“Hey, I’m in college now! Why do I still have so few friends?”

Throughout my high school years, I did not have a very large network of friends or acquaintances. At most, I think I had something like four close friends at once and a couple of casual acquaintances here and there. Moreover, I rarely ever went to any parties or big get-togethers, save for some club meetings and events that involved video games, movies, and other things that I enjoyed.

None of this should come across as a big shock given the fact that I have Asperger Syndrome, and that I’ve talked about this in more than a few previous blog posts (check out  if you haven’t already).

In the leading up to my first semester of college, however, I had this plan in my head to essentially “start anew” in terms of my social life and become much more outgoing and popular among my fellow students.

“When I start college, I’m not going to be the awkward, isolated introvert anymore!” I said to myself. “I’m going to make plenty of friends, attend plenty of parties and other events, and be far more involved in the overall student social network.”

… yeah, I think you can see where this is going.

Firstly, transitioning from living at home to living on a campus (although I had been away from home several times beforehand) was tough for me. I actually cried quite a bit on my first two days and part of me wanted to just go back home. So, I wasn’t in the best mood to immediately make friends with other students or go to loud, crowded parties.

I spent the first several weeks mostly keeping to myself, only occasionally hanging out with other students – with a mental note to “get back into gear and start being more social” when I felt more comfortable living on campus. Unfortunately, this simply turned into a cycle of “social procrastination” for me – constantly saying to myself, “Meh, I’m not going to hang out with them today. I’ll do it tomorrow or next weekend, perhaps.”

As the semester went on and I was given countless opportunities to socialize with other students, I continued to be habitually introverted and spend at least 80% of my free time alone. When I wasn’t studying I was playing video games, watching YouTube videos, practicing bass guitar, surfing the web idly, and sometimes chatting with people online. Of course, I did make several acquaintances and a few friends while living in the dorm, and I did try to go to several social gatherings during the semester – but nowhere as frequently as I originally planned.

Throughout the other semesters, my social life still didn’t really improve. I had a couple of friendships and acquaintanceships that mostly just came and went. The network of fellow students that I knew never exceeded 7 or 8 individuals. I seldom attended parties or large social gatherings, and when I did it was usually because something like video games, movies, or food drew me there and I wasn’t interested in chatting with others. Sound a little familiar?

Yup, in the end, my social life at college was hardly any different at all from how it was during high school. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I just wasn’t very motivated to completely change my introverted ways. So, I eventually gave up and simply allowed myself to continue being myself – mostly introverted and on my own, but hanging out with friends and acquaintances once in a while.

To be honest, I think this was perhaps the best course of action for me, as forcing myself to completely change my introverted nature seemed like a bad idea to start with. I mean, it was good that I wanted to have more friends and spend less of my time alone and isolated from my fellow students. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t have set my expectations so high or assumed that everything would be completely different because I was in a new setting. I suppose what I should have done was give myself smaller, simpler goals that would help me gradually move out of my comfort zone over time – as opposed to demanding that I transform entirely within a matter of weeks.

More importantly though, I should have been far more accepting of the fact that I’m simply not a very social person and that I like to keep to myself a bit more often than most others. Of course, this isn’t to say that I should not have tried at all to socialize more often and be more connected with my peers. What I mean is that I wish I had realized much sooner that it’s perfectly ok to not have a large network of friends or to spend some (or even most) weekends alone.

Indeed, as an introvert, I personally believe that while we shouldn’t let ourselves be social hermits or stay fully isolated from our peers, we can accept ourselves for who we are and let ourselves live the way that we wish. Not having a lot of friends or staying at home most weekends isn’t a bad thing or something to be ashamed of, at least in my opinion. Therefore, I don’t see any reason to believe we need to be more social or “get out” more often. Again, as long as you try to reach out to others now and then (both online and offline), be somewhat open to social gatherings, and not be like Boo Radley from To Kill a Mocking Bird, you shouldn’t feel bad being introverted or even a little reclusive.

Here’s something to keep in mind: just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I’m lonely. It simply means I usually feel more comfortable on my own or with a small group of friends than constantly being surrounded by others.


One of my most embarrassing moments ever: Pajama Day

I think it’s fair to assume that nearly every person on this planet (autistic and non-autistic) experiences some embarrassing, humiliating moments every once in a while. Since human beings are never perfect or flawless, we all have to deal with being in a really discomfiting situation at least a couple of times in our lives.

Naturally, people with Asperger Syndrome such as myself often experience more than our fair share of humiliating moments, given our  difficulties with socializing and our repetitive, “weird” behavior. I believe that a huge chunk of our most embarrassing moments occurs during childhood, when our social interaction skills and communication abilities are usually at their worst. If you’ve seen some of my previous posts on this blog, you’ll know that I am definitely no exception; many of my most humiliating experiences happened when I was a child (particularly between the ages of 8 and 14).

If I were to choose one specific moment that I felt was the most embarrassing of them all, it would have to be Pajama Day from when I was in Second Grade.

I think some of you might (vaguely) remember a Pajama Day when you were in elementary school. It’s a day when you the school allows you to come to class in your pajamas. Sounds pretty fun, right?

Well apparently, back in 1999 (I think), at least 95% of the kids in my school thought the idea was lame and decided to wear normal clothes instead. Unfortunately, I was one of the very few kids who thought it might be cool to sport our PJs to class. In fact, I can only remember one other student wearing pajamas to school that day.

The PJs I was wearing were Toy Story 2-themed (the film had come out earlier that year), and to be fair, I don’t think they looked embarrassing or silly upon retrospect. However, that didn’t stop much of 2nd grade class, all of whom were dressed in normal attire, from pointing and giggling at me. It didn’t take long to realize that everyone else decided against celebrating Pajama Day and thought that I was being ridiculous for wearing my PJs to school. One kid that I really hated back then made fun of the fact that I was wearing Toy Story-themed PJs, saying that stuff like that “was for babies” (yeah, he apparently thought it was uncool that I enjoyed one of the best animated films ever made).

Needless to say, I felt humiliated and just wanted to disappear right then and there. I think my face must have been as red as a tomato, and I must have been fighting super hard not to cry. Unable to deal with the embarrassment, I convinced the teacher to excuse me so that I could go to the nurse’s office. Fortunately, the nurse was nice enough to give me some extra clothing that belonged to other students that I got to wear for the rest of the day.

I was still somewhat embarrassed throughout the rest of the day, and had to deal with teasing from a couple of kids (especially from that one kid I mentioned earlier). Nonetheless, I was able to mostly survive the humiliation of being the only kid in class wearing his pajamas on Pajama Day. More importantly, though, I learned that day to never celebrate school “holidays” where you wear something weird or special. It may or may not have also played a part in why I haven’t worn pajamas to bed in a long, long, long time.

