Weird Pride Day 2022
When I was growing up, I was never average, standard, typical… and that should have been fine.
But I was bothered at school by the cruel taunts of bullies, who mocked me, calling me “square”. I strived to prove them wrong, that I was not a “square”, getting myself into trouble.
By my teens and early twenties, alternative was cool to me. And yet still I strived, too hard, to fit in, to be accepted, losing sight of myself, drifting off course.
In my thirties, it dawned on me that all the people I admire are somehow weird and unique. That normal is over-rated.
“I’d love to stay here and be normal, but it’s just so over-rated”. Yes, song lyrics often spring to my mind, and they must also spill out of my mouth.
After floundering for years, I was finally diagnosed autistic, aged 42, which was life-affirming and validating for me. Finally, there was a solid reason that I was different, a mitigation for the things I struggled with in life that seemed to come more easily to my peers.
I started to think, “So what? I’m different and that’s cool”. Then I started to take pride in those quirks that make me stand out, to take joy wherever I can find it, however weird and uncool it may seem to the standard typical person.
I made the conscious decision to stop being concerned that others might find me weird or “square”. I embraced my weirdness, let my guard down, and started to think about my authentic self, about what makes me tick. I had nothing to hide anymore. This was surprisingly liberating!
So what if it is not cool to be interested in, for example, folk music or bird watching, to spend hours singing harmonies with Simon and Garfunkel or the Beatles, scrapbooking about my favourite band in high school, painting rocks?
If you don’t get it, that just means your mind is just wired differently from mine. But guess what? Every brain is unique, like a fingerprint. We are all wired differently.
Some things about how my brain works are awesome.
Like, I have a vivid memory. For anything. Provided it sparks my interest, then anything – music, lyrics, quotes, images, events, whatever … my mind retains the details.
I could entertain myself for hours just by playing songs in my head. All the parts – the bassline, the drums, everything. Especially the harmonies.
There are many books I read to my kids that I still know off by heart – not just the words, but often the pictures as well. I can hear the words in my head and picture the pages in my mind’s eye, often in detail.
“That very night in Max’s room a forest grew… and grew—and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around…”
One thing I love about being autistic is the euphoria I often experience. Things that others may consider unremarkable, or weird, can bring sheer unbridled joy to me.
Running down hills, splashing through muddy puddles, seeing a bird I haven’t seen before, watching newborn lambs in the fields, or spotting deer… these things give me a real buzz.
My mind enjoys certain visuals, like bridges reflected in canals and rivers, or misty fields getting increasingly faint into the distance.
At school, I loved to stand in the middle of a field on a foggy day. A perfect hemisphere of fog around me, a circle of dewy grass beneath my feet. Invisible and untouchable.
My message to young people who get bullied for being weird and different: I urge you to stick around, to grow older, to give yourself time to get more comfortable in your skin, to shake it off, as I have. You are exactly who you were meant to be. You may be weird, but weird is awesome, and “your time will come to shine, all your dreams are on their way”.
And my message to the bullies: Our weirdness doesn’t hurt anybody, so don’t let it bother you. Don’t begrudge us the things that bring us joy. Different is OK. Don’t be such a meanie.