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I’m Officially an “Aspie”

I guess I’m writing this as a “coming out” in hopes that friends and family will understand me a little better in addition to me understanding myself a little better as well. So, I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in addition to having ADD, and dyslexia, and being left-handed (there are studies on left-handedness and AS and whether there’s a correlation. They say it’s more likely for a person with AS to be left-handed, but this has not been proven). For those who don’t know, having Aspergers puts me on the autism spectrum. For you adults, you can take the AAA (Adult Asperger Assessment) diagnostic test to find out your likelihood of having it although I suggest seeing a psychologist or psychotherapist. I actually think it’s dope. It puts a lot of things that have occurred in my life into perspective in a way which makes a lot of sense now, especially in terms of my interests and career choice (IT).

For starters, I’m more of the pattern recognizer type: high mathematical and spatial intelligence. During my school years, I can remember 3 distinct times being recognized for my math abilities. The first was in second grade. I always finished tests way before other kids and my teacher Ms. York at Redan Elementary recommended that I be put in the gifted program starting with 3rd grade. The next time would be in 7th grade. My teacher Mrs. Smith at Salem Middle recommended I skip ahead to advanced math classes. At that time, I was the kid who would say the answer to a double 3 digit multiplication problem before everyone finished punching in the keys on their calculator or solved it on paper. The 3rd time would be in college when I was learning how to convert IP addresses between binary, decimal, and hexadecimal. I would do the conversions in my head while others had to draw it out on paper. I fought with my professor on this one and won.

Dyslexia

I’ve known that I was dyslexic for a long time now, but it’s officially confirmed. 7th grade was also the same time that I started to realize that I was dyslexic. At the time, I didn’t know there was a name for it or that it was even an issue. I could move numbers around in my head and make plenty of sense of them and was still the kid who finished math tests ahead of everyone. At the same time, I was the last one to finish reading a chapter in a book during an in class reading assignment. It took much longer to read than other kids. It didn’t help that I had absolutely no interest in the fiction books I was reading either. I developed my own ways to cope with this as the years went on so I never told anyone. ‘Til this day, when I write on paper, it’s in all caps because it’s easier for me to read. The same way I could move numbers around in my head, letters and words would moved around when reading. Unfortunately, language loses its meaning when manipulated in such a manner. After going back and reviewing all of my standardized test results from school, I saw my math results were consistently off the charts while my reading and linguistics were not nearly as good.

When it comes to reading, it takes a lot of effort and time, so naturally, I only read about what I’m deeply interested in and never had time for fiction books. I considered them a waste of time. Not to say that they are. I’ve come to appreciate fiction books as works of art, but still do not read them. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even read them for school. I would only read the cliff notes online and somehow got by. At that time, space and airplanes were really exciting to me (and still are), so that’s all I would read about until we got our first computer in the house when I was about 11-12.

Prosopagnosia…

comes along with Aspergers sometimes. My case isn’t too severe, but in short, I need familiar context to recognize yo’ face son. The more I see you in different environments, the better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with friends in a crowded place and could not recognize them even when they were walking directly towards me, even waving sometimes. It wasn’t until they were in my face saying “Hey! What’s up? Are you blind?” that I would recognize them. It doesn’t stop me from looking for you though. As much as I care about you, I regret to inform you that you’re just another face in the crowd. Much love though.

