Home?

Last week, I visited the town where I grew up. My mom needed some help around the house, and it had been a while since my last visit anyway. Soon after I arrived, we went out to the grocery store, like you do. And that’s when I noticed something.

People were looking at me weird. Some people who I’d known since childhood (my Girl Scout troop leader included) didn’t recognize me. And sure, I’ve dyed my hair a few times, and cut it here and there, but I didn’t think that I looked that different. So why all the weird looks?

I kinda fixated on that experience for the rest of my visit. Why were people looking at me? Is it the short hair? I know small towns aren’t the most progressive, but I’ve had a short haircut before… When I realized that I don’t think I ever really firmly fit in where I’m from. I don’t mesh well with small town culture. There were a hundred tiny differences in attitude that I guess I always knew where there, but had ignored for so long until I came back from the place where I had fit in.

I went to college in Upstate NY. Sure, it’s not Manhattan, but it was still very different from the small town where I was born. Cafes are open until 10 PM. Everyone makes sure their outfit is polished before leaving the house. Almost everyone I met there was liberal. And after about a year, I had started calling that “home.” I’d go visit my family, and then I’d go home. Now that I’ve moved, I’m homesick for the place where I’ve only spent four years of life (as opposed to the one where I spent eighteen).

Going back to visit my family this last time solidified it: their town is where I come from, but it’s not my home anymore. I don’t fit in there. It’s not my place. I’m not sure Boston is either, but I hope it starts to feel that way. I made a home in Upstate NY, and I’ve really been missing that home. It took me so long to find a place where I was comfortable as myself, and I left it.

Hopefully now that I’ve thought on this I can start to do something about it; hopefully I can make a home in Boston. Hopefully I can stop feeling weird every time I go out in public with my family, because I am from out of town now. From here on out, I’m from Upstate NY.

-Finn

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Generosity / Acceptance

So, I grew up in a household where we were raised to be independent – I got a job around the age of 14, and if I wanted something, I’d save up and get it.

There are definitely things I’ve been helped with. My parents have provided for me financially and given me incredible opportunities, like the chance to go to private school and one of the best colleges in the country. And I’m definitely grateful for that.

But other than the things that were deemed a necessity, I was never really okay with people just giving me things. Hell, I had a hard time letting my dates buy me dinner (even when I was super broke and couldn’t justify buying dinner for myself, so I’d feel guilty for going out, but I’d have felt guilty for letting someone pay…it was a whole thing).

And now, I’m living with a super generous family who just want to give. And give, and give, and give. And it’s really hard for me to just shut up and say “yes!” I even started out buying my own groceries (which I could hardly afford, seeing as I haven’t worked in six weeks now), even though L’s mom offered to buy them instead.

I’ve finally started to let her buy the groceries, and offer to pay for meals and the like. After a long conversation with L, we’ve even accepted a much more generous offer.

Now, we’re not sure how feasible this all is (we’ve been running to town hall, a lot), but L’s family has offered to build an addition onto their house, just for us. Basically, they would be providing us with a permanent apartment. No rent, ever. There’s still this tiny stubborn Devil on my shoulder saying “People can’t buy you THINGS!” but I’m doing a pretty good job of ignoring them, I think. I mean, this is the best offer anyone has made me in a long time, if not ever. Here, have a place to live!

I think I just need a new mindset. I’ve always tried to be generous to others (but I really don’t want to get into it, because I find horn-tooting kinda gross), but I never thought that others could be generous to me! That would just make me selfish, right? But then I started thinking about how most people feel good when they do something good. And I thought of how this could positively affect L’s family; they’re definitely a tight-knit bunch. They only made us this offer when we explained that while it’s very nice of them to let us stay at their house, we need our own space and don’t want to stay there forever.

L’s mom was very sad that we don’t want to stay there forever.

So, I guess this is her way of saying, “everyone can get what they want,” and I’m okay with that. I am working on remembering that accepting generosity from others doesn’t somehow make me a terrible person, and I wish that I hadn’t thought that for so many years of my life. I think a lot of us are like that; we want to give, but God forbid we take! We can’t take! Taking is for other people! This mindset is so flawed. No one human can just give and give with nothing in return, and I don’t think it makes me an awful person to admit that.

If you too have trouble accepting generosity, just remember this: you’re as human as everyone else. If it’s okay for them to take what you give, it’s okay for you to take what they give. Think of how many occasions you got mad at someone for accepting your generosity. Hopefully, too many don’t come to mind (and if they do, you might have some serious leeches in your life). But anyway, as long as you’re not thinking of one person who takes and takes to the point that you’re uncomfortable, you’re probably thinking of perfectly healthy interactions. And it is completely okay to be at the other end of those interactions.

