Monday, October 31, 2011

I had my work review today.

It was fine... I expected my boss to be a little tough since it's an internship, and a learning experience. So that's okay.

The thing I've noticed is that in every work related situation I've been told I need to improve my listening abilities. That was their main comment. If I'm working under a team of supervisors I need to be able to retain what is told to me or else it is frustrating to the person I am working with, and a waste of their time if I have to constantly ask questions. When we move into crunch time i have a feeling that someone is going to snap at me because of my inability to process what they are telling me.

My boss commented that I often get distracted when people are giving me directions, or I'll look around, or even look away. I don't do this intentionally, I just have trouble absorbing auditory information. I've been this way my entire life, and while people take it offensively, I simply explain that this is how my brain works and it is not meant to be rude. I've often thought that I wouldn't mind being deaf, as I can communicate visually far better than verbally. Unfortunately, this isn't the way the world works, so I must adapt.

I've found taking notes and drawing pictures to be helpful, but I sometimes forget to do this, and I often wonder if I am taking notes correctly, or if my notes are even reliable. I need to make this note-taking a habit. I feel like simply taking notes isn't enough though- and while yes, I am here to learn, I worry that this shortcoming will prevent me from holding down a job in the future. If I plan on financially supporting myself and living a stable life I must work through this. I just don't know how.

I would really like to work for this company once my internship is over, but I hope I don't alienate myself from every company like this in my area. I hope I am not making myself appear inept. I have skills, and I am working on learning more, but I feel like I am not taken seriously because I ask so many questions, because I want to do things correctly. While it's good that I have another year to learn these things, I worry I am working myself into a hole. I worry these experiences will simply make me realize I am unemployable. I don't want to be a hassle to anyone.

I know it will be okay if I really buckle down, but I have enough to worry about- I just want to progress from here. I don't know if I can handle too much stress right now. I just want things to go smoothly.

Other Aspies and visual types, what are some tricks to help you absorb and process information?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Update: Sensory Integration Disorder

I started my job three weeks ago. I'm working for a local theatre company, which is really cool. I'm on the production team as an intern. I love it, I get to work quietly all day with a small number of faces and it's not overwhelming at all. My boss thought it would be a good idea to put me on the wardrobe crew, but then realized it was too overwhelming for me, and that I would be better working behind the scenes. Typical aspie. It's cool though, I don't mind it. Realizing I can't work in an overwhelming environment is just one of the facets of discovering your personality and what you can do best, it's a part of life. I'm not upset. I'm just happy my boss was understanding and that I didn't have to pull out the "I have Asperger's" card. No, she doesn't know, but how is giving a label different from saying "I work well in quiet places" without the added misconceptions about a developmental difference?

I've been commuting into work every day by the train. It's an hour long train ride from where I live, since I'm living at home with my parents in the suburbs. Probably a good idea. The train is overwhelming, and it's long hours, but there are ways around it. I've been learning how to cope with sensory overload on the train- my iPod and earplugs are wonderful. I like having a snack with me as well.

Yesterday my neurologist diagnosed me with Sensory Integration Disorder- I'm tired all the time and cannot deal with loud noises. My family puts the TV too loud, they like to yell, fuzzy noises hurt me, and I get motion sickness very easily when in the car. I also went to Ikea a few weeks ago and had a meltdown. I don't like overwhelming settings. This is just the beginning...

Lately I've been avoiding loud places- I haven't gone to night clubs, or stayed out too long, as it's worse when I'm tired. I've essentially become a hermit. What will I do when there's another band I want to see? I'm usually able to push through concerts but I don't want to wear myself out since I'm suddenly becoming a lot more sensitive to these things.

My mom thought it would be a good idea for me to go on a swing, since I did that when I was a kid in OT, and it really helped a lot with the neurological connections in my brain. I tried that and found my body isn't built for childrens' swings (my hips are too wide). They're buying me a weighted blanket though, so hopefully that will help. I also got some new lightbulbs that are built to replicate daylight- my neurologist told me to turn them on in the morning so that I can properly wake up.

I've been doing my best to eat well and rest. I really do hope things get better. I'd like to actually have the energy to live and experience the world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A conversation

Back at school, in my studio.

