So, I actually did it.
Seven semesters, several clubs, 144 miles from home, 4.0 GPA, Honors College, double-major (English and Psychology), cords, medals, and many, many people telling me that I did well, including some extended family and family-friend that I had not expect to have known, let alone cared, about my having graduated.
No one doubted that I had the academic potential because, well, my brain seems to be optimally wired for absorbing and storing lexical information and then using that information to make connections and inferences and write 20-page double-spaced essays. I chose subject areas that well matched my aptitudes and interests, and, thus, I found the work not only doable but engaging. I’ve always been what one might call “book smart,” and college involves a lot of books.
Some family members doubted that I could do the “living independently” (well, five days a week and with being 100% financially supported) thing, as anecdotal evidence from the prior 18 years of my life did not set high hopes for such. And, indeed, there were times when I would skip a meal…or three…,when I’d bathe twice a week as opposed to the once-a-day regime that I had been raised on, or when I’d let my dorm room get messy enough to have received polite but strongly worded letters from the RA doing room checks. But I cleaned up well enough for the RA to be satisfied on the second visit, I tried to keep reasonable check of my hygiene and appearance (I did brush my hair and teeth every day…or at least most days), I didn’t starve, and I got myself to class, to clubs, and even sometimes to extra-circular events.
My family begged me to move back after my first year. Part of it was that they missed me being within visiting distance, of course, but part of it was that they were scared. By the end of my freshman year, I had no one that I would consider a close friend. I had acquaintances, maybe even causal friends, but I had yet, after a whole year, to become “close” to anyone (though I would eventually become closer to some of these aforementioned people). I spent most of my time alone, and while I was content with that, my parents were less than thrilled.
In retrospect, the hardest part for me was keeping my emotions together (as seems to be my predominant challenge throughout the entirety of my life).
There were times when I cried myself to sleep. There were times when I cried in class or just outside of it. There were times when I’d scratch, hit, bite, pull hair, and scream–usually not in public. Usually. There were times when my heart would beat so fast that I was afraid that I’d lose consciousness. There were times when anxiety kept me from talking to people or from asking a professor for help or clarification. There were times that I didn’t feel anything at all. There were times when I wanted to die.
There was a moment after a morning class that I tied a scarf around my bedpost and around my neck, sat in my wheeled desk chair, and rolled forward until it was hard to breathe. I sat like that for what had to be at least ten seconds.
The only thing stopping me from pushing the chair forward even more was the realization that my roommates would likely be the ones to find me and that discovering death would likely traumatize them for the rest of their lives.
I still went to the other classes that day. I was dizzy for two hours after.
But there were good moments, too. There were friends made, laughter shared, deep conversations had, long and solitary walks around campus admired, pages turned with awe, digital pages typed with passion, and even pretty darn good cafeteria food.
So, there’s that. When I was 15, I thought that I’d kill myself before reaching 16; when I was 16, I thought that I would kill myself before reaching 18; when 18, before I graduated high school a few months later and after graduating high school, before I graduated college.
But I didn’t, and I made it, diploma, quasi-independent living and all.
And now what?
Well, I have goals in mind. Resolutions, if you will. Things that I hope to accomplish.
Like Getting A Job.
My life’s ambition is to be an advocate for people with autism and other disabilities. This, in and of itself, isn’t so much of a career as it is a…lifestyle choice? conscious decision?…but there are some careers that are especially conducive to this end. I’d love to work within some non-profit like ASAN or the Autism Women’s Network or NAMI (and, yes, concerned family members and friends, there are SOME paying jobs within non-profits). There’s government agencies that deal with disability services and assistance. There’s Special Education and advocating for the students within it. There’s ADA enforcement and lawsuits and Social Security programs and people that shuffle the paperwork around for those.
There’s also things like retail and food service in the meantime. I’m not opposed to working in a tea shop or a book store or wherever for a while. My main New Years Resolution for 2017 is to get a job, both because I need the experience and because me having a salary would be a big help to my parents.
