That’s how far back we’re about to go. I’m going to use a simile only a certain generation will understand. Remember tapes? It kind of sounds odd to say now. Tapes. Sounds like a prehistoric infection. If my kids overheard me ask someone if they “had tapes” when they were a teenager, they would think it was an STD. Like an old school slang term for gonorrhea. But I digress, as usual. I’m about to rewind my tape and take young and old back to my days as an introverted neophyte surviving on southern sweet tea and tapes.
You could say it was exacerbated by the abuse from my father, but I had a hard time socializing. The last grade I completed was the sixth grade. I dropped out of school at the age of thirteen years old. How does a thirteen year old go missing from the public school system without notice? You might ask. Well there wasn’t much expectation for us Natives to do anything other than fail in life so when I stopped going to school, my mother withdrew me, and the school system never asked any questions.
I’d spend months without interacting with anyone other than my mother and the two grandmothers I lived with. I spent the majority of my time playing video games like Rygar, Contra, and Zelda on my Nintendo. When I wasn’t playing video games I was reading books (Stephen King and fantasy novels like Dragonlance) or I was listening to gangster rape or writing bizarre stories of great imagination. In other words, I was anywhere but here on planet Earth.
I’d come out of my introverted trance of escape when I’d go visit my cousin, Quincy, in Lawton, Oklahoma. My family out there was very active in Kiowa and Comanche cultural activities so I’d get a good dose of culture and community. My aunt, Linda, is like a mother to me and her husband, Uncle Butch, was a father figure when I didn’t have one.
Similarly, I had a close friend in Tahlequah, Brandon, who would bring me out of isolation on the occasional weekends. He was extroverted and knew a lot of people in Tahlequah. Through him I could pretend to be normal for short time periods. His mother, also Linda, was another mother figure in my life. Brandon’s family took me under their wing and I had time periods where I did family type activities with them.
I was raised by a single mother who was undiagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She is very intelligent and highly calculated, but she does not have the social skills you would want a mother to have. Her reasoning is more logical and practical. She can get overstimulated by social environments so she wasn’t trying to take any of her children to community or cultural functions. If it wasn’t for the above mentioned individuals then I would have never had opportunities to socialize.
I fall under the umbrella of Asperger’s syndrome, but I’m not as far on the spectrum to full Asperger’s as my mother. I can understand (now) how my mother thinks and looks at the world. I don’t criticize her because I understand she is biologically constructed to be the way she is. In fact, I have my level of intelligence and high inclination toward creativity because of my mother’s genetics. A lot of people say I look like her and act like her. I write fiction. My mother does traditional beadwork. I play the guitar. My mother hand makes traditional quilts. While we have chosen different skills, we are the same in intelligence and creativity. Which are both symptoms of Asperger’s.
Certainly my introvertedness can be contributed to a number of aspects in my childhood, but I’ve had a lot of jobs in my adult life where I was taught to be extroverted. I’ve taught English classes at the University of Oklahoma, and I’ve facilitated experiential education programs with a hundred participants. I don’t shy away from attention. In fact, I enjoy attention, but I’m not competing to get it.
As you get older you get more comfortable in who you are. I’m an artist and an intellectual. It may be by genetic and environmental design but it is who I am. I’m content. I don’t desire to be anything else. It’d be like asking a shark to be lion.