gets on your effin' nerves.
The term Autism derives from the Greek word 'autos' meaning 'self'. I don't think that's an accurate description for the condition. We're not selfish, self-absorbed, or self-serving. We're disconnected. Imagine being able to talk but not connect or not being able to talk or connect. My mind is like a black hole; once I get sucked into it, I become disconnected from the rest of the world. The ability to zone out is what makes aspies such deep thinkers. My thoughts are a constellation of theories, philosophies, and observations. Professionals call aspie females 'Little Philosophers'. We overthink, over-analyze, and over-explain. Everything is complex. Everything has meaning. Ironically, it's the need to concentrate on the self that contributes to the 'us' in life. I think, therefore we are.
I think. We are. Why do I think we are?
"We are animals that don't follow the natural order of the environment because we co-exist....What is it exactly that sets us apart from our non-human counterparts?"
- from my 'Minds Without Borders' post
The answer to the age-old question 'What is the meaning of life?' is obvious to me. Uncommon sense states that it's exactly what separates us from animals that is the meaning of life: co-existence. It seems like such a simple answer to a very complex question. A simple answer that isn't simple to live up to. Ubuntu is an African philosophy on interconnectedness, a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Several native communities worldwide share similar beliefs that seek reparation over retribution, and understanding over vengeance. Some cultures considered 'primitive' even revere the disabled. Western and European society isn't designed with ubuntu in mind by perpetuating the every-man-for-himself-mentality. I think, therefore I am.
For someone with a supposed self-interested mind, I've been pretty good at pointing out how society itself is disconnected. It's a paradox that the more I tried to be like the world, the more I felt removed from it. My 'autos' mind was designed to think alone but created nonetheless to live with others. Having a communication deficit shouldn't mean social death. No matter our conditions and personality traits, no human being is meant to live in isolation. Mimicking people's behaviour will help to blend in but not connect. Superficial social skills can fool a group but will never be sufficient to build deep, lasting relationships. I had to get creative with my methods. By being open about who I am I was finally able to feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself. Co-existing with myself was the first step in co-existing with others. If I live an inauthentic life I'm taking away something from the world that could otherwise be used for the greater good. I think for myself, but live for others. I think, therefore we are.
Human behaviour doesn't fit in a textbook: it's irrational and unpredictable. Socializing is a difficult skill to learn because the second you learn the rules, they change. For autistics, recognizing unidentified social hierarchies can be like trying to decipher hieroglyphs. This can be a good or bad thing. Not seeing seeing the social ladder is what creates leaders from nothing, entrepreneurs, and artists. It's a double advantage if you learn the rules from the sidelines and still have a disregard for conventionality.
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
- Pablo Picasso
The downside is that if you're stuck in a structured environment, there's little room for eccentricity. When you don't know the unwritten rules, it's safest to just ride the wave. Maslow had the right idea with his hierarchy of needs, but there's no pyramid within the belongingness and love level to explain friendship, cliques, and group mentality. I was always confused as a child because in class we were taught about acceptance and respect but the playground was free-for-all. The real world works the same way. The intention of rules is to do what is right but there are always loopholes that can be used for wrong. Even though the system is meant to function a certain way, it isn't entirely reliable.
To survive, finding out who to trust with what is the trickiest part, but worth it. If you're trustworthy and truthful yourself, people will be more receptive to you. Stay humble no matter where you find yourself. The last thing you want to do is barge into a situation and try to run the show. Unless you have the abilities of Dr. House, no amount of intelligence will take away from the fact that you're stepping over people's heads. Depending on your social support, you may need to seek different associations with various types of people to have a solid grasp of how everything works: friendships, acquaintances, work relationships, faith/spiritual/or motivational guidance, successful individuals in all sorts of fields, and academics.
If/when you figure out how everything works, that's when you can decide if you want to continue going along with it or move in the other direction to create change. Autistics are innovative thinkers; the movers and shakers of the world. You don't need a hierarchal 'squad' to make things happen.
