Jennifer’s “Insider” in Autism Asperger’s Digest is the only regular magazine column written for teens & 20-somethings by an Aspie.
….Did you ever read those Dick and Jane books? You know. “See Dick run. Look, Jane! It is a ball!” That kind of thing. Well, in ninth grade, I was cast as Sally in our school play, which was a parody of the “shiny, happy” world of Dick, Jane, their little sister (me), Spot the dog and Puff the cat. In a sunshine yellow dress and crinolines, I spouted chipper little lines and clapped and giggled. That’s shiny, happy fakeness. The play was funny because it made a point: one-dimensional, forced cheeriness is not positivity. It’s ridiculous.
But you know what else is ridiculous? It’s assuming that someone who is “positive” never feels sad or angry or lonely. It’s assuming also that smiles and ditziness go hand-in-hand. I can clearly remember crossing my college campus at an Ivy League university to which I had been admitted early AND was maintaining a 4.0 GPA—and the second I put on a sweatshirt with my sorority letters or was seen holding pom-poms on the way to meet my fellow cheerleaders at the football stadium, the rest of the world seemed to assume I’d checked my brain cells at the door. Upbeat. Spirited. Energetic. To many, it was as if I were somehow undermining what it was to be authentic, smart, a modern woman.
During Autism Awareness Month, I often get called upon to be our cheerleader, to tell the world and remind YOU, too, that “typical” and “normal” aren’t goals—because each of you is an on-purpose miracle. And I believe all of that. But if that were the end of my message, I’d be a pretty dang lame spokes-chick.
OK, then, what’s with the whole “Shiny, Happy People” stuff? Simple. It’s easy to dismiss positivity for puff and fluff, totally out-of-touch with the tough stuff of real life. It’s just as easy to get stuck in the mire of “everything-is-too-hard” anger and depression. I get that hurt—the hollowed-out feeling when your soul may as well be an empty shell. Where’s the positivity in that, right?
I’m not about to sugarcoat what reality is. It’s hard to be different. It’s hard when your normal isn’t the typical. It’s hard to be lonely. It’s hard to have to figure out what’s easy to other people. It’s hard to want things that seem so basic to other people. I get it. I really, really get it. Do NOT for one minute mistake me: being different is hard. It’s also the only thing in the world that makes a difference—that inspires creativity, dreams, change, beauty, bravery. Yep. It’s hard, but we can do hard things.
So I’m telling you all this in the article that’s supposed to be about the wonderfulness of being on the autism spectrum?
When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice. Well, not a choice. Lots of choices, but they all come down to an over and over again choice to be relentlessly positive. Relentless positivity isn’t unicorn stickers and rainbows. It’s the courage to keep moving when you can’t see yet the creativity or beauty or change that you’re bringing. It means digging down deep when you have absolutely nothing left and choosing not to let the dark take you. And, sometimes, it means simply loving someone else enough to hold on one more day.
excerpt from “Shiny, Happy People” February 2016
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