E: I remember I had to get ed services all through school for my learning disabilities.
B: Yeah, me too. I had to get help with my ADHD. I still have trouble concentrating sometimes in class.
Me: I do too. I had an ed plan for grade school, but it got terminated during my later years of high school. I probably should have kept it going, I'm sure I could have used a lot of help with it.
B: Do you also have ADHD? I feel like we're very similar.
Me: Well, not exactly. I had issues with paying attention and processing information.
B: So you're just Pink, then. (NOTE: PINK= filler for my real name)
Me: Hahaha yeah, I guess you could say that.

Point being? It doesn't matter what your diagnosis is. ADHD can mean two completely different things for two different people, as can Asperger's. I don't even really tell anyone anymore that I have Asperger's except when discussing my past with a close friend. I figure if I make jokes about being eccentric and spaced out then they'll probably get it. I don't need to make excuses for who I am - this shows shame (at least I think so). I just want to be treated as everybody else.

While a diagnosis can be helpful, it doesn't have to define you. You are not a condition; the condition is merely a facet of your many wonderful and unique traits. Uniqueness is something that should be celebrated. Plus, where's the feeling of pride in seeking sympathy?

Enjoy life. You deserve it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Anxiety + Voicemail: how I deal

Being a visual, socially anxious person, nothing makes me more tense than the need to check voice mail. Having my mom tell me, "Pink, did you get my message?" is WAY too stressful for me, almost as stressful as listening to voicemail itself.

Voicemail freaks me out because there is virtually no control behind it. You log into it through your phone, listen to painful beeping noises, and have no control over when the messages are shouted into your ear. The voice commands are stressful too, I hate having to wait to listen for which number to press. Furthermore, if a message is particularly sinister-sounding, it will give me a mini panic attack. Traditional voice mail removes all free will, and leaves you vulnerable to potential abuse being shouted at your ear.

Of course, I know most of the time it will not be abuse, but my ears need a break. This is why I'm so terrible at listening to voicemail. I tell everyone to text me because text messages are something I can handle - they're visual, silent, and can be opened at the viewer's discretion. Furthermore, text doesn't seem to pack as much of a punch as speech. Letters are just lines on a screen with meaning applied; speech, on the other hand, is created with sound waves resonating from an individual's vocal cords, with varying degrees of intensity. Text can also be intense, but the intensity can be controlled, while the intensity of another person's speech is out of your control.

As you can tell, the anxiety really gets to me here. I already spend more time around people than I can emotionally handle, having to put on a friendly face all day. I can deal, but just barely. This overstimulation causes me to retreat into my room 2/3 of the time (yes, I did the math there), attempting to recover from the long day. I can only handle so much unexpected stress. What to do?

Well, I can't take the voice out of voicemail, so I did something to gain a little control: I got YouMail. Youmail is a program which replaces your default voice mailbox on your phone. Not only does it have more storage space than a traditional voicemail system, but you can view your messages in an inbox-like setting online. It tells you who called when, and you can play the message as a clip at your own will. You can also organize and delete messages much like e-mail. How cool is that?!

In addition, I also set it up so it will text me when I get a voicemail, telling me who called and when. This removes another stressor from voice mail: I never know when people call and am always confused. This feature helps eliminate that issue. I also have an app to check it on my iPod touch when there's wireless - the messages show up in a visual setting there. It's way awesome, and while this doesn't alleviate all my anxiety, it's definitely a relief.

Of course, there are other features (personalized greetings, blocking callers, sharing messages online) but I don't care much about those. The only thing I care about is the fact that YouMail helps me feel more in control of a communication tool that NT's take for granted, and expect everyone else to take for granted as well.

As you can tell, I'm absolutely ecstatic about this program. While free speech-to-text would be ideal, I'm not paying shit for that. So this is the next best thing, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Today I started knitting a hat. I've got about two inches done thus far.

The part I've done has two colors, arranged in a mathematical sequence. I've designed it so that it can gradually transition from one color to the next, in a gradient. I think it's some variation of the fibonacci sequence. Here's how the transitional part goes:

knit 1 row
knit 7 stitches, knit 1 stitch -repeat for entire row
knit 3 stitches, knit 1 stitch - repeat
knit 1, knit 1 - repeat

(repeat in inverse order to transition to the other color)

I love knitting because it allows me to appear as a normal girl, yet it gives me free license to be a complete nerd. And let's face it, I'm in the arts - I don't get to be mathematical that often. Though I'm an aspie, and aspies are expected to be math-obsessed literal thinkers, I don't get to salivate over mathematical sequences often.

