Reunion

I drive from Danville to Bloomsburg, along the same path the school bus took me for twelve years. The trees crowd in beside the road, and it feels so quiet– I’m amazed at how little traffic there seems to be. I guess I’ve gotten used to Cincinnati. But this definitely still feels like home.

I’m going to the park for my 13-year class reunion. Why 13 years? Because we’d never had a reunion before, and we wanted to have one. I worry a little that I won’t recognize some of my classmates. That could be embarrassing.

But as they arrive one by one, I know them instantly without a doubt! This so rarely happens to me anymore even with people I know well. It really feels nice.

Eight of us were able to make it out of a class of 26. I’d say that’s pretty good, considering how many of us have spread out all over the country and how many are busy with family and job obligations.

I get to meet their spouses and children, and I do my best to remember their names, but it will take me a while. I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to learn some of them from Facebook.

We talk while the children play on the playground– there are so many stories to tell. I stand in between two conversations, listening to both and smiling. My friends are so very much the same people I knew from school. They’ve been to some amazing places and lived through some tough times, but God has preserved what is good in each of them.

I don’t think I have a lot to add myself. My experience is still mostly as a student. I’m still trying to find a career, still hoping to start a relationship with someone.

I probably seem a lot like I did when we were all in high school. I lagged behind socially then– at a middle school or elementary level– and as a result, I didn’t interact much with my peers. Now, I’m probably up to a college or high school level socially, but I don’t always feel fully a part of the adult world.

When someone asks me what I’m doing currently, I stammer and pause for a bit as I try to answer. A nasty part of me is telling me “You don’t belong here. You don’t have anything to talk about,” but I know that’s not true. We go out for drinks, but I haven’t developed a taste for beer or wine, so I order soda. I hope they don’t think I’m looking down on them by not sharing a drink– it’s such a symbol of friendship.

Before I came to the reunion, I was worried a little about negative thoughts like these, but they are no match for the joy I feel. I sit and listen to all the stories as my friends share– about meeting their husbands and wives, about funny or sad things at work, about pregnancy and childbirth and picking names for children and the unpredictability of two-year-olds. I imagine that my parents had conversations like this about me when I was little. I hear how God has blessed each family and prepared them for the things He brings into their lives. Everyone’s story is different, but also the same.

I realize that I have grown in thirteen years. When I was a senior in high school, I was afraid to drive a car. Today I made two trips by myself, and I enjoyed them. Even though social interaction is tiring, I am seeking it rather than avoiding it– planning my weekend around it and learning how to get enough rest in between so that I can be fully present and part of the conversation.

I wonder if my classmates know what a blessing they have been to my life– both those who are there and those who could not come.

At times, others find it hard to believe that I have Asperger’s just from observing me. I think some of this may be due to personality– my strong desire to avoid confrontation has likely kept me from clashing with others.

But there was another big difference in my life, the people around me. In so many of the stories I read online about people with Asperger’s, their years in school are not remembered fondly. Stories of bullying seem almost universal, and in a lot of cases, the best advice people can offer is “Wait until you graduate; it will get better.” I read about people who still deal with the effects of bullying decades later.

I wonder if my classmates know that they are proof that it doesn’t have to be that way– that kindness can have just as much of a positive impact on a life. None of us knew about Asperger’s, but anyone could see that I was different in some ways, lagging behind in others. But I wasn’t given grief for it. I was just given friendliness, time, and a safe place to grow.

I hope they know.

5 comments

  1. Nathan,
    I really appreciate this blog. It makes me aware of differences in people. I honestly never saw you as different in high school. I saw you as my competition! To be honest, my husband complains that I am the least observant person on the planet. I generally just take everything at face value and don’t notice differences in people. I’m sure you remember my friend in high school who was of hispanic descent. I have to admit that it wasn’t until well into college that it dawned on me that he wasn’t white. I honestly didn’t think about it. He was who he was and even though I knew him since I was 5, I never noticed a difference. He was just my friend.

    On another note, it was wonderful to see you at the reunion. I was so happy that the ones who could come, did. It was great getting to see how lives have changed and are still changing. I’m happy that you were able to have a positive experience in high school. I have to admit that I feel the same way. I talk to friends who went to public schools and they tell me how happy they were to graduate and get out of that environment. I was sad to go. I knew what to expect in high school and knew that I could count on my friends (i.e. all of my classmates). I think we were all very blessed to be in a class that was so close, accepting and non-judgemental. I, too, would like to thank everyone for such a positive experience.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Allison. I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed reading my posts.

