Okay… I have to write this post. If I don’t write this post right now, at the moment I’m thinking about it, then I’m just going to put it off for the millionth time, and then, a few days from now, I’ll inevitably tell myself hey, you should write a blog post, and then just not do it, and be back at square one. Additionally, I have to write this post because if I don’t write this post, the gap between the last time I had a blog and the next blog will just keep getting wider and wider, and, well… we don’t want that.
So I’m writing this post. I’m not sure it’s going to be the most coherent post that ever hit this blog. In fact, it might be one of the least coherent. But I’m writing it, and I’m going to try to put it up tonight, and I think that’s what matters.
It’s October 19th. You last heard from me on September 1st, at which point I was admitting that the difficulties of adjusting to a brand new schedule thanks to starting grad school were definitely hitting me. I was also very optimistic in the post on September 1st, thinking that I was going to be able to get back into the posting-once-weekly routine that I stuck to for the entirety of undergrad. As evidenced by the fact that it’s now October 19th and I’m writing on this blog for the first time since then, that clearly isn’t happening. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep, so I won’t tell you that I’m going to get back into the posting-once-weekly rhythm, at least not at the moment. I will tell you that I want to write this post now to make a point about why I’ve been gone so long.
And, well… there isn’t one big, groundbreaking reason. The reason I’ve been gone so long is very simple. Starting grad school has been an incredibly difficult transition, and nothing feels right. That’s why I’ve been away from this blog. I’m having an incredibly difficult time. In the weirdest way, I think I might be having an even more difficult time with this transition than with starting college. I know that doesn’t make any sense at all, since I’m living at home, not in a dorm, and I should have been able to fall into this routine way more easily than with the beginning of undergrad, where literally everything was new.
Except… it’s not easy. It’s the opposite of easy. I want to do my very best to summarize some of the things I’ve experienced over the course of the past month and a half, but I’m not even sure I’ll be able to do this justice. This will be my best attempt, and we’ll see where we wind up at the end of the post.
I’ve started graduate school. You already know this, because, at the time of my last blog post, I was in the thick of the first week of classes. As I mentioned then, I started out pretty strong on Day 1, and then the newness of everything sort of “caught up with me” on Day 2, and it was getting really stressful right around the point I wrote out that post and put it up. I wrote a post on the eve of starting grad school, but I don’t think the me who wrote that post fully comprehended just how weird I was going to feel once classes actually started.
It’s now about halfway through the semester. People keep asking me how I’m doing. Earlier in the semester, I felt pretty comfortable admitting that I was having a hard time with the transition, but my answer to this question now has taken a form that’s mostly a lie: “Oh, I think I’m getting used to it!”
I am not getting used to it. I just say this to people to be nice. No one, with a casual how’s school question, is signing up to hear about how your disability is making your life completely miserable because you apparently can’t handle basic change.
I don’t want to sound like a downer, because this is very much a first world problem. There have been no major, external problems in my life since starting grad school. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to go to grad school in the first place. This was what I wanted to do after graduating from college, and this is the path I chose. It’s not even the act of attending grad school that’s causing me to feel the way I feel right now. It’s the fact that things have changed. It’s the whole new routine of my life, and it’s the fact that I’m now entering the ‘real world,’ the start of actual adulthood, and I feel by no means equipped to deal with anything in the real world.
But I don’t think, even as I’m writing this out, that this makes any sense at all. I want to try to walk this back a little, and explain in less emotional terms what I’ve been experiencing since school started.
To put it very simply: I feel completely thrown off. This happens to me whenever I experience a major routine change, but I think this is the most severe it’s ever been in my life. The next, closest thing I can compare to this is the way I felt when COVID hit, and my schedule suddenly looked very different than it had. But this is very different, because I’m experiencing this huge change in my schedule with a consciousness that this is permanent. I will never go back to the way my routine was as an undergrad— something which I got very, very used to, and came to feel comforted by. This is my new normal, to use a COVID term. And that’s the part that my autism is having so much trouble with.
Purely from a comfort standpoint, I recognize that there are elements of my current situation that could be worse. For example, as already mentioned, I’m living at home while attending school. This is hugely preferable to the alternative, which would be living in an apartment by myself. Even though I pretty much had dorm living down to a science while at college, that was a very different situation, since it was, in essence, “temporary,” and I still considered my permanent address to be my parents’ house. Moving back here has been a return to a familiarity that existed all through undergrad; the only difference is that I’m not going back and forth between here and a dorm.
So that isn’t a problem. The problem is everything else. I keep thinking that I miss the way I used to be, while I was an undergrad, because I had finally reached a point as an undergrad where I really felt like a socially functional human being, and, to be very blunt about it, I’m just… not that, anymore. I barely even text people back, and it’s worse and more apparent now than it ever was during school breaks as an undergrad. I am, in essence, ruining every relationship I have with people outside of my family, because I’m in a complete communication shutdown.
Why am I bringing any of this up? Because, I’m realizing, this is what happens when an autistic brain experiences a gigantic life change. I’m starting to think that I genuinely cannot handle the real world. I know that this sounds very melancholy, but it’s more or less a reflection of the way I feel. I know that I’ll be fine, and that I’ll eventually “get used to” this, because there’s legitimately no other option— but I have no idea what the path toward that is going to look like. If the past month and a half have been any indication, it’s not going to be quick.
For the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely ashamed of being autistic right now. The entire process of trying to adjust to this new life has been so mortifying. I cried in public yesterday, on campus at my school, and I could feel people looking at me funny. The reason I was crying was I ran into a problem which required fixing and created stress, but I assure you that a neurotypical person would not have cried over this. This isn’t the first time this has happened. I cannot get it to stop.
To be honest? I am completely lost as to what to do next. Like I said earlier, I know that I’ll be fine— but I think I’m in a very difficult place right now, the likes of which I haven’t been in awhile. I can’t think of any other way to describe this other than that I feel so incredibly thrown off. I wonder if maybe this is the way I felt when I moved away to college, and it was just too long ago for me to vividly remember. I feel like I would have remembered feeling like this. This is why I think this is something new.
I want to write more about this, but I think I’ve exhausted my motivation for the day, so I’m going to put this up and hope for the best. I apologize for the lack of coherence in this post, but maybe this will give a good and honest glimpse into the brain of an autistic person who’s in the midst of an extremely difficult period of adjustment.
Here’s where else you can find me. I’ll write again soon, but I’m not sure when. I’ll try not to take another six-week hiatus.
Next Time: I’ll attempt to address some of my feelings about being an adult and growing up.