I'm so excited, that this is what I'd expect an orgasm to be like had I not been born asexual. This is like crack to me. This must be like the high Snooki gets from being punched - no exaggeration whatsoever.

I swear, I'm not putting down this hat until it's done. Mathematical sequences and all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kickboxing = Death Sentence

Today I tried kickboxing. My friend encouraged me to join her, since it's an exercise class that she loves... Let's just say I lack the coordination for it. It's too fast for me, and mid-air punching to the sound of a dude belching over Lady Gaga songs isn't my cup of tea.

Perhaps this is because I'd never done it before, but it was too fast - I spent half the time watching the instructor and standing there like some idiot. Plus, the moves come up too fast, and I have NO CLUE what I am supposed to expect. Granted, we did end up doing some yoga moves at the end, but the bouncing techno prevented me from truly relaxing.

My neurologist first encouraged me to start exercising again to ease my headaches and exhaustion, because he said I wouldn't feel any better unless I try it. I'm pretty content doing yoga or some sort of meditative exercise, like running, because it can be done more or less at your own pace. While this isn't the case with yoga, it is so slow that I have no trouble keeping up. It also helps me with my anxiety.

Kickboxing, on the other hand, is like asking for a panic attack. My brain gets overloaded so easily that the hyperactive remixes of radio songs aren't exactly helping me. I'll admit that it was a good workout, but I don't think I'll be going back. It's too much for me, and I'm just not cut out for it.

Aspies, what do you like to do for exercise?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Good Things About Being Socially Awkward: Fewer Unwanted Interactions

One thing I don't like is how other people have been brainwashed by society. Granted, one of the main keys to a successful life is companionship. It may not be in the same form for everybody, and it is important to be respectful of this fact, but the relationships with the people we care about bring significance to our lives- Aspie or not.

The frustrating thing is, however, how people assume you are unhappy if you are not in a romantic relationship. I constantly have people question why I am not in a relationship. My response to them is always the same: I don't know why I'm not, but I don't need to be in one to be happy. I love my job, I love my family and friends, I graduated at the top of my class, and I have a lot to look forward to. I don't need a significant other to validate my existence.

One thing that I'm beginning to realize though, is that I may be asexual. I'm trying to grapple with this fact, and realize whether I'm actually asexual or if I just have an aversion to sexually-intended interactions. I tried telling this to a friend, and she immediately responded with, "no, you're not asexual". But I think I am. I don't crave sex, I just crave affection and companionship. I still have crushes, and I may be sexually active someday, but it won't be the end of the world if I'm not.

Because of this, and the fact that I've only had one boyfriend (I don't even know if it counts), I am very awkward around the opposite sex. I never know what to say, and at first I find it stressful, but then realize that it may be a blessing in disguise. Plus, it's not my fault if a guy only wants one thing, right? Once I realize his intentions, I immediately become cold. It's like a switch that turns off in my head. If I see a guy glancing at my chest, staring at me too much and smiling excessively, or using a bad pick-up line, I become uncomfortable and distance myself. I look down, close myself off, and begin responding with short, flat sentences. This is like a reflex that I have no control over. In a few minutes the guy gets the message and backs off.

Some people may be frustrated by this, but I feel like it's a blessing in disguise. Granted, it's made me extremely uncomfortable around men, but I feel lucky. I don't need to worry about birth control. As of now, it is also impossible for me to get knocked up or contract an STD. I say "as of now" because, who knows? I may want sex in the future, I just don't right now. But let me tell you, it's such a load off. I used to know a girl who would have a panic attack every week about how she thought she was pregnant. I also know people who have had children far too early in life that were "mistakes". I may be jumping ahead of myself here, but it's nice to not have to worry about that happening to me.

Also, being socially awkward will help protect me against unwanted sexual situations. Granted, if a person wants to rape then they will, but in my case some of the interactions leading up to that point are virtually nonexistent. Of course, protecting yourself and being educated are extremely important, I'm not lessening the significance of this. I'm just stating that awkwardness can serve as a barrier from unwanted interactions, which can be a wonderful thing.