      As far as being “different” goes, I’ve found that so much depends on perspective. The reality is that everyone’s different in some ways, whether there’s a label for it or not.

      I think having the label “Asperger’s” has helped me to understand some of my differences and be more patient with myself as I work on things I want to change. But it is a slippery sort of category, because no one fits it exactly, and everyone identifies with most of the traits at least some of the time, and yet it still describes something real. I think one reason I write about it so much is that it’s so confusing!

      I’m not sure being “unobservant” is a bad thing. (I have to confess, I’m not sure I know who you are talking about– how’s that for unobservant? 🙂 ) I didn’t know anything about Asperger’s until just a few years ago, but I don’t think I would have wanted people to treat me any differently because of it. In the case of your friend, race is really just a label people have put on each other too– if you care about the person, then you care about them as an individual regardless of labels.

      One of the things I’ve realized about people is that even when it seemed like everyone around me had it together and I was the “odd” one, I’m pretty sure every one of them felt like they were the “odd” one at times. But God understands even the things that confuse us, and he still loves each one of us. The fact that he brought us together in that class is one of the ways he blessed us.

      Anyway, thanks for reading! I am planning to get back to posting in a couple of weeks, as right now I am focusing on trying to get some computer code to work. Go class of ’98!

      : )

  2. Hello,

    My name is Megan. I’ve recently been reading your blog because I’m interested in learning from the experiences of other Christians with Asperger’s Syndrome. I was diagnosed with AS just a few months ago.

    I have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind.

    1. I read in one of your posts (can’t find it now) that you did some research to list all of the football games that have taken place for a certain period of time. When it comes to my special interests, I find that I need to have a comprehensive knowledge about the thing in question, too. I often use Excel to help document what I learn and fill up lots of notebooks. Do you feel that “comprehensiveness” is an aspect of pursuing your special interests?

    2. You mentioned here that you have a “strong desire to avoid confrontation.” A friend recently pointed out that I do, too. Have you written any posts on that topic? I’m trying to think through this issue more.

    3. You mentioned here that you are from the Danville area. Do you mean PA? I’m from the Lewisburg, PA area!

    Thanks so much for your time,
    Megan

    • Welcome, Megan! Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog over the past week– I’m impressed at how often you are able to write.

      I definitely remember the process of being diagnosed, the adjustment of thinking about myself in a new way, and the uncertainty of wondering what things about me could be explained by Asperger’s and what didn’t seem to fit.

      In answer to your questions,

      1. Comprehensiveness is definitely a part of how I pursue my special interests. I love to make exhaustive lists and rankings of the things that interest me (constellations, atomic elements, TV episodes, video games).

      Most recently I’ve been trying to understand a comic that has an incredibly convoluted plotline (with time travel and alternate universes) that’s told out of order, so I’m trying to make a timeline that puts it all back in the correct order again. Doing the whole thing will take literally hundreds of pages, but it’s very interesting and relaxing for me to do.

      One drawback to being this way is that I don’t feel like I can say I understand something unless I understand all of it, and in most cases, I will never understand it all, so I will never feel confident that I know it.

      2. I don’t think I’ve written any posts yet specifically on the topic of avoiding confrontations, though it’s certainly been a theme in a lot of my posts, like Stage fright? and What about girls with Asperger’s syndrome?.

      3. Yes; I am orginially from Pennsylvania. I remember Lewisburg– they have really distinctive street lamps that I liked.

      God bless you!
      Nathan K.

      • Hello Nathan,

        Thanks so much for your reply! It’s nice to meet you. And thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It’s a lot less formal than most online, since I mostly just keep it for my own enjoyment; but I’m happy when others find something interesting or encouraging there. I don’t always post so often, but lately I’ve had a lot on my mind that’s worked its way into writing 🙂

        With regards to special interests, I can completely relate to how you feel. My special interests are what first alerted me to the possibility that I might have Aspergers.

        “…I don’t feel like I can say I understand something unless I understand all of it…so I will never feel confident that I know it.” I was just thinking about this a few days ago. I wonder if this plays a part in why I’m so timid and cautious in life.

        Yes, Lewisburg is a very cute town. It’s so neat that you know it!

        God bless you, too. And thanks again,
        Megan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s