I was afraid of failing. Afraid of disappointing them, afraid of disappointing myself. I was afraid that my own parents hated me. My father did not accept me as I was, having Asperger’s, and I believed that it would always be that way. And the more I believed it, the more I hated myself.
I remember falling in love for the first time.
Like the bicycle, I rode on unsteady legs, now 3,000 miles away from my parents, where I’d moved after graduating college. The loud fights and slammed doors of my adolescence had slowly given way to trust, to my parents’ willingness to let their little girl go out into the world and become a young woman.
For the first time, it seemed like my parents believed in me, even though I had just barely begun to believe in myself.
I ended up discovering a new kind of ache through falling in love, and as before, there was no balm strong enough to dull the pain. I hadn’t told my parents about the boy in question, and I was afraid, again; afraid they’d see me as immature, and that I would lose their trust forever.
Everyone makes mistakes. But when you live on the autism spectrum, you remember those mistakes as vividly as when they first happened. You carry them with you, into your perception of yourself, and your ideas of how others see you.
I didn’t want my parents to see me as someone incapable of living her own life.
I remember speaking on a panel at the United Nations four years ago. As I looked into the crowd, I saw my mother and father sitting there watching me. I saw the creases at the corner of my father’s mouth as he smiled, something he’d almost never done when I was growing up.
I look so much like him, I thought to myself.
My heart swelled with a happiness I’d never felt before, because I knew that my parents were proud of me, and listening to me. But what matters most is that we now listen to each other.
I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.