Empathy and Emotions…

confuse the fuck out of me. I feel them, but am horrible at expressing them. They aren’t as vital to my well-being. I like to say that I’m a cactus and emotions/affection are water. I only need a few drops to get me through the year. I have to remind myself that most other people are not like this and need a greener thumb. This obviously makes relationships a bit difficult but are definitely doable with much understanding from the other side. I’ve gotten better, but I used to have to be heavily cued if an emotional response is desired. When someone is being emotional or needs emotional support, I have to pick up on other cues and process them through logic instead of intuition. It has to go through a rigorous algorithm in my head. Here’s probably the best example I can give you. In one relationship, my ex came home frightened, distraught, and crying nonstop. She was walking on the street next to someone, and right before she was about to cross the street, she stopped for a brief second because she thought she heard someone call her name. The next thing she knew, the person she was walking next to got hit by a car and she saw his head get busted open on the street and he died on the spot. She did not know this person. I had no idea how to respond. I only realized something was wrong because she was crying, but did a horrible job at consoling and comforting her. She had to ask me to hold her, and even when I did, the only thing that I could think was “why the hell are you crying? It wasn’t you. You should be happy you’re still alive.” Of course I didn’t say that, but that’s how I think. Things have to be processed and calculated. I even have a couple of friends that call me a robot. This post is probably no surprise to them. I take no offense. I just respond with popular quotes from movie robots or say “does not compute” in a robotic voice. I’m not completely void of emotions and empathy. They are just weird things to me that throw off logic which is the only thing that makes sense. If you’re a Star Trek fan, I’m like a combination of Spock and Data (before the emotion chip upgrade). I can be programmed though for those willing to take the time.

More on emotions, my father was in the military so we moved around a bit. As a result, I grew up with an acute sense of the impermanence of not only everything around me, but myself as well, and I think as a result of that I never really developed emotional ties to people or the places I have lived. I have the capability to up and leave without telling anyone and not give a shit. However, if you have earned my loyalty and/or friendship, then I can tell you I’ll be fiercely loyal to you and help you wherever I can no matter where I am. I’ll even be a shoulder to cry on although I won’t fully understand your emotional turmoil. I’m not a psychopath, I just have some behavioral similarities with them o_O

Patterns, Shapes, Colors, Math, and Numbers

These are a few of my favorite things. They are how I view the world. Even from a young age, I remember making myself and my dad paper wallets. I would make these things non stop. It was my favorite thing to make for a long time. I would take a ruler and draw lines on both sides of a piece of paper so that they would form all kinds of cool geometric shapes and I would fill in those shapes with different colors in a specific pattern. I would then fold and glue the paper in a way that made a 2 pocket wallet that you could fold in half and put in your pocket. I would make a ton of these and give them away to people at school as gifts. A couple of years ago, I visited my mom who I hadn’t seen in several years. She pulled out a photo album and showed me some of my childhood doodlings. Most of them were colors and shapes. She pulled one out. She said she saved it because it freaked her out and she thought I was on something lol. This was a few years before my wallets, but I had taken a ruler, drew lines and made shapes, filled them in with colors and put numbers in a weird pattern in one of the corners of each shape. It took me a little while, but I realized I made my own calendar that made the most sense to me because existing calendars were garbage apparently. I also would take a piece of paper, use a ruler to draw tiny boxes, and just fill them with numbers in some kind of pattern or in other cases make number puzzles in a similar fashion. She had a few of those too. I remember all of my ID numbers and too many IP addresses. I used to memorize my credit and debit card numbers, but stopped doing it although after using them enough times, I eventually end up remembering them anyways along with their expiration dates and security codes. Even during my experimental drug phase (get over it. Obama did coke and smoked weed in his day), I experienced tons of shapes and colors. For example, if I did ecstasy and and smoked weed during the come down, I would get intense closed eye visuals of all kinds of intricate morphing geometric shapes and colors which after asking other people, I found that combination doesn’t do the same thing for them. Those things are how I make sense of the world which puts me at incredible ease.

As an aside, I remember having a fascination with flags (colors and shapes). In 2nd grade. We had a new kid who had just moved in town from Bangladesh. I drew the Bangladesh flag for him as a gift which I remember distinctly (without Google) is all green with a red circle in the middle. I remember his name and everything. I have no idea why this stands out. For some reason after that, I started drawing a shit ton of flags and hanging them up side by side in my room all over the walls. I even remember my dad looking at my wall and being disgusted. Try your best to imagine the look on someone’s face who is African American, and had served in the US military whose son had the nazi flag on his bedroom wall (the red one with the white circle complete with a black swastika in the middle). Hey, I didn’t know better. I think that was the end of my flag era. It no longer made sense to hang up flags which had meanings and ideologies that I did not understand.

