Today is my birthday, and I am now 39. I don’t feel 39. I don’t remember ever feeling my age.
It is a dark day, and despite trying my best to make it different, I still feel tired and depressed. It is almost always this way on my birthday – except the year I had just started school for construction the day before. That was three years ago, and it was a wonderful day.
Most years on my birthday, I feel reflective, and usually not in a good way. The question always comes to me, “how have you grown?” and mostly I feel that I haven’t. I am not a better or more successful person than I was. I haven’t done anything wonderful. I have yet to experience life in a way that makes it worth the pain – and on my birthday, especially, I feel my failures more than anything, and it hurts.
As a child, I was always ‘younger’ than other children my age. I was still carrying dolls to school long past when the other girls stopped, and I only left them home when their response to me became uncomfortable. Colouring was still a main favourite activity late in my teens, when others had given up the activity shortly past kindergarten. Emotionally and socially, I was years behind my peers – always. I still am.
Most days it surprises me that I am an adult – let alone reaching middle age. I am still not ready. Time just seems to go too fast for me, I can never catch up. I joke with my son that I am ready for him to be 5 now – but it isn’t really a joke. I wasn’t ready the first time around, and it scared me when he became so “old.” In two days, he will be as old as I was on the day he was born – 19 years, six months, and 1 day. It doesn’t seem possible. I’m still not ready.
I think that may be a lot of the reason for my burnout. What passes as a week to others, feels more like a day to me, and I am always rushing to catch up. I move too slow for this world. I think too slow for this world. The sensory input that I receive each day is more than I could handle well in a week… and all of this overload causes me to shut down.
Autism… I can’t move at the same pace, and so I fail at life because I just can’t keep up, no matter how hard I try – and I do try hard.
This year I know that is the reason. It is good to know. Now I know why I have always felt younger, and why I have always felt like I was failing. I am not as hard on myself this year over my failures, and that is progress. But it is still dark, and still raining, and that still weighs heavily on me this year as it always has before.
So I turn 39 today – but I am not really 39. It is just a number that counts the years, but doesn’t look at who I am really. Today I am maybe ready for 20-24 – but only a little. Today I am almost ready to claim my space as an adult – but only if I don’t have to go to work. If I have to go to work, I am reminded again how fast the world goes, and I am not ready.
I am not ready to move so fast… I don’t know if I ever will be. But that is okay. Today I know that I am autistic, and that means I wasn’t created for the world as others live it. I wasn’t meant to be like everyone else – and it really is a relief to learn that.