I know some people will tell me that I'm missing out on a lot by not dating, but let me tell you, I just don't care. I don't feel like I'm missing out on much. Does that mean that I will never be sexually active? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not closed off to the idea in the future, but I just don't want it right now. Do I question my intentions constantly? Absolutely. Nothing is definite, things can change. All I know is that as far as I can tell, my standoffishness protects me from unwanted situations. At least, it has thus far, and this is something that I am very fortunate for.

So, regardless of what people tell you, it is okay to be awkward! It can even be a good thing. Embrace it! However, as an extra method of protection it is important to be educated. Here are some links that are useful:

S0, read up, and be aware of interactions. Respect yourselves, do your best to understand what you need, and if something unfortunate does happen, then don't be afraid to talk about it. And if you get in an unwanted interaction, then don't be afraid to move into awkward mode. Hell, if you really don't want to talk, then just throw 'em the face!

Ridiculous, but same idea. Enjoy, and love yourselves!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Awkward Non-Aspies, Part II

In continuation with a recent post, Don't Forget, I've decided to revisit the theme of neurotypical people with awkward or strange tendencies.


Miranda is a girl I've known since we were toddlers. Our mothers are best friends, so it was expected that we would be, as well. Miranda is a few months older than me, and I remember her house was like a second home to me growing up. Miranda's mother is a wonderful person, very warm and welcoming- she would give up everything for the sake of your comfort. When we were moving they opened up their house to us for a good part of a summer. With such a nice family, I wonder where Miranda's bitter disposition came from.

I remember playing Power Rangers with her and her brother, and I was always shafted - though I wanted to be the Pink Ranger, Miranda always insisted on being the Pink Ranger, while I was the Yellow Ranger. Nothing against the Yellow Ranger (she was pretty awesome), but any diplomatic friend would have happily taken turns.

There's one perfect word to describe Miranda: she's cold. In all of the time I've spent with her, I could never read her emotions. Strikingly beautiful, everything about her was sharp, like ice. Her speech inflection could cut around jagged corners and poke someone's eye out. Though I was isolated in a mental bubble due to my Asperger's, my presence was very warm and soft. Even as a child I was told I had a meditative, zen-like presence.

So out of convenience, I spent a lot of time at Miranda's house growing up. She was never the type of person you could just "hang out" with - we'd always have the TV on, or we'd be playing video games. There would be some outside distraction to build a wall between us. That was fine with me. I always liked going over her house because her mom would give me all the junk food my parents wouldn't let me eat. I remember happily filling up on sugar over there - I think this is why I now have an insatiable sweet tooth.

Still, the TV couldn't create a wall between us forever. Little by little I became aware of Miranda's personality. I could never understand her sarcasm, and she'd roll her eyes at me when I was confused. She'd respond to my clueless comments with snappy retorts, and of course this confused me. I know now that her mother had told her about my Asperger's, but Miranda didn't seem to be willing to give me a chance.

I did many extracurriculur activities with Miranda while we were growing up - Girl Scouts, Ballet, Soccer, Theater Camp. In our spare time there would be many awkward pauses in conversation with her. Though at the time, I hadn't mastered the art of non-awkward conversation (and I still have a long way to go), I didn't have that hard of a time making friends. I did manage to gain superficial friendships with a few bubbly theatre geeks - that type of friendship is one I could handle just fine. But when society forced kids into cliques, I had trouble.

The summer before my Sophomore year of high school, we were at that same theatre camp, and Miranda and I found ourselves friends with a group of girls. There were five of us, and my naivete was overwhelmed by their uninhibited cattiness. Our group even had a name, that's how bad it was. They would talk about other kids behind their backs. There was a group of kids who were decidedly different - one boy who I later learned was also an aspie, a girl with a speech impediment, and one girl who was painfully shy. These girls were brutal to them. I didn't partake in making fun of these kids, but I didn't defend them either. I regret this.

I remember being upset by the way the girls were treating the other kids. Even though I was friends with a few of the kids that my so-called "friends" made fun of, I felt a distinct separation between us because I was "in". This was the exact mentality that I hated - I remember being on the other side at my public school, I was the one being bullied! What sort of messed-up world is this?

