Category Archives: Social

Choking on Words

There are many times we are victims of our emotions. As someone with mood disorders, I know first hand our bodies will occasionally act independently from our brains and mouths. Recently, I’ve been seriously struggling with my depression and crippling anxiety. My sleep pattern has been completely wrecked, I’ve been very unpredictably sad at random times, and my eating pattern is similar to The Very Hungry Caterpillar on Saturday when it eats everything in sight.
This past week, I’ve consciously stepped back from some things to get more control over myself. The biggest challenge for me has always been awareness and catching things before I get too overwhelmed or meltdown. My pattern for dealing with these bouts has gotten pretty defined into several steps.

Reflect- What has not been working for me?
            – What have I been wanting to do but have not actively made time to do?
            – How do I feel when I (insert activity here)

Remind- When are some times you have felt really happy?
            – What relationships matter to you?
            – When do you feel the most complete?

Resolve- What can I do today to make me happy?
             – What needs to change so I can avoid going into a mentally unhealthy place?
             – Make a clear plan to address the roadblocks.

At these times, it’s a struggle to clearly express myself. Words get muddled with letters drying up on my tongue. Fingers move over keys only to write words to sentences never thought of or half imagined. This explains part of the recent absence from this blog. The other part of my absence has been dealing with a lot of interpersonal issues and those things clouding my writing. Luckily, things are changing. Noticing my problems is the second most important step in changing them.

Accepting that things are a problem and resolving to change them is the most important step

This week I’ve been more in touch with my spirituality and this has helped me center myself by being in the present. I’ve been able to hang out with some wonderful people in person which allows me to be social in easy to handle environments. Planning for epic roadtrips and weddings has already begin which makes me very hopeful for the future.

My emotions will always come with me on these adventures as they can help to enhance the trips. However, wherever I go I’m going to be the one in the driver’s seat. My emotions can ride shotgun if they want and control the music, but not backseat driving is allowed.

Battery is 65%

 If you have ever seen me give a presentation or at a social event, you may think I am naturally a social person. You may think I’m an extrovert who thrives off of talking to people and being a social creature.
It’s only one small part of me.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of really going back to my silent mode. When I lived alone, I would go days without speaking to another human being. Alone in my home, I don’t really have a need to talk. This month, I’ve sometimes gotten out of work Wednesday evening and not spoken a word until Sunday mid-morning.

I still communicate with people, but it’s like this. It’s all through technology and not spoken.

I enjoy being able to communicate through written language at times because my reaction time can be slowed down if I’m tired or not feeling well. This reaction time delay can cause a big of a ‘lag’ on my end of a verbal conversation. For those who have seen it in person,  I’m told it is not always noticeable but I may appear as ‘spacey’ at times. It’s hard to explain it in person when it’s happening, especially since I’m not particularly eloquent at the time.

My social batteries need to be recharged for about twice the amount of time they are used, if not more. So a solid weekend of being social at an event will take me at least 4 days to fully recover. Now when I recover, I don’t need to be alone. I am perfectly fine being around other people as long as there is not a social expectation. Some people consider it ‘rude’ to not engage in conversation if you are in the same space. For me, communication is not just verbal.

Social you say? More like socially awkward.

I like people.
I like people better in small doses.

Socializing for me can be draining. There are so many different things I need to do in a day, making awkward small talk is not always on my list of things to do. That being said, I do love to hang out with people.

I’m hugely social when surrounded by friends and family. They know I sometimes say weird things (Brigid-isms) or I may miss a punch line. My friends, new and old, know being social is different for me. Sometimes I may just need to leave or I will get too overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed socially, it does not end well for me.

Social doesn’t always mean talking, either. Working on individual projects in the same room as someone else is also a social activity. I feel sometimes we get too caught up in the verbal world we miss the real communication. I will say, everyone staring at their screens in the same room instead of talking is not social interaction in my mind.

So even when it drains me, I need to be social. I’ve gone to noisy clubs just to hang out with one or two people who will also be there. It is not humanly possible footer me to socialize with everyone all the time, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to. Starting conversations can also be difficulty for me which is another big reason I trend to talk to the same people. The only bigger social stresser for me is leaving a conversation.

Yup, I don’t know how to stop talking once I start.

I want to be social… but I’m not really social all the time

This weekend I went to preform at an amazing festival. It was filled with amazing and friendly people. I love these types of events, but after my Month of Autism (as July of this year shall now be known as) I was getting very quickly overwhelmed with people.

