By: Kat, published with permission. Original blog posted here in 2015.
I remember the high school chemistry teacher who demanded, “Space!” when his students encroached upon his boundaries. I don’t think they understood how important these carefully delineated areas are: yours and mine. I understand now. I too want space. A place where others will leave me be.
I remember the librarian who noticed I was reading Tony Attwood’s tome and remarked, “That’s about Aspergers. I have that – maybe I should read more on the subject.” I knew I couldn’t pummel him with uninvited questions, but now I wish I had. Adults on the spectrum are hard to find.
I remember the activist who gave me an autistic pride button. I encountered this model of different rather than disordered long before I knew the medical model existed. She helped me learn to be proud before I knew I was autistic – before I knew that identity was mine.
I remember the young feminist, who like me was socially different and lived across the street. Community college to commuter school student who showed me how to self-advocate. This is what I need; please help me get there. I took notes for her in class. We had long talks about the nuances of social interaction.
I wonder sometimes what it would have been like to have known I was autistic – before my mid-20s, so I could have been different – rather than just plain weird. And yet here I am, stimming in cafes and coffeehouses. I’m learning to be autistic.
These mentors showed me I could be myself before I recognized who that person was (and is). I’m getting to know her as I listen to my needs, recognizing that she’s slowly learning to thrive.