Appearances can be deceiving. That's one of the first things schools and people try to teach you when they think you're old enough. "Don't judge a book by its cover," they say. It's funny how we place such emphasis on that teaching, and promptly ignore it three seconds later.
Formal clothing, for instance, doesn't tell you the person is professional or serious about their job. It's supposed to, but you can stick your head into a tech office on the West Coast and find people working just as hard (or harder) in worn out jeans and floppy old T-shirts.
Beautiful or attractive people are assumed to be good and virtuous people. But you need only look a centimeter into the lives of celebrities to find that they're just as fallible and human as the rest of us.
I find a lot of illusions surround my life. The most prominent is the illusion that I'm normal. I cultivate that illusion, and so I'm most aware of it. People get concerned and awkward when they learn they're talking to someone not normal. It saves hassle and sanity on both sides if they never learn I'm on the spectrum.
I suspect I miss a lot of interesting conversations with this illusion. A lot of chances to teach people I'm not so different. That I'm still human. But I also miss a lot of condescension, awkwardness, and frustration. Given how much energy each day takes out of me, I'm okay with this, for now.
The illusion I think of most while writing this, though, is the one I suspect everyone cultivates to some extent: the illusion that all is well and under control in our lives. A friend I respect said recently of me that I basically "had it made." My boyfriend of nearly two years had finally moved to live near me, I had my own apartment, car, and part time job, and I had future goals and plans. She was declaring, more or less, that my life was set, and all could only go well. To which I could only laugh.
I see things very differently. Yes, Chris has moved to be closer to me, but now he has to find a place to live and a new job. Both very stressful things by themselves. In addition, now we find out how well we function in close proximity all the time. Tempers will flare. Nitpicking will ensue. I have particular ways of doing things, which will be disrupted by his ways of doing things. My life was fairly high stress without all that. Now it's even more stressful. I love Chris and I'm glad he's here, but the transition is difficult.
My apartment is tiny. It's a studio apartment, which means it had no bedroom. Kitchen, living room, and bedroom are all packed into 375 square feet. I don't have a lot of stuff, but I do have both a bed and a futon, and between those there really isn't that much room to put other things. On top of that, my rent keeps going up $240 a year and my paycheck of course, does not. It does not make for comfortable living.
I have similar comments about my worn out car, and my future is by no means certain. Simply having a dream and an idea doesn't award you the attention and public interest to make it happen. So while it outwardly appears that I have my life together, the reality is that I struggle even more to get through every day.
The illusion is powerful, though. Because passersby don't know how much I struggle, they usually assume I don't. That can be valuable. As far as I can tell, the popular conception of people on the autism spectrum is a little kid, or a clearly disabled adult, perhaps accompanied by a helper. I am neither of those, and there are more people like me. Since we spend so much effort blending in, we often succeed, and so aren't on public radar.
If I can manage to begin speaking and writing about autism and life, I can begin to combat that stereotype. Perhaps the parents of kids on the spectrum won't despair so much upon receiving the diagnosis. I can only hope.