At the Autism events I went to, going up to someone and saying “nice bracelet” or exchanging random quotes from obscure movies can establish a friendship. When people were nice to my face,  I had no reason to believe they were not being nice behind my back. My hearing senses can get turned up and I heard people making snap judgements about me and my friends. Not cool.

Since I wanted to be social and had to take responsibility to pull myself out of a funk, I made up my mind to have fun. In my little cave of Brigid (also known as my tent) I regrouped, regulated, and headed out to socialize.

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I’ve talked about spinning, or flow arts, quite a bit lately and I don’t know if I’ve communicated it clearly. By finding spinning, I’ve found a part of myself. Even surrounded by people who I don’t know, it was comforting to be known as “The Fire-spinner”. I can spin things and relax in a way I’ve never done before. I had the opportunity to meet amazing fire spinners this weekend who elevate the art to a level I wish to one day achieve, and they complimented me on my spinning.

After a very stressful social encounter last month with someone who retracted a huge Autism leadership opportunity because I don’t fit in with their value system, I must admit I felt crushed. It caused me to doubt myself, my values, and my mission in life.

My mission is to spread happiness.

Spending some time surrounded by loving and friendly people, I realized I need to remember to love myself. The path I’ve walked is one that could only have been walked by me. It takes a lot out of me sometimes just to be me, but I’m proud of everything I’ve done. I can be social doing the things I love as long as I don’t let the negative people affect me. There will always be negative people around me, I just need to shrug it off.

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When people ask me how their child or adult can be social, I often want to talk directly to the person and not about them. All people have their own comfort bubble and for some people we like to talk about our special interests. My special interests are movies, autism, animals, and flow arts. I’ve talked to people who like dirt, cars, architecture, and very many different things.

Being social can sometimes be a challenge. It can be scary, intimidating, and very anxious. However, the rewards far outweigh the stress. I met a lot of amazing people and I am really excited to get to know my new friends even better and share our successes with each other.

Green Eyed Purple People Eater

An Emotion is (usually) a reaction to a specific event. We tie our emotions to things the same way we tether balloons to the wrists of children so they do not become lost. For those on the Autism Spectrum, the amygdala in our brain processes emotions differently. From a structural point of view our brain is hardwired to deal with emotions differently.

Emotional competency involves understanding the physical effect our emotions have on our body and what we can do to understand our, as well as others, emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapies are sometimes used to help teach children about emotions using stories to help illustrate the points. It’s not that we are trying to be oblivious, we honestly don’t understand a lot of the emotions other people spend so much time focusing on. For many of us, it is easier to temporarily ignore the uncomfortable emotion and try to understand it at a later point when we can analyse it.

For my graduate class I chose to write a paper on Emotional Regulation and will be immersing myself in the topic for the next few months. So I get to pour over dozens of scientific articles about the study of emotions, how we react to emotions, and how we can have a healthier relationship with our emotions. I am specifically focusing on the Autism community, but again this is one of those important things EVERYONE could benefit from learning more about. Needless to say, I’m totally psyched to be able to dork out for hours on end researching and pouring over all the information.

This brings me to my biggest confusion.

Almost all emotions serve a purpose. Happiness to cherish the moments of bliss. Sadness reminds us of our loss in many different forms. Anger and the process of anger is a very undervalued emotion which causes more problems than you can shake a stick at.

Jealously is… different.

In this day and age, we combine the terms envy and jealousy. This further complicates the matter because envy is a defined emotion and jealousy is not. Seriously, Scientists cannot agree on any one definition of jealousy. Jealousy is a complex combination of emotions like anger, insecurities, and disgust amongst many other emotions. The complex and intangible nature of jealousy hurts my head.

Some scientists separate envy as wanting what another has and jealousy as a fear of losing what you have. Envy does have the power to motivate people if they channel their envy to a productive use. If you are envious of a fit person enjoying life and that motivates you to become more fit, that is a positive use of envy. Jealousy has destructive power rooted in a protection or hoarding mentality of wanting to keep your shinies all to yourself.

As a Autistic person, I download emotions in my own special way. I do my best to understand my own emotions and I have actively worked to trying to understand other people’s emotions. Body language, facial expressions, word choices, and many other things are affected by our emotions. It wasn’t until I started to try to figure out jealousy that I became aware of the global lack of understanding of Jealousy.

