Everyone’s searching for happiness. Everyone.
We’ve got a world which tells us that if we could just live here, own this, wear this, holiday here, have these friends, have this job, and on and on and on, we would be happy.
As an autistic rule follower I was lucky that I grew up in a family who stressed that you cannot buy happiness.
It doesn’t mean I haven’t fallen into other traps. “You should get out more. See people more often. Join a group.”
All good advice, but that would need to be the right people in a safe environment. The right group. Most of all the decision to go would need to come from me.
I am someone who never likes music the first time I hear it. It needs to be a familiar pattern before I can engage with it on an emotional level.
That applies to so many things. The first stage is familiarity. Processing a place. Processing the people. Processing the subtle social rules particular to a new venue and group.
Other people ride through those waves on their first day. I don’t. I get washed back to shore, but the next time I’ll be able to predict the tides better. The time after that I may make it through the perilous swell. The time after that? You may even catch me surfing ahead of the pack.
The times I give up at the first hurdle are the times I feel that I have no control over what I am doing. Tell me I must do something and I am trapped. Tell me I can’t leave once I’m there, and I will be focused on creating an exit point, not familiarising myself with what is in front of me. Try to push me through those waves and I won’t be able to breathe.
I need to know that my world is there for me. It is not there for neurotypical ideas of what is good or bad. It is not there to force me to enjoy something I don’t enjoy.
It is there to give me the opportunity to find new things to enrich me. For that to happen, I need the freedom to find my own path. To swim my own route.
If you think you would be lonely with my level of social interaction and you want to help, ask me if I’m lonely.
If you think I would enjoy doing something, and you’re worried I’m missing out because it’s too unfamiliar, ask if I would like to go with you.
If you feel I’m giving something up without giving it a chance, ask what the barriers were, and whether they are something that could be taken away.
Don’t tell me I have to stick with it. Don’t take away the choice. Your happiness may not be my happiness, but that doesn’t make you wrong about you, or me wrong about me.