I did a lot of things both as a kid and as a young adult that caused a lot of people to lose respect for me. Whether that was getting poor grades, hanging out with the wrong people, getting myself into tough situations or just making bad choices, I’ve seen what making mistakes looks like and I’ve felt the feeling of failure too often in my life. Part of growing up, at least to me, has been realizing what to take away from these experiences, but also understanding that I never ever want to feel that way again. When I was younger my heart would stop when the mail man arrived because – at least as far as I was concerned – he was always bringing bad news. I adopted the policy of “no news is good news” when the phone rang and nothing was tougher than seeing my parents after they opened up my report card at the end of the semester.
People who know me in college can’t believe that I actually experienced those things. I work so hard at everything I do that many find me a rather intimidating figure. I’ve had to work hard at every aspect of my life in order to change the things I wasn’t happy about. There’s a quote from Eric Roth, who wrote The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that sums up my perspective on life perfectly. He said: “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” That is exactly what I had to do: start all over again. Honestly, it feels like a high bar sometimes because I spent so much of my first twenty years here failing at nearly everything I did. When I got out of jail I decided to do something about it. I read like crazy. When I was twenty-six I found out I had Asperger’s. I had to re-think the way that I interacted with others. This is a project that still consumes a lot of my time.
I realized a few years ago that unlike a lot of people I don’t “do things for fun.” I don’t really know what fun is anymore. It’s a scary admission to make, but it’s accurate. When I looked at what motivated me I found that the big thing was simply a fear of failing again. My heart can’t go through that again and I’m taxing my brain to make sure that doesn’t happen. When people ask what I do for fun my answers sound bizarre. I write, I hang out with my dogs, and I work on my business. What I’ve come to realize is that having those interests is great, but it doesn’t exactly make me an appealing human being to other people. I can count the amount of positive relationships I’ve had in my life on one hand. I don’t know what to do with that. I read a lot of self-help books because frankly I need the advice. I can’t figure out the solution and I’ve exhausted myself by trying for most of my life to fit in with a world that doesn’t understand me. There’s an Autism community online who’s domain name is simply: wrong planet. Wrong planet indeed.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately on changing my worldview. I’m far too negative of a thinker for my own good. Thus, I’ve made it a goal to be positive, be cheery even and to let my guard down whenever possible around others. That last one is huge. Those who don’t have Asperger’s have no idea how hard that last one is. I look at it this way: I’ve been ridiculed my entire life because I cannot act my age. One of the principal difficulties with Asperger’s is that you are developmentally three-to-five years behind your peers. Although I may be thirty years old I act like someone who’s around twenty-five. That means that you struggle to make relationships with people that last because no one is really like you. You struggle to get along with anyone really because no one gets you not even friends or family. The part about this that’s really difficult isn’t the actual dealing with failure. Though I got a forty-seven percent on the test I should still get a C in the class, which is good enough I guess. The toughest part is knowing that I let myself down, that I wasn’t able to do something that I set my mind to and not wanting to tell anyone about this because I don’t want it to reinforce their preconceived notion of me as a failure. I’m not sure how to deal with this yet, but in my experience it gets tougher before it gets better which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in me.