You know, sometimes the best things in life come from the darndest places. Have you ever had moments where you found something special without even trying? Have you learned to be satisfied with a special item or a small gesture? Did you feel happy inside because you did something good for someone else? Well these were all feelings I discovered while learning to be more aware and outgoing on my journey with Autism. This is very significant for me because it’s common for people on the Autism Spectrum to have difficulty learning new things. It’s also a challenge for Aspies to relate on a deeper level of human emotion, but this all depends on where a person falls on the Spectrum. When I was a kid, my difficulty connecting with people left me isolated and bullied. It hurt me so much and I couldn’t understand why, but with counseling I was able to develop strong emotional knowledge of myself and of human interaction.
I came a long way during my first years of community college. I had the same handful of friends I did in high school and we’re still in contact today. But with the freedom I found, I also discovered my addictive tendencies. The first couple of years were marked with poor diet, a lack of exercise, and an addiction to tv and video games. I was in the grip of mindless self-indulgence that came at a high cost. Fortunately, I was able to admit that I needed help. With support from family and friends I put more emphasis on my studies and less on my bad habits. I needed to learn how to replace them with better habits to keep myself healthy and in balance. Yes, everything in moderation is enjoyable, you just have to know your limits.
When I transferred to the university I felt a change come over me. I was focused on earning my degree in literature and writing and I knew it would help me make a difference in the lives of people on the Spectrum. During my three years there, I decided not to waste my time on binge drinking and late-night partying. I thought “what would I feel in the long run? Does this serve anyone other than myself?” The answer for me was “no”; I could connect with classmates more personally during down time on campus. When I worked in group projects with others, I was open to different ideas and gained satisfaction from indulging in different perspectives on one topic. I realized that a variety of views can enhance your personal knowledge and perspectives.
In my private time, I found a way to connect to people at farmer’s markets. For me, buying the handful of things I needed to cook my own meals was another way to connect to people; it was also good practice for my social skills. More than just a place to buy fresh food, the markets became a source of conversation, vibrant atmosphere, and music by local artists that I support with my applause and the occasional donation. My new habits became second nature; the more I practiced them, the more courage I would gain to tell my truth. When I graduated, I was ready to make a difference, but I wasn’t sure how. With my parents’ careful guidance I was able to create this blog so that I could share my story. The best part was the satisfaction of sharing the gift of my experience with others so that maybe they could see people on the Autism Spectrum in a whole new way.
Today I take great pleasure in small things. Farmer’s markets are still a source of delicious food, live music, and plenty of opportunities for me to be more social. I carry the same feeling over to the conventions I attend and the trips that I take; I used to have difficulty meeting people and networking, but now I’m a lot better at it. If you’re familiar with addiction, you know that you’re never cured of it, you just gain control and maintenance over it. By replacing my negative habits with more positive ones, I’ve learned to enjoy experiences. Whether it’s a special treat or souvenir I can’t buy anywhere else or a show I’ve been wanting to see, it doesn’t take much to satisfy me. I’m happier now that I’ve learned to give others my time and business and maybe make their day a little better. Little things mean a lot when you give and receive them gratefully, and that’s what I call “selfless indulgence”.
Today’s musical inspiration is a live performance of an Old School classic from Boyz II Men, “Little Things”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MmnvAyYbSo