The Life Autistic: Not as Smart as People Think

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I’m still quite terrible with humility, but this one is just honesty:

I am honestly not as smart as many people think. 

I’m ok with that, and I’m happy to demystify!

But first, a story:

My wife, Andrea, told me a tale from our college days, when she was at some party with this one odd gal who made snow angels in the host’s carpet. Which, I guess that’s a story too.

But said gal recounted how she sleuthed out my student ID (uh…) from the records office (what), so she could compare our mid-term exam scores in an English class (why?).

“I couldn’t believe I actually got a better grade,” she beamed.

“Oh,” said Andrea. “Yeah, Hunter didn’t study for that one.

Ouch. That’s what you go to the burn unit for.

Why am I sharing this?

Because I wan’t people to get the wrong impression about me.

I’m not some genius. I’m not all that smart.

These are the real “autistic strengths” that I’ll attest to:

1) Decent memory

It’s the forgetting that’s the hard part! But yeah, I tend to remember a bit, both actively and passively. It’s not perfect, and as Mrs. H2 will attest, I can forget things as soon as I hear them, but it’s not too shabby.

2) Recall

There are times where my memory is just “all right there.” I often don’t need to take time to remember, so the instantaneousness comes out at a good clip. But really, that’s not smarts – that’s just a product of producing memories quickly. 

3) Associations

There’s recalling memories, and then there’s stitching them into patterns, situations, fitting them into neat spots to form a pattern. It’s almost like creativity. I’ve done OK professionally with this, as a coach, organizational leader, analyst, etc. Is it a “smart” thing? I dunno.

4) Big words

We’ve been over this.

That’s it. That’s the combo.

I’m really slow with math. Sluggish with computations. I don’t read as many books as I should. I don’t have an advanced degree. I wouldn’t last anywhere in engineering fields. I’m actually aware of where I’m not the sharpest bulb in the shed.

I’ve got a good memory and recall combo, and I’m almost clever – I’ll take that.

 

The Life Autistic: We have Perks!

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Why am I laughing?

Well, I’ll get specific. But in general, there’s one fact I don’t highlight often enough.

The Life Autistic is not all bad!

In fact, I do enjoy some of the perks. Here’s a few:

1) Deep focus

I’m sure some humans and neurotypicals possess this too, but it’s wonderful to be able to summon a deepness in tasks that generates flow and keeps us fixed

2) Obsession

As an analyst, I tell people the following in truthful jest: “If you want this done quick, either get my boss to tell me to do it, or get me excited about it.”

I’ve burned hours on projects and data-driven explorations purely out of obsession with trying to find the answers. Once my obsession is popped, it don’t stop.

3) Detachment

On a sadder note, I recall being the designated ‘multimedia’ guy for two family funerals. Things get emotional, and sometimes I’m better able than others to detach from that and not get caught up when things need to happen.

Granted, I’m prone to really juvenile meltdowns over things I shouldn’t be upset over. But when it comes to things where I should be upset like everyone else, I’m usually not. And I can function where others don’t.

4) Memory

It’s amazing.

If you want me to remember something critical, mention it in passing, like it’s some weird piece of trivia. I’ll never forget.

Of course, if it’s actually important, and you tell me I must remember, I’m literally forgetting it as you tell me.

Ok, so this one is 50/50.

5) Difference

I don’t always enjoy the isolation, the otherness, being against the flow.

But at least I know I’m different and differently configured. If anything, that can be memorable!

 

There’s a whole host of other perks, like recall, name recognition, patterns, routines, self-awareness.

I like some of the practical ones too, like ‘control’ — which can come in handy when you’re trying to eat a brunch one handed while keeping a flailing one-year old baby in check ^_^

 

The Life Autistic: We Can Get Along (but not for long)

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I remember taking myself down the alleyways and misted halls of memory, trying to trace a core feeling I’ve walked around with for a long while:

Why does everyone seem to disappear?

I have no lifelong friends.

The ones close once are now far.

Everyone exits my orbit.

People fade.

I am stupidly fortunate to have a wife and daughters who mostly enjoy me on most days, but I can’t shake the feeling that they too will be just . . . gone.

The Life Autistic is a great exercise in deep self-awareness, and I found one element of the whole “people disappearing” act.

Growing up a Navy brat, life itself and the others around me – they were all in transition.

No one remained for long.

What few friends I had, they’d be stationed elsewhere within months. Years, if I were lucky.

I wasn’t fast on friendship then, and I’m not all that quick about them today.

 

 

But here we are today, and still I ask:

Is everyone going to disappear again?

It’s an innate concern that has me looking without, within.

I am a difficult person in person. 

The Life Autistic, y’all, it tires people.

And we know it.

It’s hard dealing with someone who can whip from mad/sad/glad in an instant.

Who vanishes at a moment’s notice to recover.

Who turns ice cold when the empathy tank runs out.

Who can offer only a shoulder blade of steel to cry on.

Who tries hard to be human, but — just isn’t.

 

It’s why I enjoy working from home. Writing. Tweeting.

I don’t keep a distance because I need it from you.

It’s because you need it from me.