In time, things came between us. I had started dating one of her friends from her school, Miranda got upset, and even after her friend and I broke up (it was short-lived, anyway), she continued to ignore me, and wouldn't respond to my efforts at being friendly. Though this was easy to ignore since I had moved to another town, it was frustrating. What was so different about Miranda? There was just something I couldn't put my finger on. Her friendships with people at school revolved around obnoxious jokes and loudness, while mine revolved around shared interests. She had found a close group of friends from her school, and though I was acquainted with some of them and welcome to hang out with them, I still felt largely out of place.

We ended up growing apart, but it isn't something I regret. We'd occasionally talk throughout college, but Miranda remained her flat, emotionless self. To this day I have no clue if Miranda was consciously mean, or if she was just lacking emotion and warmth. Hell, I couldn't even tell if she was just cold or if I was turning her away with my awkwardness. Regardless of the cause of our drift, I am now aware of the type of person I get along with, and growing up with Miranda has helped me realize what traits that person has.

While I wish Miranda happiness, she isn't someone I will be turning to in times of distress. I have much warmer and more deserving friends for that. That's just life.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aspies in the Media: Mary and Max

The other night I finally got around to watching this movie... Mary and Max, a 2009 Claymation Film directed by Adam Elliot. I'd been meaning to see this movie forever because of the Aspie protagonist, but I hadn't gotten a chance, until now. And I'm happy I did.

The movie is about a young Australian girl, Mary Dinkle, who is unhappy with the state of her life - she has a neglectful father and an alcoholic, kleptomaniac mother who tells her that she was a "mistake". She is insecure about her appearance and is very lonely. Hoping to make a new friend, she pulls the name Max Horowitz out of a phone book at the post office. It is listed that he lives in New York City, so she writes a letter to him asking about life in America, explaining how she wants a friend.

Max responds, explaining the state of his life. He is an obese older man who is sensitive to stimuli, is confused by social cues, and lives a quiet, controlled life with his goldfish Henry and his chocolate hot dogs. He doesn't have any friends, and writes to Mary that he is glad she is his friend.

While the movie progresses, more letters are exchanged, and we learn more about both Mary and Max. In one scene where Mary asks Max about how to talk to a boy she likes, Max has a meltdown, is institutionalized for many months, and it is revealed that he has Asperger's Syndrome. He expresses frustration that his psychiatrist feels sorry for him, and that he wants to "cure" him. Max expresses the belief that Asperger's is just one way of defining who he is, and that it is not a disease or disorder.

This movie is wonderful because it shows the importance of friendship and connection, even by society's so-called "freaks". While parts of this film are very depressing, the film itself has a beautiful message of connection and friendship. The visuals are very well done - Max's world is gray, Mary's is beige, and they are connected by little pieces of red. Max's bluntless and Mary's silly questions make this an enjoyable and amusing film, combining black humor and a bittersweet story to make for a flawless, rich experience that I'm sure everyone will be able to connect to. Mary and Max is certainly a must-see.

Here is a trailer:


Monday, June 27, 2011

Rex, the Musical Savant

This is a wonderful story of how an individual's strengths can more than make up for their shortcomings. Compassion and patience are the building blocks of success. Who's to say that Rex is impaired?

I believe Rex will discover a rich future full of beautiful, original music. He will be able to find his way through the world through texture and noise. When you can perceive so much, the areas in which you are lacking don't really matter. I wish Rex and his mother all the love and happiness in the world.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

QuickCues and other Mobile Apps for ASD's

The Non-profit organization Fraser has produced QuickCues, a mobile app which helps to provide cue cards for those on the Autism Spectrum. Here is a demo video:

I don't know much about this app other than what is shown in the demo video, but it seems like a wonderful idea. With all of the technological advances taking place, why not take advantage of this?

In middle and high school, my aide encouraged me to write down hints for communicating in a notebook. I simply wrote down the names of my peers and a thing or two I could discuss with them, something simple like music, tv shows, or a sport we played together.

The only issue with this is its inconvenience, and visibility. I remember in my sophomore year, a "friend" (read: mean-spirited acquaintance) was going through my notebook, and came across my page of conversation starters. Her eyes started darting intently across the page, as it wasn't the usual doodle-filled chemistry notes; she asked, "what's this?" I turned bright red and grabbed it back immediately. I told her that it helped me figure out what to say to other people, trying not to make a big deal out of it. For a second I felt like a complete stalker, tracking the actions and interests of my peers. I stopped carrying around visual cues after that.

