A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Archive for August, 2011

The Flaw that Denies the Having of Flaws

Practically all my life (although it didn’t really become obvious to me until I was in university) I have had a quality that has both helped and hinder me through life. I have touched on it in one of the poems in my last post and I would now like to explain it. While I do give it credit in helping me become a successful individual in a lot of areas in my life, it has also led me to push myself too hard or not feel very good when I’ve made a mistake about something or other.

In short, it is a flaw that I have that makes it very difficult for me to accept that I even have flaws to begin with. It’s perfectionism. Now I know that I have my flaws just like every other human being on this planet, but it’s difficult to accept regardless and to not let it get in the way through my progress in life. I have already elaborated on several weaknesses I have because of my autism including difficulties in making friends, keeping up with the pace in conversation, and whether to interpret something as literal or not. Such weaknesses, especially given that they aren’t common in the neurotypical population, have really battled with my perfectionism throughout the years. Whenever an incident occurs in my life that is brought about by a weakness that I have due to being autistic, I immediately criticize myself for not trying harder to ‘break through’ these barriers. Often times I ignore the fact that I’m autistic completely. It’s kind of an ‘add insult to injury’. Coping with my autistic weaknesses can be bad enough sometimes, but add perfectionism into the mix and it’s not good at all.

Let me give an example. When I take courses in university, I often get frustrated because I wish my class participation was better. This can be especially true if class participation is part of the grade. Now while I think I contribute relatively well in class and that when it is part of the grade I don’t really believe the grade suffers, I feel that if I wasn’t autistic, I’d be able to contribute more. What is especially painful is how there’s frequently that one other student in the class that seems to be able to contribute about five times per class, while I only cont about contribute only twice or three times in a week. I automatically ‘lock myself in’ a competitive mode. If there’s another smart student in the class who, unlike me, is good at class participation and his/her class participation shows their brilliance, well, hey, I want to show that I’m smart too, of course. I love the air of competition. But if I make class participation into a competition, at the end of the day, I’m tired and discouraged. The line in my poem Preserving Perfecto ‘look out everyone, here I come’ comes from such experiences. You’d all better listen to me, folks, because I’m important with something important to say. This also goes back to me having a difficult time in keeping up with conversations in social gatherings, which I told about my post Speedy Gonzo. While I feel I have a lot to say, I don’t know how or even what to say.

Which of course adds to my craving for attention, which I told about in my post Attention and Rewards. I’m not really sure why I’m a perfectionist. I have a craving for attention, but I’m not exactly sure which came first in my life. It’s kind of like a chicken and egg thing. Am I a perfectionist because I crave attention or do I crave attention because I’m a perfectionist? Even as reflect back on my childhood, I see clear signs that I had both qualities, but it’s rather unclear which came first. Of course, it is possible to have one quality without the other. I could be an annoying attention seeker who doesn’t work hard to achieve life goals. Likewise, it’s possible that I want my house to be completely ordered and perfect right down to the last pen because I feel comfort in living this way and not because I want people ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over the state of my perfect house.

In fact, I think my perfectionism somewhat keeps my craving for attention under control. I did say in my post Attention and Rewards that while I did have a craving for attention, I’m very good at hiding it with a modest personality. Well, it’s this modest personality that I believe is largely because of being a perfectionist. Since I fear criticism, I fear being criticized as an annoying attention seeker so I’m very careful about where and when I tell others about my accomplishments.

My perfectionism has also led me to have very good self-control. Any turmoil in my life that I feel inside me, I often mask with a calm endeavour. Sometimes I let my emotions show, whether I show them appropriately or inappropriately, but more often than not, I cover them up. This is sometimes healthy. Sometimes you’re in a situation where you shouldn’t show what you’re truly feeling. If you’re in an exam and it’s not going well, for example, you shouldn’t just cry out. But sometimes I don’t let them show when it is appropriate or wait until I’m alone. There have been a few incidents in the last several years that have made me want to cry, for example, but I don’t think anyone has ever seen me cry since before I was a teenager. Of course, most boys my age don’t like having others see them cry since it’s not a typical male characteristic (I firmly believe that such preconceptions should be removed from society). But my masking of my emotions isn’t limited to this. For example, sometimes even when I see someone I haven’t seen for a very long time, I don’t fully express my joy.