Of course, be mindful, and never try to take more than you give. Don’t stop giving, don’t stop providing for others. Those are wonderful things to do. But it can be wonderful to let others treat you well, and let others provide for you.

As I type these words, they’re actually helping me quite a lot (like a lot of my writing, this is an unedited stream of conscience so it might meander a bit). Be generous, but also be accepting.

-Finn

It’s okay to say “autistic.”

So I went to see Morgan today with L (it was… meh). But before this movie, like other movies, there were trailers. One of them caught my attention, and then I ended up having a lot of feelings about it.

There’s a movie coming out at some point called The Accountant. The trailer starts off with a father and a therapist discussing a boy who’s playing with a puzzle (and oh boy will we get to that!). The therapist says that the boy is “like Einstein, or Mozart…” And out loud, in the middle of the theater, I actually said, “Oh my GOD! You can say ‘autistic’!”

The trailer goes on to show the boy, now a man, eating off a very organized plate. There are shots of various parts of his house, such as a drawer with one fork, one knife, and one spoon, all perfectly lined up. There are shots of him stimming (“nervous ticks” if you’re not quite familiar with that term). There are shots of him working with numbers (you know, because all of those people who are “like Einstein” are good with numbers). One thing is clear: this is a (very deeply trope-ish) autistic character.

I was happy to see an autistic character (who, actually ends up being pretty bad-ass), but I had a lot of problems with the trailer.

First off: there was like, a whole theme about puzzles. I don’t know a single autistic person who actually supports the puzzle piece logo or the people who came up with it. Stop with the puzzle thing. Just stop. (link, link, link, link)

Second: they made this autistic character exactly like every other autistic character. Believe it or not, people who have Autism Spectrum Disorders differ from one another! Also, another little-known fact (ridiculously enough): people of any gender can be autistic! In fact, one of the things that seems to affect how autism surfaces in an individual is gender. So, having another male autistic mathematician with heavy indications of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not only completely lacking in creativity, it furthers stereotypes about autistic people.

Third: literally no one in the entire trailer used the word “autistic” once. “Autistic” is not an insult. “Autistic” is an adjective, used to describe someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. “Autistic” is treated like an insult because the same people who proudly put little puzzle-piece bumper stickers on their cars think that autism is a disease that needs to be cleansed from the Earth. If anyone in the entire trailer had actually said “autistic” it probably would have provided an opportunity to create a non-trope of an autistic character. You could just have the therapist say, “Hey, your son is autistic!” and have the father be like “Thank you for telling me!” and then just show the main character having a pretty average life, except that he thinks a little differently, or maybe he needs to listen to his music very quietly, or he needs help cleaning his house, or he just gets kind of tired sometimes.

So, everyone, I just want to make sure you know: It is okay to say “autistic.” You can stop saying different, special, unique, weird, or quirky when you mean to say “autistic.”

New Friends

I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve been facing since moving is finding ways to meet new people. Day to day I see my partner and his brother, and occasionally our neighbor comes over. She and I get along pretty well too- we’ve gone out to a local bar a couple of times, and we tried joining a meetup (but I’ll get to that). Other than this small group, I don’t really have a lot of friends here.

It’s just challenging not having a setting like college where you’re placed in a relatively closed-off setting with a bunch of like-minded people. Seriously, I became best friends with my best friend because I needed a place to sit in gen. chemistry, and That Guy I Saw That One Time was in the class. So I waved, and gestured to the seat next to him, and he waved and nodded. And then we became best friends (okay so there’s a lot more to it than that). But now there’s no gen. chem. There’s no debate club, or dorms, or frat parties, or student union.

There are bars, I guess, but I can think of exactly one time that I had a conversation with a stranger out at a bar. I think bars are for going out with your group and huddling away from the other groups who are huddling away from you. It just seems so antisocial.

One of my friends suggested the app Meet-Up, which has been helping somewhat. It’s at least reminiscent of joining clubs in college. You put in your interests, and it spits out a bunch of groups. So far, the results have been mixed for me.

I also tried out a board games meetup with my neighbor, but a large portion of the group ended up being 50+ years old, and we felt pretty out-of-place there. The first meeting was fun, but at the second meeting, we didn’t see anyone in our age group there, so we set out to find something else to do that night.

