My brother was diagnosed with high functioning autism when he was five, or HFA for short. And no, he can’t sketch the Vatican with immense detail or do some absurd calculation for you. I find it pretty damn offensive when people expect the latter or seem disappointed when he doesn’t have a “superpower” of some sort.
Yeah, Xavier, that’s not really how it works, and no, my brother isn’t interested in your fancy-ass boarding school! Thanks, though.
I’ve learned a lot from my brother, including the art of playing chess. We’ve played competitively on all 216 chessboards that he’s been collecting since he was seven, including a larger outside set that is very fucking awesome.
“Knight to E5.”
Now 16, he’s grown into a very polite, smart and self-assured young man that is very much authentically himself, even if he doesn’t express his feelings as easily as others. Yes, he might be awkward and different and not considered “normal,” but then I must ask myself, what is normal? Is it normal pretending to be someone you’re not just to seem cooler or more aesthetic? Is it agreeing and nodding to everything everyone is saying just for the sake of agreeing? Or is it just blending in because standing out will deem you a loner?
Maybe those of us that do these things, these fit-into-the-cookie-cutter things, are the real abnormal ones.
We’re so conditioned to act a certain way or do certain things to fit in that we lose our true self in the process. Some of us go our entire lives wearing a mask or a visage to fit in that we forget how liberating and unique it is to stand out. We tend to look past the amazing qualities we have and the uniqueness we already possess.
My brother never holds back from being himself. He does the things he enjoys to the fullest, even if people look at him strangely because of his slow speech or his limp. He also never tries to hide those things or let those things bring him down because he understands that he’s different and he loves that about himself.
So why are you holding back from being yourself?
Maybe deep down you’re not that outgoing, outdoor-loving, “super active” woman that your Instagram portrays you to be. Maybe you’re the wallflower who loves reading and writing and everything artsy. Or perhaps you’re really into yoga, but you’re afraid that it will take away from your masculinity if you ditch the weights for the mat. The only person that can take away anything from you is you, no one else.
No one can deem you less feminine, masculine, successful, or worthy, and if you meet someone that tries to do just that, take them for a long walk off a short pier.
This year, make a pact with yourself to be authentic. Make a pack to be true to yourself and to do the things you want to do, not the things you feel pressured into doing. If you want to stay in and watch a movie or read a good book, instead of clubbing on a Friday night, then do that. If you feel like watching the Russian ballet performance instead of the game, then go and watch the Russian ballet performance.
Know that the people in your life who truly love and care for you will want you to be authentically yourself, with all your passions and interests. They will not want you to pretend just to fit in or change who you truly are just to get their approval, they will accept and love the real you.
Fuck the standard cookie-cutter mould—be your unique mould and show the world how great you are!