Perfectionism has reared its head in subtle ways throughout my childhood. For example, having a desire to be the top student in the class (I never was, but I believe I nearly was, at least in junior high). Craving for attention as well has made mere appearances. When I was in elementary school, for example, I complained to mom that she was making me wear boots and a rain coat to school, while the others on the bus wore shoes and light jackets (which certainly didn’t add to my popularity level). Of course, I was just a little kid then and as I’ve grown and experienced life I’m finding that I’m relying less and less of ‘rewards’ that people give me for how I behave and relying more and more on solely personal self-satisfaction.

Perfectionism did get quite ugly in university. Wanting to score a perfect 4.0 GPA with a lot of hard courses and get all A+’s in my senior level math courses really pushed me too hard and in third year I knew I had to do something about it. I got the book Never Good Enough by Monica Ramirez Basco (which I highly recommend you read if you’re struggling with perfectionism or know someone who is). It has a lot of techniques in it, such as looking at your accomplishments with shades of grey instead of just in black and white. Through this book and self-reflection, I’ve managed to make great strides in coping with it (even though I’m still struggling with it quite a bit).

I think, at least for me, however, my craving for attention and perfectionism are indeed closely linked and linked with my autism as well. I find it amazing how they influence each other throughout my life. Perfectionism’s impact on me is certainly as complex as autism’s impact. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on it in this post and will certainly be returning to it in the future.

Two More Poems

Here are two more poems I wrote that I’d like to share. The first one attempts to explain my passion for mathematics and how mathematicians look upon their work. The second one explains a deepened flaw that I have and am slowly improving upon. I will elaborate on it in my next post and, as always, show how it affects my autistic life.

A Rare Joy

There is almost nothing in his room
Nothing modern of any sort
No computer, no calculator
He has even discarded his old slide-rule

Instead, only piles of paper await him
With a pecil or two at hand
A book maybe but only for reference
He usually relies on his own mind

His room has but one window in it,
Which looks out into pure nature
He has no contact withany others
With the possible exception of his own kind

His used papers have nothing
Except for numbers and abstract symbols
Many look down at them in confusion
Only a rare fw see Nature’s beauty in them

He does not care wht use
His numbers andabstract symbols will be.
He only sees them as an ar form
And it brings in him a pure joy

 

Preserving Perfecto

I crave for approval from all of you
Criticisms I cannot stand
I don’t care how close we are
Nothing but praise is what I demand

I have high expectations for myself
I will continuously raise the bar
And strive to be right at the top
I am terrified of being merely on par

This is why you can’t compete with me
I am driven insane by this obsession
I am like a bomb about to go off
In every single life occupation

If I am a university student,
What is the time I dread most?
Unless my exams go perfectly
I worry and believe I am toast

I’m climbing the flagpole with intense effort
Look out everyone, here I come
I sure hope no one’s going to pass me
Every potential success I will not succumb

While I may want a high success rate
Being perfect is not my true desire
Simply unconditional love and approval
Without the effort of trying to go higher

While trying to be perfect can be bad
Not all of it is of a disadvantage
It’s what drives me and gives me motivation
So a part of it is good and helps me manage.

But is all of it really worth it?
I think I have myself tied in one huge knot
So instead of preserving all the perfecto
I will slowly let go and let a lot of it rot.

Attention and Rewards

One of the key things I believe that humans generally seek in this life is attention. Attention from yourself and attention from others. Why? Because in order to be happy in this life, something must give you reason to be happy. Now this is not to say that you have to rely solely on others for you own happiness. The reason for it can come from yourself. For example, you might go for a nice walk to get exercise to make you feel good. And why do you want to feel good? Because you want to be happy. This was the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s thinking on the matter on why we do the things we do. We do things for the sole purpose to be happy.

