Work hard, go to university, get a good job and all will be well they said.
Over and again I heard the rhetoric of success hammered into me. Work hard. Do your homework. Study hard. Go to university. Get a qualification. Get a job. Climb the ladder. Take the opportunities when they present themselves. But you know what. It’s all complete bullshit. It’s all a great big giant façade. It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t.
There is a very large amount of truth in the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know”. But it’s not even that. That is the start. That is the “getting the foot in the door part”. The hard work seems to have absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
Maybe this worked a long time ago. When jobs were plentiful, housing prices affordable and all that goes with that. Maybe that worked in my parents and grandparents generations. Maybe in a world where production and making things was the big end of town. But not when so much of success in life and work is defined in a service based economy, in a relationship based economy. In an economy based on how you perform in a social realm according to un-written, un-spoken rules, to which you happen not to be privy to.
We live in a world that operates on an understanding of success that is built primarily on a façade. One goes to a gathering, a church meeting, a sporting club meeting, coffee with friends. Whatever the meeting of people the prevailing social status “norms” apply. Your success and worth as a human person is arbitrarily derived on the basis of Whether or not you have a paying job. What that job is. How much it pays. Whether you own a home or not, where that home is located. Whether or not you are married or in a committed relationship. Whether or not you have procreate successfully and brought another generation of humans into the world.
But is that success?
Regardless of whether we think it is a valid measure or not, certainly it is not a level playing field. Those of a more extraverted nature will always have the upper hand and even more so, those who are neurotypical will always be at an advantage.
This is not a gripe or a swipe at neurotypical people. My favourite person in the world is a neurotypical, and I love her deeply. It is though a reality. It is a fact that to achieve success as it is so often defined, a neurodivergent human is at a distinct disadvantage.
But is it really success?
Well of course it is success at some level. Success at winning the money game, success at winning the social game, the status game.
But is it really success at the human game?
What about redefining success into something more meaningful.
Perhaps those men forming what we now know as the United States of America had something when they declared the right to pursue Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But what is Life?
Life is for living. For grasping onto with both hands. For discovering the passion within. Pursuing it relentlessly. Allowing it to direct oneself towards discovery.
And what is Liberty?
Liberty, surely it is the freedom to do life. Turning up everyday to an existence devoid of passion, in order to claim success because of the number of dollars associated with that employment, because you happen to have been able to purchase a home; surely that is not liberty.
Liberty, surely it’s freedom to be who you are, say what you believe, and live with passion.
And the pursuit of happiness?
What does that even mean. It sounds so wonderful, so totally and utterly democratic and freedom loving. And it is. But surely, it is only as one pursues life and liberty.
Success is not your ability to work the system to have the best job, own the best house, have the best partner, have the most toys.
We have all been sold a lie.
Success is in a genuine pursuit of happiness. A pursuit of liberty to live life. To be who you are.
It this is the true idea of success, then everyone, disabled or not. Neurotypical or not. Even autistic or not, can be successful. But success must be allowed to take root in the eye of the liver of the life.
I think this makes sense to me as an autistic. This is especially true when it comes to ability or lack thereof to negotiate the social landscape.
I think it makes sense to me as an autistic, even as I misunderstand the social interaction, lack a filter in social interactions, miss the unspoken communication, I can be successful as I pursue MY passion, My goals.
It’s selfish, I know, but, surely the best gift I can give to the world is to be the best person I can be, and surely the best person I can be is to be really me.
Autistic success, is then, in my view, being proud of who I am, and that includes being proud of being autistic. Proud because it is me.
Autistic success then must be measured as being the best darn autistic person I can be and not in how well I can pretend not to be autistic.
Pretend no more. Be the best you you can possibly be.