We paint pictures, write songs, and do our best to make sense of a senseless emotion. Some scientists think there may be an evolutionary root to jealousy connected with the desire to pass on our genetics. I think jealousy is a word we assign to emotions when we don’t want to deal with the real issue. Abandonment, insecurities, heartache, and every other painful emotions that makes us feel worthless. Jealousy is rooted in the fear we are not worthy.

But we are worth it.

You are worth good things happening to you. You deserve the best and can work towards being your own personal best. Just because someone else has a bright light shining, it does not take away the strength of your light. Your light is still bright and brighter because you know how things were before the light. Don’t worry, the light does not go away. Your light never has to go away unless you want it to.
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      “Jealousy is a tiger that tears not only its prey but also its own raging heart”- Unknown

Goldfish in Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
“Little Boxes”- Malvina Reynolds
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One of the main difficulties of having an invisible disability is it is invisible. Sometimes my coping strategies make it appear as if I’m just like everyone else so people don’t always understand why I struggle with the “simple” things. These same people don’t realize the need to check every time I leave the house to make sure pants were not forgotten when rushing out the door. Little things some people do without thinking confuse me and vice versa.

The biggest issue I personally struggle with is relationships. Relationships are all based on communication in some way, shape, or form. Having a disability rooted in social difficulties obviously can be a big challenge. It can cause strain on my relationships because people don’t always understand me.

Letting people see my flaws and challenges takes a lot of trust on my part. I wear my heart on my sleeve and being so kind can hurt me as much as help me. It is all too common for people to use and abuse people like me since I’m such a caring person. Manipulation does not make sense to me and I am always the last to know if someone is not being straightforward with me or worse, if the person is dangerous.

The way the world looks to me helps to compound my relationship issues. Why wouldn’t people be nice to each other? What harm can come from having conversations with people? If I have the power to help someone by doing something as small as listening to their problems, why wouldn’t I?! Love, happiness, and compassion are traits spread by giving them to others.

That being said, I’m not sure when people care about me. This is not a “poor Brigid” moment, it’s just the truth. It is very confusing to think people will be there for me the way I am there for them. As empathic as Autistic people are, unless people bluntly tell us how they feel we don’t understand. Unspoken emotions and unsaid promises are never fully received. Like a living game of telephone, the message get muddled.

It was a joke for a long time about having an accidental ex-boyfriend because I never realized we were dating until we broke up. My friend Stephen Shore tells the story of accidentally dating the woman who is now his wife. How can this happen? Well as someone who has dated another friend for an undetermined period of time before we decided to take a step back, it’s REALLY easy for me to not understand the nature of relationships.

Why?

I’ve mentioned schemas before or basically having a blueprint of how things are supposed to look like. As a person who needs those blueprints to make sense of the world, there are not always the best design plans floating around. Movies and books promote conflict in relationships to move things along or bring people closer together. I thought there were right and wrong ways to date a person or to be someone’s BFF (Best Friend Forever). As someone who also has brain damage and does not actively remember the majority of the first 16 years of my life, I’m missing a LOT of the blueprints even other Autistic people have learned.

The hard/easy truth I’ve learned over the past year is no one has any idea what relationships are supposed to look like. Everyone is stumbling around looking for the magical blueprints that don’t exist to have the perfect relationship. Millions of magazines are sold every year telling people how to be a good friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, or a good person who people want to be friends with. Most of this information is so conflicting it can be comical at times, but distressing for the same reason: there is not a “right” way.

So I’m working now, and will continue, to try to figure out what a friend looks like to me. We teach Autistic kids how to treat other people so they can have friends, but no one teaches us how friends should treat us. We stumble sometimes in the world and get hurt because we don’t understand why people would want to take advantage of us or lie to us.

Growing up, I heard the story a goldfish could only grow as big as its environment. My brain translated this into a picture of different sized containers contained fish of corresponding sizes. Somewhere in the translation or transcription of my brain, I thought relationships worked the same way. As much as I’d like to put relationships into nice little boxes to organize things, they are wild things. Just like goldfish, relationships continue to grow as you grow. Some relationships are only for a short time and other cases you find friends for life. I’m still working on understanding what relationships are supposed to look like and I’ve tried my best to not hurt others by my lack of understanding. In many ways, I’m just a kid and doing the best I can to act like an adult. In more ways, I’m just like everyone else because we are all trying to do that.

