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How I Try to ‘Fit In’ as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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I stood there, looking around me, observing, wishing I was part of it. I so longed to be in the middle of the group, but no, I felt like I was forever destined to be on the outside looking in. I waited, hoping someone would come and speak to me and include me in their chat. But if they did, what would I say? I’d only be tongue-tied as usual and say nothing. People seem to find it easy mixing with others, but it’s a huge challenge for me.

I asked myself, “How do I make small talk?” But I couldn’t come up with the answer. If only. What should I say if I approached anyone? Except I wouldn’t. I’m not like that. I can’t do it. 

I was fed up and looked away. It was too upsetting to see everyone laughing and chatting while I watched from the periphery. At the same time, I realized I dreaded anyone coming over and speaking to me. I wouldn’t know what to say, and they would soon get tired of my awkwardness anyway. People always do.

I just longed to be different, but how could I learn the social skills everyone else took for granted. 

I wandered off, wanting to go home and get away from the world I didn’t feel part of. I wanted to hide from this alien planet. Or was it me that was the alien? Maybe I’m just a bit different — unique is a better way of putting it.

As soon as I shut the front door behind me, I started to relax. The tension just washed away. I was in my safe, familiar environment again, away from the people I just couldn’t understand, forever destined to be on the outside looking in. 

But I have discovered that Facebook is a safe way of having access to this alien world. I post whatever I like and join groups on Facebook about topics I’m interested in. I don’t have to communicate directly with people. But at the same time, there is an outlet for me. No one realizes I am different. I am accepted as I am, and it eases the loneliness. I can comment on other people’s posts, and they comment on mine. Virtual conversation is possible on my terms. My awkwardness isn’t noticed. It is a safe environment, and no one really knows who I am. In this setting, I am no longer on the outside looking in, but part of a larger, worldwide community.

I have also recently learned that a good way of trying to “fit in” is to ask people how they are. I never used to do that. It never occurred to me that I should. I’m not saying it’s easy because it isn’t. It feels uncomfortable and awkward but I try. I don’t succeed all the time, but it’s a useful tip to fit in a world that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 28, 2016
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