A friend of mine coined a term to describe certain hyperfocused and meticulous behaviors: Autismal. To be clear, it is an adjective, but not a pejorative. It can also be used to describe doing something in a counterintuitive or totally unexpected way that is also successful. That second part is kinda important to the whole “not a pejorative” thing. Playing Minecraft for 16 hours in order to build a bunker out of obsidian blocks is autismal. Cutting up vegetables with a sword is also autismal.
Classic Autismal Move: Not going to class today in order to be able to do the actual work I need to do for the classes. I can make an icosahedron out of pipe cleaners and watch the second half of Before Stonewall from the comfort of my own home area. The hardest part of college for me isn’t the work; it’s getting ready to leave the house, and then doing so. It takes a minimum of two hours, and I’ve been on time to my first class twice this semester.
The thing about living an Autismal lifestyle (ha!) is that it really bothers a lot of people. Not the person doing it; all the OTHER people, the endless people, those well-meaning nosey-noses that always have a damn opinion. The people like the lady from the Art Department who yelled at me for looking inside a canned goods collection bin (who I later found out was actually head of the Art Department-fuck your Patti Smith haircut!). The people who are ever so insistent that everything to be done must be done in a specific way. The people who always tell you that “do a little bit each day” is always the way to do things.
Yeahhh. That doesn’t work for me. I made it through grade school by never doing homework, getting 100% on every test, spending every recess in detention for not doing homework, and being in a poor kid school where if you’re literate, you pass. I made it through high school by not making it through high school. I’m making it through college by being 30 and trusting the vegetable sword.
That means I prepare for exams by watching ten hours of sequential episodes of TV shows or playing a tabletop game or reading 600-800 pages of fantasy literature. That’s what fills up the gas tank. Then I read the class material for maybe half an hour, make a handwritten set of notes. Two more hours of reading/playing/watching, and then make a handwritten copy of the notes. Take test. A+.
Caveat: this doesn’t work so well with group work, “easy” classes (you know, the ones where the whole curriculum is based in class discussions, participation, attendance, or as I call it: bullshit), or making up fake conversations (a large part of language class curriculums).
Honestly, the biggest problem in my life right now isn’t “being overwhelmed with schoolwork”, it’s “being overwhelmed with the lack of an autistic staging area”. There is no physical area in my house currently where I can place objects that I understand and that have a specific purpose, and no one will move these objects or put other objects that don’t belong there in among them, thus upsetting the balance of the universe.
This problem should be fixed in the next few months. But in the meantime, I have to figure out how to cope with it. I’ve been trying to cope with it for about two years now, and it hasn’t gone well. About as well as one might expect if you lived in a house that was constantly opening up into interdimensional portals. Like, open the cupboard to get a can of fish? INTERDIMENSIONAL PORTAL LOL YOU CANNOT HAS FISH. All because someone bought some fucking tortillas and I can’t fucking parse it.
A while back, I might have been like, “oh no, curse my broken robot brain!” But now i’m like “fuck you and your fucking tortillas.” Because this is my fucking house.
THIS IS MY FUCKING HOUSE.
Sandra Cisneros. Virginia Woolf.
Shoes lined up by the bed will set you free.
P.S. Dear Patti Smith Haircut of the Art Department,
That bin is a collection bin set out by Phi Theta Kappa, which I am a member of. The food goes to needy students who are having difficulty paying for food, which I was. I am also an autistic person with little patience for folkways. I found myself intrigued by a purple hexagonal jar, inside the food bin beside which I was waiting for my ride home person to get out of class. So I picked that shit up and looked at it, partly out of natural curiosity, and partly to get a preview of what might be awaiting me next week at the food pantry. And then it was all, “Lingonberry Jam” and I’m like “Oh wow what the shit are lingonberries? I’ve never heard of that” and then a random passing person (you) vested themselves with the authority to reprimand me with “That’s a food collection bin! You put food INTO it! You don’t take food OUT of it!” And I’m all like “I’m just looking at-” And you’re all like “NO YOU PUT FOOD INTO IT IT’S A PTK THING” and I’m like “I KNOW I’M A MEMBER OF PTK IT’S FOR-” And you’re like “BLAH BLAH I KNOW MORE ABOUT IT AND IT’S DIFFERENT” And I’m like “I’M ALLOWED TO LOOK AT THINGS WTF” and in the shock of being unexpectedly treated to the kind of scolding worthy of being a third grade poopypants, I gabbled and blabbled and was outraged and inarticulate. You literally stood there and yelled at me until I put the jar of lingonberry jam back into the bin. I am unaccustomed to being addressed as a third grade poopypants, and therefore just yelled, “I’M ALLOWED TO LOOK AT THINGS!” and exaggeratedly placed the precious hexagonal jar of lingonberry jam back into the bin in order to stop this bizarre confrontation I was in no way prepared for.
Are you indeed so outraged by natural curiosity?
Did you believe that I was in fact a lingonberry thief on par perhaps with Hamburglar?
Are you so steeped in privilege that you cannot believe that anyone breathing the same air as you could ever be the recipient of “charity”?
Are you so steeped in conventional behavior that anything unexpected invites immediate and swift retribution?
Are you so steeped in hierarchical thinking that you feel vested with the authority to reprimand people you don’t know?
Did you in fact COVET THE PRECIOUS LINGONBERRIES YOURSELF?????
I may never know. I have been consumed with l’esprit d’escalier for like a month now.
There is a large part of me that really wants to send this as an email. Or perhaps scour all the food pantries on campus for that jar of lingonberry jam, and leave it in your mailbox with this attached to it. Or even better, to buy a jar of the jam myself, consume it, and place the note inside the empty jar of Hamburgled lingonberries.