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“The most common cause of stunting is a lack of understanding of a fish’s requirements resulting in a lack of appropriate care.  A stunted fish is not a healthy fish.”- It’s Not Just a Fish Organization

Coming Home

It was about 8 years ago when I walked into a hotel in Seattle, Washington. I had a suitcase of clothes and a carry on of anxiety, back then you didn’t have to limit your baggage. Walking into the conference center, I was surrounded by things. The things were people, noises, and smells. The people didn’t use whole words and talked in letters. ABA, CBT, ASD, LMNOP; these strings of random letters unnerved me. It was like walking into a new world, a world where people were talking about me. People knew me by name and others just knew me as a diagnosis.

Autism.
I was an Autistic teenager at a national Autism conference.

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I took a break from going to any Autism related conferences for the last 5 years because I had other priorities. My health was my number one concern and for good reason. So this year I went to Pittsburgh with not knowing what to expect. My memory has faded and I didn’t know if I’d know anyone besides a handful of friends for almost an entire week. My presentation was also selected of all the many submitted so I would be talking about the media’s influence on the Autistic stereotype; it’s really fun for me to talk about that so feel free to judge away.

When I came back on Sunday with stress balls in the shape of stars for my friends, which are now being used as ninja stars chucked at people, I had even more stories to bring. It is a new thing to explain the Autism Society of America conference to people who have never been before. When I went to them in high school I never talked much about them. It was always my thing I did for a few days during the summer. Part of that I think was being so young and never understanding exactly what people were talking about. This information makes PHDs’ heads spin so even a smart young woman would not 100% understand everything going around.

But as weird as it is to explain to people, the presentations and exhibit hall of cool things is not really why people go to conferences like this one.


We go to connect with people.

It is the most relaxing thing in the world to realize you are not alone: to hear others speak as if they view the world like you do. With the rise of the Internet, the world is connected like never before and people can meet others from across the globe without ever leaving their bed. So for a group of people characterized by difficulties with social interactions, it is sometimes not until we meet face to face that the connection happens. There is an “Ah Ha” clicking moment where we bond over the smallest and most perfect thing.

The friends I made at the conference and the ones I had known since I was sixteen meshed seamlessly. Strangers would ask how long we had known each other and we’d respond in either hours or years. Age and education are not factors in friendships because that’s not the way it should be in the ‘real world’. It’s someone else who can accurately discuss obscure roman politics or knows the punchline to your favorite joke. We get a few days at a conference to meet people who will be in our lives for a while.

I also love being able to connect with people who have never met someone like me; a well spoken Autistic woman. (Yes, I was also walking around wearing a corset and heels but the corset is so relaxing I will apologize for nothing.) Some people are so accustomed to the media’s image of “lost children” that they don’t realize Autistic adults are alive and well. I love talking about Autism and Universal Design. I’m able to not just hold an audience, but educate them as well and that is really touching.

Having people come up to me after my presentation and just in general to thank me for being myself is very humbling. I’ve gone through things in my life I wouldn’t wish on a enemy, but it makes every moment worth it to help someone else not feel alone or give them the tools so they never have to deal with what I faced. The advice I hand out like the free candy in the exhibition hall is about love and acceptance. The world is scary enough without thinking you need to handle things entirely by yourself; no one is ever alone.

No one is ever truly alone.

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There is something called The Duck Test which everyone knows but not everyone is aware of it’s official name. It’s a form a reasoning to make sense of the world.

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

My presentation hadn’t even started yet and I was standing in the room with a microphone in hand speaking in front of my slides. Talking to friends, friends I had met less than 48 hours before, about everything. Things started and when I spoke, well, I’d be lying if I said I wrote out my presentation. I’ve never used a written speech in my life unless it was for acting. My words are laced into my being so I mean every single word I say. 

My introduction, which was written months ago mere minutes before the presentation deadline, mentioned my fondness of fire and “acting like a goofball”. I was not wearing a suit, but the corset of the day was pinstriped. I talked about Universal Design, Firefly, Rain Man, political theories, and myself. My soul poured out into the camera and sound system recording the presentation. The weight of the conference didn’t really sink into me until I walked into my apartment at 4am on Sunday after driving home. I still feel the comforting weight of the conference with me and that’s a good thing.

It wasn’t until walking into my home in my little brick city that I realized, “the conference felt like my home. It is a different home, but it’s home, too.”

