When I was younger, I was plagued with doubt. I did not seem to fit the mould and I thought that I ought to. I was different in so many ways.
The doubts started just before the end of primary school. I could sense that I was not as popular and it hurt. The happy carefree child that had laughed and danced through the early years started to feel self conscious. Things were about to get worse.
Big school started at eleven and so did the systematic bullying. The daily humiliation of the school playground took its toll. I stopped being me but the bullying continued. At sixteen I was suicidal and anxious and by eighteen I had surrendered my dreams and dropped out.
I often refer to my twenties as the lost years. I battled depression and failed. I bought a house and tried to fit into a suburban life that didn’t fit. As I approached thirty I lost my job and I felt worthless.
I met a woman on a plane. She was an English teacher and she reached out to me. The conversation with her didn’t change my life but it did help me turn a corner. Her positivity helped me see the hurdles I saw could be overcome.
I trained to be a teacher. I taught. I perfected my craft. I took risks in the classroom. I took risks outside of the classroom. I grew. I worked. I became less self conscious and more self aware.
Now I’m fifty one. I do not fit the mould and I ought not too. I am different in so many ways. In becoming me I have learnt that surviving is not living but it is important. I survived and now my life is on my terms.
So, if you are struggling, hurt, bullied or victimised please do not give up. We all have a place in life. The more unique your place is, the harder your struggle may be to get there. Breaking the mould isn’t easy but when you do, life can be anything you want it to be.
I am a traveller of sorts. A meanderer who has no set path or clear destination. After a year in one country you might argue I am settled, but my journey is more than merely physical.
I see the collectors of experience. They meticulously checklist their way through tomorrow’s memories without even stopping to whistle. Cultures are sipped and palates rarely cleansed before the next new taste is up for consumption.
I am no different. Instead of travelling through countries, I travel through people. Life is kept fresh by keeping the door to my mind wide open to passing souls who come, and sometimes go, with ease. Rapport is something that can build in a moment, especially with those rare few who resonate with the deepest vibrations of my soul.
This weekend I met man, so earnest and passionate and we talked. Stories of youth were shared and the depressingly universal experiences of growing up gay were bemoaned. My new friend was interested in self esteem and bullying, and the role educators can play in breaking the cycle of depression and self harm for young gay men. Bad histories were being turned into better tomorrows by his actions. It was talk that went somewhere.
We may not meet again but we are connected. A good conversation can change the course of life. I may not be the fastest traveller but he has moved me and shown me places I never expected to see.
The circus is coming to town. Life cannot be planned because things happen that are unexpected, uninvited or even unwelcome. Those of us who try to control our lives end up running around like crazy clowns. So success is never about controlling what we have, it is about managing the unexpected.
Thus life needs flexibility. So what happens to those of us who are rigid and don’t have the social malleability that most of society is born with. We change. We learn. We study the patterns and we analyse the results. It’s learnt behaviour and it’s not intuitive, but it is what we do.
We are the cognitively different, the spectrum reordered, the walkers of the Asperger Path. We bring a new perspective and a different view to life. At our best, we are breathtaking and we must learn to fit in the world and take our proper place. Being born different is my gift from the universe and I intend to make my difference make a difference.
You can be a tightrope walking trapeze artist in the circus of life or a straitjacket wearing lunatic locked in the control asylum.
Me? I’m running away to join the circus.
My Aspergers is with me always. Everywhere I go, it goes. My life is filtered through a disordered prism.
When the awkwardness hits, or relationships feel dry and unoiled, I know my Aspergers has raised its head again. I analyse what went wrong and pore over the details. I feel like a crazy, eccentric scientist because I know what I seek is simple, and yet it eludes me. My Aspergers is a source of frustration. When you know you have a flat tyre, the road still feels just as bumpy. Knowledge is good but knowledge is not the same as a solution.
But there are days when my Aspergers is almost invisible. These are the good days when I feel that I am just like everyone else. Life ticks over and Aspergers gets no credit.
Yet surely my Aspergers contributes as much to my success as my failure. My brain is still wired differently when I am being brilliant at work, funny at dinner, or helpful to a friend. It solves problems, creates solutions and makes my life, quite frankly, awesome.
I live with my Aspergers every day. All that is good about me is filtered through the same disordered prism. I am the rainbow and my life is lived on the spectrum. It’s beautiful and colourful here. Like everyone, I have good days and bad days, but every day I travel with my Aspergers.
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.
I am a bit stressed and anxious. Life has come along and overwhelmed me. I was not thinking or planning and I was quite happily suspended in the moment. A traveller resting in a tranquil bubble. When I am away from anxiety it feels like I am away from reality because, sadly, anxiety is the most real feeling I know.
Anyway along came reality. Would I like a promotion? Experience should say no. My mouth says yes and even as it is being said the scenarios start playing in my head. I call it the what if chain. My mind can string countless hypothetical situations together. The first one or two are where the world discovers the genius that has now been hidden in its midst for fifty years. Then the disaster movies start. In each I play a leading role in my own humiliation and downfall. There are more sequels than a Rocky movie and the plot is always formulaic. I play the loser and the tragedy is that I am brought to the ground by my own shortcomings.
The joys of the Asperger Path are manifold and diverse. I have amazing skills but I do not hold a broad portfolio. I have so many blind spots and I am a great deceiver. The other day I was talking about being a good friend and my companion said I didn’t sound like a man on the spectrum. Reality has taught me harshly that talking the talk and walking the walk are too very different things. I know my weaknesses and my how I have analysed them in detail. Knowing you’re blind doesn’t give you sight and knowing that I’m not a “people person” doesn’t make it easier to be one.
I will go back and explain that I am not the right man for the job. Humble pie with sour cream will be my plat du jour. Hopefully I will stay where I am but, more likely, I will move on . Am I a traveller seeking the next adventure or merely a man who is constantly running away from the last debacle?