I’ve put in applications. I’ve handed in resumes. I’ll keep searching, of course, and it’s very possible that I’ll have to sit through a few interviews until my awkward charm finds the interviewer that finds awkward charm genuinely charming (and therein lies a whole new can of worms. To disclose the ASD or not to? I mean, I tend to self-accommodate, anyway, so, unless I’m working directly within a self-advocacy organization, it may not do anything but lower expectations of me…but then I don’t really know if the self-accommodations that got me through college (earplugs, stim toys/doodling, breaks between classes [which would be replaced in a work setting with lunch hour and the occasional bathroom break]) would get me through a job because, well, I’ve never had a job, and I assume that professors are much more accommodating of self-injury, crying, and general awkward than an employer would be, and, anyways, it’s not like I hide the fact that I’m on the spectrum on social media or in conversation).
A work-from-home position would be nice. But it’s my understanding that they are not numerous (although this may be changing as telecommuting increasingly becomes a thing).
There’s writing. I don’t think that I’m quite interesting enough to get away with writing an autobiography (although I’ve considered writing a family biography, because the stories of the people I’m related to, by blood or marriage/relationships long enough to practically be considered marriages, are absolutely fascinating), but I can contribute to the growing body of disability/diversity-related literature (for example, Santa/my parents got me some books for Christmas, including NeuroTribes, The Guide To Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum, Typed Words, Loud Voices, and On Pluto: Inside The Mind of Alzheimer’s; I’d love to one day help with works like those). There’s also fiction and poetry and all of the potential for creative writing to tell something about life and living it. I’ll definitely keep writing, even if I don’t ever making a penny off of it (although I do hope that I can make at least some money from it).
And there’s This Blog.
Apparently, there’s more to running a blog than typing up some articles and sharing them on social media. There’s share-for-shares and mass promoting and search engine optimization and having an image attached to every post because that apparently draws people in on social media and probably some other secrets to which I’m not yet privy.
2016 was a year of setting up and establishing and testing waters. 2017 is hopefully going to be the year when this blog really starts rolling. Now that I have the Time and Energy (assuming my career and any other writing habits that I establish don’t consume too much of it) to dedicate to this blog, I can really try to reach out to other bloggers and to communities and see where this blog is wanted. I can try to make my Facebook page for this blog cute and fun like the pages of so many other blogs tend to be with questions/discussion threads being posted and comments being posted and much engagement being had.
Engagement. Perhaps that’s the key. I’m perfectly content to exist in my own world of words, but if this blog is going to be anything other than a public diary with maybe a few viewers here and there (much love to all of you!), I need to get people talking. I need to find a way to make these Comments a Conversation.
Hmm, maybe I should start posting Discussion Topics in the blog itself… (see bottom of post)
On top of getting paid and getting somewhere with this blog, I also have some Personal Goals I’d like to achieve.
I eat waaaaay too much processed sugar. Some days, I eat more processed sugar than anything else (and a few days, I don’t eat anything else). I can motivate myself to eat cookies or chocolate pretty easily; I can’t always motivate myself to fix a salad or to heat up a veggie burger or to steam some sweet potatoes or to go eat out.
But that needs to change, because processed sugar isn’t good for the body or mind, and my mind needs as little of the things that harm it as possible.
So, more greens, more protein (preferably from plant sources, although seafood will always have its special place in its heart and in my stomach), more raw stuff, and fewer chocolate chips and sugar sweets.
Despite my high-fructose diet, I’m fairly slim…but this doesn’t at all mean that I’m “in shape.” I used to run in the mornings, but running is profusely unpleasant to me. I used to walk and play Pokémon Go in the mornings, especially at college, but there’s a lot fewer Pokéstops and gym within walkable range of my house (I mean, there’s one gym that I can walk to in a fairly short distance if I feel brave enough to cross two busy roadways to get there. But then the goal of me eating better and exercise more is to better my health, not greatly worsen it by getting ran over).
