Neurodiverging

A three-panel Calvin and Hobbes comic. Calvin and Hobbes are walking in the snowy woods. In the first panel, Calvin says, "I like to verb words." Hobbes says, "What?" In the next panel, Calvin says, "I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when 'access' was a thing? Now it's something you do. It got verbed."

In the third panel, Calvin says, "Verbing weirds language." Hobbes says, "Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding."

This post starts the way a lot of things in my life start these days: on etymonline.com, which has kindly informed me that the verb “[to] diverge” took on its current meaning in the 1660s as the opposite of “converge,” originating from the Modern Latin divergere, “go in different directions,” from the verb vergere, “to bend, turn, tend toward,” which in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *wer-. (*wer– is also the root of words like controversy, worry, prose, wrinkle, and vermin.) Merriam-Webster adds that “diverge” is an intransitive verb meaning “to move or extend in different directions from a common point; draw apart.” Add on the prefix neuro-, and a new verb is formed.

Neurodiverge, verb. To differ markedly from neurotypical standards, consciously or unconsciously, visibly or invisibly, occasionally or perpetually.

I neurodiverge. I don’t make friends the way you make friends. Actually, I don’t make friends at all; friendships just sort of happen, and I’m usually a little unsure as to how or when or why, but when someone is my friend, then we aren’t BFFs, because I consider the ranking of friends to be almost antithetical to the concept of friendship, but we are FFs, if you insist on acronym, because I am hard to get rid of. (Actually, let’s just scratch that acronym, because I have a feeling that, like a lot of emojis, it probably has some R-rated meaning that I don’t know about and don’t particularly want to learn.) Anyway, my friendship with you will involve a lot of random text messages regarding my latest sudden-onset special interest, and then there will be stretches of time – days, weeks, even months – where we don’t talk at all, and don’t worry, we’re still friends, it’s just that the number of people I want to stay in touch with far exceeds the number of people my brain can keep track of at once. There will be gifts, because gifts are a good way for me to be your friend while still conserving my limited social energy, and there will not be much subtlety, because no one has ever accused me of being subtle. But it’s gonna be alright, because I’m a loyal friend, and even when I’m not able to interact with you in the typical way, I’ll make you Spotify playlists. I neurodiverge.

Neurodiverge, verb. To develop neurologically in a different direction.

You neurodiverge. I haven’t really met you, but you’ve probably walked by my house at some point, and I’ve probably driven past yours. Maybe you went to, the same elementary school as me, or your brother or sister did, or my mom knows your mom, or my mom knows someone who knows your mom, or my mom knows someone who’s your neighbor, or my mom knows some other person who is, by a few degrees of removal, relevant to you. (My mom knows a lot of people.) Anyway, we’ve never been introduced, but I can imagine bits of you. You probably hate small talk, like me. You’re not really sure why everyone speaks so much and says so little about the weather. Maybe you don’t like talking, or you don’t talk at all. It might be that you hate loud sounds, the way that I do. Or you can stand the itchiness of that tag at the back of your shirt, or the hideous buzz of fluorescent lights, or the texture of chicken nuggets. You might not have a lot of friends, and you might not want a lot of friends. I’m guessing a lot of people don’t understand you, because unfortunately, that’s often how it goes. The adults in your life probably have a lot to say about you. What’s different about you. What’s “wrong” with you. Maybe they say you don’t look at their eyes enough, you walk on your toes all funny, your voice is too loud, your smile’s too quiet, you feel too little, you worry too much…But here’s the thing: those people are so wrapped up in their own ignorance that they forget the simple fact that you are who you are, how you are. You are autistic, you exist autistically, and that is wonderful. You neurodiverge.

Neurodiverge, verb. To separate from a neurotypical route.

She/they/he/it neurodiverge(s). I love the way Emma Zurcher-Long neurodiverges. Her writing is so vivid and hypersensorial and beautiful, and she’s such an incredible advocate. So unapologetically herself. What an amazing human.

And Lydia X.Z. Brown? I wanna be a seventh as brilliant and fearless as they are when I grow up. They neurodiverge in the best directions possible. Honest, I think their blog is the best thing ever to have graced the Internet.

A lesser known but no less wonderful autistic: Jack! He was 11 in 2014, when he was interviewed in a piece on Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, which I guess makes him 17-ish now, but that was one of my favorite interviews ever:

“Q: What are some things you avoid whenever possible?

“A: I. Avoid. Any. Means. Of. Losing. My. Cat.”

This kid neurodiverges like a boss. (Like a boss? Like a badass? Is that what they say? Slang is confusing.)

Neurodiverge, verb. To differ markedly in ways of thinking.

We neurodiverge. My favorite conjugation. In high school, my friend Anna and I co-founded and ran the Kindness Club. Over the course of those four years, we neurodiverged constantly, chaotically, gloriously. We are, in certain ways, polar oppposites. Anna is spontaneous, wildly creative, highly distractible. Woodworker, rider, avid collector of puppets. I am obsessive, neurotic, word-hungry, laser-focused (though I struggle with the laser-cutter). Aspiring polyglot, toucan fan, not to be trusted with any sports that require hand-eye coordination. There is nothing typical about either one of us, and together, we neurodiverge in the most hilarious and unexpected ways possible. The Kindness Club was Anna’s idea, and really, it deserves an entire post, if not several posts, of its own, but over the course of high school, we did everything from writing a computer program to automatically send get-well-soon emails to students who were home sick to “kindness-flooding” the desks of various teachers and administrators to sticking lollipops in every backpack on campus. Anna was the person who introduced me to the notion of kindness as a way of life, and to an excellent Aesop quote: “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” This stuck with me (as did Anna, by the way – we’re still good friends!), and honestly, I think kindness is more important than anything. This summer, Anna’s recreating an Incan method of telling time and perhaps something to do with a quipu, while I’m going to attempt to write a poetry collection based on patterns in psychotic speech. We neurodiverge.

The point of all this? Well, first, I have cool friends. But the main thing is that I’m not just neurodivergent, I’m neurodiverging. Sometimes it’s graceful. Often, it’s not. I don’t neurodiverge in a single direction, but rather, many. Sometimes, I neurodiverge without direction. Remember, the verb is intransitive. The act of neurodiverging lies solely in the agent. Neurodiverging cannot be done by, for, or to me. It is unaccusative, imperfective, continuous, progressive. I am its only argument. It can be conjugated, but it can’t be made passive. Even when it’s unconscious, I embody neurodivergence in everything I do.

Postscript: A rewrite of Divergent as Neurodivergent sounds amazing…I might have to do that one of these days.



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