The Life Autistic: The Silly Reason I Walk Alone

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 11.58.39 AM.pngI was touring the campus of Pensacola Christian College for the first time, walking with my campus mom.

Until I heard a voice about ten feet behind me.

Ahem . . . Hunter.”

I’d done that thing again.

There I was, what seemed a mile ahead of my tour guide. I’d walked way too far, but not far enough to hear her tut-tutting at my apparent sprint ahead. I marooned both of us, not by design, but by, well—

See, there’s this thing.

I walk to get places, and I walk fast, and that’s my default setting.

It’s nice when I need to get from point A to point B, or when I need some exercise, but shoot, when I started socializing, being more human, getting to know people, I didn’t realize how much of a socially-illiterate walker I was.

Until arriving at college, I don’t think I walked with another person before.

And that’s when I learned why I’d walk alone: because I walk like I am alone.

It’s not like I’m trying to get away from you if I’m more galloping than ambling. I’m not trying to be rude, inconsiderate, etc.

Walking is a focused, driven, routine, one-track thing for me; it’s how I’m wired, and left to my own devices, I’d walk without stopping, loping along, maybe even talking at myself while I ignore things around me.

I’m learning to slow down.

To walk with people.

To take in surroundings.

To realize that the destination is not the only thing that matters.

They say You’ll Never Walk Alone, but in The Life Autistic, you often do.

 

 

 

The Life Autistic: Why We Can’t Just ‘Unmask’

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Sometimes I wish I could live more of my life as more of myself. Many of us feel the same.

“So, uh, live life like yourself then, duh,” some neurotypicals may say.

Yeah, if only.

Many of us mask because we have to.

Here’s why I can’t just rip off the mask and ‘be myself.’

1: Feelings can’t be switched off

“Hunter hurt my feelings with his comment, but I know he wasn’t trying to be insensitive, so I’ll try to be understanding and let that slide,” said no one, ever.

It’s not fair of me to expect everyone to “get me” and adjust their reactions appropriately. It’s also not license for me to be a jerk, either. I don’t want to be reviled and shunned any further, so my mask is one that helps me to talk less, listen more, and say even less so that I don’t come across as abrasive.

2: Quirky oddball loners add tension (and I hate tension)

It’s cringing and awkward when that one dude in your group just isn’t talking, not making eye contact, and isn’t emanating a cool enough vibe to be alluring. I’m usually that one dude. But I can’t stand feeling like that person, so I keep my mask on to glide past it.

It’s a well-crafted, precisely-rehearsed social navigation facade, replete with banter, some medium-grade jokes, and enough chatter to cut the tension, the kind of tension that would be taut enough to cut if I were unmasked and in my element.

3: I’ve succeeded too well with the mask (and not at all without it)

As I look back on the highlights of my life, work, career, and more, they’ve more fallen in the ‘Batman’ category more so than ‘Bruce Wayne.’

I’m not fond of the superhero comparison, but H2 is the caped crusader, the vivacious raconteur, the ebullient knight, better at events, the guy with the hair, almost popular at work, tolerable in life. And Hunter Hansen just . . . isn’t.

I can’t be my version of Batman without the mask. Not yet, and I don’t know if ever.