My Year in Photos: December

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As I look back on the previous year, the best way I can describe 2014 was that it was the year that I found my voice.

When I finished college, I found myself feeling very lost. For most of my life, my dream was to go to college, but once the whole college experience ended, I found myself without any job offers and most of my friends were getting engaged or married or having children. It didn’t help that I lost a dear friend who was with me from the beginning of my college years. He was a retired teacher, a pastor that I often had lunch with, and he passed away of old age. Losing him around the same time I graduated college made me feel like I was completely losing everything I knew about myself. When 2013 started, I also lost another friend who turned out to be a toxic influence and most of the year was spent making new friends outside of the safety of a college campus and the internet.

When 2014 came around, I started taking more positive risks. I started this blog and took pictures of what I was grateful for everyday. I participated in a poetry-a-day-challenge. I volunteered at an Awakening retreat in March and taught Sunday School at my local church. I had the opportunity to travel. I won’t sugarcoat it and say that 2014 was perfect, but it was definitely of the good, at least on a personal level for me.

When I think about what it meant for me to find my voice in 2014, I think of 2 events: the first was Comicpalooza, where I met the cast of Buffy and got to ask them questions at the panel. It wasn’t a picture-perfect moment, but it was pretty close to it because I spoke with confidence, even amidst my girlish giggling.

The second event was me giving testimony at the September Awakening retreat. I gave my speech with just my voice, no microphone necessary. I talked about how the friends I made during Awakening became the community I needed to have after finishing college. Keep in mind, by the way, that during both moments, I stood in a large room in front of a lot of people. The days of me taking anxiety medication are long gone now.

So with reflections out of the way for now, here are my 10 New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Visit some convents. I’m currently interested in meeting the Daughters of St. Pal.
  2. Travel to more places outside of Texas. I especially hope to go to Philadelphia for Pope Francis’s first visit to America.
  3. Write 700 words a day for 50 days to finally finish the 2nd (or was it 3rd) draft of my novel.
  4. Read at least 12 new books by reading at least 1 book every 2 weeks.
  5. Lose 5lbs every week by snacking less and going to the gym and/or taking a 30 minute walk at least 3x a week.
  6. Keep updating my gratitude journal by listing at least 3 things I’m grateful for every day.
  7. Update this blog at least once a week.
  8. Learn how to drive by taking classes in the next few months.
  9. Increase my prayer life by praying the Rosary and Examen daily and the Liturgy of the Hours at least once a week.
  10. Finish 3 new knitting projects and, if possible, be able to knit presents for everyone for Christmas 2015.

 

Here’s to the new year, y’all!

Where I Stand On The Spectrum

My brother linked me to a theory video that speculated that the Super Smash Bros games are told from the POV of an autistic child. I highly praise the maker of this video for doing a lot of research and addressing a lot of the misconceptions about autism, especially the stuff he said about Autism Speaks. (Long story short: Autism Speaks sucks! Don’t support them!) That being said, I wanted to elaborate about where I stand on the autistic spectrum because some of the things in the video, as stated by the video creator himself, don’t apply to everyone diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s.

As of this entry, Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer considered as separate from autism. However, I still consider myself as having Asperger’s because some people who have autism don’t have as many symptoms as others. In other words, I consider myself more high-functioning. Warning in advance: Long post is long.

First of all, I don’t consider myself a savant of any sort. I can memorize some things, but they’re usually associated with things I obsess over. For example, I have memorized lines from the episodes of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries word for word. As far as empathy is concerned, I definitely have the ability to empathize with people as well as fictional characters. When I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I understood Spike’s actions in Season 5 and 6 in spite of a good number of fans hating Spike because he came off as a stalker. (With good reason. He was.)

