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!

Autism Speaks, Long and Short: How Leo Tolstoy Gave Me Hope

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A work colleague once criticized the length of some winding, baroque piece of communication as being “Tolstoyan.” 

As both a literature aficionado and connoisseur of words, I chatted her on the side and said, “At that length, I’d say it’s probably more Proustian!” 

Here’s something about Tolstoy, though. He doesn’t deserve the stereotype.

It reminded me of a sad episode in my career.

One of my former bosses gave me feedback about my questioning and speaking style.

He didn’t know I was autistic, and I was afraid to disclose or even hint at it.

But he noticed that I’d posit questions to others in Daedelan artifice, unfurled labyrinthine inquiries in rich and winding tapestry. I’d walk around the proverbial garden with them, frontloading and picking, packing florid petals of context to circumnavigate others together in my thoughts so they’d get it like I got it.

He hated that.

He offered me feedback with the grace of a punch couched in a boxing glove. I could hear the grating, detesting tone as he described what I did, like I was flaying the back of his mind with claws.

I felt like a doomed man, doomed to long thoughts.

As an autistic person, I wanted to be able to speak both long and short. 

In comes Tolstoy.

If you ever have the chance, read Hadji Murad – it’s Tolstoyan in art, not length.

Brevity is beautiful. Bountiful is beautiful.

Why not appreciate both?

 

Before you go: thank you for taking a few minutes to read this post. I spend a lot of time saving you time by keeping these brief – that’s extremely intentional! If you want to learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspectivethen feel free to follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic – or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!

“Greasing the Groove” for Autistic Strength

My family holds a pull-up contest every Christmas Day. I’ve never won.  Last year, I only cranked out four and embarrassed myself. The most pull-ups anyone has done to win was ten.

This year, I’ll be doubling that and embarrassing everyone else instead.

If there’s a “one easy trick” gimmick, it’s this:

If you want to get better at something, do it more.

Yes, I know, I literally said sort of the opposite.

Before you read any further and get this confused for some flabby rando’s barely-passable exercise blog — remember, we’re talking The Life Autistic. I’m trying to figure this all out and do my best, and part of that is figuring other things out.

Like ‘greasing the groove.’

If you want the explanations, read Pavel Tsatsouline’s hilarious primer or this Art of Manliness adaptation.

Either way, I realized I’d been doing this since before I learned about doing this.

There’s a way to grease the groove and build strength in your autistic experience.

These days, I can handle public speaking. All day training sessions. Long trips to the grocery store. Leading and hosting meetings back to back. Making phone calls.

I don’t possess the innate autistic strength to manage those. It came over time. It took a little bravery. Some of it was doable. Some of it I’m still daunted by — especially when it comes to visiting people, having guests, or even doing meals (which I enjoy) with people I don’t know.

But sometimes you can grease that groove. Starting slow. Jumping on video. Saying hello. Trying to hold a two sentence conversation with a stranger. Practicing a fun introduction to yourself.

Some of the hard things in the Life Autistic just remain hard; they’re heavy, and I only attack them every so often to better handle them.

Other things need more frequency, and while they’re not always easy, they’re not the heaviest things — there’s a groove I feel I can build here. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t — whatever, be you!

If anything, I know what I’m going to be: The 2020 Hansen Family Christmas Pull-Up Contest Winner.