The Depressodon

So I haven’t been able to write a post for a while now. I have been busy, but more importantly, the reason I haven’t been able to write for a while is that I have been feeling really depressed lately. I think I have lived most of my life in a state of mild depression. Not trying to sound dramatic or anything, because I don’t really care about drama.

Often times I feel that there is a huge creature of sadness that sits on my shoulders and holds me down to the ground. I want to be happy and free and float in the sky with the lightness of being (bonus points if you catch both references in that sentence). But I can’t do those things because I am held down by this awful ugly and lumpy thing that chains me to the ground. Since I love dinosaurs, I will call it the ‘Depressodon’. He is a beast that is constantly around me, lurking behind every happy memory and everything that will come. The Depressodon just waits, his looming presence is awful enough so he never really does much.

Life is really hard sometimes. Other people seem to be able to tune out the bad things and somehow feel happy or at least feel better for a short while. I can’t do that, I can’t just make myself happy. If there are things that are bothering me or making me upset, then they will continue to do so until I fix them or they go away of their own causes. Occasionally, I can forget about them.

A lot of what bothers me is that I never really feel like I am getting what I want out of life. Invariably, feeling that way always makes me question what exactly it is that I want out of life. And the truth is that I have no answer for that. I truly don’t know what I want, which is also a large part of the problem. Even down to small things like do I want to go to the store now or later, I have no clear picture of what I want. It is very rare that I get a strong feeling of something that I want to do or that I want to get. That feeling stretches up to bigger life things, like a ‘career’ or ‘relationship’ and that sort of thing. I have a vague sense of wanting something more than I have now, but I can’t really define it any clearer than that.

The vagueness stresses me out a lot more than not being able to get it. I know that the reason I can’t get what I want is because I don’t know what I want. Once you know what it is that you want, it is pretty easy to get started on the process to get it. But finding out what you want, that part I have no clue how to do.

So here I find myself working really hard at what I do, not really making much progress on getting a ‘career’, not really saving enough money to buy a house soon, not getting married or starting my own family, not even really getting enough time to hang out with my friends, not having enough time to enjoy life and do the random things that I think of doing (like going to kayaking on a Tuesday), and ultimately feeling at the end of every day that I have done absolutely nothing to move my own life forward and I am not any small bit closer to getting what I want out of life and I didn’t spend any time thinking of what exactly it is that I want to get out of life. See why that kind of thing can lead to feeling depressed? I hate it. I don’t really know how to fix it, which I know is a part of my autism. But knowing it’s a part of my autism doesn’t help in any way, it actually makes it a lot worse because then I know that it will not improve unless I do something about it.

But I don’t know how to improve it. So, I get stuck in that loop, and that depressing loop is why I haven’t slept for more than 4 hours in the last month. Every morning I wake up that awful thought creeps into my head within a few minutes and fixates my brain until I finally pass out from exhaustion late that night. Sure, I can distract myself with my work or a video game and feel a little better. But as soon as I stop those things, then I feel worse than I did before. Then I realize that I have wasted another day and gotten older, and still gotten nothing accomplished at the major life things that I want to do.

Writing this out is really helpful to me, I encourage everyone to write about the things that they are struggling with in life. It is a great process to explain and solidify the ambient stresses of life and confine them into the syntax and word structure required by language. Once I have tamed the Depressodon and forced it to bow to my will, then I have a sense that I can defeat it. Even if I don’t currently have the tools I need to slay it, I at least know that I can explain it to someone who might know the tools that I need and that maybe together we can take it down.

Dating

I have not dated very much lately, I’ve had 3 dates in the last 10 years. I keep telling myself that I will start dating once I figure out my life and get more stable, but that is something that will never happen either. I dated some in high school, but those all ended badly too, for reasons I will not go into yet. I have been told that dating me was like ‘dating a wall’, or that I never kissed back in the right way, or that I never initiated anything, or that I took too long to reply. After a fair amount of failures, I think it’s pretty safe to give up on something like dating. Plus, there are so many things to do that are more interesting than dating.

