“Ass burgers. It’s a burger for your ass.”
It’s not the most mature way to approach this topic but I think about that quote all the time. Mostly because it’s hilarious. Ass burgers.
The scene from the TV show Community is actually referencing Danny Pudi’s character, Abed, who is a very unique character, not completely unlike myself. He is skinny, socially inept, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. He exhibits traits that resemble Asperger’s syndrome. But unlike many movies and TV shows where these types of characters are condescended to, used as a punchline, or overall just poorly represented (I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory), Abed isn’t showcased as a victim of being different. He knows who he is. Accepting that is up to everyone else.
Full disclaimer, I was never officially diagnosed with Asperger’s (I was diagnosed with ADHD and I’m pretty sure that was a complete misdiagnosis.). But going through some the common symptoms, it’s pretty tough to ignore:
- Lack of social awareness
- Inability to make new friends
- Uncoordinated movements
- May daydream or zone out
- Intense obsession with specific subjects
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact
- Repeated habitual behavior
- Lack of understanding irony or sarcasm
I’m pretty ironic/sarcastic and have no problem with eye contact, but the rest of these are pretty relevant. I grew up not knowing the source of my shyness, my awkwardness, my inability to make friends as quickly or easily as everyone else. Those things felt specific to me, but in the worst possible way because I had no basis for comparison.
Here’s the good news. The same condition that was a source for constant anxiety as a kid eventually led to success as an adult.
When I was seven, I discovered how much I loved movies. I always asked for the special edition DVDs with the extra disc so that I could devour the behind-the-scenes footage and see how it was put together. I started collecting equipment to shoot my own videos. I prioritized my friends based on how much they supported me or at least understood how much these interests meant. I rejected advice to pursue an engineering degree because I hated math, and sucked at it. Still do. And I didn’t give up when it didn’t work out for a long time. I had no backup plan, so what choice did I have?
My interests were very clearly defined from a very early age and haven’t wavered much since then. Most of the people I’ve met did not figure out their career aspirations in elementary school. I think the only people who should pick their career that early in life might be people with Asperger’s with interests so strong and specific that they’re attached to their identity.
Every person with Asperger’s is different, so I don’t know if I have much advice to give. I will share this clip, from the creator of the show and character I referenced at the beginning. He shares a little bit of his insight into the condition, which he also discovered later in life.
Watching this makes me so glad that I’m not normal. So strange that I ever wanted to be.
The key component for me has been demystifying everything. Like the notion that I had to fit in to succeed. That being normal is important in some way. This isn’t some unknown entity strangling my ability to fit in anymore. It is a fairly common thing, with a name. A funny one too.