Because most of us have so little control over how things get handled in this world, we often rely on others to get to our goals, which we believe will make us happy. And when people do so because they see us doing our part in obtaining a goal, we call it being rewarded (whether you deserve it or not). Most goals we have in life we often have to rely on the trust and help of other people to get to them. This is essentially why we want and need the attention of others. In order for someone to reward you with something, regardless of how small or how big the reward is, they have to give you attention. That’s just in the definition of reward.

All right, enough with the general philosophy on attention and rewards and let me explain how it applies to my own life, especially as an autistic individual. A lot of my goals and possible rewards that only other people can give me have gone unmet because of my difficulty of establishing relationships with other people. I’ve already given several examples of this in my blog, for example, the desire to have romance in my life (in posts Figuring Out the Dating Game Parts 1 and 2) and the goal to be part of a thought-provoking conversation (in post Speedy Gonzo).

I crave for attention. Because my autism makes me feel so different from other people, the world’s design is even less suited to me. As a result I fell less in control and have to rely on others more. I’m not saying this is rational thinking. After all, what our rational minds tell us and what we feel can be two different things. I’m also not saying I go around as some kind of annoying attention-seeker. Quite often I’m just the opposite. Even though I do try to get attention every now and then, for instance by bragging about accomplishments, I think I’m overall a modest person. I do like attention, but most of the time I fear reaching out.

Because of the difficulty of establishing relationships, attention and social interaction I treat as luxuries in my life. Let me give an analogy to how I feel. To someone who is very wealthy, finding a loony in the street doesn’t mean that much. It’ll add very little to their wealth. Yet a homeless person who’s actually living on the street who stumbles upon a loony may practically jump for joy. I
have the same attitude when it comes to social interaction. Even if someone briefly greets me while we’re walking past each other, I feel like I’ve won a treasure most of the time and don’t take it for granted. It’s also what attracts me to Facebook. You can put up a status and see how many ‘likes’ you get or if you get any comments for it. Because of my modest character, however, I usually feel like I’m overindulging myself if I make more than three status updates per week (not counting the updates I put in for this blog). I usually check my stats for this very blog several times a day.

And I don’t expect the internet in general to help with my social life. Yes, MSN messenger and Facebook, as well as other sites, make it fun to interact with someone, especially if you can’t meet face-to-face and I’ll continue to use such services, but overall it’s the face-to-face interactions that help. All the technology that’s being developed now in the twenty-first century can give the impression of having a lot of potential ‘short-cuts’ to interacting with others. From internet chat-rooms to pornographic sites, it seems the internet has a lot to offer. But this is just an illusion and quite unfortunately it can make a lot of vulnerable lonely people think it’s a good solution to their problems (luckily I’m not one of them and I’m good at limiting the time I spend on such activities). That’s not to say that what the internet offers in terms of these things is bad, but they certainly shouldn’t be seen as solutions to loneliness. The internet has both its good and bad points (without it, this blog wouldn’t exist) and I’ll elaborate on what I think of technology’s impact on how we socialise in a future post.

Despite my desire for attention from others, however, it’s certainly not how I run my life and a lot of the choices I made could’ve been made better if I was really aiming for more attention and to get better rewards from others. For example, I took a lot of tough courses in university, while I see others taking easier courses so that they can have a higher grade average. And then there’s my goal of becoming a professor, which certainly isn’t the highest paying job I could get with the skills and talents I have. As I experience more and more of this fabulous journey called life, however, I’m caring less and less of what kinds of ‘rewards’ people do give me. I’m being myself and I have rarely done anything simply for the sake of fitting in or getting any ‘rewards’ from others. I know when I’ve done a good job at something, regardless of how much ‘reward’ I get from others. The personal self-satisfaction is enough. It’s a rare, but valuable attitude to have. Do you have this attitude?

