Before I begin, it’s worth noting that many on the Autism Spectrum never really learn to manage their symptoms. I have, and I honestly don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse.
I do know that it’s too late.
There are certain windows in your life where new connections form opinions of you. Looking back, I botched most of those opportunities myself. Not by being cruel, or evil, or stupid or even just behaving in ugly fashion (usually). I threw my opportunities away by the same method most Autism-spectrum individuals do: I was a pain in the ass.
I knew full well that no one in my family was particularly bothered that the Luger’s magazine only holds 8 rounds, and the German spy in Captain America fired off around double that without pausing to reload. I knew that I was just being a wet blanket when I insisted on addressing this or that pop-culture character’s terrible sword technique while everyone was just watching the show. Later I wondered why I was never invited to go anywhere with the rest of the group.
At the time I contented myself by saying that I’d told everyone they should just tell me to shut up if I was being annoying. But the truth is, I knew was ruining everyone’s fun, and I knew by then that neurotypical people don’t actually ask me to stop if I’m annoying them. They sit there, tolerate me, and then quietly break off all contact. I knew that, and didn’t work hard enough to suppress my chat-butchering monologues.
The further back I look, the more ashamed I become. In High School I routinely inserted myself at this or that table, without regard for whether I’d been invited there. At that point people had to deal with my spontaneous oversensitive flip-outs or be seen by school administration as targeting the Aspie.
A further note on High School: I prefer not to speak of the awful, creepy things I said and did with the very best intentions. Unfortunately, this post has nothing to do with my preferences. From making shooting jokes at my first High School in Colorado to trying to hug a girl I had a crush on from behind (I was so oblivious I legitimately believed this was something “friends” did) and pick her up, I behaved more like a lunatic then than I do now.
My idea of opening up to this same young woman involved a candid admission that I watched porn. Brilliant! Way to tug on those heart-strings, kiddo! And then there was my insistence on showing up at multiple school dances to just… stand there looking depressive. I can’t imagine why nobody kept touch after we graduated. Ooh, or what about the time in a history class when I suggested that Conservatives might have to stage an armed rebellion for the good of the country?
I was a Conservative in my last two years of High School, by the way. Those were fun times. I was also obsessed with the Clean Wehrmacht Myth, and frequently made posts about it on Facebook during my last year in High School and first few months of college. A sane person could’ve been forgiven for thinking I was a Nazi. Then I turned into an angsty depressive mess under the pressures of Freshman year and axed two-thirds of my Friends List.
I can’t imagine why I’ve had difficulty gaining social media traction with this blog! I worsened this by choosing to seclude myself in my room most evenings; on the handful of occasions when I was actually invited somewhere, I opted to stay in nine times out of ten. Eventually, even the handful of friends who actually liked me stopped bothering to ask. Why would they? I’d show up when I’d show up, and disappear otherwise.
That’s not to mention my occasional tantrums for basically my entire life. They’ve grown far fewer in recent years, with much more legitimate triggers and far more pent-up stress to justify them, but never gone away entirely. My relationships are never precisely the same after acquaintances or friends see me lose my temper.
I suppose my meaning comes down to this: around half a year ago now, I told my mother I’d realized my lack of professional success wasn’t my fault. Since then I’ve accepted that wasn’t precisely true. As far as talent, effort, and skill are concerned I had a point.
While many of the earlier posts on this blog were disorganized, unbalanced or rambling, those were necessary growing pains while I came to understand the medium and refined my style. I’m not sure if we’ve hit 200,000 words here yet, but if not, we soon will. As hard as losing weight has been, especially with my insistence on building muscle, I’m making progress.
I’ve put in the work to become skilled in my passions. I firmly believe that, and I defy any of you to tell me otherwise. In tandem, I consistently refused to put in the networking to turn those skills into pay. I can say that networking is harder for me than scalding myself, and that’s true. But during certain dark periods over the past few years, I challenged myself to see how long I could hold my hands in scalding water just for the hell of it.
My record was somewhere around 8 seconds; I gave up more out of concern for permanent damage than inability to take the pain. If I scalded all the feeling out of my hands, how could I wield a sword? Networking takes nearly inhuman discipline for me, yes, but I have that inhuman discipline. When I decided to finish my book, I completed the first draft in about three months… during which I wrote an average of two days a week. In effect, I needed less than a month to finish it, and 8,000 words a day became passe by the end.
I’m not sure whether it’s childish or quintessentially Aspergian that while training myself to that threshold, I refused to seek industry connections. Perhaps it’s both; it’s certainly tragic, in a “How could you be so stupid?” sort of way.
I can say over and over that neurotypical society favors connections over ability, and that’s absolutely true. But the fact remains I knew I was a sphere looking at a bunch of square holes, and I refused even to try changing my shape. That doesn’t mean it’s right that things function this way, but it does mean I chose to make things harder on myself.
Perhaps it’s fitting that I had to reach the point where I wrote a parable about the death of my optimism before I could confront these truths. The Youth’s faith in his brothers may have bolstered their spirits, but by speaking so firmly for their virtues, he stopped them from seeing their own flaws. Now it’s the Warrior who leads, and harsh truths are all he knows.
It remains to be seen whether he and the Writer can succeed where they failed before, blinded by the stars in the Youth’s eyes.
One thought on “In Retrospect, I Deserved to Be an Outcast”
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