On another positive note, I don’t think I’ve experienced another moment where I’ve felt as humiliated as I did back then. Oh, I’ve certainly had more than a couple of embarrassing and shameful moments in my life afterward (having Asperger Syndrome certainly didn’t help in that regard), but none that made me feel as bad as I did back then. I suppose that’s one good thing I can say about the rest of my childhood and my life up to now. Hopefully I’ll be able to maintain this trend and avoid instances where I feel so humiliated that I want to disappear and die.

I apologize to those who were hoping to see something more related to Asperger Syndrome in this blog post. I simply really wanted to share this childhood memory of mine as it’s an experience that I’ll won’t forget anytime soon and that left an impressionable impact on my childhood as a whole. Hopefully some of you out there can relate to experiences like this one and can now back on them and say, “Yeah, that was seriously embarrassing, but I’m glad I remember them because, as bad as they were, they’re still a sort of important part of my life.”

Autism as an insult… oh boy

Warning: this blog post contains some strong adult language and may not be suitable for all readers. If you are under 16 years of age or are sensitive to certain terms, then I advise you not to read this article. In other words: reader discretion is advised!

In the past several years, I have noticed two major trends among younger generations throughout the U.S. and other western countries, particularly on the web:

On the one hand, we have the ongoing rise of what I, along with many others, like to call the “regressive left”. For those who aren’t sure of what I’m referring to, I’m basically talking about the growing number of young “liberals” (I use the term very loosely) who spend much of their time contending what they consider to be “prejudice,” “bigotry,” or “threats social justice” – frequently taking radical, morally questionable measures to do so. You will most often see these kinds of people in two kinds of settings: on college campuses refusing people who have even the slightest degree of right-wing beliefs to speak within 10 miles of them; or on websites such as Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc. accusing nearly everyone who isn’t liberal or a minority of being a bigot, racist, sexist, fascist, etc. In other words, they are people who believe that political correctness must be maintained at all costs, and anyone who does anything that could possibly offend someone is a horrible monster that should be shamed and treated like a criminal. Yeah, if you can’t already tell, I’m not a fan of those types of people, and neither should you be if you value free speech and reason over emotion.

On the other hand, we also have increasing rates of young individuals who are going in the complete opposite direction. They are not necessarily becoming racist, sexist, fascist, or anything like that; in fact, many of them wouldn’t really call themselves conservatives (although the group I mentioned earlier often stops them from calling themselves liberals either). Rather, they simply political incorrectness with a passion and frequently like to be as offensive and provocative as possible on the web, usually on sites like 4Chan, Reddit, or YouTube. Some of them will do this merely to spite regressive leftists, whom are, naturally, very easily provoked (and sometimes deserve to be offended, in my opinion). However, many of these people like to upset not just hardcore SJWs, but practically everyone, leaving comments and posting things that any reasonable person would consider unintelligent, annoying, and all-around distasteful. So, the most appropriate term for those individuals would be “trolls”: they say and do things online that don’t contain any true value or importance, but are only meant to get your attention and get you all riled up, simply to entertaining them. This is not to say that everyone who likes to be “offensive” online is a troll, simply those who attempt to shock and upset everyone for no good reason and come across as an utter jackass while doing so.

What makes these two crowds of people similar is that they like to leave comments online that contain a lot of provocative buzzwords to insult each other. Several common buzzword insults I’ve seen over the years include (commie, fascist, Moslem, racist, SJW, the f-word (the one directed at homosexuals), the n-word, bigot, white supremacist, the c-word, cuck, libtard, Trumpster, cuckservative, and autistic.

Yeah, let’s talk about that last word. Firstly, in case you are not aware, Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder; a “milder, more functional” form of autism, as many people would put it. Consequently, using the word “autistic” in such a manner does sort of impact me, and, as I will explain why, does bother me a little.

Now, there is one very important thing I’d like to clarify before I continue: I am not entirely opposed to poking fun at individuals with autism, provided that its done tastefully and does not unavoidably insult autistic people. I’m someone who believes that just about any topic, no matter how controversial, sensitive, or taboo, can be made into a funny joke that most people should be able to enjoy. Critically-acclaimed comedians like Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Dave Chapelle, and Bill Burr all use jokes that are meant to be offensive to some individuals. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset in the slightest if they occasionally used a joke about autism, provided it that was tasteful and wasn’t intended to directly insult people with the disorder. So, there is nothing automatically wrong about poking fun at a subject like autism, as long as you’re doing it right.

With that said, I nonetheless find it very morally suspect when someone uses the term “autistic” or “autism” in a derogatory manner. My reason for this is quite simple: whenever you use a certain term or label to insult someone, it essentially implies that there is something negative about the word that you are using. After all, the purpose of an insult is to say something bad or offensive about that other person. For instance, if I were to call someone something like lazy or a jerk (and mean it), that would imply that I am accusing them of something negative – of not working hard enough or of being unkind to other people. I mean, we can all agree that laziness and being an unkind individual are not things to be proud of. The same goes for things like calling someone a “libtard” or a “fascist” or even an offensive slur – in each case, you are saying something bad about the other person because you’re accusing them of something that you frown upon: such as being a “America-hating, communist” liberal, a “misogynist, racist” conservative, or a minority that you have negative feelings toward for some (unfounded) reason.

As a result, we are compelled to presume that when you use the term “autistic” in a mean, critical manner, you are saying something adverse not only about another individual, but also about autism in general. You are, advertently or inadvertently, making a statement about autism or autistic people that isn’t very nice or pleasant.

I think that what most people (unintentionally) infer when they use autistic as an insult are the common stereotypes attributed to people with autism: below-average intelligence, social awkwardness, having singular obsessions, needing “special help” for everything, being “really annoying”, and “doing cringe-worthy things”. Y’know, the image that comes into a lot of people’s minds when they think of autistic children.

Naturally, as with most negative generalizations of any group, I many of us can agree that such a view of autistic people is overly-simplified and very inaccurate. I seriously hate to sound like a SJW or a “pretentious, annoying liberal, but there is WAY more to autism than having “low intelligence” or being “irritating”. In fact, there are vast amounts of autistic individuals with above-average intelligence and who are no more “awkward” or “annoying” than most non-autistic individuals.

Of course, it would be naïve and simply incorrect say that the stereotypes I mentioned have no grain of truth whatsoever to them. Autism is, by definition, a mental disorder because it typically places a sort of limitation on one’s mental processes, cognitive abilities, and/or social abilities. Even many people with “higher-functioning” forms of autism such as Aspergers (like me, for instance) often have a tough time fitting in with others and will sometimes engage in activities that some might perceive as “weird”.

Nevertheless, there are five things to remember: 1) every person with autism is different and not all of them act in a similar way; 2) most people with autism have little to no control over how their minds work or how they act; 3) autistic individuals usually suffer a great deal more than the people who “have to deal with them”; 4) so many autistic individuals manage to overcome their limitations to become wonderful, extremely productive members of our society; and 5) poking fun at people with autism for the reasons stated above is like teasing someone with blindness for not being able to walk down the street independently or a veteran with PTSD for “acting so weird and oversensitive.”

