I am 26 years old physically, 10 mentally, and in terms of having been through weird social experiences probably as old as the original T-Rex itself.
As far as where I am from, well…I ask myself that question every day. My birth certificate says Portugal, but I am still waiting for the weird and eccentric aliens to come and take me back to whatever place I was created.
(And if you all are reading this, this joke has gone on for long enough now. Take me back immediately.)
This might come as a surprise, but I am a teacher. I teach English as a foreign language to young learners and Portuguese to foreigners.
Do I like it? Yes, absolutely, I love what I do. It’s fun, meaningful, and kids are great. They don’t mind my quirky self, eccentric self, and respond well to me.
There are many things I am extremely proud of.
~I used to be obese, a shut in. I failed high school and I had no friends. I was scared to talk to people, depressed and constantly anxious. I avoided going to restaurants by myself during my younger years so I wouldn’t have to talk to the waiter. Over the past 6 years, I've been trying to change my life around completely. I learned to play by my strengths. I got into college, finished it and graduated. I became a teacher even though I had a lot of social anxiety and I am doing a good job. I recently did an internship at my old high school and even got an overwhelmingly positive feedback letter. I am working and doing online masters to specialize even more, perhaps in special education.
I lost all the weight naturally, had a surgery to remove the excess skin and I've been working out and gaining muscle and I love exercising. I became a vegetarian and health conscious and considering I used to live on a steak and chips diet that's an enormous achievement. I overcame some of my social difficulties and am trying to work on that even more. I’ve asked guys for their number at the gym. I am so proud of that.
~I’ve lived abroad and travelled the world.
I’d really like to learn more about comedy/performance actually. I still have these freezes socially. It’s still hard, and I just want to explore ways to work on that and improve.
How I would like to change the world: A big dream here, but I’d like to work on helping education to become more inclusive. I’ve seen a few kids over the years who reminded me a lot about myself and or friends of mine who didn’t exactly fit the bill either. I see how hard it is for them. I feel education needs to be more inclusive. We need to work with strengths more and encourage those, rather than force everyone into this little box and promote the mindset that everyone should be put into one.
I’d like to help with that as I know first-hand to be put into a system you don’t work well with no support and/or understanding.
Resources that have really helped me: My ADHD meds. They are life savers. (I have both ASD and ADHD)
Funny story about me: Ask any guy who has ever been on a date with me.
When I was working with 4-5-year-olds we used to sing all these extremely repetitive songs that really get stuck in your head. There was this hello song I used to sing with all my groups. Sometimes I’d have to sing 3 times a day. You can imagine how despair inducing that might be after a year.
I have this tendency to endlessly replay things in my head sometimes when I am stressed. When I was working in Russia I went to a restaurant for dinner and the waiter very warmly and kindly greeted me in English. I was stressed that day and completely lost in thought. I don’t really know why but I responded to her with a line from the song. (hello, hello, can you clap your hands).
Something I wish neurotypicals (those not on the spectrum) knew about autism: We are not shy/quiet/anti-social. We just get very uncomfortable when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar social situation. Give us time to get used to you. Also, we might not make the best first impressions due to anxiety. But give us a chance and we will grow on you. We’re awesome I promise.
Something I want to tell the rest of the people on the spectrum:
We are all different. It’s hard to find advice that would be relevant to everyone. In my experience - do not let yourself be defined by labels. If there’s something you want to do (within reason), you can find a way to do it. It may take more time; it might be very hard, but you’ll get there. Keep trying and look for support if you need it.
Persistence, determination, and a will of fire are key skills everyone in the spectrum needs to survive in this crazy world, I think. Fortunately, most of us are awesome enough to have them or develop them.
Signs/symptoms that Indicated I am on the spectrum:
There were so many honestly. I didn’t really enjoy socializing, only ate when someone played this one song, I stimmed a lot, etc. I was only diagnosed at 26 though, so people knew I was a bit odd/eccentric they just didn’t know why.
When I first received my diagnosis I felt relieved, then mad. It’s kind of hard to look back at so many things people said to you, that you felt bad about for years and realize there was a reason for them. Coming to terms with that wasn’t easy nor is it something I think most people can relate to.
How I feel about my diagnosis today:I think I reached a point of acceptance. I see my diagnosis as informative. It helps me only as far as it tells me how I work, what my superpowers are and what to watch out for. It does not define me. It is who I am, but it is not what I can do.
That’s the key. Knowing who I am has helped me to develop a very positive relationship with myself. It also gave my life meaning in the sense that it made me want to help people.
I honestly love who I am now, but for me to be able to do this I had to know who I was first.