My hesitation in writing this particular article comes from the thought that my descriptions here will make people think ‘oh you think you’re so special don’t you?’. Well, if I really had that fear, I probably wouldn’t have written so many articles about my experiences on the autism spectrum. This article is a little different on the other hand. For those of you who don’t particularly like bluntness, maybe this article isn’t for you (but seriously, please stay).
As I stated in my last article, I am prone to make mistakes, just like everyone else, which leads me to my second point. I am far, far, far away from being a ‘perfect’ Christian. Heck, I don’t even like calling myself a Christian most of the time. I like terms like ‘Christ-follower’ or ‘disciple’, because by referring to myself as a Christian, most people would just categorize me with the people who are really just Christian in name only, and unfortunately there are a lot of people like that out there. To make things easier in this article though, I’ll just say ‘Christian’.
Simply put, I’m not the perfect Christian. Like I said, I make mistakes every day. The struggle a lot of younger and even older Christians have is trying to fit in with the rest of the community, sinless and without blemishes. They feel pressured to follow along with the traditions Christianity has set in motion. As I stated in an article about two years ago, I have always grown up feeling like I’m mostly on the fence. I’ll go through phases where I’m reading the Bible and praying every day, but I’ll also go through phases where I’m not doing any of that at all, and the ‘drought’ phases typically end up lasting longer than the Bible-reading ones. This isn’t to say that I don’t believe God, because I do. This also isn’t to say that I don’t value what the Bible says, because I do. I just don’t approach all of it ‘traditionally’. I normally don’t feel connected with God at church on Sunday mornings, but instead tend to find a more meaningful connection when I’m alone and trying to focus on God (at the times when I’m actually doing that that is). Even when I’m going through my phases where I’m reading the Bible every day and walking around with that ‘Christian swag’, it feels forced and I normally step back feeling unsatisfied after about a week or two later.
The truth is, I don’t like mainstream Christian culture. I don’t want to be a part of it. I had a realization that I was different when it came to my point of view of Christian culture after watching the trailer for the movie God’s Not Dead for the first time and absolutely hating what I saw. I honestly thought after a while that something must be wrong with me if that’s how I felt towards a movie made by Christians. The initial thought that would be expected from people like me is ‘hooray, they’re talking about God and Creation’. Instead, the way it came across to me is ‘Christians are perfect and everyone else has it wrong’. Regardless of our religious status, we are riddled with mistakes, unworthy of God’s love, but that’s what makes God’s love for us with no exceptions all the more beautiful and unprecedented. If people who believe in God are truly perfect, then I wouldn’t be feeling imperfect every day. It’s important to feel positive about ourselves, but we’re not going to so much as even at least feel good about ourselves every second of the day, no matter how hard we may try.
Knowing we’re prone to making mistakes and knowing we’re not always going to feel the best about ourselves are not easy truths to swallow, but I believe there’s always a little bit of good to be found even in the hard truths. As I briefly mentioned in my previous article, nothing will get done until we’re able to identify and recognize the problems first. We have to be willing to admit that we have a problem and that we’re the only ones that can truly fix it. I’m not perfect, and I hate to break it to other Christians, but nobody else is perfect either. People may strive to be, but fighting to become perfect is actually one of the ways that we end up making mistakes in the first place, in some cases some of the biggest ones. So identify the problem, recognize it and admit to having it, and then take the necessary steps to fix it, but also accept the fact that you will make a mistake again, whether it’s the same one or something entirely different.
Announcement: Hey guys! Thank you for reading this post and for possibly reading any of my previous ones. My ‘Living With Autism’ series is undoubtedly my most successful one, with the most responses both public and private. I would really like to take what I’ve written and use other means to get those articles out to a wider audience. That being said, over the next few weeks, I will be recording the ‘Living With Autism’ series as a brand new video essay series for YouTube. As that progresses, I will update you guys on where you can find the series and when it’ll come out. Stay tuned!
Right now, as I write this, a troop called Mistakes are hard at work sending me meaningless reminders, typing up fake news, and having not-so-peaceful protests against the Truths. They’re some of the most hard-working critters in our minds, and we either wrestle with them almost every day, or we let them define us for who we are.