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
- Dr. Seuss
Up, down, sideways. The places you'll go inside or outside the pyramid is up to you!
Dyspraxia is a form of developmental coordination disorder which usually goes hand in hand with an autism diagnosis that affects someone's ability to perform movements in a smooth, coordinated manner. The condition exists in varying degrees and may impact speech, perception, and thinking patterns (piecing words and ideas together). This is what I believe prevented me from articulating properly as a child. My sentences used to be very cut-and-dried; I've come a long way since then. Now I'm an excellent public speaker and I can have spontaneous conversations with banter and all.
Communication is 90% nonverbal: tone of voice, body, language, and facial expressions. Matching facial expressions with emotions, displaying proper reactions to various situations, and maintaining a natural gait/ posture are all elements autistics struggle with. These are more reasons why autistics are often labeled as lacking empathy. I've smiled and even laughed after receiving bad news before. I think I do it out of anxiety and a part of me wants to cheer the other person up.
Friend: Why are you smiling? It's sad.
Me: I don't know. Why are you smiling?
Friend: Because you're smiling.
Responding "normally" to situations isn't something that comes naturally to those on the spectrum. This can give others the wrong impression which can go beyond social awkwardness and make us seem like insensitive sociopaths. As a kid, I used to spend hours upon hours in front of a mirror practicing different facial expressions and hand gestures. I became an expert in appearing neurotypical. Like most aspie females, I was hiding in plain sight. When a friend found out I was autistic he equated it to finding out I was a spy. A very blunt spy.
Him: I just thought you were a bada**.
Well, I'd still like to think of myself as a bada**, but not as bad. Autistic people can struggle to wear a natural smile that may come off as "creepy", odd, or even rude. I always opted for the soft smile as it was a safer bet than attempting a big teethe grin. Now I'm very comfortable expressing the entire spectrum of emotion: the good and bad ones.
I'm very familiar with angry emotions. >:|
Kiddinggg... I'm made entirely of rainbows and butterflies! :)
Dark butterflies. >:)
No wait, a social butterfly. :D
My social learning curve has had a butterfly effect on my interpersonal motivation and interactions. Mimicking other people's behaviour helped me wing it for most of my life. I'm happy I broke free from my insecure cucoon. Now that I've morphed into an expressive person, I'm hoping I can still maintain a poker face when I get butterflies in my stomach.
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
- Muhammad Ali
I want to maintain a delicate exterior and a strong interior.
Strong independent lady. That's what someone called me yesterday. When I observe myself from the outside, I realize that I've become exactly type of woman I didn't like. She intimidated me. She challenged me. She was everything I thought I could never be. A strong independent lady. Some days I feel like that, some days I don't. I'll admit that it's scary paving a path along other aspie women in unknown territory. It feels like I've jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. Then again, my entire life has felt like a constant free fall so what's an extra jump?
Sometimes I enjoy the fall, sometimes it makes me panic. I deleted few blog posts this week out of anxiety; the pieces that got the best responses. I put them in my blog's draft folder but will probably repost them later on after a few edits, or save them for when I compile my writings for a book. A fellow advocate and page admin told me that his most controversial work has always been his most successful ones. When I write, I try to think: "is this helping my audience?"..."is this how I want the world to see me?". I do think my writing gives a unique insight into my world. I'm not trying to paint myself as anything other than who I am, but I do want to be a positive role model.
Like I stated on my main page, I'm "untamed", but I'm still I'm trying to be on my best behaviour. People too easily develop opinions and often misinformed ones that can take years to change. An online post can be misread so easily. I'm developing an image and I've had the self cringe over posting something too personal, but that's what people know me for. Raw honesty. When people read my blog, they're reading me. I've seen personal adversity and have found my version of success. I've doubted myself my whole life as autistic women often play an act rather than being themselves. I used to be a compilation of different people's personalities. It's hard to be confident when you don't know who you are. I'm finally learning who I am, independent from exterior influences. No matter what you put out in the world, some will like it, some will dislike it, and some won't care. I want the people who like me like the real me.
