So, why do I feel like I’m years behind?

wifi signal with red "X" through it
Sometimes it feels like my personal wifi has switched off – I’m not picking up on what’s around me

As much as it rankles me that Aspergers and autism are classified as developmental disorders, I have to say I often do feel like I’m years behind my peers, in terms of interacting with the world.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately, especially since I started attending a support group for folks on the autism spectrum who are over 50 years old. I look 15-20 years younger than I am, and I have no easily discernible grey hairs (I remove them regularly, and no, pulling out one grey hair doesn’t bring 2 or 7 back in it’s place – if that were true, I’d be completely grey by now). I have a youthful vigor to me, an energy and a way of carrying myself that’s years younger than how most of my chronological peers do. I take steps two at a time. I dash here and there without hesitation. I’m always up for a fascinating conversation, and I have an intellectual curiosity that keeps me energized.

That also wears me out. When I’m “on”, I’m ON.  But I hit a wall. Usually around Wednesday evening. Thursdays and Fridays, I’m useless — although I do a pretty good job of imitating normal functionality.

Maybe that contributes to my feeling so… delayed. Maybe I’ve been worn out so much, for so long, that I haven’t had all the time and energy I’ve needed to develop.

The thing that I think sets me back, is really the verbal and social piece of it. The social world is so verbal, and my processing speed is slow. So, an awful lot happens around me that I’m not even aware of. That’s yea-many opportunities to learn and adapt that fly right by me, because my brain isn’t keeping up. I think maybe that’s one explanation.

Also, I’m often so caught up in my own thoughts —

figuring out an algorithm…

wondering about the specific composition of asphalt that lets it remain solid in blistering hot temperatures…

deducing that the oily substance in that bubbles-falling-through-water game can’t possibly be oil because then it would float to the surface and would never have enough weight to drop as fast as it does…

or planning the flow of my coming week… 

That I miss a lot of what goes on around me.

Frankly, a lot of it doesn’t even interest me. It’s floofy small talk that only serves the purpose of putting other people’s nerves at ease, and it has no attraction for me at all. Then again, maybe all that small talk has actually helped my chronological peers to “grow up” in ways that I’ve missed.

Perhaps. Evidence of them being more mature than I is… well, not to be mean-spirited, but… slim.

Anyway, in situations where we’re talking data and information and logic, I’m years ahead of my chrono peers. They can’t keep up. I prefer the intellectual company of people 15-20-30 years my senior. That works for me. But when it comes to everyday life, with everyday problems to solve, I feel delayed. Like I’m 12 years old, just now entering the adult-like world, without much of a clue.

In any case, I definitely don’t feel like I belong in my “age group”. Which is probably why I prefer to spend time with folks my grandparents’ age, or my nieces’ and nephews’ age. I know I’m not the only one, because pairing up with partners who are either much older or much younger than you, is common on the autism spectrum.

In any case, it feels weird. And it feels even weirder on Monday mornings, when I’m expected to go out and mix and mingle with my chrono peers. And I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it.

But so it goes.


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