I’m not even sure I should post this. That said, I’ve definitely posted my share of “too much information” posts over the years and this one is no different. However, attempting to explain what’s on my mind helps me to make sense of things, and what I’m about to explain will probably make no sense to some of you. For others, it will make total sense, because you do some of these things, or because you know someone who does.
The impetus for this post came from post made by Randolph about his life with Autism. It got me thinking about my own life with Aspergers, which is “in the spectrum” as they say. In my case, there was never a formal diagnosis, and as far as I know, having a formal diagnosis doesn’t really do much good.
The one thing I’ve learned about anything related to the Aspergers or anyone that is on the autism spectrum is that while there are some similarities, everyone is different. For example, Randolph says “Airports are thus incredibly stressful, so I don’t enjoy flying.” For me, airports aren’t as stressful, though they are a stressor.
The same can be said for large crowds of people, I can handle them for a period of time because it’s mostly background noise. What presents a bigger cognitive load for me is trying to comprehend multiple people at once, for example, in a conversation that includes a handful of people. It requires far too much concentration for me to understand what’s going on, particularly if it’s a long, protracted affair.
I’m sure has a bit to do with why I rarely watch TV at home unless no one is home (that and most TV shows are boring, predictable, or not appropriate for children). The one thing I will watch on TV is either NFL or NBA–I am a San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors fan, after all. Given my teams aren’t local teams and I refuse to spend obscene amounts of money on cable, I rarely have an opportunity to see them on TV.
Which, come to think of it, is fine with me. I am quite happy with simply listening to games. In fact, if the NFL offered something affordable like the NBA Audio Pass, which is a very reasonable $10 for the entire season (including playoffs), I’d shut up and give the NFL my money. They used to, and then they rolled it into NFL Game Pass, which meant paying them $100 for the season. If I wanted to spend that kind of money, I’d have the kind of cable that’d let me watch the games.
My primary form of consumptive entertainment is listening to podcasts, preferably at 1.5x speed because that’s the speed I naturally talk and think in. Unlike other forms of entertainment I might undertake in any given environment, it has the lowest cognitive load. I will frequently shut it off if I find other things in my environment are causing my cognitive load to increase. For example, I was briefly listening to a podcast while editing this piece and I turned it off.
At the end of a day, particularly on days where I spent a lot of time around other people or subjected myself to a significant cognitive load, I need some quiet time with minimal sensory input before I got to sleep. While I can have trouble sleeping at times, like Randolph, if I really need sleep, I will get it. Doesn’t matter where I am or what circumstances. I am also dead to the world when I sleep.
Emotions, I have them, but processing them limits my ability to speak or process other sensory information. Likewise, meltdowns are a thing for me. The trick to get out of the downward spiral of emotion is to shift my focus elsewhere. Meltdowns happen more when I don’t sleep enough. Or spend too much time around other people. Sometimes, these two things are related.
Very early in my career, I managed to get myself into a position where I did not have to go into an office on a regular basis. I suspect this has had a lot to do with my professional success as I don’t have the stress of being in an office environment day-in and day-out and the meltdowns that can and did happen when I was. The trade-off is, of course, I have to travel from time to time, which, thankfully, doesn’t present too many challenges that I can’t handle. It probably helps I have developed somewhat of a travel routine.
Speaking of routines, there are many tasks which I always do a certain way. If I am interrupted (either internally or externally), there’s a good chance that task will be entirely forgotten and be entirely undone or left partially done, with random items left around my house. Frequently, I will find my coffee cup in the bathroom or some other place. More recently, I left a camera tripod on the cat tree.
One thing I almost never forget to do, unlike Randolph, is eat. Sometimes, I eat too much because emotions. When I do forget to eat, it’s because I’m hyper-focused on something. Maybe that’s one key to getting my weight (and my blood sugar) under control.
If this post seems like a stream of consciousness, it is to an extent, and it’s somewhat on purpose. It was not written in one sitting, but it reflects the way my mind meanders.
I do have a way with the written word and am generally able to convey complex topics in a simplified way. That is one of my talents. Sometimes, though it takes a very long time to come up with the right words. Yes, I’ve spent more than an hour writing a three sentence email. It’s also sometimes like the JPEG compression algorithm for pictures when the compression is set too high: I lose important bits.
Yes, I’m good with computers and more recently, smartphones. Always have been. Always try to help people when I can, but I’ve learned to be a little less pushy about it. Honestly, if computers didn’t exist, I don’t know what I’d be good at.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this, but for now, this is where I’ll leave it.