I joined a Pokemon Go meetup (which I am now an admin of? oops?), which is helping. I get along fairly well with the people, but I really only see them once a week at the meetups. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a way I can find people to go out for coffee with or just hangout with in a non-structured setting. I’m hoping that with time that’s what it becomes; there are a couple of people in the group who seem particularly friendly. So, for now, I’ll see my group once a week, and that’s still good. But hopefully eventually I can find some close friends to send funny memes or go see a movie with or drag to the beach instead of L (who really doesn’t like the beach at all, but he humors me and goes anyway). I’ll let everyone know how the hunt for friends turns out.

 

-Finn

Family

carrots

(source)

It’s been really weird adjusting to living with L’s family, but I’m starting to like it. His mom and dad check in a lot, something I’m really not used to. At first, I seriously couldn’t even handle that they ask me whether I’ve eaten fruits and vegetables today. Like, of course I’ve eaten fruits and vegetables today. Why wouldn’t I have?

…And then I realized, that’s just their way of showing they care. One thing my family was big on: independence. Once I was old enough, I’d basically cook for myself, take care of my portion of the housework, and take care of myself. So it was shocking to me to think that people have to ask if you’ve been doing those things all day while they were out. I’m adjusting, though.

I really appreciate them being there for me. I don’t really talk to my own parents, so it’s been really nice to have some parents there for me to ask how the job hunt is going, or how that interview was, even if they’re not my parents. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to ask them about signing up for health insurance and car insurance, which I have no idea how to do, but feel really weird asking about for some reason. Like, there’s this voice in my head telling me I should know this stuff already even though I have no reason at all to know it already.

Also, update: L’s mom literally just handed me a carrot while I was typing this. It’s one of the yellow ones. 

I’m grateful to have people there for me, even if in the strictest sense of the word, they aren’t all my family. I have my sister, my partner, and a bunch of people I had met all of four times before moving in with them a few weeks ago. But I have a safety net. I have a support network.

 

-Finn

Changes

The past three months have been tumultuous for me. I graduated college, I left my job, I’ve moved twice (once in town, and once to a different state). In general, I don’t do well with large changes.

After graduation, I felt lost without the rigorous scheduling that the school year provides. I had specific blocks of time where I could go get meals. I had a good idea of what I needed to do each day to move forward. After graduation, though, I didn’t have anything that I needed to manage, time-wise. I had cleaning to do, sure, but it didn’t have to fit in between homework and debate practice. I felt lost when my schedule went out the window.

Then, that happened a second time when I left my job. I went from having a set time commitment roughly five times per week to having no time commitments at all. And I know that it sounds like a good thing when I say it like that, like “I can sit at home and do whatever,” but there’s a problem. I’m restless without a schedule. I get cranky if I don’t do enough stuff each day, because I’m used to doing so much all the time. I’m hoping that finding even part time work will help with that (or maybe I’ll just set a strict schedule for writing about stuff, to start).

Moving has been really hard for me. For my junior and senior year, I lived in a house (a crappy, run-down, old house that I loved) with a group of my closest friends (shout out to the Prism crew). I had my room, with all my stuff in it (even if I did switch rooms partway through). It was down the street from a pizza place and a burrito place, and a block from my school. The living room is where we all played video games together, where we all watched movies and ate takeout (yes, living off campus is, in fact, every college stereotype). In the kitchen we had a board full of out-of-context quotes. It was my home, and I had to leave it. Upon moving out, two of our roommates went back to be with their parents, way out of town.

Then, I moved in with my partner, in a 2-bedroom apartment. It would have been a really nice place, I’m convinced, if we’d have stayed there long enough to unpack all our boxes. See, we were only there for two months–from when our leases ran out, to when L’s job commitment wrapped up. So, we had a bean-bag and a weird fold-up chair-like-thing that was about floor level, and we found this really low to the ground end table that we used to serve food on. It was full of boxes and clutter (neither of us owned a shelf large enough to matter), but I still lived in the same town as my best friend. We only saw each other once a week or so, instead of three times a day for several hours (living together has its perks), but he was still able to come over and watch Marco Polo with me. And then we moved again.

I cried. We said goodbye and hugged and I got in my car and cried. And then I went home and I cried. And then I tried to get some packing done and I found a picture he drew for me when I was mad at him (it’s a landscape of the farming village we made together in Minecraft) and I cried. And the next day we packed up and we drove across Massachusetts and unloaded the things we’d need for the first night, slept, and unloaded the rest of the U-Haul and, you guessed it, I cried.

I really wish I were better equipped to deal with these big life changes, but I really just want to reach a point where things are stable. I want to get a job so I can look for the apartment that I’ll be living in with L for the foreseeable future. I want to put down roots again. I’m getting used to my new surroundings, but it has not been an easy process for me, at all. I’m hoping with time I can learn the coping mechanisms I need to adjust to big life changes. I’m hoping it gets easier.

 

-Finn