If you’re someone who still legitimately believes that autistic people are somewhat problematic to our society and that being autistic is a bad thing to some degree, then… well… I’m not going to try to change your mind. You are fully entitled to your opinion and I wouldn’t be any better if I tried to force you to think differently. I’m not sure if we would get along well in person, but I’m not going to judge you any further; instead, I’m going to be the better person and just say, “whatever.”

Unfortunately, what bothers me the most about the whole issue is that most of the people who use “autistic” as an insult usually insist they aren’t trying to insinuate anything negative about autism. If I were to earnestly ask these people if they have a problem with autistic people, I imagine their response would probably something like, “Oh no, I’m not saying people with autism are bad or stupid or anything. I’m simply calling this person autistic because I think this person they’re being dumb and annoying, and because I really like being politically incorrect,” (they might also add something like “lol, get triggered, snowflake” for good measure).

Ok, here is why that kind of argument doesn’t work: you wouldn’t be using the word “autistic” in a derogatory if you weren’t trying to imply that there is something negative or undesirable about autism. I mean, why would you call someone or something autistic in a disrespectful or insulting manner if you were implying something positive or neutral about autism? As Spock would put it, that is “most illogical,” at least from the perspective of someone who wants to offend or insult someone. That would be like angrily calling a hardcore liberal a “commie” and then saying, “Oh no, I’m not saying that communism is bad or anything, I’m just calling you a commie because I think your views are stupid and anti-capitalist.” You may disagree with me on this, but it makes about as much sense as that does.

Consequently, unless you wish to say that you think that people with autism are problematic to our society, you should perhaps not use the word “autistic” in a derogatory manner, that is if you want to be taken seriously or receive any respect from me. Oh yes, I can hear so many people calling me “triggered SJW” or “easily-offended snowflake” for daring to suggest that (unintentionally) smearing autistic people might not be a kind, respectable thing to do. Well, guess what? Simply throwing anti-liberal buzzwords like that at me is not going to make me change my mind or make my whole article invalid. Oh, and calling my blog post a “bunch of Marxist, pro-censorship propaganda” won’t work in disproving my argument either. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I have zero problem with dark, offensive humor if it’s done correctly, even when it involves autism. Simply calling someone or something that you disagree with autistic does NOT count as funny dark humor; to me, it simply counts as trolling. There is a stark difference between an intelligent, light-hearted comedy routine or sketch involving autism and throwing the word “autistic” at someone or something you find stupid or annoying. I’m certain that just about any successful comedian (except for maybe someone like Andrew Dice Clay or Seth McFarlane) would agree with me on this.

So, to make this incredibly long blog post short: if you’re going to use the word autistic as an insult, please at least admit to having a prejudice against people with autism. Otherwise, please just stop using it altogether. Then again, you don’t have to follow my suggestion; as I’ve already emphasized several times, I’m not one of those people who constantly demand that everyone else be as non-offensive and politically correct as humanly possible. Honestly, I really don’t care what you do or how much of a jerk you like to be on the internet; its none of my business. All I’m saying is that if you want me, along with many other people, to respect you or to treat you like a sensible, mature adult, then you should act like one and not use words like “autistic” in a derogatory manner. Once again, if that doesn’t sound fair to you, then… whatever! I can’t control you; just know that I don’t have to take you seriously.


As a kid, one of the things I hated the absolute most was being yelled or scolded at by others.  Well, naturally, no kid (or even adult) enjoys being yelled or scolded at. I think all children feel sad and intimidated someone, especially an adult, gets frustrated at them and shouts, “NO! BAD! STOP!” However, for some reason, I usually took it much harder than most other kids.

Whenever any adult yelled at me or spoke to me in a loud, strict tone, I would often feel daunted and sometimes wanted to cry. To me it like they were turning into a big scary monster that was roaring at me, and I was supposed to “take it like a man” and not be scared or upset.   I can remember a few distinct moments of my childhood where a parent, teacher, relative, or even stranger shouted at me and caused me so much anxiety. For instance, there was the time when I got yelled at by my karate instructor (yeah, I used to take karate lessons) after I complained about being left behind during a jog with other students. At first I was intimidated and could barely move or think. After a few seconds, I became increasingly agitated and even angry, thinking to myself that I had been treated unfairly and wanting to scream right back at him. Then I tried to avoid the karate instructor and keep to myself as much as possible. I was able to shrug it off eventually, but it’ll be a while before I forget how scared and frustrated I was then.

That is essentially what would normally happen if someone shouted or loudly scolded at me: I’d initially be alarmed and silent, then I’d be upset and irritated, and then I’d isolate myself from others and try to make myself feel better. Occasionally I’d end up crying and had to be calmed down by one of my parents, but in most cases I wanted to prove that I “could take it” and showed as little intimidation as I could. In fact, I’d sometimes feel ashamed of being so anxious because an adult yelled at me; I assumed that people would think of me as a baby or wuss if I was unable to accept some discipline. So, there were plenty of times when I was pretending to be calm and happy after being reprimanded, when, in actuality, I wanted to break down in tears and beg them to stop.

Over time, as I matured into an adult, my reaction to being shouted or scolded at did sort of change – but not for the better. Nowadays, whenever I get shouted or nagged at, instead of becoming quiet and reclusive, I typically get defensive and apprehensive. In some instances, I might have a bit of an anxious meltdown.

A good example to point to happened several years ago, when I had to use my dad’s car to drive to work, since my sister had the car I usually drove and dad was out of town. After I got into the car I accidentally forgot to open the garage door and bumped into it, causing some minor damage. Upon hearing the noise, my mom immediately rushed into the garage and yelled out, “TIIIIM!!! WHAT HAPPENED?!?!” I freaked out and starting screaming much louder than she was. I can’t fully remember what I said and did, but I do know that I was scared, frustrated, and really want to be shouted at or scolded by anyone. I had to take a short walk to calm myself down before I drove to work.

There have been several other instances like this in recent times, mainly with my parents. While I’m certainly trying to control myself much more often, I still have difficulty maintaining my temper in these kinds of situations. The problem is that whenever someone shouts at me or speaks to me in a very loud, strict tone, I still feel the same way that I did as a child: scared and distressed, like an angry drill sergeant was screaming at me. I think the two main reasons for why I’m so sensitive to this are due to my struggle with anxiety as a whole and my apprehension of being judged negatively by others. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by people scolding or yelling at you if you’re already dealing with pressure from within.

