Seven and a half months ago, I attended a professional conference. The subject material appealed to a small-but-growing niche of forward-thinking visionaries, and the energy in the ballroom had been mounting gradually throughout the day. Finally, with glee, one of the presenters exclaimed, “I feel like I’ve found my tribe!”
Little did I know that less than seven weeks later, I would stumble upon a discovery that would lead to me toward a tribe of my own.
I had, up until that point, led a life of relative loneliness. When the evidence of my spot on the autism spectrum first began to grow, I felt even lonelier. Of course, I was also relieved and set free; I now had a valid reason behind all of my miscellaneous quirks, needs, and emotional responses.
No longer was I simply “different” or “quirky”; it was Real.
The invisible wall that had always cordoned me off from the rest of the world revealed itself.
It also revealed this vast new terrain that I had to navigate, largely on my own at the time.
I sought firsthand accounts of adult Asperger’s/autism, and I found them. Countless others had written words I could’ve written myself.
I felt supported, validated, vindicated, comforted…almost loved.
A desire to contribute and return the favors fueled the birth of this blog. I receive no compensation. I don’t use my name, so there’s no personal notoriety. I’m not looking for kudos, a pat on the back, or even an “attagirl”. My motives are pure; I only want to help. I want to give others what others had unknowingly given me. I write this blog for both my own personal catharsis and for those for whom this might provide a similar source of peace and comfort.
A desire to boost the signal volume fueled me to build a profile for the blog on Twitter.
That’s where the magic happened.
I absolutely did come across several people with whom to interact and exchange blog post Likes and Comments on WordPress itself, and I am forever grateful that those people are in my life.
Twitter only amplified that community, magnified it, brought it home. Almost immediately, connections linked up and friendships formed.
It doesn’t matter that we might not know each others’ names. It doesn’t matter that we may not know what each other looks like. It doesn’t matter that we may live in different parts of the world. It doesn’t matter what our socioeconomic status, other disability status, or other demographics might be. It doesn’t matter what any of us do for a living, or whether we’re employed at all. It usually doesn’t even matter who we voted for.
The fact is, we’ve formed–and continue to form–a growing and evolving “tribe” of our own.
My life now includes other people Just. Like. Me. We may not have the same interests or top priorities. We may be of different religious or spiritual persuasions, if any at all. None of that matters, either.
What does matter is that we “get” each other. We can enter into a discussion (omg–the dreaded “written word”, in which so much is “lost”, including voice inflection/tone or body language) and someone might say something that may have offended “the rest of the world”, but we instantly understand. We “get” what the other person was trying to say, where they were coming from, and how they meant it.
This has changed the entire ballgame for me. I now wake up and reach for my phone, pull up my email account, see the notifications that have come in overnight, and smile. “So-and-so started following your blog”….”so-and-so sent you a direct message”….”so-and-so replied to your comment”….”16 people retweeted your tweet!”….”so-and-so likes your post”….and it goes on.
Alone on the staircase outside, a smile spreads across my face. I’m not doing it for show; no one else is there to see it. I do it because I feel it that strongly and vividly inside. There’s a “mind-family” of people across the world, in different time zones, in different cultures, who understand me better than some members of my own blood-family. They “get” me and I “get” them, because we have a similar core.
My life has a different meaning now. I strive to keep up with dozens of other blogs and several hundred other people, all of whom I’ve just met within the last five to six months, and the lion’s share of whom I’ve only met in the past two and a half. The time interval has been short; it still feels like we’ve known each other forever, like we’re long-lost friends or family from the distant past that are just now reuniting and reconnecting with each other. It makes my heart bloom, so wide that if it were indeed a flower, the outer petals would fall off.
It paints my life in vivid color, when I hadn’t realized before that it had only been black-and-white.
Words fail to completely express it, but with any luck, some of us have some kind of unconscious telepathic ability, and you probably “get” it anyway. 🙂
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