A few weeks ago, my friend Nicki asked me if I’d ever interview someone for my blog. With that question, she inspired a new series, “In Their Shoes,” where I do just that. In our initial brainstorming, I expressed to Nicki that I’m excited to highlight people who are passionate about something specific or have had a unique experience they want to share.
I met Nicki when we were both students at Rhode Island College. We were in the Resident Student’s Association together and frequented many of the same events on campus for four years. It only makes sense that she is the first person I interview because Nicki embodies, more than most, the two traits I try to focus on when writing my blog: authenticity and positivity (even if she’d never admit it herself.)
As Nicki and I were talking about what she might want me to interview her about, I was reminded about how openly she always spoke about a very personal topic: Aspergers. With so much stigma and misinformation circulating these days about mental illness, I was interested in addressing this topic, especially when Nicki reminded me that I’ll likely run into kids with an Aspergers diagnosis in my classroom at some point. I hope you enjoy this interview- I certainly did.
Caitlin: First thing’s first- what shoes are you wearing?
Nicki: I wear the same shoes on a daily basis; they’re grey Nikes with hot pink accents handed down from my boss at a summer camp.
C: Great! Now that we’re in your shoes… How are you? How are things going?
N: Not bad: I’ve been loving my jobs and excited to move into a new apartment soon.
C: What’s something our audience should know about you?
N: I have my own YouTube channel: rosevanillaberry chocolate. It’s named from a show called The Colour of Money and most of my videos involve me getting slimed.
C: Awesome! Now that we’re all introduced, let’s get into the more serious stuff. In your words, what is Aspergers?
N: Asperger’s is a form of autism that affects a person’s perception of the world and makes socialization more difficult.
C: What is a misconception people have about Aspergers?
N: Oh my, where do I begin? I could go on forever about this, but I’ll keep it to a simple 5-item list.
- Our social awkwardness is “adorable.” Actually, it’s very awkward and anxiety-provoking for us and the whole time we feel like we’re speaking another language.
- We have no imagination. Quite the opposite actually, our imaginations just work differently than neurotypicals (individuals without autism or Asperger’s). How so? Well, our imaginations work more like those of artists and inventors and less like that of the kids on Barney. An Aspie (person with Asperger’s) may not look at a stick and see a magic wand or a rocket ship launcher, but may instead see an item that could be used as a makeshift fishing pole or cat toy.
- We have no feelings and cannot empathize. Whilst we may have trouble understanding other people’s feelings and points of view, our emotions themselves are actually a lot stronger than most neurotypicals. Whilst a C on a test can be discouraging for a neurotypical, for an Aspie it can feel like the end of the world and may as well be an F. You can imagine how we feel when going through things like breakups and death.
- We’re violent people who shoot up schools. This is perhaps the most hurtful one out there and I hope this doesn’t need much explanation.
- We’re “only mildly autistic.” For the record, “mild autism” simply means “able to walk, talk, and overall care for oneself.” It does not mean “could act “normal” if one “tried hard enough.”
C: How has having Aspergers affected your life?
N: It gave me a rather unhappy childhood, or as my mother likes to say ‘not a fairy tale childhood.” I viewed the world rather differently than most, and I still do. The chances of me fully understanding the ways of neurotypicals is likely nil. Why do they have to do everything in groups? What’s wrong with being alone once in a while?
However, it has also given me a significantly happier adulthood. I see so many of my peers reminiscing about the “good old days” of being a kid and complain about how old they’re getting. I never want to be a kid again and I view getting older as a great gift.
My open expression of emotion encourages others to do the same and my brutal honesty has saved many lives, some in more ways than one.
C: What’s one thing you wish people knew about living with Aspergers?
N: Whilst we may act like children sometimes, we despise being treated like them. It took me a long time to be able to accept silly and childlike things into my life because I always associated them with dehumanization. Please speak to us like we’re our age and don’t take it personally if it seems like we’re ignoring you. We just struggle with making eye contact at times and looking away is our way of hearing and processing all you are telling us. For a lot of Aspies, making eye contact and listening/processing a conversation is like trying to write a report while watching Netflix.
C: What’s something our audience should go tell their friends after reading this interview?
N: Check out my YouTube channel! Okay, only joking there. In reality, Aspies are just like the rest of you: we just see the world a little differently.
I am so thankful that Nicki was willing to answer my questions and be the first interview in my “In Their Shoes” series. I hope you enjoyed this post and if so, leave a comment below! Do you have something you’d like to share? Reach out! I’d love to hear from you.