That probably seems like a weird way to kick off an essay but it’s true. The past 2 years have been very good for me. I graduated from UNC-G (with honors) I found a job that’s actually related to my degree, and I completed a collection of flash fiction and poetry. But the best part is that this year has been the least anxious that I can remember. I can hear you now, saying, “Wait, what? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and you’re not anxious? How is that possible?” Well, it’s complicated.
You Know Where This is Going
As you may already know, I have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Granted that’s not exactly what you’d call shocking, seeing as how I can’t shut up about it. But these sorts of things have to start somewhere and, to be totally honest, I’m not that great at beginnings. I think it’s due, at least in part, to my neurodivergence. Really, there are a lot of things that could be chalked up to my ADHD/ASD, and a lot of them aren’t great. But some have made my life easier. Like the fact that being a socially awkward weirdo has actually helped me get through the pandemic
Neurodivegence Can Help
So, you’re probably wondering how being weird has helped me navigate the shitshow we’re calling “life” these days. It’s a fair question. Autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, along with all the dys-conditions, don’t have the greatest image in the public imagination. They’re generally thought of as disabilities, and that’s when they’re thought of at all. But given the right situation, neurodivergence can actually be an advantage. Like it has been for me. And, most likely, other neurodivergent folks you might know.
I say in the title that things have been good for me recently, but I feel bad about it. Now, when I say “good”, I mean on a personal level. The lockdown was heavenly–someone asked me early on how I was handling it and I said, “I’m a socially awkward introvert with a pile of unread books. I’ve been training this my whole life.” Having graduated from college and found a job, my finances are probably in the best shape they’ve ever been in. And, perhaps the biggest factor in all this is that, because I don’t have to interact with people as much, my life is actually manageable on a social level these days. It kills me that it took a global pandemic for that to happen but it is what it is.
And, that’s why I feel bad. Over 5 million people have died of COVID-19, families are facing bitter divides over how to handle the virus–or if it’s even a real thing–, businesses have gone under, and economies have been devastated. Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here, all fat and happy because the measures to combat this disease have actually created a society that suits the way my brain operates. And, that fucks with my head.
It’s here that I have to admit to some anger. In the past 2 years, I’ve gotten a taste of what it feels like to live in a world that takes my needs into account and I like it. A lot. But, I keep seeing people talk about “getting back to normal”, meaning pre-pandemic life. Here’s the thing: for a lot of us neurodivergent types, pre-pandemic life sucked. And, now you neurotypicals just want to pretend like the past 2 years didn’t exist? My response to that is an oh-so-polite “Fuck you”.
Can We Talk?
Understand that we’re not asking to keep things as they are currently, we know that’s not sustainable. But some acknowledgment of how that situation has worked for us would be nice. What would be even nicer is some dialogue about the things which benefit neurodivergent folks and how we can keep them and build a society that works for all of us. I’m not holding my breath until that happens, though.
A Weird Adaptability
If the coronavirus had never reared its spiky little head, I don’t know that I’d have been able to make some of the changes I have over the past couple of years. One aspect of my particular neurodivergence is a weird adaptability. On one hand, unexpected change can completely derail my brain and bring on a complete meltdown. But, if an uncomfortable situation goes on long enough, it will fade into the background and I won’t notice on a conscious level any longer. And, that was the case with pre-pandemic life.
Oh Hell No
It was only during the lockdown that was able to take a breath and start to get a handle on what I needed to build a life I actually want to live. And now, I’m just supposed to give that up and go back to “normal”? That’s not going to happen. Okay, it probably will happen but I’m not going down without a fight. Y’all might be able to force me back into that old way of doing life but you’re going to listen to me bitch about. The whole fucking time.
Like I Said, It’s Complicated
So, what does this “life I actually want to live” look like? At this point, I’m not sure–notice I said: “start to get a handle”. I’m still figuring out the kind of life I want to live, much less gathering what I need to build it. But I know it will be different. I am not going through all this shit and not making some significant changes. And, that’s a little scary considering how bad I am at handling change. Is it necessary? Yes. Do I want to do it? Not really, no. But, am I going to do it? Yes. Or… maybe? Like I said at the beginning, it’s complicated.