Understanding the Everyday Obstacles of Autism

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In a way, I’m very fortunate to be stashed away in remote work.

When I work onsite, I have such a hard time when I see people I know walking toward me that I:

  1. Keep my glasses off so I have some plausible deniability in noticing them
  2. Keep my AirPods in, even without playing, so they think I’m on a call

The small-talk, wave-or-nod, quick-smile, acknowledgement decision tree gets wearisome after a while — it tires my brain, and I’m pooped after all the micro-decisions going on — because it’s not as natural, and we have to think about it.

It’s one of the most negative positives.

People come up to me because of Mo and Zo (because they’re cute, and people do this). So I’ve had to keep a short list of convo topics always on hand and pray that Mo can do most of the entertaining so I don’t have to, because I didn’t opt into the convo and can’t always plan beforehand.

Even when people book me for meetings without noting an agenda, it’s almost this *gasp* microaggression against my innate autistic sensibilities.

Every little thing.

Some would say, “just act normal,” like there’s a certain norm that I’d know enough to act through — but have you tried acting and staying in character for most of your life?

And then “be yourself,” where, I love the advice, but I also hate how gratingly awkward it gets when someone’s able to rattle off “Hey Hunter, how ya doing?” and say, “Hey, I’m good” and think I catch them slowing down thinking there’s more to the conversation, but there’s not, and then I feel bad if I don’t ask “and you?” so I want to slow down for that, but I have somewhere to be, and I don’t want to be rude —

The easy answer would be ‘just leave us alone,’ but then I get lonely, isolated, worse, and —

But just because we have obstacles doesn’t mean we don’t get better.

Sometimes I’ll keep the glasses on and tuck my AirPods in my pocket and smile.

Sometimes I’ll be the one to notice someone before they notice me.

Sometimes I’ll kick off the convo, giving myself time to where it can be done just enough in passing:

“Chriiiiis Robinson — how ya been?”

“Oh hey Hunter, doing alright – you?”

“Not too bad, just getting lunch — I’ll catch ya ’round.”

“Cool, see ya.”

And then done.

To anyone else, it’s normal.

To me, it’s an obstacle conquered.

 

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