Monday, April 23, 2007

This box I call my life

I was over 40 when I found out. It was one of those life-changing moments I'd only read about. I was reading Donna Williams' Nobody Nowhere, when gradually, then suddenly, I knew, and everything that had always worried and confused me finally made perfect sense. Mu! Enlightenment. Autism.

It took a couple of years to decide to go for the formal diagnosis. Replacing the questions I'd lived with all my life were new ones: What's the point of a diagnosis at my age? What could it possibly change? Wouldn't it only limit my options, make things more difficult? The questions weren't only mine, but came from the people around me, the ones important in my life. They worried about me accepting a label, confining myself to some sort of box.

I looked around and saw myself inside a box already. The walls were constructed of false beliefs, that I was lazy, uncooperative, immature, and sick. The bottom of the box was made of even sturdier materials. Formed of expectations--how a person should act, what counts as intelligence, who gets to be taken seriously, etc--this was a foundation having nothing to do with my perception of the world.
The box had plenty of labels on it. Someone had pasted on psycho and freak. Friends had covered those over with shy, introspective, different. Someone else had come along and scribbled a list of ingredients in languages I didn't understand. A sunburst sticker was added: 100% Motivation-Free.
I stepped out of the box and looked around. I saw nothing but people in boxes. Some of them had fashioned their own containers, but most were like mine, designed by people who were only guessing what was inside. Others didn't know that there were any boxes. Most saw everybody's box except their own.
Returning to my own box, I peeled off the labels that didn't apply. I decorated it with squares I cut into it. I climbed back inside and took a nap and was happy enough and dreamt for a long time of floor tiles, ceiling tiles, textured fabric, wallpaper, brick.

1 comment:

  1. My new boss always says I "think out of the box". That's maybe because my box is different than his. I constantly try to expand my box. After my diagnosis I found it liberating, because I started becoming aware of parts of my box I wanted to expand and other parts I wanted to leverage.

    I also decided not to tell my employers as I could see they were the type to box you in based on your "type". Imagine, they even have a course they offer to the HR cronies on how to deal with each "type". It comes across as how to leverage each type, but each type is type-caste and it becomes limiting. Personally, I prefer and wish the freedom to impose my own limits, even if it may be at the expense of some "reasonable accommodation".

    What I find is that after the disclosure and "reasonable accommodation", not too far is a glass ceiling that is lowered by the "provider" based on their new pre-conceived expectation of you. Yet, we're all supposed to be individuals, and not be subject to a caste system.

    I don't want to be caste in a box by others. I would rather live in my own. ;-)


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