Thursday, July 25, 2013

Little Bags

"If an emergency evacuation is necessary, leave your carry-on items on the plane. Retrieving personal items may impede the safe evacuation of passengers."
 U.S. Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

I live my life in boxes and bags. Really, I'm quite disorganized and having specific bags for specific purposes helps quite a lot. My pink bag is for the gym and it always has my sneakers in it. My blue bag is for my swimsuit and beach related props. My lunch bag is for food except when I forget to clean it out and then it is just for the insects. Everything has a place. So when I say earlier this week I unpacked, I meant I unpacked everything.

I unpacked my bags.

After almost 9 months in my new apartment I finally unpacked all of my boxes and bags. I couldn't tell you exactly what prompted the investment, but it was time. In the same amount of time it takes for a human being to grow from simple cells to, well a human being,  I have lived in an organized state of chaos. Nothing has been wrong with my chaos because I've rather liked it. It's cozy and smells like me. It was just time for a change.

Change is a thing. It's neither good nor bad; it exists outside of morals or values. Is change wrong to create a flower from a seed? Is it bad for a bird to grow its flight feathers? Like Death or Taxes, change is unavoidable.

That's where I found myself earlier this week; in a midst of change surrounded by flowers.

As a girl with a lot of baggage (HA!), I knew my really issue was of feeling at home. I've been so afraid of what is coming next that I didn't even want to fully unpack in my first real apartment. Heck, I still don't know what a real apartment should look or feel like. With so many new things I've found solace in some dependable things. Some things that are simple and elegant. The only bag I will be focusing on in my life for awhile is my purse.

"“Above all, remember that the most important thing you can take anywhere is not a Gucci bag or French-cut jeans; it's an open mind"- Gail Rubin Bereny

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Coming Home

It was about 8 years ago when I walked into a hotel in Seattle, Washington. I had a suitcase of clothes and a carry on of anxiety, back then you didn’t have to limit your baggage. Walking into the conference center, I was surrounded by things. The things were people, noises, and smells. The people didn’t use whole words and talked in letters. ABA, CBT, ASD, LMNOP; these strings of random letters unnerved me. It was like walking into a new world, a world where people were talking about me. People knew me by name and others just knew me as a diagnosis.

I was an Autistic teenager at a national Autism conference.


I took a break from going to any Autism related conferences for the last 5 years because I had other priorities. My health was my number one concern and for good reason. So this year I went to Pittsburgh with not knowing what to expect. My memory has faded and I didn't know if I'd know anyone besides a handful of friends for almost an entire week. My presentation was also selected of all the many submitted so I would be talking about the media's influence on the Autistic stereotype; it's really fun for me to talk about that so feel free to judge away.

When I came back on Sunday with stress balls in the shape of stars for my friends, which are now being used as ninja stars chucked at people, I had even more stories to bring. It is a new thing to explain the Autism Society of America conference to people who have never been before. When I went to them in high school I never talked much about them. It was always my thing I did for a few days during the summer. Part of that I think was being so young and never understanding exactly what people were talking about. This information makes PHDs' heads spin so even a smart young woman would not 100% understand everything going around.

But as weird as it is to explain to people, the presentations and exhibit hall of cool things is not really why people go to conferences like this one.

We go to connect with people.

It is the most relaxing thing in the world to realize you are not alone: to hear others speak as if they view the world like you do. With the rise of the Internet, the world is connected like never before and people can meet others from across the globe without ever leaving their bed. So for a group of people characterized by difficulties with social interactions, it is sometimes not until we meet face to face that the connection happens. There is an "Ah Ha" clicking moment where we bond over the smallest and most perfect thing.

The friends I made at the conference and the ones I had known since I was sixteen meshed seamlessly. Strangers would ask how long we had known each other and we'd respond in either hours or years. Age and education are not factors in friendships because that's not the way it should be in the 'real world'. It's someone else who can accurately discuss obscure roman politics or knows the punchline to your favorite joke. We get a few days at a conference to meet people who will be in our lives for a while.

I also love being able to connect with people who have never met someone like me; a well spoken Autistic woman. (Yes, I was also walking around wearing a corset and heels but the corset is so relaxing I will apologize for nothing.) Some people are so accustomed to the media's image of "lost children" that they don't realize Autistic adults are alive and well. I love talking about Autism and Universal Design. I'm able to not just hold an audience, but educate them as well and that is really touching.

Having people come up to me after my presentation and just in general to thank me for being myself is very humbling. I've gone through things in my life I wouldn't wish on a enemy, but it makes every moment worth it to help someone else not feel alone or give them the tools so they never have to deal with what I faced. The advice I hand out like the free candy in the exhibition hall is about love and acceptance. The world is scary enough without thinking you need to handle things entirely by yourself; no one is ever alone.

No one is ever truly alone.

