Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Dear Humans..."

I read aloud something I wrote on Asperger's Syndrome for an Open Mic at my college. View the video here, with the original text below...

"Dear Humans,

I hope that you will welcome us. We've actually been on this planet for a long time, but it's difficult to tell whether we're any different because we look like everyone else. Some of us have adapted to your society and have learned how to act like you so we won't draw too much attention to ourselves. Others aren't so lucky. Many of us are timid creatures and don't mean anyone any harm, and yet because of that, we’re often victims of what you call "bullying" if our true selves leak out through the masks we wear. Life can be difficult for us. To quote a friend of mine, certain aspects of life are like doors, and we can’t open them without the key. Thing is, only you humans possess the key, which is frustrating because we'd like to handle things ourselves. Besides, communication between ours and your species doesn't always work out since our brains are wired differently.

Now who are "we" exactly? I’ll get to that. Interestingly enough, there might actually be a few of “us” among you. Or, there might not be. But I digress. I presume you want to know who we are. I won’t state it explicitly until the end, so be just patient and let me paint a mental picture for you.

On our planet, who you call “geeks,” “weirdos,” and “nerds” are actually the cool people. Those without obsessive interests are considered to be intellectually underdeveloped, and we recommended to them either classes or counselling to bring out their inner geek.

To us, girls who spend their time gossiping, going shopping, talking on the phone and paint their nails aren’t nearly as cool as the girls who write and draw and invent and do all kinds of nerdy creative things. Same goes for the guys; the cool ones are great with technology and really really smart, not so much the buff and good looking jock who always gets the girl.

People who talk a lot are normal. Introversion is also normal. Making silly noises and awkward movements like rocking and flailing are normal. So basically, everything not normal is normal, and everything normal is weird. But I can just negate that statement with the common idea that there is no normal, as that makes more sense to everyone.

In our world, those who monologue are considered wise and knowledgeable. The quiet ones are mysterious.

Also, physical appearance isn’t much a factor; we care more about the brains behind the helm of the vessel known as the human body.

One thing I don’t get about your culture is shaking hands. It’s… unsanitary. We prefer to just say “nice to meet you”…unless it’s not actually nice to meet you and we’ll either respond with silence or tell you what we really think.

If we ask “how are you?” we expect an honest answer, or at least an “I don’t wanna talk about it” if you’re not that open. See, we prefer truth on our planet, even if a polite fib such as “I’m fine” is the norm on yours. Let’s face it, we’re not too good with being dishonest, and same goes for hidden agendas. What’s up with those, anyway? Someone from our planet usually wouldn’t even have one. We can’t even understand them! That’s probably why a lot of us get hurt easily, because we’re not always aware of other people’s intentions. Also, we’re terrible at reading other people in general. Things like facial expressions, tone of voice, subtleties, sarcasm, and “reading-between-the-lines”—whatever that is—doesn’t usually register for us. That’s because on our planet, we say exactly what we mean, and exactly how we feel. If we don’t like you, we’d tell you straight up…not smile, nod, and reluctantly endure your presence until you leave. Conversely, if we really like someone and think they’re cool, we have no shame is letting them know!

There are some things about us that make it difficult to live here. For one, our senses are heightened, so things that are okay for your eyes and ears might be overwhelming for ours. Also things like touch, taste, and smell are sensitive for us. There are certain types of clothing we can’t wear, food textures we don’t like, and scents that seem stronger than walking through a perfume department.

Another aspect of our society that is not compatible with yours is the fact that we value routines. Going to the same places at the same time and doing the same things every day that those things are supposed to be done help keep us sane. When something in our schedule is cancelled… BOOM!! …we simply can’t process it. Change and transition just isn’t our thing. How many of you have an iPhone with the Facebook Messenger? Did you get the latest update? For you guys, you might have been mildly annoyed that you have to get used to a new design, but you’d get over it. For me, I was like…”NO. Just NO. Write a letter to Facebook and tell them NO!!” I solved the problem though, because it bugged me so much; I just restored a backup to get the old app again.

Now, the biggest problem for us is usually communication. As I mentioned earlier, we can only comprehend what’s concrete and right in front of us. So we value honestly highly. It’s also difficult for us to process certain information, so it helps to have concepts broken down into smaller bits that our detail-oriented brains can comprehend. And too much information at once can be overwhelming. This makes social interaction with your species rather awkward at times. We need people who understand us enough to be patient with us, and especially to recognize the brilliance behind all the awkwardness. Some of the most skilled, well-known, and successful people are of our species, and that’s because they were encouraged to be themselves and use their talents. There’s a theory that even Albert Einstein was one of us. That’s a big spoiler there, so I’m assuming at this point you know what I’m talking about.

What makes us unique is called “Asperger’s Syndrome.” It’s been labeled as a disorder or a disease, but to me, it’s a sub-culture of brilliant people stuck in an overwhelming world. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re among you, and there’s actually a lot of us. In fact, about 1% of the world’s population is on the spectrum. That’s one of us for every 100 of you.

You have differences among individuals within your culture, and so do we. So the symptoms vary from person to person, and I was stating the most common features of an aspie—which is a term for someone with Asperger’s.

In the end, I hope that when you come across someone a bit awkward that you’d take the chance to get to know them. You never know, they might be an aspie."

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