Social Standards

“Prison Break.”
“Well there is a show called that on TV.”
“Do you want to check it out?”
“Sure.”
This all took place awhile walking around in a space similar to what I imagine the brainspace of an ADHD 8 year old boy looks like; a Sega themed amusement park in Japan. I was currently venturing with another student from my College because we had a free day and this sounded like an interesting side trip. Located at one end of a giant mall in the town of Odaiba, Joypolis is filled with lights and sounds not recommended for anyone with a seizure disorder. There were floors of arcade games, rides, some interactive activities, and lots of colorful game-console-themed decorations. Almost of the attractions requiring active comprehension, like a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog movie, had English subtitles. It didn’t matter if the arcade games were only in Japanese because some things like “Whack-a-(insert random character)” or any racing game is pretty universal. 
This brings us to one of the ‘interactive’ attractions, ‘Prison Break’. Now the person I was venturing with spoke a little Japanese. She was able to understand the ride guides who warned us this attraction was only in Japanese. I, on the other hand, did not speak Japanese beyond knowing the names of my favorite Ninja Warrior (Sasuke) contestants. They let us join the queue for the ride after we assured them our language barrier wouldn’t be a problem and we’d still enjoy the experience. When it was time for our group to go into the ‘attraction’, we had no idea what to expect because we had no idea what we agreed to. (Author’s Note: If you can’t tell by now the ‘no idea what I’m agreeing to’ thing happens to me more than the average person.)
Our group consisted of us, two girls from a small college in Iowa, and four other people who were Japanese. We stood along a fake barbwire fence as the leader, a man dressed in a grey prison uniform, told us directions. I’m also pretty sure he was telling us a story at one point because he became very animated. I tried my best to pick up some keywords, but he registered my confused expression and came to talk to us. Our conversation took place with pantomime and what simple words we could share between the language barrier. Instead of the detailed description given to the others in the group, our explanation of the attraction was pretty much “Follow and be quiet.” As the person unofficially voted ‘Most Likely To Not Understand Anything Going On’, I gladly took my position as the last person in the single file line walking into the next room.

The next room began the ‘Prison’, a darkened labyrinth scattered with jail decorations straight out of a Halloween store. The path was dimmed but I could still see everyone in our group, including our leader. I paid attention to everyone ahead of me and copied what they were doing. We moved down the hallways braced against the walls in exaggerated creeping motions.  After each turn, our leader would turn around and talk to the group. Sometimes this would be about jail obstacles that were clearly obvious and easily comprehended by even…well…me. Other times I believed he was explaining the story unfolding because there were no visual hints to what he was talking about. Everything was going smoothly, as smoothly as pretending to escape a jail while not comprehending any verbal instructions can be: Until we reached a block in our path.

This ‘Block’ was a dead end of sorts and made us turn back in the direction we came from. So we all turned around as the leader went to the ‘new’ front of the single file line. This lovely little turning business meant I was now directly behind the leader at the front of the line. We continued to sneak along the walls until we came to a giant open room. With a serious expression on his face, the leader turned and gave us directions. Now he could have been telling the others about his very uncomfortable underwear he had to wear today because it was laundry day and nothing else was clean: I had no clue what was going on as he walked on. I knew the game was “follow the leader”, something children and ants do on a daily basis so I continued to follow him into the room.
Very quickly there were spotlights in the middle of the room focused on our fearless leader.
And me right behind him.
Not everyone else, just me.
Apparently the serious face was not about his underwear choice but actually instructions to wait at the edge of the room while he “went ahead to make sure it was safe”.
The colloquial abbreviation FML seemed very appropriate at that moment.
Quickly processing what was going on, I raced back to the group. The group was entertained by the HIGHLY exaggerated motions of our leader as he tried to dodge the spotlights while comically avoiding the ‘bullets’ dotting the wall around him. No one could see my face burning with embarrassment at not understanding the simple directions everyone else understood clearly. After it was ‘safe’ to pass, we quickly moved on to the next hallway. A voice sounded from a speaker as a dummy in a electric chair twitched and howled in pain. We ran out a set of doors and we were ‘free’.
 
 
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As social creatures, we tend to fixate on language when we communicate. How many times have you heard a person said they were concerned they had “said the wrong thing”? There are right words to say in certain situations and to certain people. People would also agree that there are also totally wrong things to say in certain situations. Care to take a guess what a person with a disability characterized by difficulties with social interactions does on a semi-regular basis? If you guessed “say the wrong thing”, you should pat yourself on the back.

