Those of us Baby Boomers on the spectrum have usually spent our lives trying to live up to other’s expectations. We were told very early own that we were too shy, so get over it and join the mainstream. That started us out on a life of low self-esteem until something finally kicked that falsehood to the curb.
Being outside the mainstream is pretty much how our life has gone. Out of the mainstream but trapped in a cage of other’s expectations.
Before I go any further I am talking about those of us on the Asperger’s end of the spectrum, not the whole spectrum. We manage to have a few friends, who mainly came about because of a particular circumstance. We happened to be there at the right time and place. But we were more like ships passing in the night of this neurotypical world. If we are lucky, we had a few good friends in our lives. We manage to get through high school and college and beyond by pretending to be someone else. In fact, some of us do really well at that. Our tendency to devour knowledge and to spew it out as needed ends up working in our favor. Eventually, we end up doing quite well in the business world. Some of us were fortunate enough to have someone to recognize how valuable our talents were and to accommodate our autistic needs, even if they didn’t know it by name.
If we were lucky, we ended up with a partner, and maybe even a couple of kids. Eventually, we Baby Boomers retired and then had to adjust our lives to new circumstances, but we never really considered taking off our mask of a lifetime even then. But then something happens to drag us toward the deep end of the spectrum, where it becomes a sink or swim situation. For me, that was the death of my spouse of 36 years about five months ago.
When that happens we finally realize that we have lived our lives as others expected us to. We suddenly discover that removing that mask and declaring that we will now live on our terms is a real possibility.
That is where I am right now.
My life has been turned on its ear in 2021, so why not also turn “who I am” on its ear at the same time. Instead of masking who I am, I will now start trying to get people to understand, and maybe even accept me as a person who is just different from them.
To accomplish that, I must go into the teacher mode. That’s what I am doing now. I am in a new world of having people around me 24/7 for the first time in decades, so it’s time to finally become who I am. Take off the mask and quit apologizing for being different. Teach people that diversity makes everyone’s lives a little more abundant, and definitely more interesting. Know me as a person not as a label.
It’s time to take off my lifetime mask, and to let people see who I really am.
9 thoughts on “Living Up To Others Expectations…”
Kudos, and good luck!
Thanks Jackie for the encouragement.
It certainly is a steep learning curve discovering your true self once you learn you are autistic. I learnt I was autistic at the tender age of 60. That was 12 years ago, and I’m still learning to break a lifetime of masking habits.
I learned it at the age of 69 and have spent the last 6 years trying to take off a lifetime mask. I really think it is happening now. Some much change in the last five months, so this just seemed a natural. Thanks Barry, for the thoughts. We share much the same space don’t we?
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I think we do.
Love that last line – know me as a person not as a label. Wisdom for all of us.
Thanks Michelle. I think I may get make it happen, FINALLY…
I do not have a diagnosis of autism, but I test as if I am on all the serious online tests. Learning that actually boosted my self esteem because it explains a lot about my inability to smoothly join conversations or my thinking that when someone casually asks a rhetorical question that they would welcome being regaled with reams of information I’ve “helpfully” assembled for them. It explains why having a visit from a dear friend always left me shaking and with teeth jittering if it went on too long. I’m in a long-term marriage of 52 years, have two daughters who love teasing me about my quirks and from whom I’ve learned that I can be loved despite them, and five grandchildren who adore me and whom I also adore. My “quirks,” whether from being on the spectrum or not, have left me loving the time I have now to research deeply. Now, it’s no longer just genealogy that grabs me, but genetic genealogy that has me “phasing” the different segments of chromosomes I share with complete strangers and determining from which ancestral couple we’ve inherited shared DNA. I’ve learned from my physics undergrad studies long ago and time spent trading iron condors on the major indices a decade ago that other people’s eyes glaze over when I talk about what’s engrossing me, so I keep quiet in general groups. Many people probably think of me as the grandmother who bakes those chocolate chocolate chip cookies . . . but I know who I am and the granddaughter who called me her first three semesters in college to help her study for calculus and other high level mathematics tests knows, too.
Thanks for sharing your story, Linda. It is all too familiar to many who visit RJsCorner. Like you say, it is nice to finally discover that you are not as weird as you thought. 😎 Too many of us older folks have been ignored when it comes to autism studies. The researchers need to learn more about us so they and better prepare younger generation how to deal with their autism.
Come back often with your comments and thoughts. I, and many of my readers appreciate them.