Accepting Yourself to Accept Life
The first time I ever came out about being autistic publically was when I was a college freshman at Seton Hall University. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was during my Oral Communication class when our professor told us to do a presentation on something we had a passion for. In high school I went to a school for students with learning disabilities (LD). During this time I had become an advocate for disability awareness but never really mentioned to anyone what my disability was because everyone had something so we all knew we were on the same playing field.
In college it was different. While 100 percent of the students in my high school had a learning disability (160 out of 160), in college it was less than one percent (350 out of 5,500). Many of my peers had no idea what autism was. This gave me the opportunity to educate them. It was one of the bigger challenges of my life. That day my presentation was focused on educating about autism, with the concluding statement being about the fact that I was indeed autistic. It led to a standing ovation by my peers and then the beginning of a disability movement at my school.
After taking some time to reflect on those events almost five years ago, I came to realize that not only was this about spreading awareness but also finally realizing and becoming comfortable with who I was as an individual. In high school I couldn’t help but feel that many of the students were weighing themselves down with negativity because of the fact that they were learning disabled. That a learning disability was the deciding factor in whether someone would succeed or fail in life. This is never a concept I wanted to imagine. Instead, I encouraged myself to see my disability as an ability and to focus on my strengths while working on my weaknesses.
This attitude I believe was the reason why I became accepting of myself as an autistic individual in college. The positivity I had about my abilities made any negativity or ignorance that came my way obsolete. It was really that simple and because it was that simple I came to realizations about ways to adapt this into other aspects of my life. From taking up new hobbies, to asking girls out on dates, to doing things I never thought I would see myself do, as long as I saw a positive light shine through nothing could stop me. I was a flashlight of never-ending opportunities and confidence.
Today, being positive and accepting of who I am has even led me to freelance writing. I’ve never seen myself as a great writer before, but when Autism After 16 showed up on my Google news feed one day I knew this could be an opportunity to again educate and spread awareness for disabilities. My goal through this column is to encourage and give tips on how to live your best life possible—autistic or not—based on my experience. The more community-based we make this the better, so feel free to send me your comments and questions as the column goes on.