As a human male, making mistakes are commonplace in my life. Mistakes happen. We make them because we’re human. If we never made any mistakes at all however, it would become harder for us to learn how to be better people. Speaking of mistakes, as I was writing this article, I intended on erasing a sentence, but accidentally erased half of the entire paragraph instead, and there’s no ‘Undo’ feature on this thing, so now I have to correct that mistake by writing everything all over again. With that, I rest my case about the fact that mistakes are commonplace.
A mistake like that of course pales in comparison to some of the other mistakes we see ourselves making every day. No matter how thorough you may be in making sure you do everything to the best of your abilities day to day, there’s always room and time to make a mistake, no matter how big or small, whether it’s how you use your time or how you spend your money to name a few examples. We may find ourselves saying things to other people that ultimately hurt them. We may find ourselves taking advantage of someone’s kindness or hospitality and we can take our anger out on other people even if that anger isn’t towards them in the first place.
But, you see, it doesn’t actually end there. If we’re not making legitimate mistakes, we think we are. We fret and get anxious over potential mistakes we’ve made that could’ve possibly hurt other people, when in reality nine times out of ten everything is just fine (so fake news, remember?). That being said, this whole thing comes around to what it’s like for me personally. I personally feel like I make mistakes every day, and even if I didn’t, I’ll think that I did and overthink about how I made them. Mistakes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, so there’s never any shortage of mistakes to think about. I used to think it was possible to live day by day with no mistakes if I disciplined myself hard enough, but no matter how hard we may work at that, we always come up short, and that’s because we’re not perfect. The first thing you need to do before correcting any mistake is to accept the fact that you’ve made one and that you will make more, regardless of how careful you think you’ll be. While it may not sound like it, coming to terms with that actually allows you to feel a whole lot less stressful. Believe it or not, it’s possible to love yourself, flaws and all.
Continues in Part 2.
This article will be a little different from a lot of my previous ones. There are actually a few serious ones I have ideas for, but I’m going to need a little more time to figure out the structure of them. That being said, this will be a little more laid back, but hopefully still interesting.
I think we’ve all watched a movie or read a book containing characters that we can relate to, whether it’s their personality, their situation, and their strengths or weaknesses. Even if you don’t happen to watch a lot of movies, there’s still at least one character in our pop culture that you can relate to. Here are three of mine (in no particular order) and my explanations for why.
1. Bilbo Baggins
The first one is an obvious one for me. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit film trilogy has always stuck out to me as someone I can relate to, both in terms of personality and hopes. Bilbo is an open book, just as I’ve been described by people before. There’s never a moment when you’re unsure what he’s thinking or feeling. His body shifts and moves around a lot when he talks, and his emotions are usually very strong, ranging from frustrated and flustered to giddy and in high spirits. There’s an energy in him that I happen to share with him on my best days. He’s fully comfortable with living a simple life with the same routine day by day, but still has that inner desire for adventure. Granted, I can probably relate to the Bilbo we see at the beginning of the first film more than in the rest, but his ‘open book’ personality and physical energy remains consistently the same through most of the trilogy.
2. Tony Stark
Okay, this one is a little trickier. When I say that I can relate to Tony Stark, I mean that as in I can relate exclusively to the traits about Tony that makes him more human. I’m not a billionaire playboy philanthropist, I don’t have an iron suit (unfortunately), and my parents weren’t killed by an evil Nazi organization. That all being said, what I can relate to are the ways Tony has tried to juggle his social life. I’m talking mainly about his experiences and growth throughout his solo films, barring the Avengers films, Captain America: Civil War, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. His ADHD-like tendencies mixed with his obsessive line of thinking are things that I’ve been able to connect with. One of the differences between me and Stark in these regards though is that Tony will get flooded with dozens of ideas, and will lose sleep and social life over making those ideas a reality as quickly and efficiently as possible. I on the other hand tend to get flooded with ideas, and only about one or two of them ever become a reality (somehow). This is usually because an idea of mine will get replaced by two or three new ideas that take priority in my mind. Even then, I’ll be lucky to get even one of those two or three accomplished, or at least done in a reasonable amount of time. With this being a fact, I’ll admit that Tony’s ability to complete projects amidst twenty other thoughts is something that I strive to get to do myself.
