Some people want a Nobel prize. Some want an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy or a Pulitzer Prize. I want to be a friend. I want to be the kind of friend who people miss, who can light up their faces when they see me.
Being autistic means finding social situations hard to navigate. It means not understanding social queues, not reading expressions, not knowing when people are polite, but exasperated. It means losing one relationship after another and never understanding why.
For me, as an autistic, friendships are something to be cherished. But something that I have strived for time after time, and typically not succeeded in accomplishing. So, all of my life I’ve wished for that one special friendship. To have that one friendship with someone who I really cherish, a friendship I went after, and worked for, and built – to be that indicator that I had accomplished something that I never felt I could. It would mean I had learned what I needed to learn, been strong when I needed to be strong, been patient when I needed to be patient. It would mean that I had worked hard to establish trust and succeeded. It would mean that I had touched a heart I saw as special, and showed them that I was so much more than just the outward autistic awkwardness and overbearing. It would mean that what was behind all that had finally shown through, and that they had seen a light in me that I feared would stay hidden.
That friendship would give to me some definition of success. The ultimate friendship with that one person who I see as special and care for and revere – as I do so many other people, but with whom I also understand that accomplishing a friendship would take overcoming so much of what to me has for a lifetime seemed impossible to overcome. And so therefor with that friendship accomplished I could see that in fact none of what I saw for that lifetime as impossible still was.
Perhaps the definition is arbitrary. Some have called it meaningless, telling me that there are other barriers than the ones I have felt detained by that could explain that lack. They tell me all those reasons that “regular” people don’t have those friendships too. The things that stand in everybody’s way. But they don’t understand that all of that is irrelevant.
They then tell me I do have friends. They tell me there is nothing wrong with me. They tell me that there is nothing I need that I don’t already have. They say I have to love myself, and that whoever else loves me does not matter. They do not understand. No matter how much I love myself, no matter how much I hope I have learned – until it is validated by accomplishing the seemingly impossible to accomplish I will never throw off that elephant. Friendship for me is not just like friendship for other people. It is like riding a bike with no arms, it is like playing the piano when you are blind. It is overcoming that disability, and proving myself capable of doing something that I have strived a lifetime for, that I have seen myself fail at time after time, that I have worked hard for, struggled after. Achieving that, to me, would be the Oscar, or the Grammy, or the Pulitzer Prize. It would mean I had finally splendidly succeeded after years and years of fearing I could only fail.