“We have a history together”, “It’s just history repeating itself”. There are many sayings that apply to the subject, but what does the word really mean? Dictionaries have multiple definitions such as “the aggregate of past events”, ” a past notable for its important, unusual, or interesting events”, “the discipline of recording & interpreting past events involving human beings”, and “all that is preserved or remembered of the past, especially in written form.” Now let me ask you: how do you define history? Does history define you? Have you understood and accepted large and small events of the past? Do you ever feel like you could make history in your own way?
Personally, I feel like the subject is divided into two categories: External and Internal History. External History is about a group of people, a country, or the entire world. Internal History relates to a person, place, or a person’s family. In my own life I have had many dealings with both kinds; it has taken me a long time and a lot of challenges to understand completely, but I believe that everything happens for a reason.
If you think about it academically, history was one of my best subjects in school. I have a knack for remembering details, dates and locations. I can remember people’s names very well and why they are named in the history books and I can also remember the context. I feel like it’s a human habit to forget the reasons why something took place. However, I have the ability to look at something holistically and see the bigger picture. This allows me to see the full array of historical context. It was these abilities that allowed me to earn good grades in school. However, it was events outside of class relating to my personal history that contributed the most to my understanding of human and global history.
You may know already that I was bullied in elementary school and part of middle school, what you don’t know is how it affected my worldview. After the worst of the bullying ended, I tried to put it behind me and focus on school. When I studied some of the wars throughout history, my conclusion was that belligerence and insecurity, the main issues with people who bully, were at the core of many of these conflicts on a grand scale.
I also discovered the same behavior patterns in cruel acts of slavery and prejudice. The crossing of cultures created a wave of insecurity about the unknown. The more powerful and arrogant of the cultures took it upon themselves to build systems of slavery in order to use the “conquered” people as labor to build their new societies. Under the guise of “civilization”, social structures and caste systems were created as a means to define humans by the station of their birth.
Discovering this pattern left me with a feeling of disgust at the way humans treat each other sometimes. It was strong because I had already experienced my own kind of prejudice when I was bullied. I eventually felt that all systems created by humans, national, political, social, and religious, had to be taken with a grain of salt. They were originally built to bring order and understanding to the world, but I soon realized that no one system can hold a monopoly of truth on human existence and God’s creation.
It was around this time that I noticed changes in my family; this is when I began to take notice of my personal history. When my grandfather was in failing health, I began to notice things about my extended family. I could hear them speaking with such hurt and insecurity. This was something I hadn’t seen before, I was confused and I felt bombarded with all the emotion. It was later that I realized what I was seeing.
For years I used to think that I was the only one who could feel so much mental and emotional pain, it was a lonely feeling. Then I saw the relatives that I idolized were acting just as unsure and hurt as I would feel at times. I was shocked and I didn’t know what to think. So much regret for past events, so much fear about the future, it was beyond my comprehension. However, the more I matured, the more I understood.
Living with autism is like living with a heavy fog over your head. You can’t see outside of yourself and without awareness, you think that your own small world is all there is to life. The truth is, my family wasn’t changing, I was the one who was changing. I was coming out of the haze that isolated me from the outside world. My awareness was growing, and one of the first things I learned was about my family.
I was becoming aware of how human they really were. I was seeing all of their frailties and imperfections; I was also seeing how they tried to compensate for them. Learning that was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I needed to see them as real people trying to make sense out of their lives in order to develop a new respect for them. I discovered that as long as they worked on themselves and still loved me, I could learn from their examples by trial & error of how I could deal with my own issues. Thus began the process of reconciling my family history.
During college was when I learned the most about the history of my ancestors and what previous generations have had to deal with. I took some classes in Mexican History and learned about the tumultuous and wonderful stories that have dotted the North American continent for hundreds of years. This was when the worldview I developed in my childhood would really come into play.
For years I poured through all the records of history. Each lesson contained everything I needed to know about where my ancestors came from and where they wanted to go: the powerful native tribes and their amazing cities, the 300+ year rule of the iron-fisted Spanish Empire, the revolutions and the birth of the republic, the love/hate relationship with the United States, the cross-border fights for human rights, and the possibilities for the futures of both countries in a changing world.
The first things I felt were bitterness, disappointment, and a seething anger at injustices that were committed. I soon came to realize that what I was feeling was historical pain. This refers to the crippling, negative mindset of a people who have been badly affected by events in the past and continue to express the symptoms of that pain in very negative ways that often result in false assumptions, troubling statistics, and stereotypes.
Coming out of the fog that hung over my head, the truth about the past used to give me nightmares about what kind of future I had to look forward to. The worst feeling I experienced was that my life was completely out of my control and I had no means of shaping it. I began to question whether or not I even had a place in the world, but I soon discovered that the same ugly truth about the past was also the beautiful truth that would set me free.
I have now learned to model my worldview on the historical figures who sought to create a better life for humanity. Every generation has its visionaries as well as destroyers. By reading about the influence and conviction of people who stood up for freedom and justice, I have been guided in the direction of being a force for good, by becoming a voice for people on the Autism Spectrum.
Today, I feel like my history does not define me, it is showing me where I’ve come from, and how far I have yet to go. I record parts of my history and my personal convictions on this blog, and I continue to do historical research for the novel I am working on. My place in this world is one of creation, and my vision is that of a world where ignorance and assumptions about Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are replaced by enlightenment, knowledge, and respect.
My understanding, passion, and sense of purpose have never been clearer. I must be an example of a person who defies the odds against them and sets a new standard. I proudly accept my internal and external history as well as the so-called label of Autism. I have a commitment to define how I make history by making a difference in people’s lives. The hope I have for humanity and myself will not end until my last day on Earth. I must make a difference, and in my own way, I am.