I may actually be insulting myself by putting this here, but–it’s kind of true. Bear with me here. His character has a few things in common with–wait for it–autism. He doesn’t understand sarcasm, finds some of the strangest things to be funny, his mind wanders even when it shouldn’t be, and will say and ask whatever is on his mind no matter how awkward it might make other people feel. On another note, he has a bit of a crude sense of humor and he’s a romantic. He has all of these characteristics wrapped up in one beefy package, and as hard as it is to admit, that’s relatable to me. He has his own values and baggage within the more serious side of him, but he’s also awkward, quirky, and has his–faults. His character strikes a nice balance between the two sides, and though he’s not exactly the most skilled character in pop culture, at least we can say that he’s likable. Hooray?
So there you go. There’s my list. To cut straight to the chase, what are yours? Sound off in the comments below!
On May 1, 2017, a strange, funny, and uncomfortable man, by the name of Dan Smotz, released the first official episode of his new podcast The System Is Down, a lovely show that discusses politics, conspiracy theories, and religion. Its tagline is ‘Question everything, and stay uncomfortable’. Today, it has a total of 21 episodes, with the 21st having come out today. Right off the bat, this sounds like a passion project of yet another crazy conspiracy theorist with the intention of scaring the crap out of people with stories of evil government plots, potential prologues to a third world war, and chemicals in your Oreos to make you compliant. I’m happy to say that this is not the case.
I happen to know Dan personally (or at least I think I do), but that fact will in no way make me biased in the way I write this review. What I will say however, is that Dan has something good going on here, whether I know him personally or not. His unapologetic and sometimes humorous approach to sensitive and uncomfortable material makes him one of a special few, and his desire to listen to the opinions of other people and take them all into account rather than lashing out is undeniably refreshing and sometimes even amusing to listen to. He recently succeeded in doing what’s considered almost impossible these days: putting a Democrat, Libertarian, and Republican together in one place and having them discuss their sides and where they stand politically, making for a surprisingly civil conversation that at times was even inspiring.
The use of the word ‘inspiring’ leads me to my next point, which is this: Dan does not do his discussions to feed you fear or get you paranoid (God knows we have enough of that already). He does the discussions to make you think. He wants you to listen and then debate different uncomfortable topics so that they’re not blissfully ignored, and he kicks that trend off in a handful of episodes by taking a step back and allowing his guests to chat, some of whom have never talked to each other before and are now being given the opportunity to. He doesn’t claim that he’s right about anything he says concerning different topics, and though he has no problem admitting that he disagrees with certain things, he doesn’t tell his guests that they’re wrong but instead encourages them to keep going. By the time I’m done listening to each episode, I’m usually anxious to hear what he does next. It can really feel like a breath of fresh air at times.
As I’ve said before, just because I know Dan personally doesn’t mean I’m going to be biased, and that will be proven through a few negatives I have to throw out there concerning this podcast. Thankfully, there are very few and, in my opinion, aren’t deal breakers to drive you away from listening. This is Dan’s first go at a long-term podcast, so a few hiccups aren’t surprising to run into along the way. It’s pretty clear throughout the first couple episodes that he was trying to find his footing and figure out how exactly he wanted it to pan out, so the topics don’t feel as thoroughly pre-planned or organized as they get later. Granted, when it all comes down to it, this is a podcast with people having discussions like any ordinary discussion would be, so it’s inevitable that conversations will go off in random directions, but in the end I couldn’t help but ask what the point was half of the time. Thankfully, Dan does find his footing before he even reaches the tenth episode. He not only manages to organize the discussions better, but also brings in people with more defined platforms (the producers of the upcoming film ‘Generational Sins’ for example), making the discussions a cleaner back-and-forth than a group of people talking over each other.
This is more of a fact than a negative trait about the series, but the last thing I should note is that this podcast is not for everybody. If listening to conspiracy theories makes you feel anxious and edgy and perhaps even depressed, then this probably isn’t for you. This show is not a ‘conspiracy’ podcast as Dan states in his latest episode, but conspiracy theories are brought up from time to time and they’re often not pretty to listen to, and Dan doesn’t try to sugarcoat them to make them pretty. To my knowledge, he doesn’t want to depress anyone either, but discussing topics that many would consider to be uncomfortable means being raw and honest about reality, and being raw and honest are two things Dan encourages for in this podcast.