Socially Speaking

I FOR SURE prefer solitude. Oddly enough, I feel most at ease, traveling abroad solo. I’m very introverted and prefer the company of a close few, but can do ok in a large setting, especially if I’m with people I know well. When it comes to people, for the most part I’m more interested in their behaviors rather than actually getting to know them. Every roommate I’ve had, I never really got to know them. I can become fixated on people I find interesting in the same way that I find space or computers interesting, but have learned to back off when I think it creeps them out :-/ I’m extremely happy to have deep meaningful conversations, but when getting to know new people, I usually let them initiate deeper conversations because I don’t like making people feel as uncomfortable as I do in social settings. I don’t give a shit about your weather or LA traffic talk although I understand the importance of small talk in the social sphere. Sometimes, I’ll play along. If I enjoy your presence in general, I’ll oblige. Otherwise, most of the time you’ll get my infamous blank stare while I think about something more interesting. Even reading “The Power of Now” and meditating could not change this.

I remember wanting to do the home schooling program in my junior year of high school. I didn’t make a convincing case to my parents at all. I just wanted to do it and thought I should be allowed to explore it. That’s what my logic told me. Persuasion has never been my strong suit. I really wanted to focus on computers at that point and even had a couple of business ideas. School wasn’t interesting and never really made sense to me. I was highly capable of learning on my own without guidance. My parents wouldn’t let me though. My step-mom stressed the importance of social skills :-/ Thanks. Those social skills I learned in high school really came in handy :-/ Not that I blame them. They didn’t really know about me or how I roll.

Career

I guess this was the big telltale sign. I’ve been fixated on computer technology since we got our first computer in the house when I was young. I’ll learn a new programming language just for fun. A new language is just another way to create and manipulate a new world. Inside computer networks is an alternate reality that I’ve made a lot of sense of, and I can manipulate it and make it do what I want. I can give it order. It’s always at my command. I’ve even replaced people with it. Sadly, this is an ongoing joke with an old coworker and is one way we’ll threaten each other (I’ll write a script to replace you). When I was younger and I realized this, it became my escape from reality when life sucked. I became a god in my own right in this place. I could create order within a world of chaos that I couldn’t understand. If you do an analysis of personalty types in Silicon Valley who work in IT, you’ll see a large percentage of them also have AS. Why? I don’t know, but I bet they’ll give you similar reasons if they think about it hard enough. We strive for knowledge and order. It’s easier for us to accomplish that in this artificial world we call the internet that is void of corrupt politicians, and a ruling body that does not have the the betterment of humanity at its best interest. So we take our newly created worlds and use them to interface with and make an effort to bring order to the world we actually live in because that’s the best way we know how, and that’s why Silicon Valley is so “disruptive” yet so elusive to those who aren’t part of the culture. Although I’m jaded at the notion that they are all changing the world as they proclaim, I don’t doubt in my mind that they actually feel that way.

In closing…

I guess another reason I wrote this is to show and tell that we all have aspects of ourselves that we have to manage. To most people I seem normal on the outside, but rest assured, I struggle and suffer just like you do albeit in different ways. Yes I’m weird socially, but before out-casting people like me and other types, recognize and understand that some people are wired differently. Who knows, you might gain the most loyal friend you’ll ever have. Suspend your judgement until you’ve come to understand someone. Sometimes, just acceptance and a non judgmental attitude is all you need to help someone who thinks differently. I’ve been rejected many times in social situations. I’ve learned to stop letting it keep me from making the effort to make connections with people outside of my world and I urge you all to do the same.

I’ll say that there is nothing more powerful than fully getting to know yourself and recognizing your own behavioral patterns. To me, life is a never ending journey of self-discovery. We all live a life of duality and I encourage you all to learn what both your blessings and curses are. They both are what make you whole.

Know thyself. Peace.

Any thoughts?