I need to get back into the habit. Be it through Pokémon Go, through the personal elliptical that I got for Christmas two years ago and that I use every once in a blue moon, through yoga or dance or martial arts or something, I need to get back to the blood-pumping.
What I really need is a schedule.
I know, we spectrumites are supposed to be all about schedules and routines. And I love the concept, I really do. I’ve made comprehensive daily schedules before.
The closest thing I’ve ever gotten to following those schedules, though, was having spectacular class attendance. Everything else tends to go up in the air.
For example, I could tell myself that I am going to write every morning for an hour from 5AM to 6AM. This is before my parents wake up (and, thus, may ask me to do something that would interrupt this time), and I go to bed earlier enough to where waking up this early doesn’t cost me sleep.
Except sometimes, I do stay up until the AM hours. Not often is it that I’m awake after 10:30PM, but I sometimes am.
Or sometimes, I go to bed at my usual time but wake up exhausted anyway. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like doing anything but going back to sleep or, failing that, scrolling through Facebook or iFunny until my hunger outweighs my lethargy.
And then I live with other people, people that have plans and whims of their own that may sometimes involve me.
There are some people who manage to write for an hour each day and exercise for an hour and devote X amount of time to learning an instrument or a language without having that hour explicitly penciled in.
The problem with that for me, though, is that I may get stuck on a task (or on Youtube) for several hours at a time.
Maybe I need to start with regulating the leisure and then work the important stuff around that. For example, let’s say that I limit myself to one hour of non-productive Internet use a day. Being that I tend to sleep for about eight hours each night, and assuming that whatever job I do get has about eight hour shifts, that leaves seven hours left. Some of that will be devoted to household chores and food prep and showering and spending time with boyfriend and with family, but there’ll be time left.
The question is, will there be energy left?
Ideally, if I cut the crap from my diet and exercise more and spend less of my time zoned out in front of a screen doing practically nothing, my energy levels and motivation will improve.
And then there’s the mental things.
I’m become a very cynical and dreary person as of late. Part of that is burnout, but I think part of that is negative mental habits.
I’ve done some preliminary skimming of The Guide to Good Mental Health On The Autism Spectrum, and it seems to have some useful tips for mental well-being (including the SWOT (Strength/Weaknesses; Opportunities, Threats method of analysis: many articles focus on business applications, but it can also be used to evaluate internal (Strengths/Weaknesses) and external (Opportunities/Threats) factors of any situation more carefully and lessen the automatic catastrophizing/negative thoughts surrounding it).
I also listen to a lot of dark and angry music, and while some of it is cathartic and a good way of coping with negative emotions, I suspect that I may be overdoing it (at least for right now).
More gratitude, less ruminating.
More good, less bad.
I suppose that’s what any human decision boils down to: more of what makes people happy and what helps people be better, and less of what makes people sad and what harms them.
Every New Year is supposed to be “The Year” when “It All Happens,” when we get ourselves and our health in order and when we become the people that we want to be.
Well, I’m going to get it an honest shot. I have this blog to keep me accountable. If nothing else, I have my own explicit, public, written-out expectations to live up to.
There’s some that theorize that humanity is soon to or is in the process of ascending, that we are going to reach a new realm of enlightenment and understanding and shed the realities that we’ve come to know in favor of one more real and closer to The Divine Truth.
I don’t know how much stock I put in all of that, although I do like the idea.
But I know that the world is changing (because it always has been changing), and I want to be part of the reason that it changes for the better (if only in some very specific and minor ways), and I know that change on a large scale starts with change on a personal scale.
So, to 2017. To new possibilities. To new hopes. To renewed faith. To revivals. To looking at the heights that one has reached, taking pride in them, and then looking forward to what else one can achieve.
May 2017 be filled with so many blessings and so much betterment for all of you.
To Discuss In The Comments (feel free to answer as many or as few as you like):
- What do you like/dislike about this blog?
- What are your New Years Resolutions?
- Any funny/interesting job interview stories?
- Human Ascension: what do you make of it?