When I first started writing this blog I wanted it to be a place to showcase my skills as a writer. I have written a lot over the course of my life from works of fiction like Ivory Requiem or poems like Be The Change the words of which have become the basic mantra of my life.
The change is you
Live it like it was tomorrow today and yesterday
Society drags down those who don’t resist
Resist the mediocrity and the hypocrisy
The change is within you
And lives through you
It shields the downtrodden from the fists of society
And builds up the weak to highest points
Be the change
And it will change you
Never look back
Keep your eyes on the future
Like the light that it is
It will guide you to the change you can be
Be the change and it will change you
The future seems bright if you live it
The future will be the change
And the change will be you
Still, as time grew, it became just a place where I should showcase myself. Where I could be honest and candid about life. Yet people have been cautioning me that it I should be mindful of what I post online because people might get the wrong. That is exactly why I write this blog so that people won’t get the wrong impression about me as a person. I may have autism but I am still a person. I feel pain, I laugh. I smile. I cry. I am human. Yet I know that people have misgivings about meeting or working with or being friends with a person that has autism. Out of lack of knowledge they can’t get past the “that has autism” part and often forget the “person” bit. That is what this blog has been about: dispelling that ignorance that still exists.
In my last post Why I Use Social Media, I described my need to express myself and connect with other people and how if I wasn’t on sites like Facebook and Twitter. people would not know anything about me. The same is true for this blog. Yet it is here for more than that. I realized over time that there was a lot of ignorance about autism still in the world. It exists despite all of the bloggers and vloggers who try to spread awareness of the disorder.
Ignorance is perhaps the most infuriating thing anyone has to deal with. It is like a disease that just doesn’t want to leave. I see a lot of ignorance everywhere. I sometimes feel that despite the number of people blogging or vlogging about Asperger’s that we are really just preaching to the choir. Either that or we are shouting really loudly and no one is listening. I am not certain which is more frustrating.
On the other hand the battle for awareness of autism has made great inroads among neurotypical people. There are now two types of neurotypical people I have met. Those who know people who know people with Autism and people who don’t. This blog is primarily for the people who don’t but sometimes it applies to the people who do. Ignorance and prejudice can be a fickle things many people may not be aware they even are prejudiced or ignorant. Others are more blatant about it. Even the nicest and most caring of people can be ignorant at times. Even people who know people who have autism can be ignorant. Even people who have autism can be ignorant. The worst is when people don’t realize that they are ignorant. It is for them that this blog is written to end their blindness. I write it to illuminate what they are not seeing that disability does not mean inability. If that were true, I would not be working where I do.
Also there are the people who want to learn more about the disorder that some call autism and I just call being human. For those people too, I write this blog so that they can learn more about it. I have many neurotypical friends who I want to teach more about autism, its causes and its effects on people lives because only through knowledge can ignorance and fear be brought to an end. And on that day I will stop writing this blog because there will no longer be the need. Until that time, I shall continue writing even if I am old and grey. I will not be silenced by ignorance and fear.
People have been commenting about why I use social media as much as I do. Its simple really. The answer is in the name: social media. People use it for various reasons but the primary reason most users use sites like Twitter and Facebook are the social interaction features. Yet for many people with autism the primary reason is communication. It is where we converse with friends and family much like a non-autistic person picks up the telephone to chat with a friend. So much of the conversation surrounding social media is about its uses for journalism, pr, marketing and activism. Yet while those people are the most numerous of users they are not the most active. While they tend to use it doing the work time hours of 9 to 5 or even a few hours after work until they go to sleep at night, we never stop. M0st people with autism don’t have regular sleep patterns.
Autistics are usually fairly limited in their ability to interact with people in a social manner. I myself don’t have many real friends except for maybe one or two. Sure I have met a lot of nice people but that barrier that is called autism exists. Social media is how I cross that barrier. It is my portal to the world. It is where I become known to the world. It is where I interact and socialize with people and learn about the world. How many people would I have met without this online medium? Probably none. It was through Twitter that I met Stacey Soleil who is such a caring and true friend even though I haven’t spoken to her recently yet I still enjoy seeing her snarky poss on my Twitter feed. Also there is my friend Cristina Dunning who is like everyone’s personal cheerleader always trying to encourage people and cheer them up and just generally make them laugh They are just some of the awesome and amazing people I have met.
I am not the most chatty person. In most social situations I am usually the one who is sitting quietly like a wallflower but I don’t mind doing that. It gives me a good chance to observe human behavior. I am quicker to size up a person and estimate what they are about because while everyone is chatting with other people, I am observing them. I learn a lot about human behavior that way. Yet at the same time the barrier exists that keeps me from interacting and socializing with other people. I am much more comfortable with interpersonal communication as opposed to group communication. I often sit and watch as people start-up conversations with other people and just gab away while I am often sitting quietly.
Sociologists who study group behavior say that it is possible to feel lonely and isolated in groups. Our dependence on technology as a society has created a state where we all have become like islands in a vast ocean instead of countries who share common borders. Loneliness and isolation is common for people with Asperger’s is common without the use of technology. Without the use of social media Aspies like myself as well as many other autistics who are non-verbal but can type like Carly Fleischmann who has a website called Carly’s Voice and blogs about autism for CTV. Social media is the window to the world for many people who have autism.
