Have you ever been stuck in a never-ending line at the grocery store? Or maybe you were at the DMV waiting to renew your license and the wait far exceeded what most consider humane? We have all been somewhere longer than we want to be at one time or another.
“I don’t know about you, but I often strike up conversations with random strangers.”
I suppose this seems strange since I am autistic. I mean I literally have a social disability. Nevertheless, I frequently talk to people I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about why I do this. Maybe I do it because I’m practicing my social skills. Maybe I do it because I don’t fear being judged by a random person. Maybe I’m just incredibly bored at that moment. Whatever the reason, it happens.
Some strangers welcome the out-of-the-blue conversations, others don’t especially like their space invaded. Recently I thought about why I do what I do. It’s not as if I am normally a social butterfly. I often spend time alone because I like to be alone. I don’t think that when I talk to strangers, they will want to befriend me.
Maybe I talk to random people because I enjoy learning about new things? I suppose that is partially true. I do find people’s life stories interesting. I’m not exactly sure why I like to talk to strangers. I think it probably has something to do with how other people view me.
Having not been diagnosed with autism until my mid-thirties, I didn’t have a reason for my differences growing up. I was constantly criticized for the way I acted. My parents couldn’t tolerate the “real” me, so I became a different version of myself. I tried to copy the behaviors of those around me. I eventually became some kind of fake, false version of my true person. This version seemed to be slightly more pleasing to my parents.
“The only time I could truly be myself, was when she was around people that didn’t know me. I could talk to random strangers and just be myself.”
I didn’t have to hide my true personality from unknown people because, it didn’t matter what they thought of me. If strangers thought I was weird or odd, that was fine. I would probably never run into the same person again. If I said something that wasn’t socially acceptable and the person reacted negatively, I learned not to say that same thing to someone I knew.
When I talk to strangers, I am actually practicing my social skills. Surprisingly l am often more at ease around total strangers than I am around acquaintances. I think this is because these people usually have no idea I’m on the spectrum. This takes away the stress and judgement I might receive from people I know.
Sometimes it feels as if people that know I am autistic are waiting for me to say or do something inappropriate. It sometimes seems that people are inspecting and criticizing every social situation that I happen to be in. I don’t know if people are actually judging me. This very well could be my own perception. The truth is, I am my own worst critic.
I am often hyper focused on being appropriate in social settings. This is overwhelming and stressful. So, for now, I think I will continue to chat with random strangers. If you know someone on the spectrum, please be understanding and forgiving when we don’t act like neurotypicals. We aren’t typical. We are autistic, and that in itself is pretty awesome.