The Dark Side of My Passions

About a year ago when I was doing research toward my honours thesis in math, I was having lunch with a professor in the lounge in the math department at the university. We were discussing the academic life and the kind of lives that professors lead. More specifically, the number of hours that professors, especially mathematicians, work. The professor looked at me and said that there were professors out there who get so obsessed with the pursuit of their subjects that they literally make it their life.

“This is your life,” he said.

Now in saying this I understood that he wasn’t stating a fact about me, but just an attitude that a large number of professors have about their work, especially at the larger universities such as MIT and Oxford. The truth is that there are a lot of professors who become completely obsessed about their work, trying come up with cutting-edge original research. And isn’t just because of reputation (although reputation, like in any workforce, can and does play quite a role). Professors who make it their life to pursue the great unsolved problems in research do so also because they enjoy it to a great extent. Nothing else gives them pleasure that even comes close to the pleasure they get from their work.

And in saying they make it their life to pursue such questions and research, I’m not just talking about eighty hour work weeks. Plain and simple the only time they aren’t doing work is when they’re asleep. Yes, they do have to feed themselves and make sure their house doesn’t cave in, but even if they’re shopping at the grocery store, their minds are focusing on their research problems. When I first heard the professor I was having lunch with talk about such a lifestyle, I was almost horrified. Professors who make it their life to pursue their work cast everything else to the side. They may go through multiple marriages simply because their spouses get fed up with them since they do not spend any “quality time” with them. The thing is, however, is that these kinds of professors are the ones who gain the best reputation in the academic circle, the ones who are most admired, and the ones that make the most significant contributions to research.

I sometimes wonder just how much I could contribute if I decided to go by this kind of lifestyle.

Forget my fiction writing hobby. Forget any successful marriage. Forget about trying to make friends, despite being autistic. Forget my family. Forget everything. I know what it feels like too. The pleasure that comes from trying to work out mathematical problems, regardless if they’re for school or leisure. I’ve felt the itch to climb the academic scale. For example, when I was in first year university, I studies 75-80 hours/week, which included 15-20 hours/week of class times. I know I have the potential.

Yet I know that I will never follow through with it. I choose to live more moderately. My own research will probably never reach the level that these professors who make it their ‘life’ to pursue these problems. I’m sure I’ll have fun when I do pursue research, but I wouldn’t count on discovering something that would give me a lot of academic fame.

This isn’t a lack of self-esteem. I’m just stating the facts and being realistic. And besides, I have so many other interests that I’d hate to give them up simply to become some famous professor. Life has too many good things to offer. And at the end of the day, just as long as I can have fun with my passions and can pay all my bills, that’s all that’s important to me.

My passion for writing fiction, which increased a lot about a year ago, could pull me in the other direction. Only it would end up getting me into a situation that’s even worse because the chances of making it as a full-time fiction writer are pretty low! I can just picture myself as some homeless guy (or someone running off on welfare and unemployment cheques) with nothing more than a stack of papers and a ball-point pen in my hand. While I wasn’t tempted this far, I actually did consider abandoning academia and getting some low-paying 35 hour/week job to make more time for writing. While I’ve decided to continue with an academic career, my passion for fiction writing remains at least equally as strong and I plan to keep it as a hobby. And if I do have a stroke of luck say 12 years down the line and actually start turning out bestsellers, then I may decide to become a full-time writer, while doing a little bit of math and/or philosophy on the side.

No matter how my academic and writing goals sort themselves out in the future, however, I have to realise that both, especially writing, are very solitary activities and if you’ve been reading my blog you know that having a social life is important to me. It can be a struggle trying to balance these rather contradictory activities in my life, but I think I’m improving at it. Sometimes I feel like I’m making no progress on my social life and that I actually would be happier in just making some pure combination of academia and fiction writing ‘my life’. After all, I could much easier get the attention I sometimes crave if I did put in more hours of academia. I would get more attention in academia. It’s a much easier way to gain attention.

