I walk differently. I like to think I have swagger but perhaps I just have swing. Equally loose hipped and loose lipped, I make my way through life and I’m never found short of a retort for those who think there’s only one way to win the human race.
As we walk through life, we face many challenges. Some are ones we set for ourselves, but most are imposed on us from without. The walk may seem like a hurdle race but sometimes we need to stop and look more closely at what is in our path.
The path can seem full of barriers. In fact, it can feel like fate decided to add a few hoops to jump through in between each hurdle. However hurdles do not have to leapt over and I am not a performing seal. If a barrier has been placed there by someone else, you could just walk around it or even knock over and leave it on the ground.
I pick. I choose. I say “No,” to problems and “Bring it on!” to others. My favourite battles are the ones I set myself. The internal challenges to be a better person, a better teacher, or a better writer. The external gets less of my energy, less of my drive and far less of my emotion. Some problems are just side stepped.
I just don’t have time for prejudice or energy for isms, so I choose to ignore them. I have redesigned my life. A little thought and a new outlook and the uphill hurdle marathon can easily become an effortless down-hill slalom. Don’t be afraid to loosen your hips and put a little swing in your step.
We all see the world differently. Perspectives can change with time and place. However difference can unite us or divide us. It is up to us to decide on that.
I am a gay. That makes me somehow different. In my life, that difference has been the source of intense hatred from some and touchingly profound love from others. Being outside, my brothers and sisters showed me what solidarity can look like. Being outside, sometimes I really needed them. My family never cast me out and indeed, love and acceptance has been more of a motif than hate.
Hate is strong though. The power of seemingly isolated incidents can butterfly effect into a tsunami that crushes self esteem and inhibits self expression. I remember so many of the acts of hate, so vividly. Why then can’t I recall the individual kindnesses with the same focus too.
I am going to change my perspective. Acts of love need to be marked and gratitude needs to be both registered within and expressed without. I am surrounded by love, not hate, and the bubble I float in should not be popped by the occasional small prick.
From today I will see the world differently.
My life has changed. I was once afraid of someone. They cast a shadow over me, and I could see no escape. I tried to run but no matter where I went, they were just behind me. I was haunted. My self esteem was battered and I sought validation from anyone and everyone. I was desperately seeking a seal of approval in the hope that it might chase the shadow away.
One day I stopped running. I sat down and waited. I faced my fears, and I braced myself for whatever might happen. The truth he gave me was not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. This man I had tried to evade was strong but he wasn't unreasonable. His demands were fairly simple and I agreed to them.
Now I am my own man. I am in my skin and so happy to be there. I am riddled with faults, yet I am beautiful. I will never be perfect, but I try everyday to be a better person, and, sometimes, I succeed.
The man I had been running away from was myself. So many years I hid who I was, not just from the world, but from me. I was scared of what people would think of this. However, this is who I am. Every piece of grit and glitter, every obstacle I have overcome has made me unique. You can thrust labels on me and goodness knows I like a label. Spastic, Camp, or Aspergers are all worn like Chanel for I am as strong as an ox, as cool as cucumber, and as crazy as a coconut. I no longer worry about what anyone thinks because I have found the key to my happiness is just being me.
A year ago, with the ink still drying on my autism diagnosis, I waved goodbye to the ugly face of blatant, corporate discrimination. Someone had decided I didn't fit and my professional life became a living hell. I was good at my job and wanted to continue there. I was assured that obtaining this diagnosis would ease the situation and protect me. It did not. After fighting and losing the battle to keep my job, I gave up. I gave up the round hole life I had been living.
I am no stranger to starting again. I have had to do it before. I was once a teacher, possibly a good one. However, I battled homophobia every day in the classrooms and the corridors of London. After a few incidents outside of school too, I decided I couldn't take any more. I lost that fight but preserved my sanity. Years before that, I lost my job in a local authority up north. My boss decided I didn't fit in. She made it clear that she could find no fault with my work. It was me that was a problem. I was a square peg.
I may lose jobs but I am not a loser. Life can be unkind because I am a gay man with cerebral palsy and Asperger's Syndrome. However hidden beneath the labels and the isms, I am just another human being. I may not fit in but that is because I no longer choose to. I am a lover of life and a seeker of happiness. I am a pacifist but will go bare knuckle to fight my corner.
That life I love is now the Asperger Path. Since I set off a year ago I have seen and done things I never thought I'd do. I am travelling very slowly and stopping to look at life along the way. I am exploring whatever I choose. Writing is one way I explore the world. It has become very important to me and I make time to write every day. My thoughts and my poetry will never change the universe, but they are changing my perception of the world and my place in it. It's my way of squaring the circle.
It’s been a year. How am I?
A year ago I lost my job in circumstances that were less than savoury. I discovered that discrimination is alive and kicking in twenty first century Britain. When it rears its ugly head its price is cold hard cash. Hush money was paid and I went. My head may have appeared to be held high but inside my tail was firmly between my legs.
So my first steps along the Asperger Path were walking away. Away from people who saw my weaknesses and seemed blind to what I could offer. Away from people who tried to get inside my head and happily trampled my self esteem and my dignity under dirty, corporate feet.
I went far and now my scars are no longer livid. A year has passed and my life has changed. I have taken my diagnosis, put it in with the rest of my baggage, and I have travelled. This rigid creature of habit who couldn’t cope without routines has slept on sofas, hitchhiked, stayed with strangers, made new friends and travelled half way around the world. I’ve seen the sun rise over mountains, deserts and oceans. With each sunrise came another day of my new life.
Here in Cambodia, I met an extraordinary man. With the gentle honesty that sometimes only a stranger can exercise, he pointed out my strengths and dismissed my protestations. He was passing through, geographically speaking, but he will be around for a long time. He gently told me that my fine mind is balanced by a fine heart. In doing so he reminded me of someone I used to think I was.
So here I am. That goodhearted man, blue eyed and smiling, is older but he is not lost. I’m not walking away anymore. The Asperger Path is mine. I don’t deny it; I own it. I will go where it takes me and I am confident it will take me where I want to go.
It’s been a year. How am I? I am fine.
Once I lived in a beautiful town on the bank of a river. Kind people and happy faces were in no short supply as I pottered about. My life was built around casual conversation and good coffee. I was living in paradise. Why did I leave?
Well I suppose the main factor was that I lost my job. My employer pushed me into getting a diagnosis of Aspergers and then seemed unsure what to do with it. That uncertainty sat over me like a cloud and brought a great deal of unhappiness. I locked my heart, steeled my soul and tried to protect myself. I was told that I wasn’t wanted. They were guilty of disability discrimination and they knew it. My silence was bought and paid for but the hurt and the shame came at a higher price than money.
I ran away. I travelled to the other side of the world and kept moving. For now, I am living in a beautiful town on the bank of a river. Kind people, happy faces and good coffee percolate my soul. Having lost paradise, I am not trying to regain it but it seems to follow me. I am a traveller now. I don’t want to settle and build a life. I want to keep moving, keep changing until eventually, the fear of losing is lost. The shame will subside and the hurt will heal. Then I will find paradise for I know where it is. It’s locked away safely in my heart.