Choosing the subject of the blog came easily. I have a lot of interests that I could write about in detail, but writing about Autism seemed to encompass the widest range of emotions. Even though I look “normal” enough to pass as a neurotypical (Aspie-talk for regular folk), and I’ve trained myself over the years to conduct myself in a professional manner, to the best of my ability, the struggles of the abnormalities play out enough that it bothers me. I don’t mind having autism – I’m pretty thankful for it, for reasons that you’ll find out, soon enough. I do, however, want to make the lesser-known aspects of the condition apparent for people who can’t relate to it. A lot of the struggle faced by young Aspies comes from a lack of understanding with the outside world. We like to operate on our own, narrow terms simply because we can’t feel comfortable any other way. Often times, these terms clash with the world at large, and it becomes necessary to strike an accord – but that can only happen if there’s communication to begin with.
Because of its complexity, autism colors far more aspects of our lives than just “awkwardness” in social interactions. The way we experience stimuli, the way we perceive other people’s emotions and the way we structure our lives all comes from the unique frame of mind created by our “disorder.” That makes it harder for us to join the “adult,” “professional” world when come our early twenties. Employers offer everything on their own terms, and we have to put ourselves through immense strain to break out of the self-constructed cocoon of rigidity. A good example is sleep – I have frequently worked at a particular office a full two hours away from my house. Due to the way my brain interprets stimuli, sleep remains an extremely difficult object to achieve, and I can rarely fall asleep before three in the morning.
By “rarely,” I mean, quite literally, only once in the last several years – at a time when I happened to stay up for 36 hours straight. The slightest fluctuations in temperature can activate stressors and make it difficult to breathe. The smallest creaks, from anywhere in a building, can jerk me from bed. Any light intruding on my room as I try to rest hurts my eyes, and makes it impossible to keep them closed. All the while, my inability to keep still creates anxiety, which keeps me in motion for hours on end. In short, falling asleep in a timely fashion is just not possible. My sensitivity to light and sound once got so extreme that, when living in an apartment complex, I would wake up to the sounds of faucets turning on several doors down. And, so, in order to make a commute, I have to slash away at my sleep, lending itself to a near-zombie-like state through which I lumber through my workdays. It’s not a good way to make good professional contacts.
This serves another impetus for writing on my mental state, though I question whether or not anyone of consequence will read this. If us Aspies can make neurotypical people understand our struggles, we can better achieve compensation, or leniency. Employers do not make decisions based on empathy, of course, but hopefully this writing will demonstrate than an Aspie’s talents outweigh their shortcomings, and, with a little acknowledgement from the outside world, we can contribute massively. It just helps if we can do it on flexible terms. That, in and of itself, is a trade-off for others to make.
Of course, another thing still nags me about writing this out, and that’s that I hate writing in the first person. I find that when I write in the first person, I automatically start to resemble the most recent, first-person writing I’ve read. Right now, that’s Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and looking over these blocks of text I’m sensing quite a bit of his style. But that’s something I suppose I should try to get over.
So, with that out of the way, let me introduce myself.
Currently, I am a PhD Student in Political Science. I graduated summa cum laude from Purchase College in 2015, with degrees in Political Science and Journalism. For my senior thesis, I wrote an extensive document on American Indian tribal sovereignty, entitled The Stakes Are High: Sovereignty Struggles in Indian Country. I also published pieces for The Purchase Beat, an on-campus music magazine. Somewhere in there I wrote material for a Reform Jewish temple’s newsletter, and managed the newsletter for the New York League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group in New York City.
In the long run, I’d like to work as an academic, teaching, researching and publishing material about politics. I always saw myself as having three passions – politics, writing and music – and I wanted to pick one of them to pursue as a professional career, with the other two as hobbies. Politics seemed like the one that translated most easily into a job, just by way of credentials. A professional musician probably can’t get their political arguments aired anywhere.
Outside of professionalism, I work on a lot of personal projects. I’ve always had a savant talent for writing; I write around 45 minutes night, and I’m sitting on a huge pile of work. Every once and awhile I try to get something published, but it hasn’t happened yet. Aside from a lot of essays, I have 13 manuscripts for hypothetical books, and around 40 summaries of fictional story ideas. Some of them date back to when I was really young, including a story I’ve worked on, on-and-off, for the past 13 years.
As far as music goes, I play several instruments – guitar, bass, piano and drums – and I sing. Am I good? It depends on the instrument. Having played guitar for 11 years now, I’ve gained a ability to play at a nearly professional level. Piano, I’ve only played for four years, but I seem to have a surprising knack for it. People usually peg me for a lifelong piano player, and I usually give back some coy grin and low-key gloating. Bass, passable. Drums, not so much. Singing? That’s a good question. I think I can do it pretty well once and awhile. I’ve self-produced and released some albums, although I haven’t tried promoting them.
I have an interest in languages, although I’m not sure I’m good at them. I know Hebrew, well enough to make non-fluent people think I am. I’ve also studied a handful of other languages – Hungarian, German, Scottish Gaelic and Tuscaroran (an Iroquois language) – but none of it’s ever stuck, much.
Those are my interests. But, oddly enough, they are not the purpose of this blog. The purpose of this blog comes down to this – I want to show the capabilities of the Autism Spectrum. In order to do that, I’m going to try my hand at explaining the various elements of the Spectrum, and what it’s like to live with them. Essentially, to try and view myself from an outsider perspective, so that outsiders can see it from mine. By establishing a starting point to understanding the perspective, I can describe how I and various other people I’ve known have adapted to the world at large. That includes a laundry list of victories and failures, shortcomings and unknown ceilings. And, strewn about through these anecdotes, I’ll include some of the works I’ve created, in the various fields I’ve followed, to showcase the talents that we have. Occasionally, I’ll add in material regarding my “special interests,” in the hopes that readers will better understand my fascinations.
The Autism Spectrum has myriad facets to it. To sum it up with something simple like “bad social interaction” or “awkwardness” would to a disservice to the complexity of it. Most neurotypical people struggle with understanding it – it encompasses a vast range of behaviors and affects each individual differently. It’s not one specific “condition” so much as a vague personality type. You would say, for example, that someone has an outgoing and sociable demeanor; a sullen or reserved character; an indignant disposition. That’s Autism.
Autism includes an inability to process social interactions, yes, but this doesn’t even constitute the starting point. It’s a way of seeing the world, of interpreting senses and signals, in a way that puts you largely out of sync with everything else – for better or for worse! An Autistic person may struggle with a great many things – social moors, motor skills, speech, posture, obsessive tendencies, difficulty eating certain kinds of food, mood swings, insomnia, physical discomfort and even health issues. We may also possess unique vantage points, extensive knowledge, staggering work ethic and immense, detailed imaginations. Or, we might not. It depends quite a bit.