But the easiest solution isn’t always the right one. I no longer rely on the method of gaining attention by trying to impress others with my talents (I’ve tried this several times in the past. It doesn’t work.). If I persevere with trying to find the perfect balance, I think eventually things will have to calm down. I will get a better social life. And regardless of how successful I am with my writing, I should be able to fit that in too. And as for academia, it is something I’ll have fun at and will pay my bills. These are all stuff I do. They are not ‘my life’. Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets said that it’s our choices that determine who we are and not our abilities.

What choices have you made?

Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 2

I will now continue the discussion from my last post, that is, how my autism has impacted my ability to date and find romance. I ended by admitting my ignorance of such matters when I was in junior high and how I didn’t really know what to do when I started developing crushes on girls. Moreover, I wasn’t sure how to react with my classmates finding out I had a crush on a particular girl and how some of the little advice I got from them was next to useless. I wasn’t about to ask for clarification from anyone either. This idea may have been somewhere in the back of my mind, but I never really seriously considered it. If you’ve read my first post Settling For What I Had you know that I found it (and maybe still do to a certain extent) extremely difficult to confide in anyone, especially my peers, about what I actually thought and to try to become closer friends with them.

I was also a little bit frustrated with what I was learning in school at the time in health class about relationships and sexuality. While I do think that when kids reach their teen years, they should be taught how one should know of all the risks and STIs that are out there when two people are trying to decide if they should have sex, you should know how one gets into a relationship to begin with. I remember touching on the various levels of seriousness that relationship can be, but I don’t think there were any specific instructions on how to achieve any one of those levels. I have a very structured and logical mind and love things to be precise. Yet what I learned about relationships in class was far from this. As well, while math class was enjoyable, it also frustrated me that I had to listen to stuff that I had already learned on my own. Why did things I already know have to be reiterated to me, while certain things I didn’t know, simply weren’t taught in the classroom?

Now, to be fair, I liked all my teachers and I’m sure they were following the curriculum. Also, I think I was the about the only one in class who was autistic and had these kinds of difficulties with relationships and friendships in general. So who knows? Maybe my kind of specific instructions on how to get into relationships would’ve bored the rest of the class much like math class was for me! Again, it all comes down to us all having unique strengths and weakness and how a utopian world where everyone could be accommodated 100%  isn’t exactly applicable.

Everything came to a hit in my life when that crush I had on that girl that everyone found out about grew even deeper to the point when I actually started calling her from my house. This was after classmates had encouraged me to ask her to a couple of dances, which I did, though she couldn’t because she had other plans. It broke my heart after all this when I discovered she already had a boyfriend for almost as long as I had known her. Though I had considered this possibility before, I was so sure that my classmates’ encouragement made this seem rather unlikely and it came as a sort of blow. From this experience, I derived two new rules for dating:

Rule #2: In junior high at least, even if classmates encourage you to approach someone you have a crush on, even if they are your crush’s friends, does not make it any more likely that your crush is single.

Rule #3: It is perfectly permissible, in junior at least, for a boy and girl to go to a school dance together as prom dates, but for the girl to have a boyfriend who’s not the boy she’s going with to the dance.

Even though the girl never went to the dances with me, she wasn’t sure at first so I know there was still the possibility of her going with me so it’s for that reason that Rule #3 was still obvious to me.

Along the way, another rule that became evident to me was the following. It wasn’t evident to me until the end of junior high. The reasons for this aren’t exactly clear in my head, but involved some reflecting on my experience in junior high, reading a YA novel that portrayed dating, and my crush on that girl developing so rapidly, I was willing to try anything.

Rule #4: In order to get a girl to be your girlfriend, you had to ask her out.

I wished I had known this rule for when I first met the girl. If I had, there might’ve been a chance I could’ve had a relationship with her before her boyfriend did. But while this new piece of information could be put to use, it led to an error in thinking about relationships, particularly where I have a precise black/white logical mind. It led me to the erroneous notion that relationships were basically like an on/off switch. You want a particular girl to be your girlfriend? Okay, go ask her out. That’s all there was to it.

