A generalised stereotype of autsitic people is that we are not very creative, or good at english and tend to be stronger in the more analytical fields such as things that require maths, technology, coding etc.
Thing is I am good at maths and spotting patterns but my passion has always been in creative writing, and English was one of my strongest subjects in school.
I watched the film Coach Carter a few years back and have re- watched the film many times since. It is a great film about resilience, and overcoming challenges as well as having the confidence to stand by your beliefs and stick to rules.
Throughout the film there are several points when Coach Carter asks one of his students what his biggest fear is. After asking several times he finally stands up and says:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were all meant to shine as children do.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others."
This is my favourite poem because to me it explains exactly what being autistic in this world is like.
This may sound really big headed to some. However, I have always had this internal belief that I am destined for great things. I can't explain it but I have known from a young age I was not like everyone else. How I think of others is completely different. I do not see the world how the majority of others do. However, I shrink myself often so people do not feel insecure around me.
You see often especially when a racist incident is highly publicised in the media memes and images of children of multi race playing with each other without a care in the world. The thing I have learnt from a super young age is being different makes you a target not an example of greatness. I wore glasses from a very young age and it only took one child to call me a specky four eyes and for the rest to laugh for it then to become a normalised thing. To me it is normal to hear of people gossiping about me. People who generally come across as very nice to my face, who will take an interest who I open up to then someone will tell me in confidence that actually that person who is so nice to me does not say nice things about me to others. It still unfortunately happens at 33.
However, as I have got older what I have realised is this really is their insecurities about themselves. It is not my problem. I advocate hard for myself. I tell people if they aren't happy with me or if they feel I am overstepping boundaries to come and speak to me. Those that do not are in my opinion weak. Maybe I am weak for not confronting these people however, I look at the bigger picture. What would me confronting someone achieve?
I wear a mask everyday at work so I can keep my job. The only person who has seen my most authentic self is my line manager. That took months. They know my goals and aims. No one else does because my goals, aims and ambitions are high and to most would seem pointless or like I was being a kiss arse. Thing is if you are going to work 40 hours a week doing something why would you not strive to be the best you can be? I left my last job because I was the best I could be and there was nowhere I could take that job nor was there anything interesting about the sector I wanted to delve more into. I was bored and unmotivated and felt like I was running on a treadmill with a carrot dangled in front of my face and unachievable goals set out for me that were not set in stone, black and white. They were all based on other people's perceptions of me and how I acted rather than how happy the customers I served were or how efficient I was at implementing new processes and efficiency.
In life you can ultimately only rely on yourself. I am really lucky I do have mostly supportive colleagues that try to understand, are inclusive at lunchtimes and check I am OK. They appreciate I may not always be sociable and are OK with that, because they seem to get when I am trying super hard. I make jokes and bounce people's sense of humour. I accept the fact I would rather be good at my job than the most popular person in the office. At the end of the day the company pays your mortgage, not your colleagues.
I am good at my job and I enjoy it. However, for me I can't have it all. I love social interaction and engaging with people, especially people I have things in common with. When I feel accepted and like I have common interests with the people I am talking to and the communication is free and flowing for me this uses less of my energy as the mask is more relaxed. However, that is quite rare and the only people I can do this with are people I have known for many years, have got to know quite well or shown to be kind to me (again rare) and people in sports such as running, pilates and to a degree swimming.
I genuinely believe everyone is capable of great things. Great things are like autism. You do not have to be a millionaire or well known to achieve great things, you just have to be true to yourself. That in itself is a great thing and that is what I believe this poem ultimately to be about. It is about letting your insecurities go and being the best you can be. It is about standing out from the crowd and showing people a new way.
By shrinking into the crowd you are doing no one any favours. Ultimately you just become blended.
I appreciate that I do not dress to what is expected of me but I am comfortable with my style and when you are comfortable with what you wear the confidence shows. I do not care what other women think of me because ultimately I can go to a club wearing hi tops and a shirt and still attract the attention of men.
I am not intimidated by men or by women however, I do not like conflict and thus will downplay my achievements to not become a target or have people question how I managed it.
People are quick to see success but they will never see the hard work behind that success. The late nights, early starts, pushing through tiredness.
I know my limits. I have to learn to set myself boundaries just as much as I have to learn to set others boundaries, otherwise I burn out. My priorities in order are my full time job, my training, my relationship, advocacy work, rest.
You will notice I have not posted a blog in 3 weeks. It is not because I haven't wanted to but I have been working very hard trying to recharge and get in a better place after dealing with the sudden death of my dad and the grief that comes with it. I told my employer I needed help. They listened and helped, I also was at a wedding two weeks ago and on a work day out last week. These had been planned and therefore I saved energy to attend and be sociable at these events but backed off with the weekend training and allowed recharge time ready for work Monday-Friday. Ultimately I know I can't blog every week and do too much because my main job would suffer, my relationship would suffer and my training would suffer and most importantly my health both physically and mentally would suffer.
I owe no one anything. I owe myself the truth, the authenticity and to show the world I am nothing but honest, unique and resilient.