Dear six-year-old Adam,
It’s me! The future you! And I’m here to tell you that you are living in a world that is against you for what seems like no reason. You haven’t necessarily done anything wrong. You won’t live a life of poverty. In fact, you’ll actually lead a materially comfortable existence. You will always be adequately clothed, fed, etc. Even in your most destitute moments, you will remain luckier than most people. However, the fact that you are autistic has already set you on a rugged path. You never intended to be born autistic but you are autistic and nothing about that will change.
I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with being autistic. In fact, as a result, your personality will be far more novel than that of most people’s and people will love that about you. However, your personality will be seen as a mental illness to the unenlightened society into which you were born. You are a broken child in the eyes of society. You are considered a burden on your family. Society has some really shitty things to say about you, even though society doesn’t know you personally. You will see people speculate how shitty and contemptible your life must be. People will say the most inane and offensive things about you. You will ask yourself, why do people hate me?
I’ll tell you why they hate you. They don’t understand you. You are operating on alien territory and always will. You will be forced to lead a double-life, one as an autistic and one as a neurotypical, just to be accepted in a predominantly neurotypical world. You will live in a deeply problematic society that thinks that you’re the one with problems. This will lead to some grave cognitive dissonance that you’ll have no choice but to work through. You’ll notice society’s ills more acutely than anyone else because you have been granted the lowest possible status in society: mentally ill. You will be prone to depression because of the overwhelming confusion and frustration that you will face. But you will emerge a stronger human being. You will learn to be more empathetic, more critical, and even more jovial amid all the bullshit. But all the while, you’ll be a strange chap.
Even your parents will seem confused in their feelings for you. Rest assured that they love you (which is why, as I said, you’ll be leading a materially comfortable life) but they will never understand you. They will try to understand you because they love you but they will attempt to understand you through the wrong lens. In order to understand you, they’d have to use a lens that they never used before and it is your job to teach them how to use this lens. This is a tall order unfortunately because they have reached the age where they have already formed their idea of how things should be and live under the false impression that they know everything. To save yourself the trouble, let me tell you now that you have little chance of revolutionizing the way that your parents view autism. This is why you should redirect your efforts toward your peers, whose minds are far more receptive to fresh knowledge and new ideas than your parents. Plus, your peers are the future leaders of the world so this is energy better spent.
Your peers, however, will become guilty (albeit briefly) of falling into the conservative ways of their parents. Your peers will not understand you either and throughout high school, you’ll be that weird kid who doesn’t have any friends and just sits in the corner listening to his iPod. It will be the roughest and loneliest four years of your life but afterwards, you’ll have your whole life ahead of you. You will eventually get tired of hiding the fact that you are autistic, start a blog or whatever, and change some minds.
I’m writing this letter to impart some advice that I wish someone had given me when I was your age: embrace being autistic. I don’t care what other people say to you. The only real danger of being autistic in the alien society that you live in is having your self-confidence squashed by those who think that you are a lesser human being for it. If you treat being autistic as a strength instead of a weakness, nobody can use it against you. In addition, when you embrace being autistic, you’ll realize that your autism and your personality are inseparable. You will stop thinking of autism as a disease and start thinking of it as an indivisible part of your identity.
This is your key to self-love and tolerating your darkest, most nihilistic, but still inevitable moments.
P.S. You have a remarkable inability to filter out auditory stimuli. Use it to your advantage and take up music production. 😉 One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t start around your age.