When I first heard about the Asperger’s/autism spectrum discussion forum Wrong Planet (link to site), I instantly got the (half-) joke. Because in two little words, everything I sometimes feel was summed up so simply. Sometimes I really do feel like I got dropped off on the wrong planet. I know it’s cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that I wasn’t brought here as part of a deranged X-File experiment. I can certainly consider the entire embodiment of my mom, and my dad, and I can see exactly from whom I inherited various physical, emotional, and cognitive/mental traits. Many of these are indeed inherited. But there has always been something else. A third, unknown and mysterious element. An entire set of traits and tendencies that came from neither parent, nor any other ancestral relatives I’ve known.
And then there was school. Other kids looked to me like little Minions running around, clued in to some unwritten and unspoken code that I was clueless about.
I had a hard time relating to other people. I had an even harder time making friends. I was happy just to survive the school day.
My mother promised that things would change when I grew up. That everything would even out as everyone grew up to become their own unique individual. I envisioned a world that was essentially an ocean of unique individuals into which I could seamlessly blend, into which I would simply, unquestionably be accepted, in which my weirdness no longer mattered.
As I grew up, I realized that that unwritten, unspoken, and nonsensical code did indeed carry over into adulthood, that despite my best efforts I still didn’t quite feel included or accepted, and my weirdness still mattered.
The yawning gap between myself and the rest of the world had not shrunk. The world still looks like a bunch of bigger, older Minions running around, still adhering to the code that I am still clueless about. The only difference between then and now is a few decades.
Since finding out that I’m not a broken neurotypical “Windows” operating system, but rather, a neurodivergent “Mac” trying to adhere to NT/Windows-based coding rules, I don’t feel nearly so defective. So at least, that’s a consolation prize–and a dang nice one at that.
But the gap still exists. I can deal with this situation in one of several ways…
Option #1 is to put on a mask, running a proverbial Windows emulator. It’s slow and sometimes destabilizing, but if I have the system resources that day, or it’s important enough that I do so, I can.
Doing this ties up a lot of cognitive and emotional resources, though. It drains my battery power. The costs are high. But, sometimes (often), it’s necessary, because the neurotypical Windows world isn’t quite ready to accept my neurodivergent Mac system as a separate-but-equal entity just yet. Maybe someday, it will. Maybe even in my lifetime. I just hope the world can reach that point before the last matchsticks in my frame give out once and for all.
Option #2 is to forgo the emulator mask and just be my bad-ass Mac self. That’s the most comfortable and efficient use of my resources. But the programming languages just aren’t compatible yet. I fear the weird stares and the apprehensive inching away that have become all too familiar since I ventured out of my home-base safe space and into the cruel world of kindergarten. Because it didn’t stop there, my own apprehension became a survival skill but also a block in my path. As the unpleasant experiences mounted, my reservations strengthened. After all, if you’ve been kicked enough for simply walking into society, you eventually become aversive to doing so again. Pavlov’s dogs and all that. The cost of simply refusing to intermingle is high for me, too. My career would probably crash and burn, and I can’t afford that right now.
Option #3 is ideal; I could try to help teach Mac neurodiversity to the world, so that at least when a neurotypical Windows system encounters a neurodivergent Mac one, it doesn’t recoil in fear, apprehension, or even disgust. That takes longer, and it also uses up a lot of resources on my end, but at least there’s a palatable result; potentially, everybody wins. The costs are high, but instead of being an expense, I could view it as more of an investment. I would still be the one doing the investing, but I could pull in a little proverbial “venture capital” from the rest of the world, too.
I will always be a minority, and I may always feel like an alien, but maybe someday I will feel less so and more accepted. Maybe my mom’s promises will come true after all. 🙂
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(Image Credit: Roger Dean)