There are times when something happens that makes me question all sorts of things… usually (especially since I got my official Asperger’s diagnosis) about whether or not that diagnosis was correct. It’s strange to go one’s whole life thinking you were “normal,” but knowing inside of you that you weren’t quite that, but not knowing how to explain it to anyone.
And on snowy days like today, when things are not entirely the way they are supposed to be, it leaves me feeling more than a little introspective.
Two things in particular have me feeling particularly introspective today.
First, I recently was trying to go to a workshop… well, I say workshop. It was the last lecture of the year for Creative Mornings Houston. If you’re a creative type person, you need to find your local area Creative Mornings events. They are great for networking (if you’re a social type), and they tend to be very uplifting as well as informational.
This month’s topic was “Context.” This is important not only because of the time we live in and the need to take into consideration the context of the lives of those around us, but also because I teach English and context is a hard thing to teach. I was hoping to get some insight that would help me explain it to my kiddos…
But alas, I did not make it to the lecture.
And here is where the autistic pondering occurs.
I found myself wondering if a different person, a neuro-typical person,would have been able to make it to the lecture.
It was at a venue I haven’t been to before. So, I checked the distance three times, to be sure I left in enough time to get there on time. Contrary to popular belief, I do not like being late to places… I just give myself precisely the exact amount of time to get where I’m going. I rarely think to add extra time for accidents, or if I do, it’s often not enough time.
This time, I gave myself about 20 minutes leeway. I figured that gave me time to get there on time, but I wouldn’t be too early. Being a place I didn’t know, and an event that only happens once a month (and to which I rarely get to go), it is unlikely I would know anybody there, and that makes me nervous.
It’s too many unknown variables.
If I had known at least one person that was definitely going to be there (I did recognize one name, but it was of someone notorious for bailing at the last minute), or if I had already known the venue, I would have had no problem showing up a few minutes late. As it was, however, I ran into crazy traffic (there was an accident), and was going to show up with only 3 minutes before it started.
Then I couldn’t figure out which building it was… The building was not marked from the outside. I finally figured out which building it was by looking through a window while driving past it… for the 5th time.
And by then, I was already late.
The potential embarrassment of having to ask someone if I was in the right place had me emotionally paralyzed. The whole reason why 15 minutes had seemed the right amount of time to be early was because then I could acclimate to the venue and put on my social face. Being late meant that I had to interact before I had any particular persona in place.
And that’s the thing. Most people who know me don’t immediately see the autistic traits because I put on a mask for them. This is a thing I’ve discussed before, but it’s not easily understood. Often people think it means that I’m being false. That I’m just a fake person pretending to be someone I’m not and it shifts for the different people I’m around.
Which isn’t entirely incorrect.
See, I am a different person depending on the event or the people I’m going to be around. When I finally let the masks drop and can be myself around a person, it’s a very wonderful thing, and yet, I’m currently in a spot in my life where there are very few people (if any) that get to see 100% the real me.
And most of them are actually online and so have never met me in person at all.
And that is kind of miserable.
In order to get myself ready to ask questions, I have to kind of trick myself into believing that I have no fear, and create a persona that fits the activities of the event.
For example, when I first went to college, one of the first friends I made told me when he first saw me, he was frightened of me. I had chosen a particularly “no nonsense” personality because I didn’t want people to think they could just take advantage of me. It reminded him of someone who had bullied him in high school.
And this was a thing I did without even thinking too hard about it. I never even realized that wasn’t how normal people go about their lives. I mean, “normal” people do it for extreme situations, like when they have to give a speech in public. For me, every interaction is a public speaking nightmare, except that I’ve created these versions of myself that make it easy to interact.
When I first got involved with my Geek group (that I don’t see anymore because of the Last Guy), it was easy. My Geek cred is strong, and being able to talk about the things that I like is easy for me to do for hours. Every Geeky group of people I’ve ever been around has started by asking about what was the ting that I geeked out about. It makes conversing easy. I can go on for hours and never feel too awkward.
But even with them, I do get caught in situations sometimes where my neurodivergence becomes apparent. When talking about some things, I have a set way I speak about it. One guy called me out on it because he asked a question, and then someone came a little while later and asked what we were discussing. When I was trying to catch the other person up to where we were, the first guy asked me if I’d memorized it because it was almost word for word. To him, this somehow invalidated what I had to say, or at least that was how he made me feel.
Truth be told, I probably did have it memorized, because I practice what I’m going to say before I say it, and it gets printed on a little mental cue card. When I was younger, I used to see the words go across my brain like a computer before I’d speak them because I’ve always been able to type faster than I can talk.
If you know me, you should be impressed. I speak very rapidly when I’m being myself.
When things get to be really a problem are when I get into situations where I don’t know which face to wear.
Dating does that to me. All. The. Time.
I want to be myself, but as soon as someone does something that makes me nervous (like suggest that I want something more than they do), I suddenly realize that my real self is somehow wrong, and then things get awkward while I find a new mask to wear.
Currently there is someone whom I am intrigued by, and I find myself unsure of how to act around him. It’s like high school all over again. I find myself sometimes talking too loud, or rambling about unimportant things, or unable to look at him at all.
Since he’s been someone I’ve had my eye on for a little while, I hope I don’t totally screw this up.
Anyway… That is not the other thing that I wanted to talk about today. I wanted to share an article that I identified with so much that it almost made me cry. I’ll leave it here: “I thought I was Lazy…”, but I think I’ve rambled on enough for today.
It’s just been a rough week, for me, but I’ll talk more about that in the DSF Weekly Rewind. See you soon!