Long ago I seemed to have prioritised knowledge over people. I chose to bury my head in studying rather than go through the minefield of socialising. Back in school I thought that if I mess up a social situation, that would permanently scar me and it would just be awful overall. There was such a message of permanence and finality from authority figures at school. Study or you will fail in your life. That was the message over and over.
Socialising when you are in school may be a minefield but you learn from it. Also the people you know at school, you are unlikely to see again when you graduate from school. I didn’t know this back then. So for the past ten years I’ve tried to catch up on my social skills. Externally I can project a confident talker. Internally though I feel completely opposite. One cannot erase one’s childhood experience or hope to inject experience into that void later on in life.
The fact that I’ve not been able to internally find a middle ground between these two states is very in-securing. I feel that no matter what goes with my outward projection, people won’t know my internal self, which is opposite from my external. Therefore it feels like the interpretations people have of me are highly inaccurate. It feels like I’m putting my energies into projecting a lie and it seems pointless.
There’s really no getting away from people is there? You can escape into your own worlds, or create some type of system for yourself, or lock yourself away but sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with people. I got it so wrong when I was a kid. I thought knowledge would give me comfort. It’s quite often the opposite. Knowledge is not much good if it’s not related or connected with people.
I’m someone who completely misinterpreted school. I thought school was for learning. I had a rebellious phase where I was almost expelled but after that I did what I was told and did my schoolwork. I didn’t realise this at the time but I made a choice. I chose school education over people.
Now, long after leaving school I’ve realised that school isn’t about an education in a national curriculum sense but in a social sense. There’s not much difference in the ways of the schoolyard and the ways of the working world. The cliques, the bullies, the posers, the social judgements etc.
I feel that I have little choice today but to have faith in people. I made a choice when I was younger to give up on people and concentrate on work. Do the work, get the grades and get a good career. Well that hasn’t worked out. Clearly it’s not what you know but who you know. Retreating into my insular world of learning was a mistake.
I’ve grown up not liking humanity very much. I’ve avoided people’s perplexing social interactions. I’ve come to accept that there is no avoiding people really. People are the only conduit for you to experience the world. Even if you retreat into this electronic world all things on the internet are products of people. You could go off and live in a forest making artwork but no piece of art is complete without an audience, without people.
I’ve realised that over the years I’ve collected numerous sweeping stereotypical ideas about humanity. Many of these ideas I have placed under the banner of ‘Human Nature’. Human nature is a collection of ideas that give some people comfort if they think of them as solidified and permanent. Other people view human nature is something changeable. They find comfort in the creative faculties of mankind and it’s attempts to engineer social, cultural and political changes in order to reshape this human nature.
Sometimes I just want some aliens to come down so I could have someone that has a different nature to us, as well as being intelligent to talk to. However this again is another attempt at escape-thinking. I’m not a religious person but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that everything seems to eventually loop around full circle back to faith and hope. You start with them, you end with them. Just like people.
Im not good with social subtleties. I’m so socially blind. The thing that scares me is if a girl did love me, I wouldn’t see it. I just wouldn’t be able to tell. She would pass me by. It’s happened before. So much time has to pass for me to realise it. How much of my life exists in those times? Romance is built on subtleties and uncertainty. I’m not good at dealing with those. So I feel that while my mind is romantic, I’m not good at dealing with the roots of romance in external reality. The girl has to explicitly tell me, which isn’t romantic. Sigh.
I wish I could travel back in time to when I was around 16 and give myself some advice. Back then I was shy. I had been shy right up till then. This was not just shyness but painful shyness. I could feel it in my chest like a pulsating ball of dark lead. Electrified lead that contained poison threatening to seep out if I’d stayed in the situation much longer. Nerves. Shyness and nerves.
I was born with the chord around my neck. I was born in distress. I don’t know if I was wired for nerves or whether it was my mother’s neurosis or the chord or whatever it was that gave me my default state of being. I would travel back in time and tell myself that shyness is not a disability. You see back then I genuinely thought so. It was painful and it stopped me doing and saying things I wanted. I thought it was a barrier of Berlin Wall proportions, a spectre on my life. A noose around my neck.
I spent the next years until my mid 20s trying to reverse or invert my shyness to the point where I was able to talk to people. Now I’m considered talkative, eccentric and even loud. I don’t project shyness in my first impressions. However this act hits a wall when I reach a certain point in my relationships with people, particularly with women. I reach a point where my extroverted act runs out of gas and all I have to fall back on is the way I was for the first 16 years of my life. The pendulum truly swings the other way and I appear to shut down like the girl has unknowingly pulled the plug on this ‘confident’ android. At this point the realisation that it’s all a house of cards hits me in the silence of my inner being. I pick a point in the room to stare at and I wonder who I am in the silence and what the girl is thinking at the other end of the room. Now I seem alien to her. I certainly feel alien.
I spent so much time trying to bury my shyness instead of developing the shy me. That shy me I now realise is very common amongst the rest of humanity and very normal. It’s not a psychological problem. It’s not a freak of nature. It’s not a disability. I really wish someone had told me this with deep sincerity back then. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t wish I had some of that shyness back when I give my initial impressions.
I don’t think this newer me is lying but the pendulum swings so far that at times I don’t feel I can back myself up within myself. The rug is pulled from under me and I have to communicate a whole different version of me to a girl so accustomed to something else from me. It gets to a point where my personality seems to fall off a cliff. The parachute is my past, my backup, open to save me and on show to a bemused audience.
