In my previous post (which was in August of last year), I talked in detail about the problems I have with being more social and staying connected with friends. I made it pretty clear, however, that I have been able to enjoy a significant number of friendships over the years, and that I am profoundly grateful for each of them. I think it might be appropriate to briefly explain just how much my friends have meant to me as someone who desperately needed support and companionship from his peers.
Given how isolated I was from most of my peers in school, having people around my age who were willing to hang out with me made such a massive difference in my overall happiness. Although each of my friends was different and unique in their own way, what made all of them so special to me they were usually very patient, considerate, and forthcoming with me, in spite of my all-too-apparent difficulties with socializing and communication. These were individuals who chose to overlook how my awkward or problematic social behavior, and instead saw me as someone who was approachable and fun to be around. Whereas the large majority of other kids around me tried to distance themselves from me, sometimes poking fun of me or giving me a hard time, they apparently felt I deserved a lot better; that I was capable of being a good friend. Seriously, that was a really big deal to me, so thanks a lot guys!
Note: I have chosen to use the initials of my friends’ first and last names in order to protect their privacy. If they are reading this, they should know who they are.
For instance, there was a guy named C.S. whom I was tremendously close with throughout much of my childhood. C.S. lived right next door to me for a little while, and up until I finished middle school, I could always count on him for companionship. We had countless good times together, some of which were undoubtedly the best moments of my overall childhood. Not only did I consider him my best friend at the time, but he was pretty much the only consistent, reliable friend I had for several years. This is mostly because C.S. seemed to be one of the only kids my age who actually wanted to be my friend, completely accepting my “weirdness” as a child with Aspergers. From what I remember, he appreciated my company almost as much as I appreciated his: something that you I didn’t see too often with kids my age. I might even go as far as to say that my childhood would’ve been rather depressing and lonely if it weren’t for C.S.
Unfortunately, my friendship with C.S. started to degrade in middle school, and it wasn’t long before we stopped seeing each other entirely. This did not prevent me from having a number of other good pals to turn to during middle and high school, however, all of whom managed to keep me from being completely alone. One of these people was A.H.: a guy who generously went out of his way to make me feel less socially isolated and more welcomed. He did this partially by actively engaging in conversation with me and trying to make me laugh whenever he had the chance. In addition, A.H. would frequently invite me to hang out with him outside of school, effectively bringing me out of my isolation at home. I spent many weekends riding my bike around town with him and a couple of others, chatting about the typical middle/high school boy topics like sex and violence. While A.H. may not have been the most trustworthy kind of person, he was certainly someone I could trust and respect as a friend.
Another student from my school I became friends with was called J.D. After initially being rivals with each other, we eventually established a close companionship once we realized just how much we had in common with each other. J.D. appeared to have very similar issues with social interaction, and did not hang out with other people as frequently as most others. In addition, we both had strong interest in video gaming, online videos, and certain movie and television franchises. It seemed like J.D. was the only person I knew who was obsessed with these things as I was, consistently willing to discuss them in great depth and never interested in discussing anything else. J.D. and I also did activities together like watch movies and play video games, but it was our discussions that I will remember the most – simply because they kept me occupied and connected us in a way that could not be accomplished with other people.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank some of my current friends. They are people who I can always depend on whenever I want to get out of my house and socialize or need someone to simply chat with. Just like with my past friends, they each view me as much more than a weirdo or social outcast, and have made every effort to tolerate my shortcomings and make themselves available whenever possible.
K.S. is one of these individuals – another girl who has certain problems with social interaction, among other personal issues that I will not discuss. What makes K.S. special as a friend is that she frequently reaches out to me through social media, starting discussions and inviting me to hang out. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was she who sort of initiated our friendship by chatting with me on Facebook after I met her on my college campus I mentioned in my previous post that this is pretty uncommon among my various social acquaintances, including those I consider to be my friends. This means I actually don’t have to do all the work in maintaining our friendship, and I can feel assured that we won’t drift apart so easily. Unfortunately, K.S. is leaving for another country very soon, and I shall deeply miss her. Still, I will support her all the way, and I certainly hope that we can stay in touch with each other!
Then there is G.C., whom I can only describe as one of the most positive, most generous, most compassionate people I’ve ever known. He has been consistently been more than happy to spend time with me and, much like J.D., discuss topics such as video games, movies, and online video series. On top of this, G.C. is extraordinarily kind with me, entirely ignoring my social awkwardness and treating me as I deserve nothing but love and encouragement (almost like a brother). Indeed, G.C. has shown me unconditional friendliness every moment I’m with him, constantly putting a smile on my face by subtly reminding me that I can be a likeable person. Never do I get the sense that he is simply “tolerating” or “putting up” with me, and for that I simply cannot thank him enough. It is always important for people with Aspergers or any form of autism to know that there are people out there who will look past their disabilities and see a pleasant, approachable individual.