By this point it should be well-understood that I really, really, really don’t like it when people talk to me in a loud, stern tone. Unfortunately, the reality is that I may have to learn to get used to it a little in the future. I think all of us can agree that being yelled and scolded is a part of almost everyone’s life, whether we like it or not. We all have to deal with people getting angry at us and yelling at us occasionally, and these people may be employers, close friends, romantic partners, spouses, and strangers. Becoming agitated and yelling back at them certainly won’t help in most situations, even if you don’t deserve to be talked to like that. In most cases, you need to accept it with good composure, not let it get to you, and move on. This is particularly relevant in the workplace, since I know I will probably get scolded and even yelled at by my boss every once in a while.

At the same time, I don’t think I can fully blame myself for the way I react to being yelled and scolded at. I think I can at least partially blame my Asperger Syndrome as well as problems with anxiety. From what I’ve seen and heard, many others with Aspergers react similarly to being in that kind of situation; when they are put under a great deal of stress and given a lot of audio sensory. I can definitely feel for Aspies when they have a tantrum or meltdown because someone shouted at or scolded them. They don’t necessarily mean to freak out or go ballistic; they just really hate being treated like that.

I will end this post by saying this to my non-Aspie readers: the next time you’re about to shout or wag your finger at someone with Aspergers, please don’t. If possible, please try to find another way of getting your point across without intimidating them or making them feel bad.

“I’ll have the usual… as always”

I have noticed that my last couple of posts touched upon issues that were more relevant to me as a person than to Asperger Syndrome as a whole. Therefore, I thought it was about time to discuss something that I know many people with Aspergers have to deal with, and that is sticking with things that we’re familiar with. To some, this topic may sound very similar to one that I’ve already talked about earlier, which is having singular interests. Yes, these two subjects are closely related in a lot of ways. Nonetheless, I think it’s important to give this topic of sticking with familiar things its own post since it significantly affects the daily lives of us Aspies.

To begin with, everyone has their own personal tastes in various areas of life, including food, entertainment, activities, aesthetics, etc. More simply put, we all have things that we prefer or fancy. For people like me, preferences go a little further than that. The things that I favor are, in several cases, the only things that I’ll choose to have, or in some cases, the only things that I will accept period. I frequently avoid experimenting with new things, and instead prefer to stick with the stuff that I currently like. Essentially, I’m just much more inclined to “have the usual” as opposed to trying something different.

This habit of mine applies to a lot of different things: food, drinks, literature, movie & TV franchises, personal activities, video games, among others. It’s probably been most prominent when it comes to food. When I was younger, I was extremely picky about what foods I’d eat and would often insist on having certain select meals. Consequently, I ended up having the same foods repeatedly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nowadays, I am slightly more open-minded and at least try to have some more variety in what I eat, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone a little. However, normally I choose to eat what I like and only try something different on occasion or when I have no choice. Plus, if I go to a restaurant or someplace similar, I will most likely order the meal that I typically have there or something that I am familiar with – as opposed to “exploring a bit” or having the daily special.

Another good example that demonstrates this pattern is the kinds of movies I watch or video games I play. On most days, I choose to stick with franchises, genres, series, and other (look up) that I’m already a fan of. For instance, it isn’t often that I will choose to see a new drama film, even if it’s receiving massive critical acclaim, over the next entry to the Star Wars or Planet of the Apes reboot series. Furthermore, I am more likely to replay an older game from my childhood or play the newest Mario or Sonic game than to something more new and popular like Minecraft, Counter Strike, or Overwatch (though my laptop probably couldn’t handle them very well anyway). Of course, I am not completely against watching or playing something different; it simply wouldn’t be my first choice.

As usual on this blog, it’s somewhat tricky to adequately explain why I do this. I think a partial reason for it is due to my abovementioned tendency to be obsessed with certain things and have very focused interests. It goes without saying that when you’re fixated on something, you rarely have an interest in anything different. However, I think the main reason for repetitive behavior is that often feel somewhat nervous and sometimes even scared about the prospect of trying something completely new. Sticking with things that I’m more familiar with helps me feel more secure and doesn’t “expose me to the threat of something I don’t like.”

Allow me to further illustrate: Let’s say, for instance, one of my friends offers me two choices for a game we could play: Mario Kart 8 or Battlefield 1. I am more than familiar with the Mario Kart series, having played nearly all the console versions (from Mario Kart 64 to 8), and consider myself to be a rather adept Mario Kart player. With Battlefield, on the other hand, I have not played any of the games in the series and therefore have no idea what the series is about.  I haven’t played that many popular FPS games to begin with, and the ones I have played I wasn’t particularly skilled at. So, the idea of trying out Battlefield 1 with my friend makes me a tiny bit uncomfortable because there is a chance that I will not enjoy the game and will perform horribly at it. Given my sensitivity to discomfort and general unwillingness to take huge risks, my most likely choice in this scenario would be Mario Kart 8.

I feel confident that some of Aspie readers can identify with me on this topic. I say that because many of the other Aspies that I’ve come across in my life demonstrated this kind of habit: clinging onto this that they are familiar with as opposed to wanting to try new things. In addition, I’ve read a couple of online articles that discuss this pattern among people with Asperger Syndrome.* I certainly do not wish to imply that every single Aspie has this issue, since Aspergers is a very broad condition that has many ranging symptoms. Nonetheless, my point stands that this habit is prevalent in a significant portion of us, so I know that I’m not the only one with Aspergers who does it.

I for one fully acknowledge disadvantages of being so inflexible, though I don’t think that I should feel ashamed of it. On the one hand, it’s easy to see why people say I should explore a lot more and “not be so close-minded” about what I choose to do, watch, eat, listen to, play, etc. In fact, a large part of me wishes that I could be more open to doing new things and wouldn’t be so scared of, say, trying coffee, watching Orange is the New Black, or reading Game of Thrones. At the same time, I don’t necessarily see any reason to feel guilty about it. What, in all honesty, is wrong with wanting to stick to routine and chose stuff that I’m familiar with over stuff that I’m unfamiliar with? I’m not saying that I’m necessarily proud of it, but I just don’t see anything immoral or disgusting in choosing to eat fruit every day for breakfast or playing Crash Bandicoot while everyone else is playing League of Legends.” In all honesty, I consider it part of who I am, and I genuinely appreciate who I am. I strongly believe all of us should.

*See: https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-psychology/autism-aspergers/#.WFW4hFziMn0, http://wildsister.com/2014/03/im-coming-out-of-the-autism-closet/, http://dawnmeredithauthor.blogspot.com/p/adhd-aspergers-syndrome-teaching.html, https://www.quora.com/What-Does-It-Feel-Like-to-X/What-does-it-feel-like-to-have-Aspergers-Syndrome#!n=30

“Relax, Tim, don’t think about it so much”

In my previous blog post, I gave a detailed illustration of how my mind generally works to try to explain why I sometimes talk to myself. To put it briefly, I stated that my brain produces so many thoughts at such a rapid pace that I find it tough to keep what’s on my mind entirely to myself. In my view, the chief problem is that it’s near impossible for me to calm or slow down the constant activity that’s happening in my mind. As a result, I very often feel compelled to observe and contemplate things in an excessively analytical, critical matter. In other words, I tend to overthink things. A lot.

