When you hear someone with autism describes their childhood experiences, you are likely to hear something along the line of “growing up, I knew I was different”. For me, it is the feeling that I never quite fit in with my classmates despite my ‘normal’ outward appearance. I still feel this way towards most people and have accepted that I’m always going to feel like this in the company of others. At school, I just don’t click with most of my classmates. Is it simply due to my ‘quiet and shy’ personality? I’m not sure. I have always felt older than my classmates despite our same age. I guess the weirdest thing about me at school was I love to walk in the rain and get myself soaking wet. I read books of a genre most people (in my culture) don’t read. I was a little odd too for my music choices.
I grew up in the 90s listening to Chinese pop music. There is nothing uncommon about this. Many (if not most) of my classmates were also into English pop music but I wasn’t into it as much (both my parents are non-English speakers so there was a bigger Chinese influence in my reading and music choices). Instead, I love English oldies from the 50s, 60s, 70s, songs my parents listened to when they grew up. Once we were asked to bring an English song that we liked and its lyrics to class. I remembered just getting my first CD box set of golden oldies and without hesitation, I knew I would pick a song from that box set. There was a melody I liked particularly which had been stuck in my mind and the lyrics which I thought was somewhat bittersweet. Even then in my adolescence years, I’d pay attention to songs with lyrics that I relate to or lyrics that convey strong or mixed emotions like lost love. I guess this is why autism in girls are harder to detect because girls are able to demonstrate more complex emotions. The entire selection process had been personal, I simply picked a song I liked most and I haven’t thought about anything else. That day came when I went to school with the precious cd in my bag. I thought I made a good choice and had been happy with my choice until I heard what my classmates brought in their discussion amongst each other. Names like Savage Garden, Michael Learns to Rock, All-4-One etc, the most recent in English pop. It wasn’t until then I realised I never gave a thought to the social or age appropriateness of my choice and that my choice will only make me stand out as different and weird from others that would invite laughter/teasing. I was getting embarrassed. In the end, it was a relief that we weren’t required to display or play what we had brought so when my classmates asked what I brought, I just said I forgot about it.
About two decades have passed and every time I thought about it, it’s accompanied by a sense of guilt, the guilt of feeling embarrassed about my choice, the guilt of lying and being untrue to myself. This post is about making amends. And if you haven’t guessed from the clue on the featured image, this is the song of my choice.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied
They, said some day you’ll find
All who love are blind
When your heart’s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes
So I chaffed them, and I gaily laughed
To think they would doubt our love
And yet today, my love has gone away
I am without my love
Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes
Featured Image from http://www.pexels.com