If I did not post on here even the people who see me on a regular basis would not know anything about me. I would just be that strange guy who sits in a corner and sometimes says things that are a little weird or out-of-place. People need to understand that this is where I communicate. Like some people like to gab about their lives to their friends at parties or at work or on the phone or in various other social situations, this is where I gab about my life to mine. People tell me that I should be careful about what I post online but when they say that it is clear they don’t understand autism and some leeway is needed when making such demands. That is why I have written this. Just so people can understand the way that I communicate is different from most people. I am not saying either way is wrong of right but the world in general favors interpersonal communication over online communication because it lacks a personal touch and people are always worried about how people might react to something so they keep it offline, for me offline means in my head or in a private journal and not with a close group of friends like many non-autistics choose to do.
For me social media is my way of gabbing about my everyday life. It is the doorway into who I am. It is here that I share my stories instead of gossiping about it with people offline in social situations. If I didn’t do this no one would know anything about me not even the people who see me on a regular basis. This breaks down the barrier that autism creates. I don’t ask why people talk to each other in person or on the phone, because I spend so much time online for the same reason: to communicate and interact with people. I hope this helps people understand me better because though I am verbal I am still in many ways locked behind the walls of autism.
I will just be writing this brief post to let you know some of the good news that has been going on in my life. I got hired on as a Desk Assistant at ABC News. I could not be happier. My dream has come true.
Where do I begin?
After sending out my farewell letter, I received a message from one of my friends that Ben Sherwood the president of ABC News had read my farewell letter aloud during one of the morning production meetings. Not too long afterword he called me to talk and tell me had read my letter. I felt like I was literally on cloud 9.
My internship ended and during my break I travelled to New Orleans for the Excellence in Journalism Conference. It was a chance to reconnect and with some old friends and meet some new ones. New Orleans is an amazing city full of music and good food. I learned a lot attending the different workshops and met some of my fellow ABC News colleagues.
New Orleans is a city like no other. Music is almost on every corner and in every building and of course there is that famous street in New Orleans which is a required stop in the city:
What ABC News colleagues if my internship is over? My internship did end but I a week before I left for New Orleans I was offered a position as a desk assistant at ABC News. I was shocked and surprised by the offer, but readily accepted it. As I mentioned in my previous post, it had been my dream to work at ABC News. Now that dream has begun to come to fruition. I firmly believe that hard work does pay off and in my case it did. My dream is beginning to happen.
Staying on Track
For many the New York subway system is the lifeblood of the city as it takes people to and from their destination. Yet, for those who are not familiar with the system it can be as confusing as trying to figure out Einstein’s Theory of Relativity without the E or the C2.
Having been two New York twice before, and having ridden public transportation in my native Los Angeles, I was not completely unfamiliar with how a public transportation system worked. Still there is nothing like a New York City subway. I realize that by referring to it as the subway I am marking myself as an Out of Towner because I learned from someone that the subway is referred to as the train. When I think of trains, I think of Amtrak, not a metal tube speeding through the underbelly of a city.
The system was a little daunting to learn because knowing where each stop is is only half the battle.
In Los Angeles, all the rail lines are named after a color, the red line, the purple line, and so on and so forth. Here in New York the system works a little differently. Instead of the Los Angeles rainbow New York has the alphabet soup. The lines are named after letters and numbers, and to make matters worse depending on the destination a color. The 4, 5, and 6 trains are green. The N, Q, R and W trains are yellow, the A, C, and E trains are blue while the F, J, and V trains are brown. At first that made my head spin but then I realized that the train numbers and whether or not they are express or local are what matter. Local trains like the 6. the N, the Q, the R, and the W trains will stop at every station. Express trains like the 4, and the 5 trains will not stop at every station. The stations while conveniently located near most places in the city can be confusing particularly since they are more like freeways for people especially during rush hour when people are disembarking from the trains en masse. After having gotten off at the wrong station and not to mention the wrong train at least four or five times during my first week in New York I realized after being helped by some other riders that the stations are marked with signs telling people where they need to go to transfer trains or exit on the right street.
The existence of signs was not as surprising as the willingness that some New Yorkers have towards helping others find their way on the subway system. I guess when you are standing on the platform looking around and walking in circles trying to make sense of the signs with a rather wide eyed look does indicate to people that you are not from around here.
I had heard many times never look a New Yorker in the eye especially while on the subway. After being helped various times on the subway and successfully managing to navigate to my way on the train my starry-eyed wonderment and confusion now somewhat dissipated I began to notice that while I was spending my time trying to not look at the other passengers I noticed out of the corner of my eye that is exactly what is what the other riders were doing. If they were not reading, a newspaper, a book, texting on their phone, or listening to their Ipod they were staring at the floor, at the walls, or at their feet with this rather blank look on their face like statues that only seemed to move when the train hit a bump or came to a stop. When that happened, people would do whatever they could to not fall on the person next to them because they were tightly packed in the cars like sardines. Looking at the other passengers I felt that there was this huge divide because we as humans place so much intimate value on the simple looking people in the eyes that sometimes when I am on my way to work I feel a slight sense of disassociation. They say its easy to get lost in the city. Now I see why no one can see you if they are not looking then when the train stopped and the doors opened it was like peeling back the lid of a can and letting some of the pressure out. The passengers would literally tumble out of the car and move like a giant wave in the same direction: the exit.