I recently decided to, as the old saying goes, “put myself out there” and try dating someone. I finally feel like my life is stable and ready enough to try and be in a relationship. Or, more truthfully, I realized that things will never be fully ready as much as I would like them to be. So I am wasting my time by waiting for things to be perfect, that will never happen. I also am tired of seeing everyone else around me be happy and surrounded by people they love. I feel sick and awful when I am alone now, which is something that is really new. I used to love being alone with my thoughts, but now I can’t stand that feeling. I genuinely want to be around people, at least people that I respect and enjoy. That is a strange new feeling for me.

So for those reasons, I decided to try and find a date. I was surprised that within a day, I had started up a conversation with someone and they seemed awesome! I was so excited and nervous to meet them finally. I set up our first date a few days later and then realized that I was so totally not ready for this. I was so nervous the day of the date that I was close to calling it off. I felt that there was no way they would possibly be able to like me, I mean most of the time I can barely tolerate myself, so the thought of someone else choosing to and enjoying being around me is still surprising. But I persevered and went to the first date.

It went very well, I am proud to say. I had a great time, which surprised me. I realized that like most of the problems I face, it was all in my head. Once I get out there and do something, I do it well.

I made the difficult decision that I needed to tell this person about my autism. I have made a lot of mistakes in the past while dating, and I can ascribe almost every single one of them to my autism. So, I thought that maybe by telling them, they would be patient with me and maybe understand. I told them, and they said they knew nothing about it but that they would look it up. I don’t think they have yet.

A few days later, we met up again, and they were unhappy with me for not replying to their texts fast enough. I had to work really hard not to start yelling. First of all, it should never matter if someone replies to a text ‘fast enough’, that is such an asinine millennial comment. I prefer to, you know, live my life and do things, rather than spend my time staring at a plastic screen waiting for people to send me messages. Which rules out about ¾ of the dating pool it seems, because everyone seems to be controlled by their phones.

Instead of giving that rant, I explained that the way my brain works is to focus on what I am doing. If I am focused on something, I can’t very well pick up my phone and suddenly reply to a random text about something else, and then switch back my previous task. I have learned that I am very bad at multitasking. Especially if I am working around children, and the distraction is something lewd and not child-friendly, then things do not go well. So I tried to reason that, but got nowhere. They were oblivious still.

As I got to know this person more, I got less interested in them. All they seemed to do was go to work and then go home to watch Netflix. They had no real hobbies, or interests, or passions, or cares. I have no respect for people like that, and quite frankly, see no reason to waste my time with them. I feel that as a human, we have a strong need to be three-dimensional. By that I mean that we need to have things that we do, things that excite us, things that we enjoy, things that make us learn and grow. If we are not doing those things, then we are not living well. I can’t tolerate people who don’t find and seek out those things, people who just meek out an existence and survive. That is not interesting to me at all, because I don’t believe that is the way we are meant to live.

So, I got less interested in my ‘date’, and eventually reached the point where I realized I didn’t care about them at all. I was terrified to break up with them though, because I felt that they were a good match for me. I am a difficult person, and they were able and willing to put up with that. Furthermore, they liked me a lot and appreciated most of my quirks. I had a few days where I thought about ‘settling’ and dealing with a relationship where I didn’t respect the other person. That was a weird feeling that I have no logical explanation for. Still not quite sure where that came from, but luckily it went away.  I ended the relationship because I realized that it had been two weeks since I saw them, and had no desire to do so. In a rare moment of clarity, I had the courage to call it off.

I learned a lot from that relationship, about myself and about dating. I learned that honesty is always the best thing to do. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I reaffirmed it. I know that telling them about myself was the right thing to do, and I will do that next time (if there is one).

More importantly, I learned that I am, in fact, capable of dating. Which is surprising to me too. I also learned that I can end a relationship on my own. That was the first time that I have ever broken up with someone, and it didn’t destroy me like I thought it would. I don’t really have any regrets from that experience, I am glad that I tried dating. Maybe I will try it again someday.