Though there is a useful aspect in writing down things to help remember them, it just gets inconvenient at times. Flash cards take up space, are cumbersome, get dirty easily, and could easily reveal your differences. An app like this, or even a word document on your phone with reminders, is discreet and private. If you don't want such an app to be revealed, a vague title like "QuickCues" can be written off as a general study guide - also, it doesn't hurt that iPhones and iPods can be password protected. You can give yourself as little or as much security as you feel is necessary.

This app is $4.99. Though I personally feel I wouldn't want to spend so much money on it (I'm a cheapskate), I think Fraser is providing an important service and such an app would be worth investing in for a lot of people. If you don't want to spend the money, you could probably create flashcards, or a word document with text from an online guide - it would be free, but with a similar idea.

I hope this app becomes available for more devices, and not just the Apple devices. You don't even need an iPhone to use it. Though I don't have this app, I've found my iPod Touch indispensable. Along with all my music, it has relaxation sounds, Theta and Beta waves (also for relaxation), some photos, games, books, my calendar, and the small internet browser doesn't hurt either. I've written papers on it, and even a few of these blog entries! It's nice because I can carry a lot with me in such a compact package. If you don't want to spend the money on an iPod Touch, I'd reconsider - there are some less expensive models out, and they can be purchased on different websites for even less! I got my iPod on eBay and saved about $80 off of Apple's price.

Sorry, I just sounded like I'm pitching a product! Haha. But seriously, this is a great idea. Would you use an app like this? Why or why not? Do you know of any similar ones? I want to hear about them! Maybe we could start a list. So show me what you've got!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Aspies and Cats

My cat does this thing when he's happy where he'll curl his front paws in and out. It reminds me of a stimming thing, as I do this with my toes too.

He also is very sensitive to noise. He'll run away when my mom drops something on accident, and if I stomp too loudly. He's afraid of the dishwasher, as well as my guitar. If he hears something noisy, he'll run away in panic.

He's terrified of new people. The only people he lets close to him are my immediate family and a few quiet, gentle friends. With us he is very loving and affectionate, but if we ever have a lot of people over, he'll hide, shaking under my mom's bed.

His motor skills aren't very good, either - he can't run in a small circle - he can only run in large, clumsy ones. He is constantly invading my other cat's personal space as well - he's socially awkward, like me.

My kitty and I have a lot in common. Sometimes I wonder if he's an aspie too.

Whether he is or not, though, we make a good team, and I'm happy to have someone in my life as eccentric as I am (even if he's a cat).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Don't Forget

Non-Aspies have awkward moments too!

I know a lot of people who tend to say or do things that make another person uncomfortable. This will happen completely on accident. There are different types of these:

The people who lack a sensor: My friend Emma is completely inappropriate, but so adorable and hilarious that you really don't care. She loves to slap her friend's asses, or give "boob kisses", and a typical comment from her will be (if your shirt is wet), "aww, you look like you're lactating!" (meant affectionately, mind you.)

When I first met Emma, I was completely taken aback by her bluntness, but then realized that some of the unspoken social rules in our society don't make sense. Plus, spending time with her is exciting - it's refreshing to drop all of the filters you are used to accumulating in everyday interactions. It's nice to have a friend who regularly challenges these rules, whether she realizes it or not!

The people who lack boundaries: two of my roommates started cleaning my room when I wasn't home and a potential subletter was coming over that night. Neither of them are on the Autism Spectrum. All I did was politely explain to them that it was an invasion of personal space, and to either wait for me or let me know if they feel compelled to do this in the future.

While their actions did make me uncomfortable, it made me realize: non-aspies mess up too. Social awkwardness is universal. Who cares?

A person's unique disposition: I have a classmate, Ashley, who is not like other girls I know. As far as I know she doesn't have Asperger's, but her personality is very unique when compared to the rest of my peers. She is very mellow, has a smooth-sounding voice, and always appears very relaxed. Almost every statement she makes ends with a laugh (amused? uncomfortable? I can't really tell.) and a sigh. There are occasionally awkward pauses in conversation with her, but when spending time with her I generally feel like I am in good company, as she is very pleasant to be around.

A number of my peers have attempted to explain Ashley's eccentricities. Some have stated that it's based on her geographic origin, as the majority of us are local, and our city is notorious for being obnoxious, uptight, and constantly stressed.

