4/18/2010
Dead when you're different

I finally bought the latest copy of Rolling Stone last week, the one with the cast of Glee on the cover. Unfortunately, the piece on the show itself was absolute crap. The writer decided to play the douchebag card and approached the interview like the cast - itself a motley crew of Broadway veterans and little-known names - are insignificant nobodies in high school. In the end, the writer exasperatedly told us of his set visit, where the interview subjects acted like he didn't exist. In a way, it was a good ending. Not redeeming, though.

But there was this one piece that I liked. I just read it today, after walking for an hour, eating breakfast and mopping the floor of the entire house. It's about surfer Clay Marzo, someone I've never heard of, and someone I wouldn't have heard of. So he's this surfer, apparently a really, really good one, the sort who'd do dangerous tricks in the water like he was born there. But, like every other person that fascinates me, he hasn't adjusted well to everything. All the attention made him literally hide in his room at one point. It's his Asperger's kicking in. If you're the sort whose shyness is beyond painful, well, that is torture.

I've always had a soft spot for people who are terribly misunderstood. You know, the sort that are actually pretty decent people when you look closely, but have something seemingly repulsive on the outside that just forces you to pull away. Clay is terribly anxious when he's on land. I think he doesn't really like the attention. He doesn't like to conform either. It took forever for people to get it - his parents have split, his sponsors have pulled out - but when they did, they just let him be, and he did just fine. Heck, he surfs good. Really, really good. Not that I've seen him. I just trust the fact that there's an eight-page spread on him on Rolling Stone.

Anyway, that soft spot. I got that in high school. Yes, that three-month stretch marked by terrible culture shock and even more terrible people. Looking back, I didn't really do anything differently. I just made friends, or at least I tried to, at least until the person I would've considered as my best friends pulled away. It was my first Thursday in school. "Di na kita pwedeng samahan," he said. "Inaasar na nila ako, eh." Two days later, he'd be on the bullies' side, calling me autistic.

They did call me that. They called me autistic.

I was since diagnosed with ADHD. I'd like to think I've coped. After being kicked out of high school - that's my fault, ten percent of the time - I moved to a new school, where nobody believes in medicating folks like me. Sure, it was a very rough start. I think I had worse behavior there than in those first three months. I was really having outbursts. That's my impulsiveness and my hyperactivity coming in. They told me, "no, you can't do that," and soon I didn't. I still do, but not through outbursts. Or at least not so often.

But that's all I was. A little socially awkward - this was when all that I knew of the world slowly crashed in front of me - and very much hyperactive. They'd say I can channel it to the things I really loved doing. Those bullies just thought I was different, calling me autistic precisely because they don't know what they're talking about, and they can't comprehend what they're seeing, even if it's just a teeny weeny bit off. Different, as it turns out, is a death sentence. I still went through that in college. And I'm still going through that at work. Nobody calls me autistic now, but it certainly feels the same way: being ruled out of anything and everything, never mind all the supposedly good things I can do. I have done. You know, like Clay.

At least, he really was autistic. And people understood, but only after the label was confirmed. For a few years or so he was just this guy who refused to follow the rules, even if it'll cost him a lot.

Am I aligning myself with someone who's obviously miles away from me? See? That is the effect of being shunned. I have clammed up. And whenever I fight back - when I'm the one who's, for the lack of a better term, bullying - I get slapped with another death sentence. All I can do, I guess, is read all these stories and relate to them, or be happy that the writing douchebag got the cold shoulder on the Glee set. Be really happy that the writing douchebag got the cold shoulder on the Glee set. When that's me giving the shoulder, I get called a snob. By the very people who deserve it. I guess there are some things you can never change, even if you think you can. Or think they should.

And your responses...

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