 

 

Eye Contact

I think that looking into someone’s eyes is creepy. I tend to distrust people who look into my eyes too much. If eyes are the window to your soul, as the old saying goes, then why should others be expected to look into your window? What if I want to put up some blinds? What if there are some areas of my soul that I don’t want someone else to see right away?

I feel that looking someone directly in the eyes is overpowering. There is a lot of ‘energy’ that gets sent back and forth when making eye contact with someone. I don’t really know how to describe it, I am trying my best, but a lot of these things are just so fundamental there that they are impossible to describe. It feels like if I asked you to describe what the word ‘what’ means, or asked you to describe the feeling of your ring finger as compared to the feeling of your middle finger.

I have a really hard time making eye contact for a sustained time. Sure, I can force myself to do it when I know that I am supposed. But you can force yourself to do anything for a short amount of time. Those who have met me have probably noticed that I am not very good at eye contact. I can do the whole handshake with direct eye contact thing, mainly because I know it is an old tradition. Beyond that, I don’t like it and I usually avoid it.

I have learned that you are supposed to maintain eye contact while having a conversation, so I typically try to avoid those sorts of conversations. I usually try to have conversations while doing some activity, because then there are no expectations about eye position. If I am talking to someone while working on a project, then suddenly I can focus on the conversation rather than on trying to maintain an appropriate amount of eye contact. I know that doesn’t make much sense, because usually doing something would distract you from the conversation. But I have the opposite problem. If I am sitting and staring at someone and trying to have a conversation, then I am hopelessly distracted. I have to then focus on looking at them the acceptable amount of time, on not making weird facial expressions randomly (which is alarmingly difficult for some reason), on not fidgeting too much, and I have to focus a lot on making sure that I do not appear to be doing any of those things. You have to make it look natural and easy otherwise people think you don’t like to talk to them.

I also have noticed that when talking to other people on the spectrum, there is none of that pressure. They also do not like eye contact, and I have had entire conversations without any eye contact. Those have been some of the most beautiful conversations ever. Without eye contact, I feel free to actually say things and express things.

I like to have conversations in groups because then I can switch my eyes around and not get distracted, and it also means that I have more time to process what everyone is saying. That extra processing time is hugely important, because then I don’t say stupid things at the wrong time and sound like an idiot.

A few months ago, I went to a weekend training for work. We were in a very small group the whole weekend, so we got to spend a lot of time together. The man leading the training was interesting, a very old-fashioned kind of guy. He made direct and constant eye contact the entire time and it was horrible. I was so distracted by his intense eye contact that I could not listen to a word he said. I kept looking away from him just so that I could breathe and stay alive. It felt as though he was a monster who was draining my soul away by looking in my eyes. He was a very amiable man, but this eye contact was killing me. At the end of the weekend, he took us aside individually for a feedback session. He told me that I needed to work on focusing more and maintaining better eye contact. He said that I seemed to be bored and looked untrustworthy. I was so close to screaming and punching my way into a jail cell, I could not believe that he was going to call me out on that shit. Who does he think he is? He was not there to talk about that kind of thing at all, he was there to train us on kayak safety. I managed to leave calmly, but it took a lot of effort.

I read that not making eye contact is one of the diagnostic criteria used, and that they have studied very young kids and monitored their eye movements while showing them pictures of people. Typically, the children will gravitate quickly towards the eyes. Kids with autism will instead wander around the face, pausing at random features, and maybe eventually get to the eyes. That was one of the most painful articles I have ever read because it is depressingly accurate. Anytime that I see a picture or a movie, I do that exact same thing. I will stare at their hair, their teeth, their eyebrows, pretty much anything other than the eyes. I often look at their mouths, which is apparently also very common. I don’t really know why this one feature upsets me so much, but it does. Maybe it is because I watch a lot of TV and movies and I catch myself doing it constantly, so it serves as a constant reminder that I am different. It is enough to take me out of whatever I was watching and make me feel really sad and awful about myself. It’s probably also because I think way too much about it and that stresses me out too.