Now, before you go and say “Wait a minute Tim, all of us overthink things from time to time, what makes you think you’re special”, I fully realize that no one is immune to excessive analysis. Heck, overthinking is something that we sometimes depend upon to get important work done or to solve complex problems. I’m not saying that I’m special because I overthink. What I am saying, however, is that I believe that I do it a bit more often than most people, as in practically all the time.

So, referring to previous post again, I like to see the minds of most human beings as something that works at a relatively steady, manageable pace. For the vast majority of people, the brain produces one or two thoughts at a time, and they are usually able to react to them in a prompt and efficient manner, without having to worry about whether they should keep it to themselves or not. The way my mind works, however, is slightly different. My mind evidently likes to produce a lot of thoughts at once, far too many for me to handle effectively. Instead of having one or two thoughts at a time and allowing them to sink in before responding, I am thinking so rapidly that I’m given barely any time to appropriately react to them. I’m essentially forced to keep up with my thoughts and observations as they come, constantly trying to make sense of everything and prevent myself from being confused or overwhelmed.

The best way I can describe this habit is that whenever I observe something or try to work on something, I will often dwell on waaay too much and form of these massive webs of thought. Apparently, pondering something for only a little bit isn’t an option for me. For whatever, reason, my mind feels as if it’s required to thoroughly analyze and elaborate on what’s going on, to look at it from all possible angles. One thought will immediately lead to another and then another and then another, and in a way that doesn’t always seem normal or consistent. Indeed, a lot of times my mind won’t stick to one topic at a time, but rather change topics every few minutes or even seconds. There are tons of times when I’m thinking of a topic and it somehow leads to another topic which has nothing to do with the first one – and yet I’m still obsessing myself over it!

Moreover, my mind is never content with having one thought or piece of information and sticking with it. It has to expand upon it. In many cases, this causes me to try to figure out everything all at once, or force myself to have a “complete” understanding. It is not enough to start to understand something piece by piece, and it’s never acceptable for me to “not get” a few things or to feel a little behind. My mind will not be satisfied unless it feels like it is perfectly in-tune with everything to the very last detail. If there’s even the slightest confusion, then my mind feels insecure and paranoid. In some cases, “knowing everything” isn’t even enough. I must elaborate beyond what’s presented to me, and apply it to my own situation

A great example would be when I’m reading a textbook for one of my college courses. As I begin reading a chapter, new concepts, ideas, and facts will be thrown at me. Instead of casually taking in each fact and detail one at a time, trying my best to remember as I go along, I mentally obsess over nearly each line of text and paragraph, especially when it teaches me something new. I try to ensure that I have an absolute grasp of everything that I read. It’s never acceptable to just move on if I’m even a tiny bit confused or may have missed something. Not only that, but I also want to have perfect, crystal-clear idea of what I’m reading. I want to make sure that the images in my head exactly match up to what’s being presented to me. Even when I already have a pretty good idea of what I’m being taught, I will still spend several minutes contemplating – just it to make absolutely sure that I fully comprehend it. All of this partially explains why it takes so long for me to read in general, and hence why I don’t like to read all that much (see this post for a further discussion on me and reading).

The same thing applies to when I do something that shouldn’t require that much thinking, such as watching a movie. Whenever I watch a film, much like with reading, it often takes me longer than it should to mentally absorb and comprehend things such as plot points and dialogue. My mind will waste a lot of time thinking about what’s being presented to me, as opposed to relaxing and enjoying the film. To make things worse, my mind is extremely adamant about understanding 100% what’s going on in the film – making sure that I’m not missing a single detail. Consequently, I might rewind a couple of times while watching to ensure that I’m completely “in sync” with everything. I just cannot be satisfied with having a basic understanding of what’s going on, and so it’s pretty easy for me to get frustrated when watching a more complex or dialogue-heavy film.

Needless to say, my tendency to overthink is another common source of anxiety and stress for me. All of the constant mental noise and activity can be a lot to deal with, and it makes calming myself down and letting things go more complicated. It’s a little like having tiny voices in your head that like to go on long, annoying rants and rarely ever shut up. Even when I’m doing something that is meant to reduce the constant mental chatter, like meditating, I will still instinctively think about what I’m doing and why it’s important. There are times when I wish to myself that I had a “normal” mind; that I could think at a much more steady, manageable pace – a mind that didn’t force me to think so much or waste so much time obsessing over things that really don’t matter in the long run.

The most frustrating part is that overthinking has been exceptionally challenging for me to reduce. I have tried a couple of strategies, such as meditation and positive affirmations, to help me with this issue, but I haven’t made much progress so far. I believe that part of the problem is that overthinking has become such a deep-rooted habit that it’s kind of hard to imagine a life without it. It would definitely be nice if I could experience what it’s like having a mind that’s much simpler and more quiet. Of course, I can’t be entirely sure that other people’s brains work that much differently, as I am unfortunately unable to read others thoughts. Also, I am unable to confirm if overthinking is relatively common among people on the Autism spectrum. Once again, it could simply be something that I have to deal with as Tim Kirtland.

I will say this though: if you don’t consider yourself to be much of an overthinker and believe that your thoughts are mostly simple and straight-forward, then you have no idea how much I envy you!

“Tim, if you keep talking to yourself, people are gonna think you’re crazy!”

Ok, it has been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I sincerely apologize to anyone who has been waiting for me to upload something since last October. Unfortunately, I cannot promise that I will go back to posting articles on a regular basis after this, but I will do my best to post a bit more often than once every 9 or 10 months.

One reason why this post took so long for me to finish is because the subject I’m discussing here, intrapersonal communication, or talking to myself. Indeed, there is just so much for me to discuss regarding this particular issue that I don’t think I’ll be able to bring up everything in this article. I will do my best to cover as much as I can without making this an hour-long blog post, and hopefully it will be enough to give you an accurate understanding of why I regularly engage in intrapersonal communication.

To start off, for those who haven’t read my post “Tim, please, keep it to yourself,” (click here to read it), I like to express what’s on my mind with other people. A lot. I generally find it much more difficult than other people to keep my thoughts to myself and stay silent. Consequently, I frequently find myself openly discussing random topics with people as they pop up in my head. It can obviously get very irritating for other people, especially when I go off on a tangent and ramble endlessly about something that you really couldn’t care less about.

I believe that the main reason I speak my mind to others so often is because I simply have an exceptionally energetic, “noisy” brain. There is just so much going on in my head at once and it is near impossible for me to control all of it effectively. This means that a lot of my thoughts unavoidably pushed out through my mouth, even when I should probably keep my mouth shut – because there is only so much room in my head to contain my brain activity. Yeah, I know this is a bit perplexing to understand. As I said, this is a very complicated issue and I don’t think I could ever do it justice with words. So I’ll give you an illustration that hopefully clears things up a bit.