"I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not."
- Kurt Cobain
I'd rather be independently thinking than dependently acting.
Kristina Kolley is a dear friend who speaks several languages and reads Braille. She asked a compelling question on an article I posted that I wanted to share with you guys. Feel free to weigh in:
"In terms of stories, TV shows, articles, etc. providing hope to some people on the spectrum, the question I would like to ask (as someone not on the spectrum, but who does fall into the disability category), in a reflective sense, is this:
What is the source of someone not feeling hopeful in the first place? I ask this somewhat rhetorically, knowing full well that there is a shortage of funding and programs, a general public who is not yet adequately informed about autism, the prevalence of stereotypes, and the list goes on.
I suppose what I am trying to articulate is that I have found, as a blind person, that there is a societal assumption that one who is, say, blind, is going to need positive bolstering by default. It is almost as though it is assumed that as soon as you are old enough to think, you are going to regard your life as somehow hopeless or negative. I am not attempting to paint my life into something idyllic, but I personally never let others convince me that I should feel X way about myself, my condition or quality of life.
What I have observed, though, is that some blind people, who were surrounded with messages to the effect that blindness was hard, began to absorb the assumptions of the people around them.
I recall (and it still happens) people telling me that I have a positive attitude. I am only mentioning this because it is something common blind people hear, and not as any form of bragging or even a semblance of the truth all the time. My point is that that it was assumed, by default, that my attitude would be negative. Do certain things suck? Absolutely, but many of those things are just waiting for progressive solutions.
So, all this rambling to say ... I am just wondering whether people on the spectrum who feel negative or hopeless about their "identity" (hope that word is appropriate and not offensive), aside from the need for better social programs and the eradication of stereotypes, might feel more positive if, say, the media portrayed autism more favourably, thereby encouraging a nudge of social attitudes in a different direction.
Wow, that may have been my longest sentence ever! Hope I'm at least making some sense. :)"
Margo: I do think the media has a lot of influence on people's self-esteem. If something is normalized on television, people of diverse backgrounds will be able to identify with role models as opposed to feeling defective. Social media, more specifically Instagram, creates unhealthy comparisons between followers. The world is a show driven by social status and image. Hopelessness stems from wanting a different role.
I knew you were going to open it. You little rebel, you. I like you. Autistics are rebels by nature, hence the blog Raising Rebel Souls (site currently unavailable). Being real is an act of rebellion in a world that profits from being fake. To also elaborate on a previous mention of the enlarged justice gland in autistics, this is a trait that when channelled properly, can be make tremendous strides in society. Many of us have found a good fit in the justice system, activism, and the arts.
Rebelling is okay so long is it's for the greater good, doesn't harm anyone, or break the law. Whistleblowers may not agree with that last one but it's a grey area I would never step into. I'm an advocate, not a social justice martyr. It's also wise not to attack or throw anyone under the bus. No matter how wrong someone is, it's human nature to bark back when attacked. Nonviolent resistance is my philosophy. People are so used to quarrels that they don't know how to respond to those who kill them with kindness. There's a reason Martin Luther King Jr was more effective than Malcolm X. I'm not comparing their significance, only their methods. As much as we're hurting, retaliating will never solve anything.
A new "fad label" for rebellion is ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Like personality disorders and autism, I believe it's also a spectrum. Children who defy authority are labeled as such. My issue with this is that it assumes that the authority is correct. A lifetime of being mistreated by authority figures yet being obedient towards them doesn't make me any less defiant, it's a way of thinking. Some autistics are different and will act out against injustices done towards them. It's easier to label a child with having a disorder rather than understanding the reason behind a child's behaviour. Children branded as 'bad' could be dealing with internal struggles you can't even imagine. For the record, I've never been diagnosed with ODD but I recognize a lot of the frustrations in the traits. I do have a defiant perspective but doesn't make me deviant. Not all non-conforming behaviour needs a label. Doctors in the past have diagnosed slaves who didn't commit to their tasks well enough as having ‘dysaesthesia aethiopis’. Have we already forgotten that homosexuality used to be in the DSM5? The message that sends out is: if you don't think or do as you're told, there's something wrong with you.