I don't know why Ashley is so unique, but it's nice to see someone who is so pleasantly calm all the time. I once had a conversation with her about being a design student, and the stresses that go along with it. She told me, "I've never had to think so much about things as I have this year." - followed by her trademark laugh and sigh, of course. I understood how she felt completely - could it be anxiety, general stress? Who knows?

The fact is, as much as we like to pretend, no one has everything together. Other people also question things constantly, and worry a lot. Though my psychiatrist likes to attribute this trait of mine to having Asperger's, I attribute it to being an American. We're stressed people! It's really an issue if everyone from a culture feels this way. I think we should work on trying to fix the culture from the inside and not the individuals.

There are other people like us: My friend Bobby is one in a million. I also think he has Asperger's, but I don't tend to dwell on this possibility - we are all unique, after all. Another friend described him as a "friendly floater" - he is acquaintances with everyone, but is not particularly close with any one group of people. Whether he realizes it or not, he is defying our culture's basis for social standards, which I think is really awesome.

Bobby is the master of the calm, one-sided speech. He loves to talk. He has a really great baritone-esque voice- he would make a great voice actor - but he will talk nonstop about the most random things. He tends to have some awkward pauses here and there, and conversations with him don't tend to follow the typical vapid quality that I experience with most friends in passing (where the person acts like they care, but they really don't). Unfortunately, a lot of people are uncomfortable around Bobby, just because his presence makes you question our society's social rules. Lame, right?

The thing about Bobby, though, is that he is one of the most genuine people I know. He spends all of his time doing community service, helping people, giving without any expectation of his thoughtfulness being returned. He loves to bake food for all of his friends, and I feel like other people take his big heart for granted. He is very trusting, probably too trusting - I feel like he is very easily manipuated.

While it would be beneficial for him to learn to read people better, I think that it is nice to see that not all people are robots of one another, and that not all people try to be like everyone else. People like Bobby are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise clone-like society. I just hope that being aware of his presence will allow others to embrace their own eccentricities.

Moral of the story? NOT ALL AWKWARD PEOPLE ARE ASPIES. We are not the trademark of eccentric. Other people exist who are equally unique. Non-Aspies question social rules and feel as if they are awkward, too. The fact that people like this exist make me feel relieved.

Stay unique, everyone.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I made a Formspring!

While I think some aspects of social media are a bit ridiculous, I figured it could be cool in case any of you would like to get an Aspie's perspective on things. You can be anonymous, and I'm anonymous, so really, what have we got to lose?

All I ask is that you be respectful. Not too hard, right?

Some example questions: Do you stim? What do you think the good things about being an aspie are? What are some aspie-friendly activities to do while on a date?

Go on, ask me something good! I dare you, haha.

Happy asking!

Social Commentary Through Fox's "Glee"

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm a total gleek. I adore this show, not just because the spontaneous songs remind me of my high school musical theatre days, or because of the silly humor, but because of the awareness of others that Glee is cultivating.

I believe Ryan Murphy's main goal in creating this show has to do with spreading the ideals of social justice. A lot of season 1 is based around Quinn's hardships in being a pregnant teen, while the majority of season 2 has dealt with the adversity Kurt has dealt with in being an openly gay teen in a midwestern town. Within these stories, there are plenty of smaller plots based around the need for self-acceptance and loving oneself.

The show has done a good job of bringing in characters of all different backgrounds, and while not every type of individual is represented, most every viewer will be able to find a character whom they can relate to. I can see a lot of myself in both Tina and Kurt. Even though Tina's character has been neglected this past season, I found myself hiding behind my shyness like she has, and it is nice to see her come out of her shell. With Kurt, I can relate a lot to the bullying storyline, as well as to the feeling of being impossibly different - In the episode Laryngitis, Kurt tried to put on an act of being a heterosexual, John Mellencamp fan, modeled after his father, but he realized that his efforts were futile, as this wasn't who he really was. I feel like my entire four years of high school consisted of me adopting different identities, trying to be someone I'm not. I'm sure everyone can relate to this story.

I know a lot of critics are angry at Glee for pushing the "liberal agenda", but tell me this: how is spreading hatred okay? I don't care if the bible tells you homosexuality is wrong. If it encourages the condemnation of any group then I don't care what book you're following, I will only see your hostility.

