When Do We Have Our Voice?
Everywhere I look, people have uncertainties about autism. They want to know what it’s like having Asperger’s. I’m convinced most are uneducated or by default deem someone on the spectrum retarded or mentally incompetent. Those that are educated know we’re just as capable of living successful lives like neurotypicals. The problem is we face discrimination like women, homosexuals, and minorities. We don’t have an advocacy group like third wave feminists, the NAACP, and GLAD. Nobody comes to create a media uproar when one of us gets in a pickle. I keep wondering when the day will come when Bono, Sean Penn, or some other celebrity with a savior complex will come sprinkle his/her fairy dust all over our cause, pull the thesaurus and label it with a new ten-dollar word, and hashtag it all over social media. I’ve lost count of the jobs I’ve been fired from for not fitting in or from those who’ve second-guessed my abilities the moment the cat was out of the bag. Sadly, we live in a society where the man with the most charisma and money is valued over he who has the most integrity or intelligence. Even in Western cultures, the latter two are underappreciated, undervalued, and cast to the wayside. America, like many Asian cultures, encourages assimilation over individuality.
I’ve stated that the media has pigeonholed us as socially handicapped, criminal sociopaths, or a liability of some kind. Once I ran into trouble at work when an African-American co-worker compared me to Rain Man, mental patients, math geniuses, and computer wizards. He didn’t appreciate my retort when I correlated him with deadbeat dads, petty criminals, gang members, drug addicts, rappers, and professional athletes. I was making a point. That cost me my job, but that was no big loss at the end of the day. It was another run-of-the-mill position that paid menial wages and one for which I was overeducated. This occurred a year after I was let go from a security gig for which I was getting high accolades and non-stop praise from my supervisor yet terminated the moment it was revealed I had Asperger’s. My employer there had the nerve to ask me for documented proof. That was none of his business. Their excuse for sacking me was that I was backing up the golf cart while the national anthem was playing, but I knew that was hogwash. The dilemma I faced was Texas is a right-to-work state. They were covering their tails. What employer would ever admit to discrimination?
Maybe, Maybe Not
I’ve come to the point now that I don’t tell anyone if I can. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t deal. One of the main reasons I no longer live in Asia is because of how they perceive mental health. Those cultures don’t acknowledge it. They act like it doesn’t exist or it’s some kind of impediment. I remember applying for teaching jobs in Taiwan and South Korea for which I was insanely qualified. They started prying into my medical history. I knew I was a suitable candidate, and I didn’t appreciate the way they tried gaslighting me. The last one I told him where to stick it. The reason I enjoy working online now is because I can live wherever I want and not have to deal with any office politics. I don’t have to worry about anyone undermining my credentials, office politics, or any workplace bullies trying to sabotage my livelihood because they feel threatened or intimidated by me or want someone to knock down to feel better about themselves. I’ve had that happen to me as well.
Fun With Cynics
The point I’m getting at is I’ve spent my entire life being the underdog. Everyone had their doubts that I could succeed at anything. My own father and two oldest siblings thought I was a man-child with no ambition. They thought my mother was enabling me and holding me down when I lived with her. My other brother was just as guilty but not to the same extent. My sister, my peach of a brother-in-law, and now former Facebook friends would scoff at me moving abroad becoming successful. They were all convinced I would crash and burn just like I did every other job and with AmeriCorps in Chicago. They considered the idea a joke. Once again, I proved them all wrong. I’ll bet none of them are laughing now. In the spring of 2016 before I came back from Thailand, I was ready to rub my sister and her hubby’s noses in it and show them how it feels. Sadly, her beau passed away a week before my return, and then wasn’t the time to exchange blows.
Against All Odds
Unbeknownst to my skeptics, everybody who has bet against me in my life has lost including the United States Coast Guard. They were convinced they could break my will and squeeze me out in under a year. It took over three before I was discharged for unsuitability. By then, I was ready to go after I had the rug pulled out from under me one last time. My mother even said she was impressed because I lasted much longer than she thought I would. Everyone who knows me knows not to underestimate or second guess me because that’s when I become more dangerous. They don’t realize characters like Daredevil and Heisenberg inspired me. They went from being an inexperienced lawyer and underachieving high school teacher to an unstoppable crime fighter and ruthless methamphetamine kingpin. They looked harmless, but they were heavy hitters. To put it bluntly, my entire adult life has been one big Cinderella story, and I’ve overcome many odds. I don’t break barriers; I crush and destroy them. I’ve climbed an entire mountain range to get where I am, and I know how to get back up whenever I fall. So what is it like having Asperger’s? Always having to debunk naysayers and disprove every other stereotype is the most plausible answer I can give the reader.