All in all, this is a solid podcast that talks (mostly) about uncomfortable things but has good intent behind it. While it’s not the most perfect podcast out there, it displays a lot of promise for even better things to come, and I applaud Dan for his efforts. Dan, I forgive you for your Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review.
You can visit the podcast’s website to read about it, listen to it, and even look through some of Dan’s merchandise at http://www.tsidpod.com/. Or you can check out the podcast’s forum on Facebook at ‘The System Is Down Forum’. Remember, question everything and stay uncomfortable.
A little over a week ago, I sat down and started reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Almost a week later, I finished it, which is the fastest I’ve read a long book like this in a long time. I’m aware that it’s a pretty old book now at this point, though to be fair, it has been released several times over the years in a more updated format to keep up with the times and connect better with our current generation. I was obviously no exception. I read the latest revised edition from two years ago and found myself intrigued the entire time while reading.
Now, the author Chapman has come out with several other versions of the book meant to be targeted specifically towards different demographics like singles, men specifically, and women specifically. Not a single one of his versions however was for people on the autism spectrum. This is not a criticism from me though. I’d like to point out that even though the author probably didn’t have people on the spectrum in mind while writing the book, this doesn’t at all mean that people with autism won’t be able to understand any of it. In fact, as someone who’s on the spectrum myself, I found this book to be a lot more helpful than most others I’ve read dealing specifically with relationships between people on the spectrum.
Without getting into the nitty gritty details about each love language, I will just list the basic five explained in this book: acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time. While some of the chapters focusing on these love languages happen to be shorter than others, there’s no shortage of information here. Gary Chapman takes every love language and gives a meticulously thorough explanation for each of them and offers some helpful suggestions on how to approach each of them, whether it’s how to explain to your significant other what your primary love language is or how to speak your significant other’s ‘love language’. I didn’t finish the book thinking that he should’ve elaborated more. To back up Chapman’s thorough approach, he explains the reality of the five love languages and how effective they are when used by telling real life stories about couples that have come to him for advice and were told to be more diligent in speaking each other’s love language. The results usually turn out positive. It makes me want to meet with and talk to Chapman myself.
On top of the thoroughness of his topics and the stories to back up his claims, the book is written in a clear, straightforward manner. At no point did I feel like the writing style was too complex for its own good. It felt like I was reading the world’s longest blog post. It’s organized, easy to follow, and straight to the point. Most of the chapters explain a specific love language, tell a few real life stories, then has a list of suggestions at the end to try and speak your significant other’s love language (all of which I admittedly took screenshots of with my phone). Finally, at the end, there’s a quiz you can take that helps you determine what your primary love language could very well be if you don’t know it already. Granted a few pages of words probably can’t set in stone exactly what your love language is, but if you’re not lying when you answer the questions given, the results are most likely as closely accurate as you can get. I for one found the quiz to be extremely helpful, and made it easier to discuss the love languages to my own girlfriend afterwards.
To cap off, I should note that the book’s premise assumes that you’re already married (hence why there’s a singles version out there). If you don’t feel like seeking out the singles version but aren’t sure if you’re ready to read this book because of its assumption, I can assure you that it really doesn’t matter. It would still prove very helpful if you’re in a dating relationship. A few parts of it only apply to married couples yes, but those segments are honestly few and far between, and what stuff is there that only applies to marriage may not be helpful to you at the time, but you’ll at least have that knowledge for when you are married. It certainly doesn’t hurt to do research ahead of time.
All in all, this is an easy 10 out of 10 for me, and while this might’ve not been the most autism-centric post, I also love reviewing books whenever I read a good one, and I think even people on the spectrum should read this. If it helped me, it should help others too.
One of the things that stuck out to me the most in my diagnosis report was that I was described to be someone with a lack of sense of purpose and direction in my life, and being uncertain about major life issues. At the time, this was understandably a discouraging part of it. I mean, the report was basically implying that I was going through an existential crisis, like I was wandering aimlessly through life without a sense of meaning or any idea of what I wanted to do with my life.
In a certain regard, the report was correct. At the time the report was made, I was going through a very trying time in my life where depression, anxiety, and loneliness were common traits day after day. While I’m certainly a lot better now, and have improved in more ways than one since then, I still sometimes struggle with trying to figure out what exactly is my purpose in life and what I’m here on this earth for. Now, the traditional Christian perspective would say that you’re here because God put you here and your actions are meant to glorify Him and point in His direction. While this is all well and good and there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with that, the Bible also says that God has a plan for your life.
