Roughly a year ago, I wrote about how it felt to find a personal circle of fellow Asperger’s/autistic peeps, a post that was largely fueled by connecting with people on Twitter. Today, I’m writing a follow-up to that post.
Year One of my Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery was about finding my identity, which mostly involved finding other people like me and comparing notes. It was peppered with choruses of “me too”s. It was about attempting to be part of–or even create–a thriving community. Finding the “we” that I had longed for throughout my life.
Up until that point, there had never been a “we” in my world. It was this mythical unicorn that other people around me seemed to enjoy, without effort. All my life I’d been informed of how “bright” I was, but despite this, I never could figure out how to navigate the choppy waters of social situations.
This had resulted in unbudging loneliness. Everyone else seemed to be included, whereas, despite my best efforts, I felt an invisible canyon.
Year Two, so far, has also been more about finding my place in this world, but this time through my own voice and the ownership thereof. Being comfortable with my aloneness. As the lovely Rhi put it, becoming “indifferent to the differences”. In short, reclaiming the “I” despite the desire for “we”.
Just as finding my tribe (yes, I’m using that word, dammit) brought a sense of liberation, validity, vindication, peace, and comfort, so, too, has rediscovering my separateness. Since I had never experienced the concept of “we”, I was unprepared for the sense of pressure that can often come with it.
There is indeed a certain amount of pressure in “we”, for no two people are alike, and there can be disappointment and emotional pain in that realization. Just when you think you’ve found a near carbon-copy of yourself, you realize it’s not so carbon after all.
And that’s OK. That’s human nature. It’s just not an aspect I saw coming. Boundaries have never exactly been my strong suit; determining them is harder, and enacting them is harder yet. I got too caught up in the jubilation of finding my “we”.
And so it goes. I still consider myself a part of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum community, of course. It’s not like I’ve backed out completely. I totally still love everybody! But I have taken a large enough step back to realize that there is still a “me” in “me too”.
The first year of my newly-realized place in the community was probably spent putting too much emphasis on the “too” part, at the expense of the “me” part. The second year, unintentionally but beneficially, has been spent rectifying that oversight.
Part of me is liberated by this concept. In a way, I had allowed myself to succumb to the (probably jointly-)applied pressure to fit in, to be accepted, to agree, to go with the flow, to adapt like the chameleon I always had been, and to follow the (new set of) unwritten rules.
And now, I’ve let myself off the hook for all that. I’ve written about this before, and now I’m writing about it again, which indicates to me that this isn’t an event so much as it is a longer-term process.
Another part of me, however, is scared to death. Do I dare reassert myself and insist on more of the “me” in “me too”, just when I’m beginning to feel like I’m solidifying my place among others?
And then I realize that once again, I’m probably not alone. No matter how unusual my story or unconventional my situation, there’s probably someone else saying to themselves, “oh thank goodness! And here I thought I was weird; I thought I was the only one.”
Nope. No matter how atypical (let’s reclaim that word, shall we?) my thoughts, there’s always a sense of relief that I feel when my story is further validated by its reflection back to me by someone else.
There’s still a “too” in that “me too”, of course! I might have sunk a claiming stake on my own island, but there are always bridges connecting mine to those of others.
And I always cherish that. 🙂
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(Image Credit: Roger Dean)