As I think so intensely and complexly, I find the eventual realisation of the simplicity of life and of people a huge come down and let down. I find simplicity quite devastating at times. I feel like I’ve wasted my time, wasted my mind, especially as so much of my thinking is kept internal. I was passing my local church recently and on the sermon board it said ‘Is This It?’ It seems the cold simplicity of life or the dismay of the restrictiveness of living is something that bothers a lot of people.
Does anyone else feel like they set themselves up regularly for frequent come downs to harsh simplicities?
There’s a lot of things I’ve not done and a lot of things I’ve not tried. A lot of these things would be considered normal things and therefore people think I’m weird if I say I’ve not tried them. This is certainly the case with food for example. There are tons of basic and very, very common foods that I’ve never tried. Lasagne, most pizzas, garlic, pancakes, honestly the list goes on.
I find myself running out of the things I have done when getting to know and talk to people. Pretty quickly I have to talk about the things I’ve not done or tried. I guess a part of mentioning these things is to get the reaction of ‘REALLY?! You’ve never done that? Why not?’ Etc. As I quickly run out things I have done to talk about to myself and to others, I feel increasingly like defining myself more on what I’ve not done than what I have done. What I have accomplished in my life becomes increasing smaller and weaker by comparison. This needless to say gets me down especially as, like I said, many of the things I’ve not tried seem common and basic to most people. For me, trying new things is a complicated set of thought processes and maybe this is one of the reasons I don’t try new things as often as other people.
I’ve got to the point where I’m beginning to accept that I’m always going to be misunderstood, I’m always going to be misrepresented and I’m always going to be misjudged. With all this comes the constant mental uphill of explaining myself to every person. This is both draining to the other person and it’s really starting to drain me now on lots of levels. Now it’s like everyone is a hill before we can be ourselves authentically. This takes so much time and I wonder what else I could be doing with my time. It would be something done alone as I feel it’s better to understand yourself alone than be surrounded by people who don’t understand you. Eventually other people’s misunderstanding rubs off on you and you start thinking that maybe you are what they have assumed. You’re not.
Stop peering into my soul!! Lol it does feel like that sometimes when people look me in the eyes. It feels like they are staring into a big twilight zone of hidden secrets inside of me.
I’ve managed to learn social scripts and how to act in certain situations quite well however eye contact is still a challenge. I’ve only been able to come up with tricks rather than solutions. Tricks like looking at the other person’s nose or space between their eyes etc. However this can turn into the appearance of staring very quickly.
One of my tricks is for glasses wearers, in particular glasses with more rectangular shapes and thicker frames. I let the glasses come down my nose a little and look at the frames that cross my eyes when I’m talking to someone. It gives the impression that I’m looking at them in their eyes when really I’m looking at the black bar frame of my glasses…At least I hope it gives that impression anyway.
The importance of eye contact when establishing connection with someone is dismaying to me on the spectrum. It’s really the one thing I still struggle to fake. Also from a social perspective its just downright rude to not look at someone in the eye. This is also dismaying.
When I am talking I usually pick a particular random spot in the room to fixate my eyes on. This is important, as from this fixed point I can focus my senses while accessing the hard drives of my mind. Then the reeling off of information commences. I will then look at the person’s face every 7 seconds or so and my mind takes a mental snapshot of their face and expression. Then I return to the fixed point in the room with that snapshot in mind as I continue to speak or think. Sometimes this fixed point can also be on a person’s face or on another’s face who may be in the room. This presents a problem to me however, as this kind of objectifies the face and blinds me even more to reading it. There are times when it feels like the sockets of my eyes are trying to apply pressure and spin my eyeballs in my skull. This is because my eyes don’t know where to focus as I cant have them on the eyes of others.
I have gotten better but it’s a constant conscious effort to maintain.
Whenever I ask people about dating I often hear people say things like, “if there’s no connection, then its not happening” or “If we click I will go out again…” and so on.
I still don’t know what this connection or “clicking” really means. I believe it is based mainly on non-verbal communications and facial expressions rather than intellectual or emotional exchanges …all of which are challenges to people on the spectrum.
These challenges cause me to miss attempted connections by the other person completely, or completely misinterpret them (which is often worse). This leads me down a train track of thoughts and actions. These are based on blindness to a connection that the other person is trying to make in reality. They can also be based on a misinterpretation of the connection, most of the time by me. For example, theres been a few times when I thought I was in a relationship but the girl had not even thought of such a thing yet, we were just dating.
I still don’t know how types of relationships transition from one status to the next…like colleague to friendship to dating to relationship to marriage etc. I don’t know what actions make such transitions happen. Do things ‘click’ and then develop? How am I supposed to know when I’m in a relationship? These uncertainties cause me to ask aloud questions that sound so childish when I hear them come out of my mouth. They are probably real turn-offs for the girl too. Things like, “so are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?” Ughh. I need certainties of statuses though. This often clashes with romance, which is based on uncertainties and a degree of mind reading in my opinion.
Its been a long while since I’ve posted and I’ve promised myself I will write much much more now, especially in related to how autism affects me.
The good news is I completed my Masters 8 months ago! 🙂 Its to do with how art/culture/heritage projects can regenerate urban areas, build skills and help things like health and wellbeing. Its also to do with place making and place branding.
The dissertation (which strangely I miss doing) was about the benefits of art participation projects for autism.
Since graduation I’ve been going around freelance trying to be a bid writer for non-profit organisations. I have had little luck due to their lack of funds and having people in-house who do that for them. I have been out networking a lot though and have taken a more serious interest in other people.
I have been given serious thought into becoming an autism life coach/speaker/advocate. I hope that having my dissertation and by writing on this blog I can build up a body of work and a bit of a discussion about the spectrum.