Changes in life are inevitable. The weather changes. The government changes. People change.
One of life’s biggest changes is growing up.
Moving from childhood to adulthood. When my daughters were born, it seemed as if they would be little forever. Long sleepless nights, endless diaper changes and constant feedings often blurred the days and nights into one long week. I remember drinking what seemed like gallons of coffee just to stay awake those first bleary-eyed years. It seems like those days were only a few months ago, instead of a decade ago.
So much has changed between infancy and high school.
Starting in the fall, all three of my daughters will be in high school. My oldest will be a senior next year. Where did the time go? When did my babies grow up? My oldest daughter will be eighteen in a few short months. Isn’t that considered adulthood? Are childhoods that fleeting? Was the innocence of childhood blown away with the dandelion fluff they used to make wishes on during hot summer days?
Unfortunately, time marches on.
My oldest is on the precipice of adulthood. Soon she will be making her own decisions and life plans. I do not have time to cry or sulk. I have to prepare her for what’s ahead, and reminisce about what’s behind later.
My daughter is trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. As a society, we start asking toddlers what their future jobs might look like. It’s always adorable when a three-year-old says she wants to be a superhero. Then, suddenly, you have an eighteen-year-old standing in front of you with no idea what her future should look like. The past 6-months, my daughter and I have gone over every possible career path and nothing seems appealing to her. It can be difficult when you’re young, autistic and unsure of the future.
As an autistic woman myself, I know how scary it is to face the unknown.
When I was eighteen, the future looked horrifying to me. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of colleges and universities. There are millions of job titles. Forget about all that, what if I couldn’t follow my usual routine? What if I couldn’t eat what I wanted to eat every day? What if the college I chose didn’t understand me?
Autism is built on routine. Not knowing what would happen to my routine, made me feel panicked. I know my daughter is facing that same panicked feeling as she anticipates her transition out of high school. It has been challenging to engage her in any type of conversation about college because she is scared. She likes her routine to stay the same. Unfortunately, routines and schedules are bound to change eventually.
I am trying to prepare her to be an autistic woman.
I have found a few things are very helpful in our quest toward her future path. We have open discussions about what kind of careers might interest her. Because I am autistic, I have the advantage of knowing that routine is important. I also know that jobs involving a lot of social interaction will be overwhelming. My daughter and I have talked about what types of jobs best fit her. Her autism is a vital part of her whole being. It is important to take that into account no matter what she chooses as her career.
Her autism doesn’t have to hold her back.
It doesn’t have to define her entire life. I won’t sugar coat things and tell you these conversations with my daughter have been easy. We are both stubborn, autistic women. I have been down the path of life and she is just starting her trip. I want to help her avoid the pitfalls and land mines, but I cannot. She is independent and wants to control her environment, but that’s not always possible in college (or in life).
Unfortunately, I know life is not made for our tribe. The world is typical, and we are not. So, I will continue having mentally draining conversations with my daughter to help her figure things out. I made the journey without any parental support. Her dad and I are here to help her at every step so she can soar to new heights.
I love my strong girl with all my being. She has always been a rebel, and that rebel spirit will carry her far in life. Although life may get more complicated, she will be her own person. I will always be here waiting to listen to her fears and hopes. We will figure this adulthood thing out together.
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