Which I perfectly well know today is pretty far from the truth when it comes to relationships and only started becoming evident to me when I looked up dating in my high school library and actually read a little more about it. Right before then, however, I actually asked out a lot of girls whom I had become acquaintances with and got all negative replies for reasons ranging from ‘already have a boyfriend’ to ‘simply not interested’. I’m also not exactly proud of the fact that my ‘on/off switch’ thinking actually got me to ask out one or two girls whom I had hardly talked to at all beforehand. While they simply rejected me, I’m glad there were no further consequences to this mistake. Hence when I looked up dating in high school library I learned another rule:

Rule #5: In order to ask you a girl you have a crush on, get to know them more than a little bit first.

A sixth rule that I learned about dating is the following:

Rule #6: Two people who are dating usually do not tell each other “I love you” unless their relationship has reached a certain level of seriousness.

You’ll laugh the way I figured out this rule. It partially came from a book publisher. Let me explain. When I had written my first novel, I was actually lucky enough to meet a publisher face-to-face three summers ago when I was doing some labor work in a town. He agreed to look at my manuscript and several weeks later, he returned it saying I was very talented writer, but couldn’t publish the book because of a few things he thought were wrong with it. The book featured two teenagers who while trying to find out a connection between their families fall in love and end up dating. The publisher thought the relationship developed too fast and that he doubted even tweens would say ‘I love you’ before holding hands. Then the message finally clicked in when I was watching The Big Bang Theory over a year ago and I was watching an episode where Penny was making a big deal about Leonard telling her “I love you”. I then revised my novel so that the relationship in it developed at a slower pace.

So what have all these years of trial and error taught me about dating relationships? Here’s a list:

  1. If you develop a crush on a girl, get to know her more first.
  2. Ask her to go on a date. If she says yes, great. If she says no, move on.
  3. Go out on more dates and let the relationship develop at its own pace.
  4. Never tell your partner an “I love you” until you are very emotionally intimate.

It has been a kind of adventure in a way and it’s certainly not at its end. While I do wish I could’ve learned some of this in a classroom-like setting instead of bumping my way around in the dark, I’ve actually come to like the adventure and in the meantime be happy with myself as a single person. I’ve made a few mistakes and I expect I’ll make more in the future. After all, it’s like what Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 1

Having shared a poem about my difficulties in finding a romantic partner, I would now like to elaborate on the less-than-direct way I’ve been trying to find out how exactly the world of dating works. First off, however, I would like to point out a couple of things. I’m still trying to find my way around. I have never gone out on a single date in my life so even to this day the adventure probably isn’t even half over. So if I say anything stupid or you don’t think is correct, please forgive me and feel free to comment. I’ve told very few people in my life what I think about dating and even to those only bits and pieces. I would certainly love to hear any advice or, if you’re autistic and have trouble in this field, how you deal with it. Also, the last several years of trying to find someone have indeed taught me a few things. This includes the fact that I can actually be happy as a single person, which I’ve come to accept and believe.

I love analogies to describe my experiences so I’ll describe one here. Imagine you’re in a pitch black room trying to find the light switch. In the room also are bunch of bats (I’ll assume you aren’t afraid of them). They can use echo-location to find their way around. They don’t need the light. As they fly around gleefully, you have to take very slow steps and proceed quite cautiously. Often, however, you trip over stuff and sometimes fall. You can’t see around your feet by more than an inch if you can see around them at all. It’s basically trial and error. And you breath with relief every inch you take that doesn’t have you stumble into something. When you finally get to the light switch and flick it on, you see the furniture as it is and all the places you stumbled into. You’re angry that the arrangement wasn’t made obvious to you at the start.

This is more or less how I feel on the subject of dating relationships. Of the few things I have learned about developing such relationships, I’m not particularly pleased or proud with how I did learn them. Let me elaborate.

