Summary: guest post by Tara Raj of The Neurodiverse Startup Ecosystem. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably <3 If you are interested in contributing guest posts to this blog or swapping, please contact me HERE.
[trigger warning: suicide]
My whole life, I’ve been complimented for my rational thinking. Since I wasn’t complimented for much else, I devoted most of my time to it, thinking it’d be my path to being “set for life.” Over time, I met more and more people who appreciated me, people who claimed to be my tribe, but something felt off about our interactions. They were usually one-sided with me analyzing their lives and offering ideas. As grateful as I am for the analytical skills I’ve developed, I now understand that they need checks and balances with emotion.
Logic can be flawed. I’ve analyzed my way into bridging empathy gaps between cultures and subcultures. I’ve also analyzed my way into debilitating social anxiety. I’ve analyzed friends through relationship troubles. I’ve also analyzed myself out of letting anyone deep enough into my world to have a relationship. I’ve analyzed both loved ones and acquaintances off the ledge. I’ve also analyzed myself onto it, convinced everyone would be happier in the long run.
Logic is a powerful tool. It can both heal and destroy. The same goes for emotion.
I can’t be the resident logical person in the room anymore. I can’t rely on others to be my checks and balances. I need space to develop my own emotional checks and balances. I need to hold space for the feelings that kept me from jumping off the ledge every time. I need to value and respect them, even when they’re elusive for weeks, even when they’re not as articulate as my logic, even when they come out in the dramatic, angry, socially unacceptable tone of a six-year-old who was shushed mid-sentence. I need to make time to understand them, to take responsibility for them without suppressing them.
I have a hard time advocating for that space when my logic is constantly put on a pedestal. My logic has moments of brilliance and moments of misguidance. I’m learning to identify the signs of each. Many of these signs are rooted in emotion. They’re often subtle, garbled, and easy to drown out with conversation or activities, suppressed by years of being over-appreciated for doing and under-appreciated for being.
I’ve accepted that I’ll never be a rockstar coder. I’m done putting in fourteen hours a day to compete. I’m done sacrificing my balance because others think it’s good for society. I’m no longer convinced.
I’ve seen, I’ve felt, I’ve lived the pain caused when people and even entire organizations get together to think without feeling. They build hypothetically cool stuff but what’s the impact? Do the benefits really outweigh the costs? Even if they do, are the costs necessary? We’re often too busy thinking about the next thing to notice. We can find a better way if we care to slow down long enough to think, feel, and integrate with ourselves and each other. I’m done prioritizing speed over thoughtfulness.
Now, I just need to figure out how to make a living. I feel deeply called to areas that help us understand and integrate like UX research and community building, but doubt my abilities after years of being told I’m not a people person and focusing on passing through gates in robotic systems instead. I make a conscious choice everyday to give myself the opportunity to upskill anyway, to invest in my learning journey without demanding a specific outcome, without demanding that I live up to any more stereotypes. I choose to focus on my wins rather than comparing myself to others. I choose to let my journey unfold step by step. I choose to be undefined, by others’ ignorance or my own.
I’d thought I’d be set for life by now, yet here I am at 27, feeling more lost than ever, realizing I’d been lost the whole time, lost in others’ perceptions of who I am. I keep reminding myself that feeling lost in how much I don’t know myself is progress. I create space for conversations and activities that help me connect with my and others’ emotions.
I’ve accepted that I’ll never be a wunderkind, but I look forward to growing up, whether you love or hate me for it, whether or not you believe my genetics or choices are worthy of space on this planet. I look forward to loving and respecting all of myself, even when others don’t. I look forward to living rather than living up.
07/2023 Reflection: Superpowers developed at the cost of renouncing the rest of the menu of human experience will never serve us nearly as much as they serve our exploitation. Building an inclusive world starts with taking the time to know ourselves as humans rather than tools. Our true superpowers lie in the wisdom of a lifetime of experience, regardless of our neurology. Much of this wisdom is developed not in the spaces where we are most validated but in those where we feel average, clueless, or the made-up concept of “behind.”
A 28 year old autistic and ADHD Indian American woman working to stop looking for her place in this world and start building it, co-founder of The Neurodiverse Startup Ecosystem: https://join.slack.com/t/neurodiverse-startups/shared_invite/zt-1zamuwu37-FEeKVVY8u3lU4KaEqKw_Ww