My friend once said that she was so happy we live in this era of technology and social media.
What she meant is that I can type my thoughts, post them online to convey a message, discuss it with other people and make friends.
There can be some unpleasant comments after I post something but I want to talk about one awesome thing that is the result of my decision to join social media to learn, educate and discuss autism, disabilities and activism:
Friendship. Real friendship.
I like to say that I have a tribe. We are very different and diverse, in every aspect but we do share one very important thing:
Respect. We respect each other’s humanity.
Most of my friends I met online first. Some I still have to meet in person. Sharing information through a computer is, to me, safe and comfortable. Despite some progress concerning my self-esteem, I still get anxious when I meet someone for the first time. Because I need so much help, because of how I move, I feel like I will disappoint.
So far, this has been only in my head. My friends, so different from me, so seemingly “better” than me, know what it means to be assumed to be a lesser person, or to not need accommodations, based on appearances.
Every time I meet one of these friends, I am happily proved wrong about my fears. They all seem happy to see me, they are not judgmental and they say they wish we could spend more time together. I know I would like to spend a lot of time with them.
Recently, I had a chance to meet some of these online friends, many of them for the first time. From the moment I arrived until the minute I said my last goodbye, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Meeting many friends at the same time, having a chance to talk to them face to face, seeing in them the same joy I was feeling, freely being my complex autistic self, I felt I belonged.
What we all know is what it means to be neurodivergent in a world where we are a minority; they know, like only we can, that our ability to interact, move and communicate varies from moment to moment. And that is ok; some of them even know how it feels to have a seizure. They have a pretty good idea of how my brain might feel.
My friends, my community. Extreme example of empathy.
Not only they help me grow and understand all the nuances of good activism, they also help me understand more about myself, about other parts of my identity.
They are perfect in their human imperfection, always open to the new, the not ordinary, to the in need of nurturing.
While in my everyday life I still experience many moments of discouragement and pity, disdain and ignorance, when I am with these friends, I experience unending acceptance. They even accept the constant presence of my (support) friend, who is simply one of my communication and life skills tools (I am joking. She is my best friend and a fan of all of my neurodivergent and neurotypical friends).
And there is so much more! They are always ready to help me in any way they can. My very amazing friends are role models to me, and I might be a role model to some of them. Some are parents of autistic children and my experiences might help them in their journey.
My friends have not disappointed me in our first, second or third meeting face to face. I am still in awe of them!
My friends are the real thing.
About the Author, Amy Sequenzia.