I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that up until last night, I didn’t know what the word “serendipity” meant. I actually had to go look up the word in order to write this post with some kind of confidence that I wouldn’t look like a goof for using the word wrong–or the wrong word. (I’m not ashamed to admit–nor am I above admitting–that (lol).)
I’m really glad I did! It basically means to make a desirable discovery by accident.
Talk about synchronicity (another one of my favorite words)! Isn’t that what I’ve been talking about all week (well, OK–sprinkled throughout the almost-400 blog posts this whole year)?
Last summer, a mere three months to the day after my own Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery, I ventured out to attend my 20-year high school reunion. I met up with a few people from my past (wow–some of the most popular kids actually do think I’m cool now! Talk about therapeutic).
Interestingly enough, when the conversation began with “what have you been up to these days?”, and I answered, “oh, nothing… I just found out that I’m actually autistic”, the person (who is actually really cool herself) responded with the conventionally-socially-expected “oh my gosh! I’m so sorry.”
I replied, “oh no, please, don’t be. It was a huge relief to find out.”
She was cool with that. The awkwardness that she had felt much more so than I did had evaporated. She was happy for me, although somewhat confused by the idea that it was actually a good thing.
The truth is, I’m autistic/an Aspie. I’ve always been, and I always will be, until my last breath.
I’m perfectly OK with that. In fact, I’m more than OK. Because I don’t perceive the Asperger’s/autism spectrum as a disorder. I think of it as a Different Way of Being.
I may have my difficulties, and I may face my challenges, but I’m not down, and I’m not out. I may need to recharge more often, because I may need to spend more energy to interact successfully with those of a different neurotype. I may be misunderstood; I may get misinterpreted. Because I may not be perfectly-versed in the “normal” social rules and customs. A missed nonverbal cue here, a social faux pas there. Shit happens.
The natural inclination is to pity me. But I don’t need pity. I need understanding and acceptance.
I don’t need sympathy. Instead, I need empathy. I need the world to imagine what it might be like to walk a mile down our road, to live life through our lens.
I don’t need sadness or condolences. I do need leeway. I do need latitude. I do need the world to realize that it’s too bright and too loud for some of us, and that it’s easy for us to get overwhelmed. It’s not necessarily that our nervous systems are problematically oversensitive; it’s just that those whose nervous systems are less sensitive outnumber and outvote us.
It’s all relative.
And the world needs all kinds.
I’m well aware of my challenges and disadvantages that come pre-installed on my Asperger’s/Autism OS. I’m aware of its limitations, the functions it can’t perform.
But I’m equally aware of the features that are inherent and onboard most versions of the AOS that don’t come standard with the neurotypical OS (NTOS?). I’m aware of the special tools and Easter-egg packages.
Modern western civilization has largely been built on the individual as the basic element, with an emphasis on individual sovereignty and civil rights. Democracy and representative republics are modeled on the idea that the individual is fit to govern themselves for most affairs, and to elect representatives to carry out the rest. In such a model, it’s implied that an individual is free to be themselves as they are, and it’s implied further that being different is good. Thus, a certain value has been placed on diversity, and in recent decades, society has made impressive strides toward achieving and realizing that value. (We’re not quite there yet; we have a ways to go. But we’re getting there.)
So, why the insistence upon the assumption that Asperger’s/autism is a pathology, a disorder, an excuse to cast someone in a negative light? Why is the discovery of such a classification met with such sympathy, condolences, even sorrow? Is a Linux or Mac computer sorry that it’s a Linux or a Mac? Is it sorry or apologetic that it’s not Windows/PC?
Meh. Call me a Linux, call me a Mac. It doesn’t matter to me. Call me non-Windows or non-PC; that’s cool, too.
But please don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not sorry I was born this way. Please don’t wonder about my mum, either; she wasn’t cold, older, autoimmune (at least, not at that time). She didn’t use harsh cleaning chemicals or smoke or drink. Hell, she even took prenatal vitamins with folate before doctors even started telling pregnant women to do so. She was healthy; she had done her research. My place on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum was simply meant to be.
I don’t know much about social rules, but I do know that you pretty much only have to express sympathy and condolences if they actually suffered a loss, are suffering in some other way, or feeling down.
None of that applies to me. That lets everybody else of a Windows/PC neurotype off the hook, at least when they’re dealing with me.
What nobody’s off the hook for, however, is trying to expand their knowledge, understanding, and acceptance, or trying to broaden their horizons and reach ever further.
Never stop trying to do that. Never sit back and rest on your laurels. Never coast or become complacent. The learning process is never finished. The duty to keep learning is never done, for any of us 🙂