Author Archives

Autist, writer, toucan collector. Stanford University, class of '23, if time still means anything. Can't read social cues, can read Russian.

  • Celestial Navigation

    As a kid, I loved the movie Peter Pan. Wendy was my favorite, of course, with the pastel blue nightgown and butter-yellow curls, and the eerie clock ticking in the crocodile’s stomach and Tiger Lily tied to a chair and left to drown…it’s a little dark, now that I think about it. But when I was eight I didn’t care, and I was thoroughly convinced that if I flapped my wings hard enough, I would fly. Actually, I thought that if I drank soda, I would fly, because my parents never let me have soda. The only possible explanation for this was that they didn’t want me to know how to fly. A diabolical scheme, indeed.

  • Me and Emotional Manipulation

    Three or four years ago, I got called out for something I said about rap music: that I didn’t like it and that many musicians’ names started with “Lil” and were thus hard to tell apart.

    “Called out” is a gentle way to put it. “Viciously attacked” would be a more accurate description.

    It was a group conversation. Someone had brought up rap. I said I didn’t like rap. The caller-out asked me a question. In retrospect, they were probably eager for me to say what I said, to have the chance to pounce.

  • How I’m Staying Sane

    Values values values. At various points throughout my life, various people have refused to shut up about value. Thus, I have done many values exercises. In tenth grade, we had to work on a project that include – I kid you not – “chastity.” Not sure if any parents, administrators, or other teachers were aware of this. (I did great, in case anyone cares.) That was one of the worst. Better: an exercise that involved a tournament-style ranking of values. Instead of just crossing off the less important values, you pitted them against each other repeatedly until you had your top five, three, and one. I particularly liked this because I realized that certain values fit into others – for example, I see kindness as a huge part of both integrity and humor (keeps you from cruelty/harm). Now, I talk about values with my students when I help them with their college essays, and this might be my favorite iteration, because a successful essay identifies values in context: what do you think is important, and how does that inform your actions? Nevertheless, these lists invariably omit one of the most important values ever: sanity.

  • =

    Two people walk into a restaurant. They sit down at a table and order their food. The menu is written in small print, and Person #1 has low vision and thus cannot read the specials. The restaurant orders large-print versions of the menus, so Person #1 can now access the same content as Person #2. This is equality.

  • Words, Want, Matter

    About a year ago, my younger sister embarked on a mission to misuse the phrase “per se” at every possible opportunity. “I’m probably going to go to bed a little early tonight, per se.” “Do you think it’s, per se, going to rain tomorrow?” “I’m getting strong whiffs of”–long pause–“turmeric, per se?” After a few months of this, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to use “per se” properly. Even now, I leave it out of my writing because my memory of the term is so muddled.

  • Seismology

    The summer before tenth grade, I tried to turn my bedroom into an ideological Petri dish. Used Post-Its and song lyrics as growth medium, pipetted my dreams onto sheets of graph paper, let premises and poems grow like bacteria all over the walls. Like a spinning top, I gained momentum without going anywhere, my lunacy filling notebooks and megabytes on my laptop. Sometimes when you’re moving really fast, everything outside you turns into a blur. You can focus on things in your frame of reference for a little while, but even then, they exist independently of any external anchors. You’re trying to be the best and do it all and crush the competition and you end up losing track of everything in the process. Thus, the departure of reason…

  • The Ultimate Executive Function Challenge: Moving Out of My Dorm

    Even after I was diagnosed with autism, there was a long period of time where I didn’t think I had any executive function issues. Most of the time, I’m organized. I’m on top of things. I get to places early. I finish what I start. I begin my homework before it’s even assigned. Surely all of this was evidence that my executive functioning was fully intact. I assumed that my difficulties lay elsewhere. This was an area where many struggled, but fortunately, I did not.

  • Cleaning Routines

    I always did my laundry on Fridays, because I didn’t have class that day and in the evenings, I went to Hillel. Traditionally, you’re supposed to have everything clean and organized and prepare for Shabbat, so it made sense for me to do my weekly chores that day. The first few months, I was spending a truly ridiculous amount of time (like, upwards of three hours) on cleaning, and it got to be so excessive that I set a limit on it. Laundry was a little tricky because it involved dragging all of my stuff across a courtyard and down three flights of stairs, which was no easy feat, especially when I needed to wash my two weighted blankets as well. Just getting my laundry to the laundry room without forgetting the detergent or losing my keys was enough of a production.

  • Morning Routines

    The main challenges here are working memory, task completion, and time management. I remember that I should go wash my face, but in the split second it takes to get to the backroom, I’ve already forgotten about that and am now busy with something else. As for time management, the issue is a bit counterintuitive. If I have to leave my dorm at, say, 8 am, I know I need to be ready by then, and there’s an immediate deadline driving me to complete the task (and to do so in a reasonable timeframe). But if I don’t have that mini deadline, there’s no time pressure, so it might take me far, far longer to finish my morning routine, if I finish at all.

  • Four Contributors’ Perspectives on College Orientations

    I think during orientations, there’s this pressure to participate in everything and seize opportunities and connect with other people, but really, some of the orientation things were a lot more essential than others. For example, there were some assemblies where they gave us information about academics, the drug/alcohol policies, preventing sexual harassment and assault…those were essential. But taking a selfie with the president at his house? Not so much. (Nothing against the president, of course; I’m sure he’s a great guy.) There were also some surprises worked into orientation, which I guess is because a lot of people like surprises, but I hate them, so the advance warning was particularly crucial here. They do this one thing called band run that basically involves every dorm running, screaming, carrying a flag, and chasing the band for a two-mile run around campus at 10 pm and then jumping in fountains. This sounded like the worst thing ever to me. Anyway, because I knew about this in advance, I just retreated to my room and lay under my weighted blanket and listened to indie rock. Much better.