The Two Extreme Poles
I swing between the extreme poles of nagging myself into behaving my age (which I have no idea, how people of my age behave!) and letting that childlike persona takes form as it should.
Similarly, it’s been a haunting thought of the paradox in meeting people and exchange ideologies and perspectives (which is intriguing), and keeping to myself and indulge in intense introspection (which is safe).
Not Your Usual Aspie Girl
I am not your usual (it’s oxymoronic, I know) Aspie girl, I am also not your usual NT-wannabe girl. I am an Aspie girl who recognises her weaknesses (and everyone should always assess their weaknesses and strengths, just saying!) and doesn’t give up learning. I resent being accused of not ‘embracing my traits’ (what does that even mean!), as though I had to choose between Village A or Village B. Why do I ever have to choose? What difference does it make if I felt compelled to comply in the Aspie village? I mean, what divides us is when we decide that is a side.
- Social Skills
It is true that I lack the natural social skills, and it’s probably something that I can never effortlessly learn, but that is not to say that it’s something that I cannot learn. I have been learning all my life, so why should I give up learning just because I know why I don’t learn it well – the diagnosis? Giving up is not in my nature, I am probably one of the most determined people I have met (and I don’t meet many people (in person), just so we are clear).
I Am Still a Child
I met with an old classmate (seriously, there are so many donkeys in the years that I have lost count!) earlier today. We touched on the topic of ‘Fear’. Concluded in different words (well, he speaks so much better than I, I just wanted to nod my head off!), fear is not meant to be conquered.
See, my clinical diagnosis is just so that I go on the right track in life exploration. By understanding why I am what I am, allows me to stop harping on the ‘shortcomings’ – think of it as making peace with myself – and end the agonising frustration of not being able to perform in certain areas (think social interaction), and learn to compensate with other skills.
Fears are perhaps there to activate mindfulness. I am always afraid of getting lost, it’s anxiety infusing; yet, I get lost frequently. Fear, allows me to understand that it’s a weakness (I have zero sense of direction) and that I should be mindful about it. It could be stressful to be out and about, because every time I get out of my apartment, there is a chance of me getting lost, but if I were more mindful about it, I can work around it.
Remember, Aspie or not, we all have our weaknesses that we can try to compensate with. There is a Chinese saying, ‘取长补短’ – literally translated to: take the long to compensate the short, quite self-explanatory, isn’t it?
I am still a child. I will always want to learn. Granted, social skill and everything else that defies my aspieness are more challenging, but learning is a journey, remember? If I had to spend my entire life learning it, so be it. The frustration is not about learning, it always derives from being unappreciated. So, another lesson that spun off today’s meeting is that ‘labels’ allow people to understand why I have more difficulties in attempting certain tasks – such as small talks and social etiquettes; it doesn’t give me a free pass to being obnoxiously rude and wilful.
We Are All Imperfect
Aspies or not, we cannot escape the ‘curse’ of imperfection (nope, I don’t know who cast the curse! A witch, I suppose). Life is hard, it’s harder when we stop learning. I am convinced that I will stop learning the day I die.
My Backup Plan
So, I have not met with the friend for donkey years. We weren’t that close in Secondary School (I was kind of afraid of him, ok, I avoided him thoughout the school years!), so I wasn’t sure what we could talk about. I can be awkward, very awkward (you don’t want to know the details, trust me).
I packed my ‘E-kit’ – Emergency Kit. I thought he appreciated my ability to doodle (verified, he associates me with drawing and things arty farty, well, I was from the arts stream), so I brought along my sketchbook (which I also need just in case I was early, since I set buffer time for post office mail run; I really was early, and he was late). I also brought along the newly designed doll – Foxy Girl (people seem to appreciate my skilfulness in crochet crafts too). I was early, so I went to Muji (OMG, I really need a trip to Japan and buy all Muji stuffs at half price!) and bought a mechanical pencil (and I am sure is becoming my favorite pencil) and a fountain pen (I have a profound love for fountain pens).
What do I mean by E-kit? See, people like me, we run social scripts before we meet people. It’s an involuntary action. I am quite a meticulous person who preempts (so many more) things before they happen. I have been doing this all my life, so it’s not as exhausting as you thought, but it can be exhausting if I had to do this everyday. That’s why I am an introvert, I limit social activities. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy meeting friends whom I can connect deeply with, but it exhausts me when it’s a daily event, because I am exposing myself to external (overwhelming) stimulus as well.
I don’t know if I would be ‘interesting’ enough to keep conversations going. I speak knowledge, and I’ve learnt that my way of communication can be abrasive and offensive. So, to be on the safe side, in case we didn’t have much to talk about, I could stick my hands into my magic bag (it’s just normal messenger bag, no magic involved) and fish out the ‘treasures’. We could talk about my doodles, and my crochet work! Well, I have tons to talk about them!
See, I prepare myself, I am willing to learn.
Sure, there is virtually no escape for social repercussion. After we parted our ways, all things were sweet and nice, rainbows and unicorns (nah, it was gloomy all day, and no unicorn spotted!). I stayed on the safe side today by ‘restraining’ free speech (right, the problem is that I have very low-grade filter, I speak my mind, and that is a problem, always), but there is only so much restraint. Then, the playback – I have learnt that most normal people don’t experience that, how weird! – began while I commuted on the train, way back home.
Think of it as a strict score-rating card. Self-evaluation. The ‘should not have said that’, ‘should have responded that way’ started to flood the thoughts while the mental recorder replayed the conversations; which normally followed with an ‘ego-bashing’ episode. Then, came peace-making phase. It’s a little like the shortened version of grieving!
The Larger Picture
I may never escape the brutal social repercussion, but it is not to say that I give up living. I may never be the most pleasant companion, because with time, the most understanding partner will still expect you to have learnt the ‘skills’. The task on hand is to educate the public that just because I am learning, doesn’t mean I can ever master it, I may always just be the student; it’s always going to be an enormous effort on my part, so perhaps we can meet half way. Stop expecting me to ever be the social butterfly – my version of it is like a part-timer in your world. I can be the most charming social butterfly, but I can only handle part-time. 😉 So, I don’t give up learning; and you give up expecting the impossible. Deal?
I believe I am not much of a good company to my old friend, but I enjoyed our conversations (although much reserved on my part) thoroughly. I enjoy intellectual exchange. I appreciate the genuineness and it’s surprisingly refreshing (it’s rare coming from me!), although, also scary.