This show's critics need to understand that aside from the fluffy songs, these are experiences that real people go through at some point in their lives. If anything, we should be glad that such a show exists because it helps educate viewers on accepting others and oneself.

Glee doesn't look down on any characters for being different. Artie is seen as equal to the rest of the kids despite being paralyzed from the waist down- he's even able to play on the football team. Becky Jackson, a cheerleader who has Down's Syndrome, is treated with the same respect as any other student. The only character whose actions are discouraged against are those of Dave Karofsky's - but even then, his bullying is met with empathy, as well as hope that he can learn to accept his own homosexuality.

With all of this work toward social justice, though, it makes me wish for a character with Asperger's Syndrome. I know you can't have your cake and eat it too, but COME ON PRODUERS, MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Still in doubt of the good this show can do? Then check out this tumblr. Happy viewing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aspie to NT, and Back Again

Be polite. Don't talk behind a person's back. Have a firm handshake. Learn to properly recognize the occurence of sarcasm and jokes. Learn to deliver sarcasm and jokes in an appropriate manner. Play coy. Don't butt into places you're not wanted. Don't drag the conversation down. Don't be a hermit. Don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself - hide that which makes you different.

As an Aspie in a Neurotypical world, I've had to, along with numerous other folks, learn how to blend in and not put a spotlight on my differences. From the outside I am what appears to be a perfectly average young woman, molded to a counter-culture which has become the norm (we're all hipsters here, espescially if you attend my school). I listen to alternative music with the occasional ironic hip-hop; I buy clothing from secondhand stores and H&M; I enjoy making fun of Justin Bieber and Ke$ha but am secretly fascinated by them - aren't we all?

To put it bluntly, I'm about as unique as a molecule of salt on a Big Mac. The only thing separating me from the rest of the world is the way my brain functions, and even that barrier is slowly starting to break down. My attractive appearance and (learned) pleasant disposition have either cancelled out my social mishaps, or have given me new opportunities to learn the ropes of socializing in an appropriate manner.

Though we all may moan about how our lives suck, I've been dealt a good hand, I guess.

In all of my learned appropriateness, however, the thing that haunts me to this day is the memory of being bullied. Yes, there was a time when I was disliked: death threats, harrassment, cyberbullying, you name it. I've been picked on for every feature on my body, every strange interest and/or social mishap, every honest mistake I've ever publicly made. Shit happens, you know how it goes. Everyone has their own sob story, and mine is no different from yours.

Perhaps my internal optimist stepped in, though, because while parents and teachers and therapists and guidance counselors and school officials were trying to change the structure of the school to make things easier for me, I wanted to relieve them of this pressure and change myself to fit in with my pre-existing environment. I resisted every accommodation that was made for me and instead turned myself into a chameleon.

Now, being socially malleable isn't so bad. I work well on teams and like to think that I am able to adapt to many social situations easily. I often appear eager and friendly. Being this way has made me flexible but flimsy - always wanting to please everybody but never having a backbone. Since I've taught myself to "go with the flow", I am often indecisive and may end up doing things that are unrealistic, or that I don't want to do.

Individuals who are bullied often take two routes: become severely depressed, or fight back with kindness. I've chosen the latter. While it is an arguably more pleasant and humane thing to do, falling under the teachings of virtue and goodness of most religions, I now realize I have set myself up for repulsion. I've become so sickeningly sweet that I repel many of my peers. I hold a strict moral code: never talk negatively about a person; never partake in the spreading of rumors; and never cheat, steal from, or deceive another person.

Though I've managed to protect myself from bullying, I've also managed to protect myself from having a fulfilling life, always living in the shadows of my fears, afraid to offend. I fear being an abrasive, obnoxious individual - but aren't those the people who get the furthest?

I need to re-learn some of my Aspie tendencies. Maybe I shouldn't shy away from talking about the Super Mario games if they're something I'm really passionate about. Besides, who the fuck cares how odd I am, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone? Such outspokenness will teach me to be more assertive, so I can maybe talk my way into getting a promotion at work or avoid being given bitch work because I'm so damn "easygoing".

It has taken me years to acquire the social understanding I have today. As far as outward appearances go, I've gone from Aspie to NT. Now, I think it's time to regress back to being the oddball. I'd rather things be that way.

Guys, we've got it good. Don't forget it.

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