I’ve loved writing this blog. I’ve loved reading your comments and feeling like I can keep you company in a small way on your journey, whether you’re in high school or have been living with this for 60+ years. And I’ll still be writing about autism! Just not every week. It was starting to bum me out.
I remember when I started back in 2013. I’d just moved to New York to be a famous fashion designer. I didn’t know a soul. I was nervous and lonely and at 26, reasonably aware I could fail. But I like thinking back on those days. I was so hopeful.
I still knew I was autistic. Unlike a lot of us, I was lucky enough to get my diagnosis at 13. But it took another fifteen years to accept it. Autism didn’t feel like an identity to me when I was growing up. It felt like this weird nefarious thing I had to carry around like a test of character. If I worked hard enough; if I had enough good old-fashioned discipline and gave myself enough tough love, I could make it go away.
That worked maybe 40% of the time. I got through college without my IEP. I had almost enough friends there too, even though most of them were nerds or other people with problems. I worked out and looked good and took pride in appearing as normal as possible. I partied as much as I could, especially in my mid-twenties once I’d figured out how to socialize a little better. And I went out with many (and I do mean many!) neurotypical men. That shit was fun. But they kept dumping me. Then I got into the work world and I couldn’t keep up.
So I started going to support groups. Being in a room full of us and hearing just how much our stories are the same rocked my world. Being smart. Being logical. Reading about our special interests for hours and hours and hours. Being content with our own company.
On the flip side, always feeling alone even if we have friends. That constant feeling of embarrassment that you’d think we get used to, but we don’t. Feeling like we’re just close enough to normal to understand it a little bit, but it will never be ours. It was like a single diary entry by 30 people. It was so beautiful.
I still disagree with the autism community on some things. Like neurodiversity. But thanks to them I don’t feel like I have to castigate myself for being different anymore. I can just live my life.
The things I’m dealing with now have less to do with identity and more to do with long-term goals. I know I’ve been talking about getting a job forever, but I actually did something about it this week. I’m in therapy. I’m trying to smoke less weed. I’m engaged to a lovely autistic man and we’re maybe even starting to think about what it would mean to bring another autistic life into the world. That’s a very stage one thought right now though.
Most of all, I’m trying to stop being bitter. There’s no point. Life doesn’t wait for any of us to figure it out. At some point we realize that our baggage is going to shape us forever. And some of us will always have more of it than others. And no, it’s not fair. But it’s the way it is. And that’s okay. Putting the effort and wisdom into learning from your pain is worth way more than flawless judgment or perfect genetics. It makes life real.
I’ll probably never be proud of having autism. But I’ve seen some shit. I’ve put myself out there. And THAT’S something to be proud of.
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