There is something called The Duck Test which everyone knows but not everyone is aware of it's official name. It's a form a reasoning to make sense of the world.

"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."

My presentation hadn't even started yet and I was standing in the room with a microphone in hand speaking in front of my slides. Talking to friends, friends I had met less than 48 hours before, about everything. Things started and when I spoke, well, I'd be lying if I said I wrote out my presentation. I've never used a written speech in my life unless it was for acting. My words are laced into my being so I mean every single word I say. 

My introduction, which was written months ago mere minutes before the presentation deadline, mentioned my fondness of fire and "acting like a goofball". I was not wearing a suit, but the corset of the day was pinstriped. I talked about Universal Design, Firefly, Rain Man, political theories, and myself. My soul poured out into the camera and sound system recording the presentation. The weight of the conference didn't really sink into me until I walked into my apartment at 4am on Sunday after driving home. I still feel the comforting weight of the conference with me and that's a good thing.

It wasn't until walking into my home in my little brick city that I realized, "the conference felt like my home. It is a different home, but it's home, too."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Temporal Stories

There once was a woman who lived in a castle.
The castle was set in a field of corn, giving the woman a breath taking view of her land.
She wore her heart on her sleeve, freely giving to anyone who asked.
Some people took from her, but never gave anything back.
This made the woman very vulnerable to the Curse.

The curse had many names, but no one in any of the lands could agree on an antidote.
Her breath quickened and her emotions festered.
The walls had eyes and were judging her.
She would become suffocated and scared.
The pain was unlike any wound felt by man, one she would not wish on her worse enemy.
Darkness settled in the land, but she was the only one to see it.
No one else could see the dark clouds descending on her land, but others saw a mist with their own eyes.
The fog would become so dark, she could not see where she could escape to.
She wanted to ask for help from others in the castle, but the mist choked the words out of her.


This was her curse.

One day the fog came in and she tried to scream for help.
Almost no one knew that she used her last breath to cry out because only a few could hear her plea.
She knew of a potion, a drastic potion, that could end her pain.
So instead of the horribly ironic set of Medea, she locked herself in her chambers and took the potion.
She wanted to fly above the choking fog, because she could not see anything else around her in the thickness.
She did not think anything was left of her land.

So she drank the potion one sip at a time.
One (bottle) to forget.
One (bottle) to remember life before the curse.
She tried other potions to see if they would work.
More and more she wanted to fly.
It was getting harder to remember what life was before the curse.
One, two, three more sips for the pain.
She just wanted the pain to stop.

She did not know others had heard her cries.
She did not know there were others in the Darkness who could help her see.
Who wanted her to try to break the unbreakable cure.
So she did not fly higher than the birds.
The choice to drink the potion had not given her wings, it just made her sick.
From her sickbed and for months after, she vowed to become stronger so she could learn to fly on her own.

"The only real difference between medicine and poison is the dose... and intent." -Oscar Hernandez

There once was a woman who lived in a studio apartment.
Her place was located at the edge of a bad neighborhood, but it was her own little place by the Ocean.
She wore her heart on her sleeve, right above a scar few noticed.
Some people tried to take from her, however she did not give pieces of herself freely these days.
Many people knew her, but she did not think she had many friends.

The woman has anxiety around social situations to the point where it will cause her physical pain, something many people don't know.
She lives her life anxious about what other people think about her and if they are being honest with her.
The woman does not comprehend subtly at all and occasionally ends up in awkward situations.
Luckily she has an amazing friends and family to help her when she needs.

One day she thought her friends were talking about her behind her back.
Through the "he said, she said", she became anxious and couldn't think straight.
She wanted to fly with the birds above the human world below and to not feel the pain she was in at that moment.
At that time she saw one of her best friends walking past and waved her over to where she stood.
Her friend told her to relax and go have a drink at the bar, so off the woman went.

One (drink) to remember.
One (drink) to laugh.
Drinks 3 through 8 were also to remember and to laugh.
In her ankle boots, she soared over her friends at the bar.
Her friends.
Her social anxiety, her fear of what others thought of her, was gone for the moment.
She could breath.

The moment bought her time to remember: This fog would lift and things would be okay.
Things change and relationships change, it's okay.
It's nearly impossible for someone to have the exact same relationship with someone else from month to month; some people will grow closer and others will grow apart.
She just needed time to remember.
She needed to remember that she had learned to fly on her own.

She left the bar with some friends at 1am and stopped by another friend's apartment.
A little after 3am, she walked into her own little apartment in her own little town.
She tasted rum and cigarettes on her lips as she kicked off she shoes to lay down.
The woman plopped down amidst her blankets and pillows to fall into a deep slumber.
When she woke up, she was still anxious but she was okay.
She brushed her hair, changed clothes, grabbed her lunch, and left for work.
Things would be okay for the woman.

She knew things would be okay.