I can say with complete authority that 92.4% of my anxiety comes from social interactions: specifically being misunderstood or misunderstanding people.

I grew up being misunderstood from a young age. It was not just others who didn’t understand what I was trying to communicate, I didn’t know how to verbalize what I wanted to communicate! So it began with colors. Colors were emotions. Emotions are those things that make your face move in different ways to match the feelings in your stomach. This is how a child with Autism learns to communicate with the world outside of our head. We assign invisible labels to everything while cross-referencing, cataloging, and storing for later use. Every single second of the day begins as a constant struggle between the safe world in our heads and the scary real world where there are so many rules when talking to other people.

As a kid, I hid my Autism by playing a game similar to “follow the leader”; I was an echolalic mimic. Watching T.V. and Movies, I learn not just what people were saying but how they were saying it. I assigned labels to characters and studied the jumbled mess laid before me. Communication was learning scripts of what to say and when to say it. This was what people did, they talked about specific things. As a child, the subject of conversations were limited and the scripts were repetitive. I enjoyed the company of my mom’s friends because they talked about fun things and I got to play with new scripts.

The scripts grew as I encountered more situations and needed something to say. I needed to say the right thing. Life became more stressful as the situations grew exponentially and I had school work to do as well.  Somewhere it stopped being about just knowing the words, I needed to learn social cues and body language played a huge part in what was the ‘right’ thing to say. Going to an all-girl High School, I became a constantly anxious about saying the wrong thing. This continued in College when the addition of romance brought communication barriers to a whole new level. The anxiety affected my health to such an extreme degree, I have not really been ‘healthy’ until 2012.

Last year is when I stopped constantly having the chest pains from anxiety. I was hooked up to heart monitors as a child because my panic attacks lead doctors to believe I had a heart condition.

For the first time in my entire life, I did not get strep throat once in twelve whole months. The immunologist said I had my own dormant type of Strep that was not contagious, but only affected me when my body became too overwhelmed with stress. Getting strep happened to me on an average of four times a year.

I wasn’t constantly in pain. My back stopped being tense and my muscles could relax for once. I would grind my teeth so badly from stress, there was noticeable damage and constant jaw pain from the time I was 12 to 17. No more jaw pain and a recovery plan from a dentist with “marked improvement”.

My Secret?
I’d like to say it was years ago, but truthfully it was only very recently I fully understood.

The words you say don’t always matter.

It’s not that you are saying the wrong words, but communication is not as simple as always knowing the right thing to say or understanding the precise meaning of every word you hear. Communication is a very complicated experience involving multiple people with the potential to get things jumbled purely by accident. There are people in my life I can look at and have entire conversations with our eyes. With other people I run out of words long before there is any hope of getting my point across. It’s not that I don’t have to sometimes work to be appropriately social, I just know what scripts to pull out at certain times and I know the times scripts don’t matter.

I’m not going to completely destroy a friendship by accidentally saying something really stupid. I finally gave myself permission to relax an accept that fact. The difference between being alone and lonely is the choice. Having the choice to remove myself from the rest of the world is empowering. Being isolated due to my failing social skills was devastating. 

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In a different place and time I was a little blonde 8 year old in a sundress walking by a park in Seville, Spain with my family when I saw a group of children playing on the grass. They were laughing and having fun playing the same games I was excluded from on the recess yard. The craving to belong hurt on a level I hope most people never know.
It was my father, a many who to this day doesn’t understand me, who told me to go to them.

“I can’t speak Spanish.”
“It’s okay.”
“They won’t understand me.”
“That’s okay.”

Walking up to the group of ten or so children, they all stopped to look at me.
I heard my heart race in my ears.
My hands became so sweaty that I was afraid to wipe them on my dress so I held them out to my sides.

“Hola”
“Hola” replied a little boy standing closest to me.
“Me llamo Brigid”
“Me llamo Jesus” replied the little boy as he moved to grab my hand.

We played in the park until the lightning bugs came out. Saying “Adios” to my new friends, my family left to find dinner and end our night with our regular walk around the illuminated city. I actually fell asleep in my dinner that night. It was not just exhaustion, it was happiness that overwhelmed me the most. The language barrier between me and the other kids did not hinder me, it made me not worry about saying the wrong thing so I could finally be a kid. A kid like everyone else.