I personally like to think that human mind works a lot like an information processing center of sorts. In this processing center, our everyday thoughts are continuously being created, analyzed, and managed – each by a different department. The first department creates thoughts, and then forwards them to another department, which responsible for quickly reviewing them. After that department is finished examining the thoughts, they are then sent to a third department, which decides how to deal with these thoughts: either send them to the dump, send them to short-term memory, or let them be expressed through verbal communication. All of this occurs in our heads at a very rapid pace and hardly ever ceases as long as we’re awake.

In my view, this whole process usually runs relatively smoothly for most people: the thought-creating department generates thoughts at a constant, but steady pace; the analyzing department is able to examine these thoughts carefully before sending them off to the handling department; and the handling department is usually capable of deciding whether to send each thought to short-term memory, to the dump, or to the mouth.

For people like me, however, I like to imagine that it’s a bit of a different story. The primary issue is that the thought-generating department, for some reason, is producing WAY too many thoughts at once. As a result, the thought-analysis department is swamped with thoughts to review and hardly has any time to examine each one sufficiently before sending them off to the handling department. Meanwhile, the “workers” at the thought-handling department are constantly being overwhelmed with so many thoughts to manage at once. They are thus frequently hectic and unsure about what to do with each of them, especially with thoughts that are particularly “powerful” or “heavy”. Unfortunately, the short-term memory as well as the mind dump have limited amounts of space, and the workers don’t want to cause overflow or gridlock. Thus the thought-management department will sometimes have no choice but to let those thoughts be expressed through oral communication –even when it’s clear that it isn’t an appropriate time or setting to express them. It’s not their fault, they are simply given way too many thoughts to deal with and they are doing their best to keep things going as efficiently as possible.

So, did you get all that? I hope so, because it was the best illustration I could give to explain why my mouth works the way it does. The main idea I wish to convey here is that my mind produces so many thoughts at such a rapid pace that I simply cannot keep them all to myself without overwhelming my brain. I just have to allow some of them to be expressed, regardless of whether or not other people care to hear them.

This brings me to the actual focus of this particular blog entry: intrapersonal communication. First of all, I have mentioned numerous times in previous blog posts that I don’t have a very large social network. I certainly have friends, and I spend time with them as much as I can, but I’m not hanging out with other people as much as I’d like to. So if I have something to share, most of the time I’m the only person present to hear.

Secondly, it comes without saying that I’d always be interested in what I have to say. I mean, I am the same person who is thinking those thoughts and I obviously found them worthy of discussion in the first place. Therefore, I’m naturally the perfect audience for my own little rants and monologues, and sometimes I can even provide myself with a person to engage in “dialogue” with. Indeed, given how overactive and energetic my mind is, I can easily think from multiple points of view and come up with ways in which another person may respond to what I say. I have been able to engage in rather insightful conversations with myself about a bunch of things – ranging from the current state of the Republic Party to whether or not Green Day can be legitimately considered a punk band. This works slightly better than me ranting on and on about it to someone else who clearly doesn’t give a flying… fudge, doesn’t it?

With that said, there are at least three common subjects that I will usually talk to myself about:

  • Something that is relevant to the current situation or that just happened to me.
  • Something related to what I see or hear from a form of media or art (film, television, radio, book, website, video game, etc.)
  • A topic that simply popped in my head randomly and particularly interests me.

In each case, I will spend a couple of minutes either having a little “conversation” (or sometimes “debate”) with myself or going on some prolonged rant to communicate my feelings or thoughts. I basically act as if I am actually talking to other people or providing some sort of commentary to a small group of others.

A rather frequent example is when I’m driving somewhere, and I hear about something political on the radio or a political topic just pops into my head. For whatever reason, I will feel the need to articulate my own beliefs on the subject in a sort of brief speech, pretending that I’m speaking to a news reporter, political analyst, or well-known political commentator. Most of the time, I will do my best to make an appeal to a moderate, sort of “middle-of-the-road” approach to the issue in question; agreeing in part with both sides. I believe that I partially do this in order to clarify my political beliefs to myself, since I like to make sure that I’m always making fair, intelligent analyses of every subject.

In some cases, I will pretend that I am giving commentary for someone else – imaging that I am some popular actor, writer, musician, or scientist. This plays a lot into what I discussed a while back about “imaginary play” (click here to learn more). For instance, after watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I may pretend that I’m one of the cast members and provide some commentary for it. I will explain why the episode was written the way it was, what I liked most about the episode, and what it was like for me portraying my character. Of course, it’s pretty silly of me to act like I know what is going on in the heads of any of these people, but c’mon… it’s always fun to pretend!

I am not sure if it’s a common thing for people with Asperger Syndrome or Autism to regularly talk to themselves. I tried looking up scientific studies and articles online that may link Autism spectrum disorders with intrapersonal communication and I couldn’t find any concrete evidence that there is a connection. It is pretty likely that this issue doesn’t have much to do with Asperger Syndrome, and is simply another aspect of who I am.

I will say, however, that I don’t personally find anything really wrong with intrapersonal communication per se. Sure it was a little embarrassing for me to share this with you guys, but I’m not exactly hurting anyone when I talk to myself, including myself, am I? Hence, I don’t see any reason why I ought to stop doing it. I obviously don’t want to do it when I’m with other people, but if I’m alone and just minding my own business, I have no reason to be ashamed of talking to myself. So to those out there who, for similar reasons, like to engage in intrapersonal communication every once in a while: I say continue doing it if you feel like it. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “weird” or “crazy” for expressing your thoughts aloud to yourself!

Preschool memories of an Aspie

Yep, that’s right. I actually remember a couple of things from when I was in preschool, at which time I was 3-4 years old. Of course, my existing memories of preschool are extremely vague and few in number. Nonetheless, many of the experiences that I can recall seem to indicate my Asperger Syndrome pretty well, and they sort of set a benchmark for what life was going to be like for me throughout the years that followed.

One of the very first memories that comes to mind when I think of my preschool years is the time when one of the teachers got really impatient with me while trying to help me in the bathroom. You know how 3 or 4 years is usually the age where many kids start learning how to properly use the toilet? Well I guess that I may have been having a bit of trouble  in certain areas. I cannot remember what exactly I was doing wrong or why the teacher became so frustrated with me. All I know is that I was trying to use a toilet or urinal, while the rest of the class was watching a video I believe, and at one point she grabbed my pants and loudly whispered something along the lines of “Pull your pants down/up now! Or you’ll miss the rest the video!” My recollection is, again, tremendously vague and there are probably a lot of details that I’m missing. Regardless, that moment seemed to really stick with me for one reason or another, and I distinctly remember being very intimated and scared by the teacher. Consequently, whenever an adult angrily scolded me for my apparent misbehavior, I would often think back to this incident with the preschool teacher.