"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
The greatest minds of the world went against the grain. No major breakthroughs have happened by people who follow the herd. When it comes to following orders, the world is a jungle and no matter how many rules exist to tame its creatures, many are still captives of nature. The only real difference between people are the varying degrees of emancipation from their lower nature. Life is a constant struggle between survival and virtue. There's a million ways to get ahead, but not everyone is equipped with the tools to do so in a kosher way. Remembering this helps me have compassion for even the most ruthless or abased of us. I have faith in humanity. Whether we're the walking-dead, the walking-sleeping, or the walking-woke, we're all walking in the same direction. Our pace is just different levels of consciousness.
"I have a dream."
I had a dream too. Surviving a nightmare will wake someone up more than dreaming ever will.
About that notorious aspie arrogance, it's not true what they say about it. Autistics imitate neurotypical behaviour and can overshoot completely. These people can be labeled as being arrogant, obnoxious, or eccentric. In reality, we're very gentle natured, compliant, and calm. I may not agree with societal standards but I'm still a law abiding citizen. I can come off as a know-it-all but I'd be a hypocrite if I stood for egality yet thought of myself as better. I see everyone as equals. Self-righteousness can be a prideful downfall.
"Pride comes before the fall."
- Spanish proverb
Here's why there can be an egotistical misunderstanding between neurologies: autistics have a higher than average fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations, and identify patterns. In contrast, crystallized intelligence is the ability to use learned knowledge and experience. This can be frustrating from both directions. Autistics don't understand why neurotypicals can't think outside of their learned education and neurotypicals can't understand why autistics struggle with regular education.
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."
I'm an out-of-the-box thinker. My gifts are best utilized outside of the public education system. Autistic children are said to struggle with imaginative play but that's not accurate. Not being able to communicate your imagination doesn't mean it's not there. My mind has inestimable connecting links for every idea; this allows me to play with words. Word play, they call it; words are always at play. I give you my word, it's an aspie's play structure inside a ward of our brain. I can play it down if you word to join me. As you can tell, autistics love puns. Autistics are the most imaginative people I know. With the right tools, they can soar to great heights. Knowledge is the train while imagination is the airplane.
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."
- Albert Einstein
I'm doing relatively well for myself in life. I'm starting to make a name for myself in the autism community, and to a lesser extent in the modelling world, but it would be arrogant for me to believe that I did it all on my own. We all need support. God knows I need it more than most. I have an invisible army backing me up: spiritual leaders, friends, family, and perfect strangers. Anytime I'm struggling with something, there's always someone I can reach out to at the touch of a button. Like I've mentioned before, my condition keeps me very humble. We all have insecurities. You have to remember that my blog only includes the parts of me I choose to show you. It's rare to grow up autistic without having your self-esteem damaged. No matter how many people love and support me today, I can't help but think that they would have rejected my 12 year old self. I am perpetually twelve, after all. People can't tell you're insecure if you fake it really well. Eventually, true confidence will follow. What helped me accept me for who I am was seeing others not care what others think, more specifically, the LGBT community. People advocating for their rights have the fiercest characters I've ever encountered. At the end of the day, everyone just wants the same thing: acceptance.
"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
How can I boast about my worth when the world doesn't value me? Despite having a strong personality, I know my place. I'm but a mere mortal like you. Autistics aren't better or less, just different. As for Margo, she writes to help free them from the ego-centred constraints of society.
[Link to my blog post "The Girl Who Never Grew Up" that will explain my perpetually twelve reference http://www.lifeaspermargo.com/-my-blog/the-girl-who-never-grew-up]