A week ago Fred and I went on a long walk. We were to meet up with a group of people I barely knew and go on a hike. We were 15 or so minutes late and I couldn’t find them. We were next to a grocery store that was hosting an outdoor concert. A band was playing some Italian music. We stayed to listen, even though it was so crowded we had to move three times before finding a good spot.
A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have had the energy to spontaneously watch a concert after failing to get to the meeting spot on time. Months before that, I wouldn’t have gone to such a crowded place. A few years ago, I would have been to scared to go on a hike with a new group of potential friends.
Getting my Master’s degree seems like a molehill compared to what I accomplished then.
And that’s strange, isn’t it? I have such a hard time with things that come naturally for others. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be so proud of these tiny steps I am taking towards being a grown up lady person. That part of me wants to imagine every small victory as being akin to getting a participation ribbon in the Special Olympics. That part of me can suck it.
There are so may things in my life that I feel I have to justify, to explain to everyone I meet. The thing about having an Autism Spectrum Disorder isn’t that I’m some sort of socially awkward person with autism superpowers. as far as I understand, I have a collection of development delays. I’m better than my peers in some areas because, like most people, I have things that interest me that I have worked hard on. I’m at the same level as my peers in most ways.
But there are areas where I am at least ten years behind my age group, developmentally. There are things, very elementary things, that take a long, long time to ‘click’ in my head. Things that elementary students get, but I have a harder time figuring out than I do grown up lady things (E.g, college, getting a job, paying my bills.). When it comes to teaching others, it is easy for me to remember that everyone has their own skills, that one can’t judge a fish on it’s tree climbing skills. If someone tells me “I can’t,” I would tell them “You can’t right now. keep trying until you get it.” I have trouble applying those concepts to myself. Yet there are these times where I step back for a second, look at what I’ve done and think ‘wow, I’ve come so far.’
Here is an incomplete list of moments when I felt like Daniel-san after he defeated the Cobra Kai, in order of when I thought of them:
1. Tying my shoes:
I remember being taken out of class in elementary school every once in a while to go to the counsellor’s office. She had a giant model of a shoe and I would spend thirty minutes practicing lacing it up and tying it bunny ears style. I did not master this skill until my second year at college.
2. Holding a pencil between my middle and pointer fingers without dropping it.
3. Ordering for myself at restaurants:
I used to have panic attacks trying to order at even a fast food counter. I still wonder sometimes what it must of looked like to the wait staff, a teenage girl having her Mommy order for her. Not only do I go to restaurants alone now, I prefer it. (Memo to myself: Write an essay on the benefits of eating alone.)
4. Maintaining eye contact:
Okay this one is a lie. 90% of the time I’m looking at the bridge of your nose, but you will never know. Except I just told you. Shit.
5. A natural looking smile.
6. Small talk:
7. Taking phone calls, making phone calls.
8. I break way less glasses and plates now a days.
Next step: learning to ride a bike. Or at the very least, climbing trees.
(I should say that the Special Olympics re no joke. Any of those athletes can beat my uncoordinated ass at the sport of their choice. The stigma is there, though, and that’s what I was trying to get at.)