Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What They Have

This happened much more frequently when I was younger, and even more so immediately after my diagnosis of Asperger's, but is something I still struggle with to this day. I think, in a way, this is something everyone may deal with from time to time, but being on the autism spectrum the amounts of "they" out there is much, much higher.

There they are, out there, everywhere actually. It's hard to go through a day without encountering one, two, maybe even three of them. Who are the "they" in they? They're the ones out there that have it good, that have it easy, that have a normal, perfect life. Even before I was diagnosed I'd look at them and wonder, "how do they do it?" What they had, have, or will have was, is, what I think I will want. I can remember, rather vividly, being at the bowling alley when I was 15 and seeing a circle of friends and wondering, "what's that like?" From the outside looking in it looked at too easy and yet, for myself, it was all too difficult.

Times have changed but I still find myself wondering what they have and what it is like. It doesn't take much to fall into the trap of “they” envy because, from my shoes, everyone has it easy. A couple weeks ago, at bowling, a bowler whom probably had a little, okay, way too much to drink randomly blurted out an expletive at the full booming power of his lungs and I was frozen in time as my body's defenses were triggered and I was ready for whatever unknown crisis was about to occur. Everyone else? Well, there were no deer-in-the-headlight reactions and many people laughed at the situation and the tomfoolery behavior this bowler was putting on, but no one else had adrenaline pumping through their bodies. No one else feared a calamity, a tragedy, or the apocalypse and that's exactly what “they” have; they have it all, perfection.

They also have this unspoken language that I still don't understand. I even see it when I'm presenting and I tell a joke, but also see it when a group of people is watching the same thing in that, when something is funny, everyone seems to unknowingly know to look at each other that creates this shared experience. I've never understood this because if something is funny it simply is and looking for approval from others to confirm the funniness of it is something I don't understand, but it is within this as well that proves that what “they” have is something I don't.

There's a problem with “they” though; they is a general term and from my vantage point they all have it all. It's easy to fall into this trap when certain things are more difficult. During my dark years after my diagnosis I'd have given anything to have what “they” have because, surely, “they” have it good with never a dull moment and never a challenge. I saw them and they all were normal and life, for them in my eyes, was perfect. To put simply; “they” were what I was not.

It got to the point that just being around the “they” of the world, I would become more bitter because it was just a reminder of everything I'm not. I said I'd have given anything to have what “they” have, but I'd also have given anything to experience the normality that “they” have just for a fleeting moment because, surely, it would be the greatest thing ever.

As time progressed, and I got this job and became even more self-aware and have met tens of thousands of people my views of “they” have changed. Yes, I can fall into the trap of “they” envy as I did at the bowling alley a few weeks ago, but I now realize what “they” have isn't this perfect world I envisioned. Yes, “they” may have it easier in some regards, but my view that everyone not on the autism spectrum leads this stress-free life was wrong. Everyone, autism spectrum or not, has challenges, things that stress them, and at times will look at the “theys” of the world in envy wondering what it is like to have it perfect.

The problem with dwelling on what “they” have, and the things “they” seemingly do with ease, is that I forget who I am. Anyone can fall into this trap. Anyone can relate to this because, compare yourself to a business mogul, an A-list Hollywood celeb, or a random person in the car beside you whom looks like they've got it good and you'll quickly see what you're not. Doing this, if dwelt upon, would not be good for self-esteem, self-image, and motivation to improve upon one's self because what's the point as you'd probably never reach the level that “they” have it. But that's the point right there, what is the level that “they” have it?

When I was my saddest and my view of what they had was at its strongest, I knew I'd never be happy because I'd never be them. To use yet another sports metaphor, which I remember my college comp teacher said never to use, when I was at this point I wouldn't have known improvement, or even if I had what “they” had, or maybe even if I had more than they had it because it sort of was like playing football running towards the goal line but that goal line continues to move away from me at the same rate that I'm running.

I mentioned that I still fall into this trap to this day and when I do it takes a while to come back to the realization that the concept of “they” is a myth. No one has it perfect. I have to often say it again that "no one has it perfect." This isn't to discount my challenges in life. The few examples I gave at the start of this, especially the one from when I was 15 would keep me up at night, but from the outside I saw this perfect world that they have, but I was just seeing what I'm not and when one does this a haphazard piece of art may appear to have the same grand traits and value of the Mona Lisa. Art is in the eye of the beholder and living a life of “they” envy makes every person around you seem as if they're flawless.

Unless you've lived with this long term I don't know if you can truly appreciate the words put forth in this post. I wanted, well, needed, to share this because I know there's others out there that have this view of what the normality of they is and the perfection that “they” have it. Here's the thing, though, if you'd have given me something like this to read when I was at my darkest point I'd probably have said, "Yeah, well, anyone can say that; anyone can say no one has it perfect, but do you know how bad I have it?" and that would have been that. That being said, if you're a parent or a teacher, I hope this post has had some benefit because, perhaps, it's allowed you to see the way I view normal and all the other random people that fall into the realm of a "they" and how I saw them, and sometimes see them. At this moment I know that the perfect realm of they that I had painted in my head is a fallacy, but there will be a time, be it an awkward social situation, or someone acting in a tomfoolerish manner, that I'll look around and wonder, "only if I were “them” because if I were, I'd have it good."

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