Apologies for the darker ending there. I am not really sure of any good advice to give out on this topic. Eye contact is weird and I think it is a terrible social custom that we should get rid of. I think many people on the spectrum will agree with me on that account.

Emotions Part 1

When I was in elementary school, I had diagnosed myself with alexithymia. I had read about alexithymia in a book somewhere, and being young enough to think that actually adults cared, promptly ran to the school nurse to report my diagnosis. She laughed at me and said that was cute. I probably mispronounced the words in some adorable childlike way which belittled my efforts. But still, couldn’t she tell that I was very serious about this? I saw that nurse a lot, mostly to profess that I was too sick and needed to be sent home immediately. I think that was about the time that I decided that no one believed me and I should just keep things to myself.

Alexithymia is a disorder that makes it hard to identify and understand emotions. It is common with people on the Spectrum. I do not know as much about it as I would like to, but I do know my experiences with it.

When I was younger, I struggled so much with expressing myself. I got into arguments a lot (usually on accident) and I lost them all because I could never think of what to say fast enough or at all. I still struggle with that one, I have to be very careful not to turn every conversation into an argument. It happens a lot more than I would like to admit, but usually only around my close friends. Thankfully, they have developed a tolerance to my random arguing and know to just ignore me.

I could never really tell when someone was mad or deduce really anything about what they were feeling. I got into a lot of trouble for things like that. So I turned my brain onto that problem and did a lot of experimenting. I watched a lot of movies and studied the emotions of the people there. I watched a lot of drama movies and noted how they reacted and how they looked. I began to mimic those emotions and it worked. I began to watch other people closely for their reactions and began to spot their emotions. I have gotten really good at this habit now, when I focus on it.

But, I have still not gotten very far with identifying my own emotions.

I see emotions mainly as problems to be solved. If I am feeling angry, I will stop and figure out what made me angry and then fix that thing. If I am feeling happy, I will stop and figure out what made me happy and try to do more of that thing. Emotions are like a giant lifelong experiment to me. This gets me in a lot of trouble with other people though, because I do the same thing to them. When I see someone who is upset, I will usually be able to figure out pretty fast what caused it. For the regular shaped people, it’s usually something very simple and familiar (Oh no, your boyfriend didn’t call you? How tragic that must feel for you!). But I have gotten into a lot of arguments over that sort of thing because for some reason, people usually don’t want you to invade their personal lives and start to tell them how to make things better. For some reason, people seem to value their broken and messy personal relationships. I’ll save my views of relationships for another post (it’ll be a good one).

I think all this emotional experimenting began when I got interested in psychology in early middle school and read a lot of Sigmund Freud and Victor Frankl (you know, the usual things that 6th graders are into these days). I wanted to become a shrink one day and ask the famous “How does that make you feel?” question. I began to ask that question to myself constantly and went from there. Since then, I have been able to identify and catalog pretty much every emotion I have experienced. I can place them all in their proper places, and I like that. I understand them, and I understand how to use them to motivate myself. But really, I only have known or experienced a few emotions. I know anger, happiness, sadness, and love. And, of course, there are some weird combinations of those four. I always group things into a few simple categories because that makes much more sense to me. I like simpler taxonomies, like the binomial nomenclature system, rather than the full KPCOFGS (That’s a science reference for those playing along at home. They can’t all be math related, I like science too).

Anger is probably the most common one to feel, it’s my go to whenever something unexpected happens. Anger usually feels like a warm wind blowing through the body and a dull ache in the back of the head. Usually, time seems to slow down as if I am watching a movie on half-speed playback. Then I get a lump in my throat that starts to irritate me until I do something about it. When I am angry, nothing in the world matters, other people are not even remotely considered. True anger is very terrifying. I try to avoid it at all costs because it hurts me the most. I can almost always stop it before it gets to that point though.

