Geek Chic: Owning my Asperger’s – The Adventures of an Optimistic Autistic
Our new columnist, John Scott Holman, is a 25 year old Autistic. His column is entitled “The Adventures of an Optimistic Autistic.” Here’s his first article!
A peculiar collection of objects are scattered across a wide country field, as if they have somehow sprouted from the ground; an unfolded umbrella stands erect like an overgrown mushroom; elegant sofas gather around a busted television set; and an antique telephone sits atop a Corinthian column. Porcelain dolls and a headless mannequin are the only inhabitants of this dreamland junkyard.
My kid sister, Jeffi, stands overlooking this bizarre scene, awaiting my instructions. I fiddle with my parents’ camcorder.
“Ok, Jeffi, we don’t have long here, I need you to give it all you’ve got. We have to get this scene in the can before mom gets home and finds out I dragged all the living room furniture outside…”
I am thirteen years old. While other kids are skateboarding and playing video games, I am hopelessly lost in my latest obsession; cinematic surrealism. “Ok, this is going all the way to Sundance! Ready? One… two… three… action!”
I was a nerd back then and I’m a nerd today. I will be a nerd ’til the day I die – I’m autistic. So, should I bemoan my misfortune or celebrate my individuality?
I haven’t always been a plucky autistic idealist. Only recently diagnosed, I’ve spent most of my life wandering about like a mistreated puppy; a stranger in a strange land. By no means a social savant, I endured a great deal of taunting and bullying in my pubescent years – “You’re a loser! Why do you have a picture of Madonna on your locker?”
“That is not Madonna. That is the depression era movie queen Jean Harlow. Do you live in a cultural vacuum?”
“No! Wait… what? And what’s with the homeless dude?”
“That is Karl Marx.”
“You’re gay and I’m going kill you!”
“I’m sorry, but I really don’t follow your logic…”
Bill Gates has famously said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” This would appear to be true, especially since half the world seems to be working for Mr. Gates in one way or another. The hillbilly oppressors of my youth are now very likely drinking cases of beer for breakfast and trying to remember the name of some collagen lipped bimbo on The Real Housewives of Who the Heck Cares.
If you want to be successful, you must begin by ignoring the haters and embracing yourself. Let go of bitterness and resentment – if you don’t you will only become another one of the bullies. The world has enough angry victims.
I realize this philosophy is nothing new, but I believe it is one which the autistic community must hear as often as possible. If you are capable of reading and understanding this blog, then congratulations, you’re not so bad off! Many autistics can neither read nor speak, and face overwhelming pain and frustration in their daily lives. Those of us with impaired social skills, rather than no social skills at all, would do well to count ourselves among the blessed and stand up for those who cannot advocate for themselves.
Autism is a double edged sword, having both the power to cripple and enable. For most of us it is a mixed bag; not a blessing or a curse, just an essential part of who we are. I am not ashamed of my autism. After all, I could be an angry hillbilly picking on the little guy. Worse yet, I could be an autistic hillbilly obsessively collecting limited edition Nascar plates or chattering endlessly about the fuel system on my John Deere!
Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned not only to accept my autism, but embrace it. I’m pretty hip, for an autistic geek – I rock a Pac Man bracelet on my wrist and a silver puzzle piece dangles from a chain around my neck. I’m proud of my confidence because it was not easy to come by.
I’ve worked hard to overcome my deficits and utilize my gifts. My efforts have been rewarded with the opportunity to share my experiences and raise awareness of the complexity and diversity of the autism spectrum.
Who would have thought that an odd kid obsessed with cinema would receive a diagnosis of autism at the age of 24, and merely a few months later, find himself on the phone, casually exchanging movie trivia with Alex Plank. I’ll be seeing Alex in California on October 11th, where I will help out with a documentary and write an article about Hacking Autism.
According to HackingAutism.org, “Hacking Autism has assembled an impressive advisory board of leading autism specialists and recruited an eager army of software programmers. Our mission is to develop innovative, touch-enabled applications for the autism community and make this software available for free…”
I’m going to enjoy testing Alex’s knowledge of silver screen history. Hopefully, he won’t engage me in a one-sided conversation about Range Rovers. Just kidding, Alex…
Range Rovers are the least of my worries – this trip will require me to navigate through national airports all alone. If my next article does not appear on schedule, I may be having difficulty accessing the WI-FI in a Nigerian baggage claim.
I am taking the first steps of what should prove to be an exciting journey. Check in with me here on Wrong Planet to see what happens next. Why not? It beats watching Real Housewives.