The Life Autistic: Why my ‘Space’ is a Fortress

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I’ve been on a business trip all this week, doing what I’d imagine many of my fellow autists and Aspies may dread: working with a lot of real-live people all day.

For a dude who works remotely 95% of the time, this is a big deal. I travel once a quarter, mainly because it takes me that long to recharge in between trips to see and work with my awesome co-workers and extended peers in person.

It’s fun, but it is exhausting. 

But I did have an interesting self-revelation last night. As one of my friends left with me, he graced many folks with parting hug. I had to suppress a small smirk as I prepped to leave as well.

I joked about having a “hugs quota” that I’d exceeded for the day.

Someone asked: “Ah, so you have kind of a space bubble?”

I had to think both thoughtfully and fast, neither of which I do well on their own.

“Well, it’s more like a fortress.”

That right there is a fair assessment of how I feel about space. Here’s why:

A fortress is a defensive bulwark.

While I sometimes wish I were more forward, you’ll find that I’m never intrusive, not even by accident. Steadiness and steadfastness are great byproducts.

A fortress doesn’t pop. 

Bubbles don’t have the kind of permanence that I carry; it’s a stronger force, a lot more obvious – sometimes disinviting, but never surprising.

A fortress has an entry.

I’m most at peace with this one. I’m not closed. I’ve got a few arches, edifices, some cool design features – but despite the walls both high and wide, I can still control the gate. 




The Life Autistic: Oh, No, not EYE CONTACT!

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This one’s almost made it to the “common knowledge” domain: Autistic people typically don’t make eye contact when they’re talking to you because blah, blah, reasons, difference, awkward, reasons, etc.

Ever wonder why?

I’ll tell you!

It’s hard for us to process multiple senses at once.

Unlike the rest of y’all, we autistic folks devote significant mental resources to engaging in conversation. Saying the right thing, planning our next sentences, avoiding awkward pauses, trying to guard ourselves from over-talking, and reading your face.

Making eye contact? That’s like the camelback-breaking straw.

It often feels like too much at once. It’s not that we’re too shy – we just need to devote more to our conversations with you.

We’re intentional, so we can’t just “rest” our gaze by making eye contact.

I mean, we could make eye contact.

If it were a staring contest.

If the goal is “maintain eye contact until predator backs down” or something weird.

If we were talking about, well, your eyes.

Lastly, we’re on our guard and averse to being “analyzed” 

I’ve a lot to learn about myself, but I know I’m different. 

Whether it’s true or not, I feel that, and I feel others can see it.

So the eye contact thing? It doesn’t help – it’s like people stare straight into my autistic reaction, that visceral feeling of “stop gawking at me.”

That said, I do have a way I’ve worked around this.

You might notice that, at times, I have no problem holding a conversation and looking right back at you.


I’m practically blind now, y’all. Without my glasses, I can stare straight into your face and be A-OK with the blur.

No eyesight, no eye contact, no problem ^_^


The Life Autistic: We are your Workplace Engines – Here’s Why


I remember getting a interesting compliment from my boss on my work ethic; it was as much his own transparent introspection as it was a testament to my drive:

“I have actually let things slip, knowing that you will catch them.”

(And for the record, this was a manager who did and does get things done!)

I was grateful for the feedback — flattered even!

Despite my troubles in other areas (tact, speaking out of turn, saying too much, being too direct, you get the trend) — in both leadership and in individual contribution, there are some ‘autistic features’ that have really helped me.

And they’re common enough among us autists to where they help you.

We’re great at laser-focusing on tasks.

I ended up building all of my Excel skills purely by taking on the most tedious and taxing items that involved spreadsheets, formulas, all that jazz. While I’ve since moved on to more fun tools (hello, Tableau!), my ability to zero in and grind out arduous work paid off.

We’re honest.

For all of our tactlessness, we are at least forthright about when something is great or not great. Back when I managed supervisors, I wasn’t always the most accommodating, nor the warmest, fuzziest manager. But I was honest, and that brought out the best in my folks – the expectations and feedback were always clear.

We’re good with details.

One of my best career experiences was with a global communication team — I was fortunate to be in a role that allowed me to fight for excellence in even the smallest details: pixel-perfect presentation arrangements, fine-toothed grammatical combing, and punctilious analysis of distribution lists, procedures, and more.

We’re quite good engines: driven, detailed, and dutiful.

Hire more of us, please!