I went to another autastics meeting yesterday in daly city. I liked it even better than the first one. It was a little easier to talk this time. Like last time, everybody was very nice. It still blows me away that there are so many people that are SO MUCH like me. For so long I thought there were none and that i was the biggest freak in the whole world. Suddenly, I am an aspie, crazily similar in so many ways to other aspie/autistic people, yet at the same time, we are as different from each other as all people are from each other.
The thing about the autastics meetings, is that there is a whole bunch of autistic people trying (and succeeding) to socialize and communicate. It is very different from socializing with other people. Of course, this whole story is a giant generalization, which I am sure isn’t true of all autistic people, but it is what I think based on the few meetings i’ve been to and other folks that I’ve met in the past 6 months. If you are one of the people I am generalizing about, and I have this all wrong, please let me know!
At the meeting, I watch the others try to communicate, think, speak. A few are quite good at this, but most (including me) struggle with it. I hear their voices trying to get the words out, taking pauses in between words or phrases in an attempt to get the next thought out. I see people go from seemingly “normal” to stereotypical autistic (or vice versa) in the blink of an eye. I can practically see them thinking; working so hard to take a thought, remember it, stay focused on it, and maybe hardest of all, say it out loud. I know that for some, the effort is so great that the next sentence is lost or trapped inside, and will never make it out into the room. It is like that for me sometimes. I am often lost in a group setting. It is very hard to follow conversations. I can’t hear fast enough to process things before they move on, and usually end up in my own world, away from the chaos.
The amazing thing is that it is okay to be like that at the meeting. No one is going to think you’re retarded or stupid or generally unfriendly. People understand why it is so hard, and why it might take more time to speak and respond. People understand why you may not respond at all. They know that it has nothing at all to do with how intelligent or friendly you are. When people finally do say something, it seems true and honest and direct; the thing that they are thinking about at the moment.
There is very little “small talk”. I find this refreshing. I have never really understood small talk or been very good at it. It is something I try to learn and practice because I can see that it is how people start conversations and break the ice, but sometimes it just seems like a bunch of bullshit. With the exception of K and other meteorology geeks, do people really care that much about the weather?
I am thankful to Adam and the other people who have kept this group going for the past 10 years. I don’t know if I will ever get over the amazement of finding other people who are so much like me. There is a part of me that has been completely alone for my whole life. It is not anymore.