Another incident from preschool that frequently pops up in my memory is when I randomly hugged some boy in my class. We were all outside picking flowers and doing other stuff, and out of nowhere, for some reason that I have no recollection of, I gave one of the other kids this big hug from behind. As you might expect, the other boy didn’t enjoy this sudden physical display of affection and immediately told me to stop. Fortunately, I complied, and I believe not much else happened afterward. The best guess I can come up with as to why I did that is because I had been watching too much Sesame Street or Barney the Dinosaur (y’know, the shows that have unrealistic expectations of how young children behave). I can safely say that this was not the only time in preschool that I acted in ways that the other kids found weird or annoying. I think that in most cases I was imitating something I saw on television or a movie; completely lost in my own world and oblivious to what I was really doing (see “Imaginary Play” for a fuller discussion of this issue).

I can also hazily remember spending time with this one teacher, separately from the other kids, to engage in some special activities. Once again, I do not recall any of the specific things I did with this teacher, but I believe it was some sort of physical play therapy, designed to help me with my motor skills and coordination. I say this because I remember these sessions being heavily physical and focused entirely on my body – as if I were exercising. The fact that the teacher had me do these activities apart from the other kids also gives me a pretty good idea of what its purpose was. Whether or not this purpose was successfully fulfilled at the time, I could not tell you.

One last memory from preschool that I’d like to share is much more positive. In fact, it might be one the happiest experiences from my preschool years. At home I had this CD-ROM program that was a collection of kids games based on the Disney film, Aladdin. One of the games in it was a simple coloring book thing: where you have a pre-drawn image associated with the film, and you get to color it in however you please. One day, perhaps on the encouragement of one of my parents, I printed out a bunch colored-in pictures from the program and brought them to class to give out to the other kids. The teachers seemed pretty happy with what I had brought in, and made each of the children got a picture. I think we even got to watch some of the film itself, Aladdin, to celebrate. This was probably one of the very few times in preschool where it seemed that the teachers were pleased with me and the other students (sort of) respected me. I felt immensely proud for it!

I think that the reason why each of these moments really stick out in my memory is because they had something to do with the fact that I was “different”, or had difficulties that weren’t present in the other kids. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time, of course, but those incidents possibly gave me some sense that there was something “wrong” with me; something about me that was “special”. This would become increasingly clear to me in later years, from Kindergarten onwards. There are still times when I think back on those preschool memories, reminiscing how difficult it was for me even back then to be “normal” and fit in with everyone else. I believe that many others with Aspergers and other autism-related disorders might have similar memories of their early years.

Who cares about what others think?

I seriously wish I didn’t.

Ok, so by this point, it should be pretty clear to my readers that I tend to stress out much more easily than most others, and that I am very perfectionist in how I handle many of my day-to-day activities. Additionally, if you’ve read “My Aspie Obsessions over the years,” you may be aware that I have a bad habit of looking up comments on the web concerning political or socially divisive topics (read the blog post if you haven’t already). It’s only recently that I’ve started to fully realize that these problems are, to a significant degree, caused by my concern for how other people judge me and how they feel toward various social/political topics.

Some of you who have been following my blog might not be too surprised by this, especially considering how I’ve said several times that I’m regularly worried about “not being good enough” and that I’m always trying to do what other people think I should do. It makes sense to say that this is partially because I care a lot about what others think and assume they “know what’s best for me”. It also seems reasonable to suppose that I keep wasting so much time by reading online comments because I’m so deeply worried about the views of my peers – wanting to see if my views correspond well with theirs. In other words, I seem to put a bit too much weight in the judgments of others, and refusing to fully trust my own perceptions.

Unlike many of the issues I’ve discussed before, I can’t say that this is a common thing for people with Asperger Syndrome. I have found a couple of articles* online that indicate that I may not be the only Aspie with this particular problem. Nonetheless, it could still very well be that this is something that I’ve developed on my own, independent from my disorder. Besides, nearly all of us is concerned to some degree with how other individuals perceive us, and plenty of people are interested in the popular consensus of certain sociopolitical topics. Regardless, I just want to make it clear that I am not suggesting this is something that all or even most Aspies go through.

Anyway, I will now attempt to explain why I concern myself so much with the opinions or judgments of others. I believe that my childhood may provide some answers. As you might imagine, I wasn’t exactly a very popular kid in school, and my behavior was often a source of ridicule from my classmates, as well as a source of frustration for my parents and teachers. It didn’t take too long for me to notice that I was receiving a fair amount of negative judgments from those around me, because I was behaving weird or annoying to them. I did not like this one bit, though I often went out of my way to show that I wasn’t affected by this at all. As hard as I tried, however, I could not hide the fact that I desperately wanted to be respected and accepted by other kids as well as adults.

Over the years, I developed an increasing desire to please those around me, or at least prevent them from judging me negatively. Simply put, I tried my best to do what they thought I ought to do, or what would make me look “good” or “cool” in their eyes. This applied to my friends, to my relatives, to my peers at school, to my teachers, and especially to my parents. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful in doing this most of the time. Despite my attempts to avoid negative judgment, I kept on behaving in ways that constantly annoyed, frustrated, or invited chuckles from other people. If I wasn’t causing my friends to shake their hands and laugh at me behind my back, I was testing my parents’ patience and driving them nearly insane. So in other words, being myself while at the same time being presentable to other people just didn’t seem possible.

In spite of this, I kept on trying really hard to be the kind of person that would make everyone around me happy. My desire to be accepted became even stronger over time, and I got increasingly upset with the critical reactions that I often received. This eventually caused me to behave a bit more submissively and apologetically toward others, going out of my way to not offend, annoy, or turn off anyone. Meanwhile, starting in my late high school years I believe, I developed a profound curiosity in how my peers in school and elsewhere felt about certain political and social topics that I felt very passionate about (e.g. LGBT rights, the War in Iraq, women’s rights, bullying, gun laws, and gang-related violence). For a while, I would sometimes ask my friends and acquaintances for their opinions on these issues, or get into a long conversation with them if they brought it up. If their views substantially differed from mine, then I would often get into heated arguments with them and tried to present my case as forcefully as possible. As a result, I had my fair share of verbal fights with people throughout high school and college, one of which resulted in the loss of a good friend of mien. I also got into quite a few arguments with random people online, often being the victim of falling for a troll’s provocative comments.

