And a few weeks ago I interviewed some autistic advocates at the World Autism Day conference at the UN. We networked. We debated the finer points of neurodiversity. Then we all went out afterwards like any other group of twentysomethings.
It was so enlightening you guys. Watching them, I knew they were not ashamed to be who they are. I’m sure it took years. But they seem energetic and optimistic and they see possibilities where most aspies I know just get frustrated.
Autism isn’t their whole lives. But it’s woven pretty seamlessly into them. We made stim jokes and sex jokes in a thirty-second span.
I wish I could be like that all the time. And that conference certainly helped: being autistic isn’t quite as scary as it was last month. But now that I’ve met a whole group of autistic people who a.) aren’t lame; b.) aren’t flagellating themselves whenever they show; and c.) are actually using their autism to make both money and a difference in the world, I know it’s time for me to step up. Deep down I’ve always felt like being autistic exempts me from responsibility. Because responsibility is scary.
I’ve got my work cut out for me though. It’s so hard to weave autism into our identity. It’s just as hard to figure out what we can and can’t do. I know I can’t do everything neurotypicals can. But I’m smart, a good friend, and I’m a lot of fun when I want to be. Sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself is a waste of a perfectly good life.
Autism doesn’t have to be an automatic badge of loserdom. It’s a cognitive difference. It means we have to hone our strengths, accept our weaknesses, and figure out what course is best for us. And we have to hang around people we like, who like us. We can even be picky. Autistic people are as varied as anyone else and it’s entirely possible for any of us to find a great community.
*T-shirt from Zazzle