How Autism Works in My Favor – If You Can’t Be Remarkable, Be *This*

“Hunter, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

It’s not often that I’m surprised — not because I’m “good” at predictions or smart or whatever. I just spin my autistic gears enough to map out the spectrum of human variables, and by and large, people just don’t deviate enough from their norms to dot my radar as an outlier. And that’s good; sometimes my autism works in my favor.

But that question surprised me.

I’ve made an over-practiced art form of interviews – whether it’s for jobs or informational sessions. For the latter, I never expect people to ask questions of me. Like, I’m the one who’s looking to learn — what could possibly be worth asking about me? 

“Wow, uh, sure?” I said.

“Do you always wear clothing with your initials on it?” she asked.

I laughed and looked down: I’d been wearing my Helly Hansen® vest.

“As I’m fond of telling myself,” I replied, “if you can’t be remarkable, be memorable.”

I’m not remarkable. I can’t get by on skills alone. I’m really bad at a lot of things. If I talk without a pre-planned agenda in mind, I unspool after five minutes. I’m well outdone by many in terms of capability. I’m doing the best I can at the table being dealt a 7-9 offsuit hand.

But I can be memorable. 

Autism works in some oddly beneficial ways at times. We’re different out of the box. We’re going to sound different, use different words, think in strange and different ways. We’ll communicate in a way that won’t sound like others.

People remember different.

Since I stopped caring about fitting in, I’ve doubled down on fitting out. I grow out my hair out because it’s a conversation piece. My word choices and diction are unlike most others, to the point where I can’t write “example copy” anymore, because people know it’s mine. I have the coolest custom email alias at Apple. I wear my Helly Hansen® attire because people either recognize the brand or they think it’s because of my initials.

I’m not an autistic savant. No one is going to notice me for prodigious feats of memory, skill, or formidable intellect.

But I am different, and that’s memorable.

What’s memorable to you?

 

Oh, by the way: thank you for taking a few minutes to read this post. You could have spent that time doing something more enjoyable, but you chose to read this blog, and that means a lot. If you want to learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic – or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!

The Life Autistic: Stand and Deliver

This last week I had one of the most intense, searching, and revelatory experiences of my professional life.

EXECUTIVE PRESENTATION TRAINING

Even for you neurotpyical folks, this would have been a daunting ask. Getting each “uhm” clipped, every extra qualifier pounced upon.

For me, I knew what was coming.

I’ve polished my “presenting version” of Hunter Hansen down to where there’s only one thing left to refine.

Me.

I’ve cut out all the big words when I need to present to directors, leaders, etc.

I don’t ramble in circumlocutionary, concentric circles of narrative excess.

But eye contact?

Oh man, if I had a nickel for every time I was reminded to keep my eyes up, eyes down, eyes on the audience, I’d have a lot of nickels.

It’s so hard for me.

It’s like I need a BREAK, because I can only hold a gaze while speaking for so long.

And I almost need a stopping point to look away and “download more content.”

It’s a lot to process!

*But before any of you would cry foul here or think this is some attempt to change part of what makes Hunter, Hunter*

Here’s why I was given that advice.

I’m extremely expressive.

Apparently my face alone does so well to read, reflect, and react to an audience that it draws people in.

And it’s good enough to where I shouldn’t kick them out.

Imagine that. Young H2 would never have believed I was in any way captivating.

In fact, I was told I couldn’t Botox my forehead because of it.

In the end, I was happy. Exhausted, but happy.

The best piece of advice I got?

“Stop performing and just be you.”

Ok, I’ll be me.

You ready?

The Life Autistic: Here in the Dark, Gone in the Light

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I fear this may be one thing I never conquer.

There is a peril of a thread that runs through The Life Autistic.

An ice-cool needle leads it through, unrepentant, coursing through the fabric of our lives and needling us at the intersections of thought, actions, emotions.

Logic. Reason. Frigid. Rigid.

In some ways we are too ordered for our own good.

And as such, we think the world should work in that order.

I remember being younger, more impetuous than I am now, thinking that I should have advanced further based on the strength of my skills, my accomplishments.

“Oh, that’s not how the world works,” I’d correctly surmise.

“That’s how it should work,” my autistic self would clap back.

He’s as wrong as he is right, but I’ve since convinced him to play the hand.

It’s not about the strength of your cards, but the strength of the player.

But this is a game I cannot play.

At my lowest, I face the conundrum value.

My own value, to my family, families, friends, acquaintances, and those beyond.

The ice-cold needle and perilous thread wrap and warp my mind away from the altruistic reasons that I fail to grasp, to comprehend.

So I ask:

If I no longer serve a purpose to those around me, what then?

Out of a heart and mind perhaps misguided, I seek to be of some benefit to others, whether for my family, friends, those I know.

Something tangible, brilliant.

A needed light in darkness.

What if the darkness fades, and there is no need for me in the light?

It’s a daring, haunting question.

It’s a frame of mind and feeling I’d rather take apart and rebuild into something better.

Perhaps I’m the accent to otherwise perfect interiors, the blazing comet to balanced galaxies, the shady cloud above compact forests.

“This is how your value should work,” my autistic self asserts.

But this is not the way it works, I continue to repeat, hoping to believe.