I once heard that "it's not just not enough for you to be able to communicate verbally, you have to communicate well in writing. Otherwise, you're half a person." That didn't upset me at first, but after some thought, I came to a very mortifying conclusion:
That described me perfectly. I was exactly that.
I have Aspergers Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder. It's less physically debilitating than other disorders, but just as emotionally weakening. It limits someone's ability to communicate, particularly when it comes to verbal communication and their non-verbal subtleties. I see this, feel this, in my own life, everyday. I can write very well, and feel it is my biggest strength, but after that, I keep drawing blanks at the intricacies of even the simplest social life.
I don't like to talk, I take a long time to get comfortable with people, I like to hyper focus on a topic, I'm not a very good conversationalist, I sit rigid, and get rigid when the situation gets too stressful. I don't say what's going on, or how I feel, I go through constant mood swings. I don't smile, I don't laugh, I can barely grin. I don't understand sarcasm or jokes, I don't understand subtle cues. Sometimes I loathe the days I have to go out. I can't give a firm handshake, I can't look people in the eye. I can't do any of the cool dances, I can't play sports. I can't make myself stand out to a girl, and I wouldn't know what to do even if one did happen to like me. Heck, I wouldn't even know she liked me. I've never gotten it, and I don't get it, and I probably will never get it. It makes me mad, it makes me furious sometimes that I can't be like other kids. I can't be "cool" like they are, or have all the girls by my side. I'm the last to answer a question, even if I know the answer.
Sometimes, I really hate life.
Looking inwardly, if I can communicate well on paper but horribly face to face, I must only be half a person. I can only do half of what's required to be a successful person in a complex society. If I can't suceed in society, what will become of me? Will I be forgotten because I was too timid to speak out my name? Will I be passed over because I was too slow to put my hand up? Will someone be chosen instead of me because I was too shy to even show up?
If I can only do half of what I need to do in order to suceed, that must make me half a person. If I'm half a person, I'm half a human.
And if I'm half a person, does that make me...less than human?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.