Then at one point, I believe my desire to please other people and my obsession with their sociopolitical viewpoints came into conflict with one another. I soon realized that it wasn’t possible to avoid making others uncomfortable or unhappy so long as I kept arguing with them and expressed my disagreement with their views. At the same time, I began to worry that I may very well be wrong about certain subjects, and I was losing confidence in my ability to evaluate them logically. Consequently, I stopped getting myself into debates with people about sociopolitical issues, and instead started simply observing what they had to say about them. This is what eventually led to my current habit of going online to search for and look at comments that challenge my own beliefs. I suppose this is my way of trying to be more “in touch” with popular opinion, as if I can’t be trusted to form my own independent conclusions.

In addition to this, I’ve become even more sensitive to the judgments of other people and anxious of their disapproval. As I mentioned in “It’s not good enough. I’m not good enough”, I keep assuming that others know better than I do about what I should be doing with my life. Whenever someone suggests that I do a certain activity in any context, I feel almost obliged to engage that activity, as if it were necessary for my health or happiness. Moreover, I continue to take whatever steps I can to make the people around me happy and respectful of me. This applies mainly to people who I know personally, such as my friends, professors, employers, relatives, and especially my parents. When it is clear that I’ve bothered them or they don’t agree with what I’m doing, I can get very upset. So I am always willing to make certain sacrifices in order to keep them from passing negative judgment on me; anything to win their full approval!

Having said all of this, I desperately wish I could be a little more independent and confident in myself. I hate wasting so much of my valuable time worrying about how my sociopolitical views differ from those of my peers, and I don’t like constantly sacrificing my own desires for the sake of making other people happy. Like many other individuals throughout the globe, I desperately want to be able to trust myself and not rely so heavily on the opinions of others. It would be nice if I could honestly say, “Y’know what, not everyone will approve of what I do and what I believe, and that is ok. What really matters is what I think.” I can guarantee you that I’d be a much happier and more productive person then!

*Articles on Asperger Syndrome and obsessing over other people’s opinions:

“If you want my help, then stop rejecting it!”

If you’ve already read my post, “It’s not good enough. I’m not good enough,” then you should know that I tend to be somewhat perfectionist when it comes to my schoolwork, or just about anything. This has been the case since middle school, I believe, and it gradually got worse from then onward. I think it probably hit its peak when I was in my later high school years, and did not get any better afterwards. My academic fastidiousness was particularly noticeable in how I handled many of my homework assignments, and it would sometimes cause me to have nervous meltdowns.

To clarify, however, I actually did pretty well in terms of my schoolwork throughout most of high school and college. Although I struggled quite a bit with the workload and would habitually complain of having too much to worry about at once, I usually completed my assignments with commendable results and performed very nicely on exams for the most part. So I wasn’t exactly having troubles with learning the material or studying it.

Instead, I believe much of the ongoing anxiety came from my desire to do as well as I possibly could with each assignment for every class, combined with my constant lack of confidence in my ability to do so. I typically approached each piece of homework I was given, from minor daily assignments to big, long-term projects, with an intention to do a really good job and impress the instructor, as well as myself. In the majority of cases, I was able to complete my homework without getting too worked up about the outcome or how I was going to be graded. Naturally, it was the larger, more complex assignments that tended to bring me a lot of stress and make me worry that I wouldn’t be able to do well. Smaller projects could also make me anxious if I didn’t fully understand what I was supposed do.

Anyway, as I’m sure most kids would, I often asked my parents for help with my homework whenever I was having trouble. At least half of the time, my mom or dad (sometimes both of them) was successfully able to assist me with whatever I was struggling with, without a whole lot of drama. I must admit that in several cases, they may have done some of the work for me, particularly when it came to long-term writing assignments. I can’t blame them for doing this as I actually used to have some difficulties with writing, believe it or not; specifically with trying not to sound too awkward or vague.

Unfortunately, there were far too many instances where my anxiety and perfectionism got the better of me and led to usually brief, yet unpleasant conflicts with my parents. What I mean by this is that I would sometimes become a little fussy or upset when the help that they were giving me didn’t meet my expectations or went against what I wanted to do. This more often occurred with writing assignments, and nearly always involved my parents wanting to do something with the assignment that was very different from what I had in mind. The idea of completely abandoning my ideas or going with something that I didn’t think could work filled me with severe apprehension, and thus usually resulted in me having some kind of emotional outburst or temper tantrum. On occasion, the same thing could also happen if I simply didn’t think that what my parents were suggesting was “good enough” or wasn’t helping all that much.

Whatever the case, I would make quite a scene while my parents tried to give me the best help they could with the assignment. Being so overwhelmingly stressed out and confused, I would stubbornly reject their suggestions and shout at them angrily. I would moan or yell things like “This won’t work,” or “This isn’t what I’m supposed to do,” or “I still don’t know what to do,” or “No, that’s not how I wanna do it!” Eventually, seeing that I wasn’t listening to reason or willing to give their proposals a chance, my parents would throw up their arms and say, “Ok Tim, I give up! You’re on your own! We’re trying to help you, and you just aren’t letting us!” At this point, I would implore them to continue helping me and try my best to explain why I couldn’t go with their recommendations. Afterwards, I would usually either calm down gradually and let my parents assist me in the way they were suggesting, or I would stick with what I thought was best for the assignment, with or without my parents’ help. Most of the time, I believe the former was the ultimate outcome.

Looking back on these nervous meltdowns, although I definitely regret being so rude and stubborn with my parents when they were trying to help, I honestly do understand why I behaved the way I did. As I mentioned earlier, my perfectionist way of doing things was really problematic at this point in my life, and so I was very easily stressed out by my schoolwork. I cared a great deal about my academics and wanted to do as well as I could on all of my assignments. At same time, I didn’t like taking risks or trying things I wasn’t confident I could do successfully. I wanted to feel completely safe in what I was doing with my homework, to know that I was “doing what I should be doing.” Meanwhile, I always looked up to my parents and believed that they could give me the solution to any problem I was having, especially it if was school-related. So when my parents tried to help by suggesting something that I thought was risky or pushed me out of my comfort zone, I understandably became very nervous and conflicted. On one hand, I wanted them to help me and I knew that I couldn’t proceed confidently without them, but on the other hand, what they wanted me to do was at odds with what I thought I needed to do with the assignment. So I think you can see why this would lead me to get into intense arguments with my parents.

All the same, I still realize that I should have been much more appreciative of my parents’ assistance, and I wish I didn’t give them such a hard time when they were just trying to be helpful. Believe me when I say that my mom and dad had to put up with quite a lot on my part; they showed a remarkable amount of patience, tolerance, and understanding when most people would probably lose their cool and give up on me completely. For that, I am forever grateful to them! I still go to them for help with my schoolwork every now and then, and they never fail to make me feel much more confident in my ability to get it done successfully. I try to express my gratitude for their assistance by achieving the best academic results that I possibly can, letting them know that it is only thanks to them that I have been able to succeed so well. If it weren’t for their ongoing, unconditional support as well as their patience, I wouldn’t have come even close to accomplishing what I did in high school as well as in college.