One symptom that’s commonly associated with Asperger’s and autism is connected to language. The video said that someone with autism could either be great with languages or be completely unable to understand sarcasm and metaphor or fall somewhere in between. I have a very offbeat sense of humor and sometimes, when I’m hanging out with my friends, I have problems telling the difference between them being serious or them teasing me. It’s gotten better, though, because as I get to know my friends, it gets easier for me to discern the difference in their tones. Watching people on TV and on the internet also helped me understand social cues better because the nonverbal actions and tones are easier to distinguish.

Another symptom associated with most people on the autistic spectrum is a need to have a routine and hate having changes in said routine. While I had a structured environment in schools, it’s not as easy for me to develop routines on my own nowadays since I’m still looking for work. I used to have a routine by associating days with whatever TV show I wanted to watch that day, but with the internet being what it is, that method has since changed.

Having a lack of routine has forced me to be flexible and focus more on the process of doing things as opposed to being tunnel-visioned towards a certain goal. This helped me recently in my efforts on losing weight. I exercised when I had the opportunity to do so and changed some of the things I ate. As of this entry, I have lost 10 pounds.

The video stated that those who have autism are capable of imagining things, but not to the same extent as what is called “neuro-typicals” or people who don’t have autism. I pretty much agree with this because when I was a kid, the most original thing I ever created was an imaginary friend named Fred who came from Australia and had red hair. Most of the time, I imagined myself being a sidekick to the Justice League heroes because I watched Superfriends. My character was a cowgirl who fought with Wonder Woman and liked horses. Back then, most of my female friends were in their “I love horses” phase and while I didn’t obsess with horses as much as they did, associating myself with horses was still part of my imagination.

Another symptom associated with many people with autism is a fixation on things or developing obsessions. I’ve gone more into detail about my obsessions in previous entries, but to make a long story short, my obsession is stories. The one thing that everything I loved as a child had in common (fairy tales, Japanese anime, childrens’ books and cartoons) was that they all told stories with dynamic characters.

Nowadays, I write fictional stories. It’s not easy for me to come up with completely original characters because I often feel like I’m starting from nothing. I always start by thinking of characters I like from shows I watch and books I read. I even write “fanfiction” which takes the characters from a show and puts them in an alternative storyline.  Most of my fanfiction is usually “fixing” things I didn’t like about something I watched or read.

Some people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s have problems with motor skills, which sometimes manifests in the form of a nervous twitch. This was something I had a major problem with as a child. I would often shake my right leg under my desk whenever I was bored and I never sat properly. However, taking dance classes helped me gain some coordination (though not to the extent that I can play video games as good as my brother nor can I play sports). Nowadays, I still have a twitch, but it usually comes in the form of a trigger finger in my right pinky. (It might be because of all the knitting.)

One thing I don’t agree with in the video is the idea that my Asperger’s has any effect on the kind of people or things I find attractive. If anything, I feel like I have to try twice as hard to figure out romantic relationships as I do with my regular friendships. I consider myself to be heterosexual with the occasional girl crush on a certain actress or character. I don’t have any “fetishes” and I developed into puberty at a typically normal age (12 years old).

The video takes on a dark turn when it goes into people who either bully someone with autism or claim to help with good intentions, but see autism as something bad. It says that in the Subspace Emissary story mode, the characters are mute, which represents the symptom of social ineptitude. Some people with autism speak in monotone. I have a tendency of speaking too loud. And those less high-functioning do have problems speaking at all.

The last symptom that the video gets into is amplified emotions and it talks about loneliness and depression specifically. The worst instance of that happening in my life was when I got so nervous during a class, I had an anxiety attack. Nobody was there to help me and I started freaking out in front of everyone. The professor told me that I had to drop the class or she would kick me out. And there were times in my life that I saw myself as my own worst enemy.

But things got better. I was able to find other writing classes. I changed my major and did an internship at a news station. I started teaching. I found new stories to obsess over. And best of all, I made friends who helped me understand myself. Because the thing is I don’t define myself by just my Aspergers, nor do I define myself by sexuality, gender, or race. Instead, I define myself by something bigger than me. But that’s another blog post.