I was at my favorite gelato (ice cream) shop, hanging out on a sunny winter day. A woman is at the counter, paying for her gelato. I'm hanging back, getting ready to leave. The cashier is telling her about the weather discount, which fluctuates according to the temperature in the winter, and is 7% at the moment. She seems excited, so I casually mention "Oh, it was 11% when I came in." She turns and looks at me and says "I was your guidance counselor in junior high."
So, obviously this was unexpected, but interesting. I think for a minute, trying hard to pull any memories of "junior high school guidance counselor" out of my brain. Her name comes to my mind, and I repeat it. I am right. She seems flattered I remember her name. A long ago experience comes to mind, and I feel compelled to share it with her. It is about a time when I tried to talk to her about all the bullying that I went through that particular year in junior high. But I chickened out and end up talking about my parents' divorce instead, which totally *didn't* bother me but I knew she'd buy that it did. I couldn't find the words to talk about the other thing. For a *very long* time afterwards. Until my stepmom came along, really. =)
For years afterwards it bothered me that I wasn't able to talk about it or seek help when I needed to. Fortunately, thank goodness, I am more than able to talk about my problems, get support and find help now (as is more than evident from my social media posts), and I am thankful for that.
I told her this story in abbreviated form, and she said "Ah. Yes, there was another girl who was being bullied too." Forget the OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS problem with the singular use of that word - one other girl in the whole junior high, yeah right! Forget that, it felt somewhat like a finished chapter in my life. It's not like I've even thought of this incident or chapter of my life in a long time, (although I used to constantly), but I always used to feel like there was something missing because I hadn't been able to address the issues I had then in the way I wanted to.
Literally fifteen years later - fifteen years later!! - in a gelato shop in Portland, Maine on a random winter afternoon, she walks in and I am absolved in the most unexpected way, unburdened of a burden I had almost forgotten I was carrying.
This whole encounter took about five minutes.
And you know what the thing is? I don't remember if it was in high school or immediately after when I was home from college, but I used to go back to the junior high, years ago. I think it was probably sometime mid-high school. I would talk to some of my old teachers. I would try to make some peace with my past there.
It never worked. It never touched the pain. It felt pretty foolish, actually. Can't force healing, I guess.
But 15 years later.... You have to be in a different place in your life, with more perspective and more life experiences, to be able to look at the experiences of your past with empathy and forgiveness for yourself. And although I had already mostly done that for myself, mostly, I didn't mind this little bit of reinforcement. I didn't mind at all getting to finally say 15 years later what I had so much been dying to say when I was 13. I really didn't mind saying it with confidence and grace, not feeling the trauma of the past as I did for so many years, but instead the pride of the present, the pride of who I am now and what I did to overcome it. It actually felt empowering. I suppose it was a reminder of how far I'd come.
Self-forgiveness and self-empowerment, with a cherry on top.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."