That last part seems comforting enough. Okay, so God has a plan for my life, meaning I’m guaranteed to get something meaningful done while I’m here. Cool. So what’s there for me to worry about exactly? For me personally, I struggle with timing when it comes to just about everything. When nothing is getting done within the timeframe that I want things to happen, it worries me and makes me slightly paranoid. I grow more hyperaware of how I’m spending my time but I don’t know what to do at the moment in order to fix that. I know that I want to get published, but almost every book I start I never finish, and when I try ‘harder’ to write a book, I tend to lose interest fast. Because of my narrow interest in variety, I’m stuck on trying to do only two or three things. I’m more of an ideas person than someone who actually gets things done.
I love talking to people and getting to know as many as I can, and I usually look at things from a very psychological standpoint, so not only do I tend to analyze people and their actions but I also tend to analyze characters from movies, books, and video games. Sometimes I’ll analyze a movie, stop for a while, then go back to it a year later and either just go over everything I’ve gone over before or tackle it from a completely different angle. This is one reason why I feel like I would spend a good use of my time writing essays or doing video essays (with the latter, that would technically mean writing an essay first).
So I know that I have talents even if they don’t spread as wide or have as much variety as I might like. The question is, how am I going to utilize my talents to make something meaningful out of them? Additionally, how am I going to muster the motivation to do this?
Yeah, this isn’t one of my how-to posts with solutions and all that, but a personal ponder of mine that I was having today. Maybe these were exactly the kinds of words you needed to read. Maybe you’re having the exact same trouble as I am and you find it comforting to know you’re not alone, in which case I’m glad I can give you that feeling. For everyone else, I’m sure you can relate in one way or another. I believe we all reach a point in our lives where we don’t know where we’re going or what we want to do, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of for that. The trick to combating uncertainty is to do something, be it big or small. It can be a paper describing exactly how you feel, it can be an essay, it can be a job search. Something is bound to get you back on your feet and get you started with something, and I’m going to try doing the same.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately on two different things: one being certain aspects of the autism spectrum and the second being my own personal beliefs, but by melding the two things together, I realize some ways in which they’re connected. That being said, I’m going to make a list of some of the things autism is not. Usually people make a list about what autism is not, including things like a disease, a person incapable of being married and having kids, one who can’t live independently, etc. With this list, I’ll actually be tackling a couple different nots.
Autism is not the thing that defines what you’re capable of believing and what you’re not. It is not meant to determine your faith and whether or not you believe in God. Let me take that fact and narrow it down a bit to something basic but very important.
Autism does not make decisions for you. At the end of the day, you’re still a human being capable of making decisions like everyone else. The only difference is that you might not understand at first what the right decision is. You might not know at first what decision is best for you. This is not unlearnable however, which leads me to my third point.
Having autism does not mean you’re incapable of learning how to improve in different areas of your life. Just like how you might not understand how to make good decisions at first, when it comes to improving yourself in different parts of life, it may take more discipline and a different way of approaching it.
Having autism does not mean you’re doomed to make the same bad decision every time a choice comes to you. It doesn’t mean you’re fated to make the same bad choice over and over again. This is where learning to improve and understanding the right choice to make comes in. This is one area where I’ve struggled the most in my ‘autistic’ life. I’ve made bad decisions repeatedly to the point where whenever it happens again I think to myself ‘well of course I did that’. This is not a good place to put yourself, because by doing this, you’re basically accepting the fact that making bad decisions is just a part of who you are and there’s no hope in getting better. Then once you put yourself in that mindset, with the fact that the autistic mind tends to be obsessive with certain thoughts, you might end up obsessing over that, which will make yourself feel worse.
If it sounds like I’m talking down to you or scolding you, I assure you that this is not the case. Autism is not many things but it is many things too. Just because you’re on the spectrum and can’t make a decision the same way like others doesn’t mean there isn’t one or more ways out there where you can. Most people on the spectrum can learn how to do the important things in life. The only difference is that sometimes they have to learn differently than others. The alternatives may not always be as easy, but I believe it’s worth it, even if I might not see it that way at first in the moment.