Autistic Pride: “I’m proud of my obstructive, irritating, bloody-minded, arrogant persistence.”

Autistic Pride: "I'm proud of my obstructive, irritating, bloody-minded, arrogant persistence."

We asked members of the Autistic community in Ireland to share why they are proud to be Autistic. Al, an architect and widowed father of three, kindly shared his beautifully, brutally honest story.
 
CW: Mentioning of a suicide bombing, suicidal ideation, cancer, death, bullying.
“Why are you proud to be Autistic?” 
 
Still thinking about this.
Darn the existential questions. 😉
 
I appreciate there is no ‘right’ answer, only the answer that is right for me. Something I guess I’ve had to learn.
 
In Architecture study, I tried to find the ‘right’ answer, instead of finding a good one, that created delight, and met all the technical objectives as well. And there can be many ‘right’ answers when ‘delight’ is what you aim for, not so many where you aim for just a ‘right’ answer. Because if you achieve delight, then ‘right’ in many ways is less important. Anyone really can do something right, if it’s just a matter of getting boxes ticked. And aren’t we all wanting to please, a lot of the time?
 
With myself though (and I’m somewhat tipsy as I type this, I seem to be at 1/2 speed right now, so apologies if this comes out wrong), there remains the question of ‘Who am I’.
 
We often enough end up trying to define ourselves by those around us, which is a terrible way to try and find out who you are. Through pleasing other people. Being helpful so as not to be scolded. Being funny so as not to be thought sad. Being ‘good’ so as not to be though ‘bad’. If you are of course so inclined then great. But being so, to meet others’ expectations in the hope of passing whatever test is applied today, and being accepted, is not really being a person.
 
I said when I was I think 9, I liked some band. I barely knew of them. My mother said I shouldn’t say I liked something just to be popular. Except I didn’t know what I liked. But that did stick with me. I didn’t know what I liked, but I did realise, I probably didn’t like what everyone else did, which itself was OK. But I wasn’t going to like it just because others did. Which creates a real problem when you struggle with identity yourself, and you can’t fit in by simple camouflage, and yet don’t know what you like or what you want to be either.
 
There is of course the option of following some ‘role model’, which is perhaps reasonable in the circumstances. It gives some choice in the matter. But it also creates problems, and is really just imprinting on someone else and their identity. Which leaves the same problem as was started with, only by the time you realise it, you are probably more confused than ever, and it still leaves open the question, ‘Who am I?’, that I would be proud of myself and who I am?
We often enough end up trying to define ourselves by those around us, which is a terrible way to try and find out who you are. Through pleasing other people. Being helpful so as not to be scolded. Being funny so as not to be thought sad. Being ‘good’ so as not to be though ‘bad’. If you are of course so inclined then great. But being so, to meet others’ expectations in the hope of passing whatever test is applied today, and being accepted, is not really being a person.
I’m still, at 49 (50 tomorrow, wheeeeeee), figuring this out.
 
I think that is part of the identity question, I’m still figuring it out. I think with anyone like myself, we cope with considerably more than anyone gives us credit for, as those who don’t understand us are often oblivious to the questions and challenges we are faced with. Some simple, others complex. We try and find ways to resolve those questions, and struggle as there are often so many of them, and the solutions that we want are the perfect ones and that is of course impossible. But we try until we can no longer do so as it has become so much that we can’t cope.
 
The quality that leads us to do so, perserverance, is I guess one of character. Something out of a Kipling story (to translate it to another cultural meme) if you wanted to put it that way. And while we persevere we try and do so in a way that is true to ourselves, which is often not understood at all by anyone, as our social and communication skills have usually seen us give up on explaining ourselves to others. But we still perservere, regardless, to do what is right for ourselves, and those we care about, when the odds are more than stacked against us.
 
I’m tired though. In the last 30 months or so, my wife had her cancer come back (already stage 4), and I’d known it was probably terminal from talking to her oncologist. And she had probably known it, but gone back to chemotherapy anyway. In the middle of this, some nutcases blew themselves up down the road from us in Colombo [Sri Lanka, where Al and his family were living]. I’ve juggled my own desire to jump out a window, to want to care for my wife, look after our kids and keep them safe and happy, and keep a crap job going.
 
Followed by an international move, final stages of cancer, setting up house, coping with my kids, autism assessments for 3 of 4 of us, pandemic and months essentially alone. By myself. I struggle, but I persevere, because I have to. However bad it gets for me, I have 3 children who need me and they are my focus, an anchor that as irritating as they can be too often keeps me going. Because they don’t deserve less than the probably not so great best I can try to give them.
 
It’s not pride so much, as bloody-minded perseverance, that I think is the same as what got me through school when I was severely bullied, university when I was really in the wrong course, through work where I wouldn’t look the other way, through marriage until the end because I did promise to look after my wife whatever happened, and it did happen and I didn’t walk away.
 
So yeah, I’m proud of my obstructive, irritating, bloody-minded, arrogant persistence. And my determination and f*ck you to anyone who thinks I’m crap at it, I probably am.
 
Anyway. Something of an answer if not a clear one or a snappy one.
 
I think many of us have the same quality.
Al Jones