I’ve had crushes on girls for as long as I can remember, although they seriously started when I was nearing the end of elementary school. Now I had a few friends throughout elementary school, although we were slowly drifting apart due to not having enough common interests, they were into sports, I was into math. Anyway, they figured out I had a crush on a girl in the class and they laughed at me about it. I had rarely spoken to the girl and certainly didn’t approach her in any romantic way. Besides, the laughter was just more discouragement.

Junior high wasn’t all that much better. There too I developed crushes, but you could hardly tell unless you were a true mind-reader that those crushes existed. See my first post Settling for What I Had for an overview on my not-so-successful making of friends in general. One day a couple of classmates began asking me which girls I might have crushes on and began naming names. It admitted to one girl and the same thing happened again. Laughter. Joking around. To be fair, it wasn’t just me that was experiencing this. I sometimes saw others making a big deal one random student have a crush on another. So it wasn’t just me. After all, I was very well liked even though I had very few friends. So I learned my first rule on dating at least that can be applied in the early teen years.

Rule #1: In junior high at least, while classmates may want to joke around about who’s got a crush on who, it isn’t always because they want to hurt or hinder the person.

I know junior high can be a rough time of life and isn’t always enjoyable. Kids laugh and joke about others, sometimes to be bullies, sometimes just to joke around and there’s no intention of getting another’s feelings hurt. The problem with my classmates’ reactions to finding out I had a crush on a girl, however, was trying to understand what their laughter and joking around meant. In a previous post A Question of Interpretation I elaborated on exactly this. I can’t always tell when someone is joking around or intending to be serious. I had absolutely no idea how to react to my classmates’ reactions.

Another problem with my classmates’ reactions was some of the advice I was getting from them. “You should ask her out” was one piece of advice I just didn’t know what to do with. When I heard it, all I could picture was a man and a woman (or boy and girl) sitting at a restaurant table enjoying a lovely meal together. Okay, so I’m supposed to ask this girl about going somewhere together for a date. But then what? What’s the next step? How do I get her to be my girlfriend? Or is this the first step to make for a successful relationship? I had no idea! I’d seen T.V. shows and movies where people asking each other out on dates, but that was about as far as my knowledge on relationships extended.

I’ll continue to share my experiences in my next post. But perhaps, now that I’ve been brave enough to admit my past ignorance, others could tell of their adventures as well in figuring out how the mysterious world of dating works?

The Ultimate Test

Here is another poem I wrote. It’s somewhat similar though also somewhat different than my first poem A Foreign Autistic World. This time I tell of an experience in my life that certainly has been impacted by my autism, but is an experience that a lot of people, autistic and neurotypical, can relate to.

Even though I’ve always been single, I’ve wanted a girlfriend for several years now. I view romantic relationships as being the most challenging and the most difficult relationships to establish with someone else. You aren’t asking someone else to be friends, you’re asking more than that. And for me being autistic and having difficulty establishing any kind of friendship with someone else, I view it, as the title says, as the ultimate test.

The Ultimate Test

Here is a problem a lot of us face
even though it may be easier for the rest
like any ability only some possess.
But for some of us it is the ultimate test.

I can hardly concentrate on anything else
whether it be school, work, or an activity.
All of my senses just zoom in on her
whenever she is in the vicinity.

I am eager, I am impatient.
I just want to be with her right now.
Most of the time she is inaccessible
and when I do see her I can just go wow.

When I do get a chance to talk to her
a great deal of courage is required.
And the more I don’t know her, the harder it is.
Often she slips by me not inquired.

I don’t want her for the obvious reasons
for lust and sexual yearning.
Just for someone to get emotionally close to.
Only this will build a bond of greatest burning.

I contemplate the possible reasons
why she might reject me and say no.
Maybe she’s already with someone else
or her interest in me is just too low.

And whenever she does reject me
disappointment overwhelms me and I moan.
It helps to pause and take a break from everything
and to remind myself it’s her loss not my own.

It is like a trial and error process
where each time you get a little better at it.
And you get that much closer to the right one
the one who is perfect for you and will fit.