To understand Autism, you must understand the diverse methods of approaching it.
If someone were to ask you “so what are your interests?” or “what are your hobbies?”, how would you respond? If you had asked me the question years ago, I probably would have stumbled over my words and spoken in a half-hearted manner because I was still coming to terms with who I was after being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
It may come as no surprise that I would have responded that way. It’s a pattern that occurs in people born on the Autism Spectrum; social skills are a very notable weakness, but the severity of such a handicap is different for every child. Some people never evolve socially beyond a certain age. There are others who perform adequately in a social environment and one would never know that the person had an Autism Spectrum Disorder unless they were told. In the past few years, I would consider myself part of the latter. I introduce myself to someone and if it feels right, I let them know that I have Asperger’s Syndrome.
If I was asked today what my hobbies and interests are, I would say with a certain confidence “well, I have diverse interests.” Why? Because for most of my life, I’ve found myself drifting between different hobbies, life paths and career choices. Feeling like an outsider kept me from staying on one path for too long, but there have been different events that have enabled me to understand what brings me joy and satisfaction about positively contributing to the world. To look at these events in retrospect is vindicating after what I’ve been through, and I’m grateful that I could find the wisdom to do so. There are some “normal” people who never achieve that wisdom.
My core interest has always been music; I have spoken about this on two different occasions in the “Music” category. I mentioned about first singing when I was four years old, and how I’ve been in different singing groups for most of my life. I also love listening to music from different eras. I’ve never been satisfied staying with one style, I always felt like I was missing out on something more. That’s why my tastes are eclectic and why I enjoyed attending different music classes in college.
There was a time when I believed that I would be a famous singer who started out as a humble music librarian, but I steered away from that path and began pursuing my Literary degree. I was no longer focused on a music career, but my creative, artistic spirit was as strong as ever. At Cal State San Marcos, I remembered how much I enjoyed writing and when the time came for group projects I had no trouble finding partners.
I accepted the challenges of every class until I graduated. When times became difficult, I only had to turn on my music collection and I would be taken out of worry and back into clarity. I still hear a song in my head and I have to play it and sing along with my Ipod or on YouTube. The rush of good vibes continues when I find another song with a similar feeling, rhythm, or key; all the music has to do is move me and I’m inspired. The power of music fuels my creative energies and lives at the very core of my existence; it has saved my life and given me greater purpose.
I’ve also found strength and inspiration in different parts of geek-dom. Yes, that’s right; I’m proud to admit that I am a convention-going, graphic novel-collecting fanboy. Being a geek is a label I’ve learned to embrace as a trait I’m proud of. It has also become an indelible part of me, just like my Asperger’s Syndrome. In my post entitled “I Was Born This Way”, I spoke about the revelatory feeling I had when I went to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time. I was so thrilled to feel like I belonged to something greater than myself that I experience a natural high every time I attend.
As I’ve expanded my awareness, I’ve discovered something interesting. If you don’t know already, it’s common for people on the Autism Spectrum to have difficulty accepting changes in their environment and/or personal lives; I was no exception. For all the love, support and understanding that I’ve received, I owe a debt of gratitude to my mother, all of my counselors, the understanding people in my family, and most recently, my father. Their unwavering support is something I needed to deal with the changes in my life, and I couldn’t have done it without them.
What I discovered was that one of the best things I could do was visit other “geek” conventions to satisfy my tastes and put myself socially into the world. The first time I branched out was in 2006, and it was more than just going to another convention. I traveled to Phoenix, stayed in a hotel, and took care of my basic needs all on my own! You’ve got to understand: I didn’t start driving ’til I was 21 and I always took trips with other people. It may seem insignificant, but for me this was a big step in boosting my initiative and self-confidence.
I picked up on the feeling again back in 2011 when I discovered the San Diego Anime Convention. On a whim, I bought a ticket and thoroughly enjoyed myself; so much so, that I attended the 3rd annual convention back in March of this year. I’ve always enjoyed anime growing up; it taught me a lot of mature lessons at just the right time.
Back in May, I diversified my interests even further when I went to the 2nd Annual Gaslight Gathering Steampunk convention. I had only begun taking an interest in Steampunk a few months ago, but I was so inspired that I went to Gaslight in May. I am also exploring another Steampunk convention happening up in Long Beach in January; definitely will be something to write about. I know that because I’ve gained more confidence and self-awareness I’m able to put myself in more social situations with the added assurance that my interests are shared by a group of people who are more than happy to accept me as one of their own.
All in all, my eclectic hobbies and interests are a reflection of the many ways I see the world. Besides music and “geekdom”, I enjoy my blog, writing, and doing research for a novel. I’m at a place right now where I’m aware and honest about all parts of me and I’m no longer afraid to live authentically. Each of my interests is one piece of the puzzle that is me; I guess it’s no coincidence that the symbol of the Autism Awareness movement is a puzzle piece!