Welcome to the second post of my Aspierations blog!
I'm going to let you in on a secret. I'd been wanting to make my first post for months but I was too anxious, too scared. The fact of the matter is that this is the first time I am officially outing myself as a person with Asperger's Syndrome.
Am I ashamed of having AS? No. BUT, I'm not exactly sure how to deal with the potential response from family, old friends, business customers and aquaintances who might happen across this blog. It's one thing writing to people I have never met. That's a heck of a lot easier than pouring out my heart, baring my soul, allowing myself to be vulnerable and realizing that someone I actually "know" is possibly going to read this. I don't have the best social skills, after all....
You see, I'm 42 years old and I've been living with the mask of a neurotypical (NT) my whole life. That doesn't mean I ever felt like I "fit in" but it means my life history is a culmination of experiences where I often found myself "acting", following memorized social scripts and trying to assimilate into a world where I often felt like I was an outsider. Being high functioning academically and having an entrepreuneurial spirit, I was blessed with a skill set that allowed me to found my own business.
Workwise, that is where I am at today, working from home full-time running an online collectibles business called Count Your Beans Dolls and Bears (check my business blog) with my husband and raising our two children. It's a good thing too because although I found traditionally defined "success" in the corporate world of the Silicon Valley, that lifestyle and culture was just NOT for me.
Most people who see me will probably have no clue I'm an Aspie, unless they are possibly on the spectrum as well. For most of my life, I think I did a pretty good job of appearing to "fit in"on the surface.
Maybe people who know me can shed some light. Did my plain hamburgers and picky eating tip you off or was it my "unique" sense of fashion? Was it the fact I always felt more comfortable with guys than gals? Was it that I could memorize facts with ease but could never keep my desk and room organized? My interest in numbers, patterns, statistics and individual sports? My clumsiness and awkward social graces? Or was it the fact that I was a quirky goofball with an odd sense of humor? Feel free to comment in the comments section if you want. I'm able to laugh about it... well, most of it. Some of those 80s outfits I wore were just atrocious.
I'm sure there will be family and people who grew up with me, bowled with me, worked with me, perhaps even dated me that are never going to believe that I am on that wonderful and amazing entity called the Autism Spectrum. Once they read more about it, they'll realize that not only am I a shining spectrum member but some of their teachers, friends, co-workers and perhaps family members are too!
When I grew up, Asperger's had not yet been defined. When we heard in the schoolyard that someone was autistic, it was someone whose characteristics were more prominently defined. Think "Rainman"... Of course this is not how it is defined today but that was an earlier stereotype.
I was a tomboy and hung out with the boys during a lot of grade school. I had a few girl friends in elementary school but a couple moved away and I didn't know how to keep the others once I got into junior high. As I got older, I got involved in acting and other creative pursuits. I was athletic and I bowled, played tennis and liked individual sports. I lived in the Silicon Valley of California and was totally into computers and video games too. (Shocker, I'm sure...) In retrospect, I realize that a number of the people that I assimilated towards in friendship as I got older are quite possibly somewhere on the spectrum themselves. When you hang out with people that are kind of quirky too, your idiosyncrasies become a lot more "normal".
At any rate, I didn't fully realize I was an Aspie until just last year when I attended the Autism Society of America conference with my husband, John, my oldest son, Justin (10) and my youngest son, Ryan (3). Of course in the 100s of hours of googling and reading research about autism since our kiddos were diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder respectively, I had a pretty darn strong suspicion I had Asperger's Syndrome as well. I just had not processed, accepted and embraced it. I was not ready at that point to be who I was or let my light shine.
Today I am taking that next step on the journey. Although I was not a particularly religious person growing up and didn't attend a particular church, my parents had excellent morals, wonderful and kind spirits and I was brought up believing in and respecting God.
It was after I attended the Autism Society of America conference last July that I felt what I can only describe as a "calling" from God. For perhaps the first time in my life, I felt that I was being directed to something bigger and better and that vision was Aspierations -- Come As You Are, Let Your Light Shine. I want to help empower those on the spectrum and those who care for and love them. I want to make a difference in this world. When I was attending seminars at the ASA conference, it hit me hard that there were not a lot of adult females that were speaking publicly about their lives on the spectrum. As such, there were probably many more women out there living undiagnosed and wondering how to make sense of their lives.
I hope to be one more voice... a candid and encouraging one, a humorous and fallible one, an honest and inspiring one. Although this post is probably more serious in tone than my normal writings, I tend to try and use humor and compassion when sharing anecdotes and reflections on life.
Thank you for reading this! I'll try not to make all my posts so lengthy. It's something I always need to work on. As my Dad would always say when opening up my holiday cards to him and seeing my handwritten sentiments, "what are you trying to do, write a book?" Well maybe that too!
If you'd like to follow me, I invite you to do so! Feel free to comment too. I'll try not to take it too personally!