A wise and dear friend of mine once said to me, “think of yourself as a man, not autistic.” He added, “Your life will be different if you do.”
I never knew what he meant by that as I do have autism. But as a man who’s capable of anything I can put my mind to despite my autism, this is what he meant and what he saw in me based on what I told him.
I still went to high school the way every other teenage boy does despite being in special education. I still went to college. I struggled in college the same way most men in college, do just on a different level. I still worked just as hard in college as every other man who wants to succeed in college. I still had to pass all my classes to graduate and get my degree.
Bills hang over me the same way every other man does. With a cell phone bill, car insurance, and rent it adds up. So, I still go to work every day of my life bringing home a paycheck the same way every other man does to pay those bills.
I go to activities like everyone else who wants to put themselves out there outside of school or work. The place I met this man was a Toastmasters International Club. He is a mentor of mine. He’s the greatest mentor I’ve ever had in all my activities that I’ve had a mentor. He mentors me like how Bill Belichick of the NFL coaches the New England Patriots and Nick Saban coaches the Alabama Crimson Tide of college football. I told him one time that I may not show it but I’m glad he’s tough on me.
I remember a time I had a bad night at a Toastmasters meeting. He and I chatted on the way out when the meeting was over. He asked me what was going on when I was having a rough time. I told him I was depressed over a heartbreak and a medication change.
He responded to that by telling me about his own life in the exact same way and he doesn’t have autism. He also gave an example of a guest who went up to speak as a guest in Toastmasters for the very first time and told me that he might be going through some of the same things you’re going through. He also said look at your surroundings. You may see someone who looks the best on the outside. But on the inside, they may be going through the exact same things you’re going through.
Just because you may struggle with things in a certain way and differently than others, doesn’t mean you should sell yourself as an autistic man if you have autism. If you think of yourself as a man, not autistic, life can change. Having autism isn’t easy for anyone but life isn’t easy for anyone. So, if you have more to give to the world with a form of autism, think of yourself as a man, not autistic.