Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April Is Treat Autistic People Like Humans Month

I spent my World Autism Acceptance Day out with friends celebrating a friend's birthday. It was nice to be out with people who understand why I am the way I am and ask me questions when they get confused. I've had my current group of friends since high school and it's been really great to have them around for all these years since we've been able to grow up and support each other over all these years. They, well, accept me!

It's especially important for me that I have my friends because they make me feel like less of a failure at life. I was rejected from yet another archival job this morning, so it's a small comfort to know that at least I have a social life, even if nobody wants to give me a work life (whether it's because they genuinely don't think I'm a good match for the job or if it's because they find out about my disability by searching for me is beyond me). I'm going to an archival networking event tomorrow night, though, and whilst these always make me nervous I'm going to try my best to talk to some people and hand out the new business cards I had printed recently.

In the meantime, my 27th birthday is in 20 days, and I'm both looking forward to it and feeling slightly frustrated about it at the same time. Every time I hit a milestone age-wise, I feel like I'm behind on certain things, namely social things (i.e. I've still never been on a date and it really stings as I get older). On the other hand, I love my birthday because people actually acknowledge me and all I've done for them over the years, and given that I didn't feel valued much by my peers as a kid this really means a lot.
My birthday last year. [Image is of a young woman wearing a Red Sox hat and shirt and smiling with a birthday cake with candles in the shape of the number 26.]
The month of April tends to be pretty up and down for me these days because despite my birthday being in April, I also have to endure the so-called "awareness" campaigns that dominate the airwaves, although I like to think we're about to turn a corner as more and more people realize that we're just human beings that are somewhat different and don't fit into this society's rigid expectations of what humans should be. "Neurotypical" really just means "fits into society" and isn't really something, well, typical since the human brain has so many variations as it is. It's unfortunately the best term we have right now to explain things, but, as a friend and I were discussing on Saturday, it's definitely lacking since there's no real "typical" brain to be a benchmark. As it is, right now "neurotypical" just means "not struggling with mental illness or having a disability," but we probably need a better word to describe this.

Murphy. [Image: a cat on his back on a bed.]
It's honestly very difficult to spend an entire month being told you're somehow lesser or broken, however. In general, that's what April is like for me nowadays because autism "awareness" is everywhere you look. I'm reluctant to shop at some of my favorite stores because they're taking donations for Autism Speaks this month. The television tells me I'm a burden on my family. The radio tells me that I'm somehow incomplete as a human. There's no escape from the deluge of campaigns hammering me with this negativity. But it's also my birthday month, and I'm glad to be alive and be who I am. I do have to stand strong in the face of all of this propaganda every time my birthday comes around, but in a weird way it also reminds me I'm alive and there are people who are genuinely upset that I'm alive so I have to keep going to spite them.

Also, I met Murphy in April 2009. Can't be all bad if I met my best friend this month.

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