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

Archive for March, 2012

A New Experience

This past week I expanded my social circle. How did I do it? Did I talk to fellow students more? Did I do things outside of school and clubs with others? Did I go into a bookstore and random chat with a girl again? No, I didn’t. Well, I went to see the movie The Hunger Games again with someone from Waterloo University’s philosophy society again last week (that movie was so good! And certainly stayed true to the book!).

But I did something even more exciting.

So what did I do? Well, a couple of posts back, I did mention that one option that I was doing to talk to people, especially girls, was going onto online dating sites. Now, in case you’re one of those people who have a stigma against such services, I suggest you hear me out before making a judgement. Anyway, I have been going onto online dating sites and I have indeed been talking to girls on them. I have even created a second Hotmail email account so that we MSN each other without my giving away any personal information right away. And so far, overall, it has been working out pretty well.

The closest girl location wise to me I’ve talked to actually lives in Guelph. There are a couple of others as well, but they don’t exactly live that close. I’ve become good friends with them and have even video chatted with two of them (including the girl from Guelph). For convenience sakes, let me call the girl from Guelph Miranda. This isn’t her real name but for obvious reasons I’m not going to say her real name (and not too much else about her for that matter). After I have been in contact with several weeks with Miranda, we both agreed that we would try to meet each other in person.

This is what I did last week. I actually met her. On Thursday to be precise. I have only one class during that day, which is logic and runs from 8:30-10. The previous evening, we set up a location to meet at in Guelph and that would be practical to bicycle to. It would about thirty kilometres away from Waterloo university, but I thought I could handle it. And to give me ample bicycling time we agree to meet at 11:45. And so at just after ten, I got on my bicycle and bicycled to Guelph and we successfully met up at the intersection at about quarter to 12.

While there wasn’t much to do in the part of Guelph we had agreed to meet she did show me around. We went to a park where we sat in a small pavilion and simply enjoyed each other’s company. We sometimes exchanged a few words back and forth, but we just saw in silence, given that we are both introverts. I found it nice actually. The long silences we shared didn’t seem all that awkward. I felt less pressure to say anything when I’m usually around people. It was nice. We then went to a subway and got some subway sandwiches to eat for lunch. We then walked around for a bit, and then spent another hour in the park. Mind you, it’s not like we didn’t talk at all. We talked about stuff that was going on in our lives, but when neither of us felt inclined to say anything, it wasn’t awkward at all. And then in the middle of the afternoon, I headed back to waterloo on my bicycle after Miranda gave me some water for my trip back.

I must admit it felt a little weird to meet someone like this, to meet someone I had absolutely no connections with (other than the internet). I wasn’t introduced to her by anyone or knew her through friend and/or family connections. If it hadn’t been for the internet, we wouldn’t have met at all and probably would’ve remained complete strangers forever. With the way the world is today with everyone leading hectic individualistic lives, it’s certainly a good solution. I’m not saying that I want to meet everyone I hang out with through the internet nor is the internet 100% safe. I’m just saying if used wisely and not obsessively that it can just be another option for meeting others. Miranda and I were both just introverts looking to expand our social circles. And now we have a good friendship.







At the Intersection of Autism and Perfectionism

A few months ago, I remember getting a book called Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships. It’s by two well-known autistics on the autism spectrum Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron. The book goes into detail about how these two autistics dealt with the social world around them and the lessons they learned from it. Most of the chapters were under the heading of an unwritten social rule, which is a social rule that comes innately for non-autistic individuals, but doesn’t come or doesn’t come completely understood by autistic individuals. One chapter that I loved was under the unwritten rule: Everyone Makes Mistakes. It Doesn’t Have To Ruin Your Day. It goes into detail about how both Temple and Sean reflects on their difficulty in comprehending and accepting this rule and how they each pursued perfectionism.

This was an opener for me because before I read the chapter I didn’t realise that autism and perfectionism were closely linked. I certainly had both and they both certainly brought me difficulties in adapting to this world. I already elaborated in a few earlier posts how perfectionism has played a big part in my life. While I did think there was probably some overlap between my autistic and perfectionistic tendencies, it wasn’t until I read the chapter in Temple and Sean’s book that I finally realised how much they did overlap how strong the connection was between.

A couple of the things that Sean tells about that I could certainly relate to would be the following. Sean talks about how difficult it was in asking for help with something because admitting you needed help meant admitting that you’re not perfect. One example he gives is when he was working as a teacher’s assistant at a private preschool. His boss constantly singled him out and criticising and reprimanding him. The worst that happened was when he was trying to supervise the kids outside. He couldn’t handle everything that was going on, and some of the kids had gotten up on picnic tables, which they weren’t allowed to do. His boss then came out, shouted at him and threatened the loss of Sean’s job. But Sean didn’t know that one of the rules was asking for help. He says “So absolute in my mind was the idea of avoiding mistakes that admitting I needed help meant admitting I was not perfect”.

This line of faulty thinking occurred a lot in my own life. There have been a lot of times when I didn’t ask for help with something when I could’ve had. One of the earliest examples is when I peed my pants in grade 2 (that was embarrassing!). But I didn’t realise that I could’ve just raised my hand and asked to go. A more recent example was in high school and how my chemistry teacher pointed out that I could benefit from some extra help. I wouldn’t have asked for help otherwise. Even Dad questioned me on it before I did anything and got me to admit I needed the help. Or in junior high, like pretty much everyone else, developing crushes on the opposite sex. In junior high, my peers were more or less open about who they had a particular crush on and while there was a bit of teasing with some liking it more than others I get the sense that a lot of people supported one another in this area of life. I, on the other hand, usually kept quiet about who I had a particular crush on and would only admit one, which was rarely enough, in the most discrete circumstances. When everyone found out I had a crush on a particular girl in grade 9, I was too embarrassed to talk about it with anyone. I remember talking with my aunt when I turned 20 how when she read my novel that featured a teenage boy Ray developing a crush a girl named Lucy she was astonished to see me writing so convincingly about how Ray felt toward Lucy because she had never seen this side of me before.

Another perfectionistic tendency that both Sean and I have is our denial to admit we did make a mistake when we do.  When Sean did this, it would only make the mistake into a bigger deal. I remember a substitute French teacher in grade 12 actually phone our house asking where my project was when I didn’t want to tell her how tough all the work was at the moment in the very tough IB (International Baccalaureate) Program I was in.

I would also like to share one other thing that Sean says, “So, with all this going on inside me, the last thing I needed was to be told that making errors was an inevitable part of what I was trying to accomplish. I hated making mistakes because I felt that I was a mistake.” This is the central feeling of it all, the feeling of being a mistake. But as the years go on, I’m beginning to see more and more that the opposite is true.