Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Call of the Robin

For you to be able to not just be aware of autism, but to have a sense of understanding, you’ve got to understand that things in our environment may mean more to us. You must also understand that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” so what I’m about to tell you may not apply to all, but the reminders in our environment that tell us of happy times, and sad times, can be overwhelming.

In 2004 I didn’t have much going for me. It was common that I’d stay up all night trying to set track records on whatever racing game was in style on the Xbox. As the people I raced went to sleep, the sounds of the robins outside, became the anthem of my isolation. 

Night after night, as morning neared, the robins would start their morning call. The months changed, but the call always had the same tempo, same tone, and it began to have the same result with me. I began to hate that call. 

I often wondered “is this it? Is this the best my life is going to be?” I had ambition and drive, but towards nowhere at the time and for myself, there was nothing more symbolic of just how alone I felt and cutoff from the world than the sound of the robin at 4:45AM. 

When I began to write in 2005, and began my journey of discovering who I was, my routine writing hours were 12-5AM. As I would finish up a chapter, the robins would start their morning call. It was odd to look out the window and no longer have strong anger at the birds because now their call often coincided with the completion of a chapter. In a way, it became a victory call.

My memory system is much like a web and one bit of sound, or smell can trigger a long and complex web of memories. This is something I’ve noticed those not on the spectrum struggle with. It isn’t just that we are reminded of a place, time, or event, but rather it’s like we are living in that moment now. It’s difficult for us to fully move on. Why do we talk about the same event for so long? Because for us, if the right reminder is in place, it’s like we are there again in the present. That makes the sound of the robin extremely confusing for me. 

When I hear the call of the robin I’m drawn to two points in time. It’s summer 2004 and I have no one to talk to, no one to Xbox with, and the world out the window is preparing for another day of progress while I’m in stasis. And yet, I’m also drawn to the computer I first wrote, and over time wondered if people from anywhere and everywhere would read the words I had been typing while I began to understand who I was.

I woke up in the middle of the night hearing the call. This has been a blog post a long time coming, over a decade, as I’ve often wanted to talk about both the crushing defeat it represented and yet the triumphant victory call it represents, but of all the things I’ve written and spoken on, this one always was too personal. With it being Autism Awareness Month and my focus on raising understanding, this is something that I hope shed light on something for you as to why a smell, sound, memory, or whatever it may be can be such a strong positive and/or negative for a person on the spectrum. 

1 comment:

  1. Clearly stated and understood. Thank you, Aaron, for sharing for everyone's benefit.