Last year at this time, I was preparing to go to my high school reunion.
I had never gotten around to writing about it. Today, I will.
It would be the first reunion I had ever attended; there were indeed five-, ten-, and fifteen-year reunions, but circumstances had always prohibited me from going. Last year marked the 20-year. And despite being on the heels of my most significant self-discovery ever, I was going to go, come hell or high water.
I was split between two worlds–one of excitement, and one of apprehension. This would be my first airline flight since my Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery, and I was knee-deep in the torrential undercurrents of the reframing process, becoming aware of–and honest with myself about–how things actually affected me, coming to terms with it all, and making a little more room in my life for my newly-realized needs and adjustments.
Yeah. It was a lot to process.
I had to take serious stock. Reality check: how does flying actually affect me?
There’s the US TSA screening; luckily I had enrolled in the TSA Pre-Check program the year before, so flying wasn’t nearly the pain in the arse that it had been before. But the fact remained that the TSA security agents were still an all-powerful force to be reckoned with, and they had all-powerful powers to detain someone. Even though I don’t break laws or pose threats, Shizz Happens, and I tend toward not-the-best of luck. I realized just how anxious the TSA process makes me.
I can find my way around and locate my gate just fine, but sitting at said gate can be difficult in itself. Airports are not built to be quiet places, and shrieks, especially those emanating from small children without developed senses of inhibition, no matter how adorable, tend to reverberate the most potently and pierce my eardrums the most painfully. Worse yet, these bursts of sensory agony are completely unpredictable, sending me into a state of pensive defense. In fact, I feel myself huddling, wanting nothing more than to curl up in a fetal position.
Then there’s the plane itself. Too crowded, too cramped, and too much for my semi-germophobic imagination. At least some of the sound is comparatively more muffled, but it never fails: there is always one crying baby on the flight (seriously–every time), and my partial hearing loss is no match.
Then there’s the reunion itself. Would it, too, be too overwhelming? I graduated in a class of over 400; how many of them would be attending? Will there be anyone that I like? Anyone who liked me? Would anyone even remember me? If so, in which way–good or bad? Would I be more awkward, less awkward, or differently awkward than before? I was still in Free, Liberal Disclosure Mode; how many people would I end up telling (if anyone), who would they be, and how would they react? Would it be a case of “oh, so that’s why (you were so weird/quiet/awkward, etc)!” Or would it be “congratulations! I’m glad you solved your mystery”? Or maybe “I’m so sorry; you must be devastated”?
Hell if I knew. It was a wildcard at that point.
And why the hell couldn’t they have held the reunion at the school or somewhere in the same community? I knew my way around that pretty well. But no, they had to hold it in some strange and remote place far away from anything I’d been used to. Argh.
As it turns out, my best friend from high school came with me, and since I have well-developed nerves of steel, she doubled as my passenger and navigator, which took an immense load of stress off my shoulders. I (gently) advised her on how to navigate the route in a way that I could hear and comprehend. She did wonderfully.
This also meant that I had someone to talk with, even in the event that no one else would.
I learned that as an autistic, I can ask for pre-boarding privileges without paying extra for them. In the US, you don’t even have to tell the airline why or produce any kind of documentation; you just ask for a pre-boarding pass at the desk at your gate. The US airlines are extremely understanding and accommodating. They had my back.
I ended up telling only two people about my revelation; as for the rest, I simply kept it to myself, feeling interestingly conspiratorial. It was my Inner Secret. One of the people I told responded with the socially obligatory “I’m sorry”, but I quelled that quickly with, “please, don’t be. It’s really OK. In fact, I was so happy; it’s one of the best things to happen to me.” And she was cool with that. She seemed relieved, like the pressure of a thick awkwardness had been released, evaporated.
My trip there had begun with an acute dental emergency, so although I was mostly recovered from that by the time of the reunion, I was still coming down from it, so there was a bit of an overshadowing preoccupation. That’s OK, too. (Incidentally, that’s the event that kicked off the string of dental visits last summer and fall.)
Nobody ridiculed me; they either talked with me in a friendly way, or we didn’t talk. I think about 70 people showed up, and I think I talked with a total of six or seven.
Overall, I’m really glad I went, and I’m also glad that this will only take place every five-to-ten years. 🙂
PS: If you’re in the US and you fly even once every couple years, I highly recommend enrolling in the TSA Pre-Check program and obtaining a pre-board authorization! ❤