Poetic allusions aside, April is a very important month in the life cycle of our business. It’s the start of the second quarter, a time when a lot of summer business picks up for us. Interestingly enough, April is also Autism Awareness Month. What does that have to do with Digital Pudding? A lot more than you think.
Here’s something else with which you may or may not be aware. I’m autistic. It’s mild autism (in fact, I’m probably a little too verbal for my own good), but it still has an impact on my life and those around me. I use really superfluous words (like “superfluous”). I monologue. I fake eye contact. Let’s just say if you met me for the first time, you’d know something was a little off. Not enough to say anything. Just enough to get that sort of uneasy feeling.
I’ve been this way my entire life even though I only found out as an adult about 10 years ago. How’s that for confusing? Imagine gaining this massive perspective on all your awkward interactions growing up and realizing that they all have a single root cause. All your anxieties. All your apprehensions. All your biggest failures, explained by forces far beyond your control. Forces of which you weren’t even aware until now. And which will continue to shape your life. It’s a terrifying relief.
Living with autism can be difficult for someone in my position. I manage it by reminding myself of what it means to be a person. Here’s my take.
People are fluid
As a kid, I was drawn to those sandbox type games where you would interact with a world predictably. Think along the lines of SimCity or Railroad Tycoon. Do something in the game, it has a direct effect on something else. Interactions are governed by immutable rules that you discover through playing. You get closer or further from your goals based on your actions. I would spend my time figuring out the most efficient way to achieve my goals. Pattern recognition. Endless optimization. Rinse and repeat.
The real world is a lot less linear, though. Patterns are sometimes more coincidence than correlative, and there’s no way to predict which is which. People break rules. People hide motives. There is no right or wrong way to act which is either maddeningly frustrating or endlessly exhilarating, depending on your perspective. For someone like me, it’s an exercise in futility.
I have to accept that it’s okay for people to act unpredictably, changing when you least expect them to, falling short of expectations and generally acting without prescript. We don’t live in one of those games; the rules of life aren’t absolute. That’s part of the joy of being a person.
People try their best
I try to do things the right way, in games, in conversations, even in starting this company. I constantly try to plan my life to get the most out of it. Build the biggest city. Generate the most revenue. Live successfully.
The way I go about doing that is meticulous calculation, theorizing, testing, data analysis and speculation. Other people do it differently. They also might quantify success differently. All anyone really wants is a life of comfort and happiness. Their goals, actions and intentions are not better or worse than mine.
We’re all just trying to do our best. That means different things to different people. It’s okay if their best is not yours. It’s still their best and it makes them happy.
People make mistakes
Speaking to that point, intentions don’t always come across clearly through actions. That’s where mistakes are made. They happen a lot. It’s common. No big deal, right? Unless it totally messes up everything you were about to do and throws your entire life into a tailspin.
If I mess things up in one of my games, there’s a previous save file to revert to. That isn’t the case offline. Life is a series of experiments conducted by mistake, all building on top of each other to create the rich tapestry.
Things don’t always work out, and that’s okay. It has to be okay. There’s no save file to reload. Press play and move on.
People live in the moment
Because there’s no starting and stopping, no replaying old favorites, many people exist in the moment. Sure, they plan and work toward goals. There’s still an appreciation for what’s happening at this very moment in time and a willingness to act accordingly.
Life isn’t about incessant planning and organizing into little boxes. I mean, it would be so much easier if it were. That’s just not the world we live in. It’s okay to relax and take it all in without always thinking about the next move.
People interact with other people
Nowhere is that overanalysis more apparent than in conversation. Rules for the most part go out the window. Subtext is confusing and foreign. What comes so naturally to some takes great strain on my part. Years of intensive study, complex calculations and thick anxiety go into each social interaction I muddle. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem worth it at all.
But it is. People talk to other people. It’s human nature. They explore each other’s personalities. They learn new things. They uncover bonds that can last a lifetime. It’s okay to talk to people, listen to what they say and take note of what they do. It’s not creepy. It’s not invasive. It’s accepted and even welcomed, most of the time.
People want to like you
Even getting over the immense hurdle of conversation anxiety, I can still be an intense person to be around. Friends don’t come easy. Even if I think I do everything right, relationships can become sour, the result of small mistakes that have built up over time. That’s just life.
It’s also probably all in my head. In general, the world is not constantly judging you. They’re not keeping score the same way I would. They don’t notice your every single misstep the way I do. And they don’t want to saddle you with unrealistic expectations. Or any expectations for that matter. It’s all fluid when you’re in the moment. There are no rules to learn.
Everyone wants to like you. They want to give you a chance to be something. To be great. To be important. To matter. If someone doesn’t, it’s more of a reflection of them, not you. There’s nothing you can really do about that.
Just be a person. Everything else will fall into place. And it will be okay.