Happiness feels like a soft mountain stream flowing in the shade of a sunny day. There is a gentle breeze flowing by, and some perfect clouds in the sky that look like happy little animals. There are many kinds of happiness. There is a happiness that comes from being around friends, and it feels very insular and protective, like we are on a private island that is protected from the rest of the world. The ‘friends happiness’ has a feeling almost of separation from others and I don’t like that aspect of it. There is a happiness that comes from animals, which is very different than then happiness that comes from people. ‘Animal happiness’ feels warm and comforting, like petting a dog’s fur or snuggling with an adorable animal. I get that feeling anytime I am around an animal that I like.

Sadness feels like a star falling from the sky that never quite manages to land. Sadness feels like you are completely left alone on a planet where everyone else has gone and moved on from you. There are definitely different levels of sadness. I can talk a lot more about sadness later.

Love feels like warm perfect sunshine pouring into your body. Love feels like a warm blanket beside a fire. Despite my sarcastic exterior, I am a very sappy romantic. I love being in love, it’s just not something I am too familiar with.

However, there’s a weird feeling I have been experiencing a lot the last few months. I believe it is called loneliness. It’s not something I am familiar with, or have ever really experienced prior to this year.

The feeling begins with a sensation of my heart sinking down towards my stomach, as if it was sliding down the esophagus. My brain begins spinning, almost like I am dizzy, but it feels like the inside of my brain is moving. Then, both the misplaced heart and the spinning brain begin to physically ache and hurt. Sometimes this lasts for a few seconds, sometimes for a few minutes.

Whenever I feel this feeling, all I can think to do is run away until I feel nothing anymore, because feeling nothing is so much better than feeling that way. If that is what loneliness feels like, then I can understand why people die from a broken heart. It terrifies me because I have no idea what it is or how to fix it or how to prevent it from happening ever again.

It always seems to happen after I see a picture of people laughing or smiling or doing something fun, or sometimes when I hear a story of something cool happening involving my friends. Sometimes, even just hearing people laughing can set it off. Sometimes, I’ll be lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep and I’ll get this feeling out of nowhere and can’t sleep for the rest of the night. It’s happened 3 times this week……

Anyways, that’s enough on emotions for now.

 

 

 

 

Veg Days

Veg Days are a crucial survival tool for me. A Veg Day is my way of coping with the inordinate stress of life, specifically the stress that no one else seems to experience; running out of energy (or mana as I call it). I use up a lot of mana in my daily life, and it is difficult to replace. A Veg Day is a process that has taken me years to develop and refine.

It all started sometime in college. I was supremely busy in college. I know everyone says that, but I really was. I went to school full time, supported myself by working 2 (sometimes 3) jobs, and ran a non-profit corporation for almost 2 years. I also had a very severe coffee addiction (I still do). I loved being able to do so many things at once, so I had a great time even though I was busy for about 16 hours every.

After a few months, it started to catch up with me. I couldn’t sleep, even when I had the free time to do so. I stopped having fun, I stopped caring about things. I started getting so angry with everyone and I lost many friends in a few weeks. I finally cracked one day, and got really sick. I couldn’t do anything, so I had to lay around the house. I felt the entire time like death was hovering over me, waiting to take me away. But, I had to sleep and take a few days off.

I went back to life after that and noticed that I felt so much better. I had so much more energy, and I was so happy. It lasted for a few weeks, and then I started to feel the same miserable way I had before. I got sick again, and then spent a few days hiding away from the world. I emerged from my darkened room feeling like a beautiful butterfly again.

It took me about a year of this pattern before I finally noticed the connection. Somehow, it eluded me, but eventually I noticed the connection between taking some time off and feeling better. I did the same thing I always do, I made it into an experiment. I tried to take a ‘mental health day’, and spent a day pretending I was sick. I told everyone that I was sick and spent the day hiding away. It worked so well. Apparently, you can get more rest if you are not actually sick.

I then decided to experiment with doing this ‘day off’ on a regular basis to see if it helped me feel better. It changed my life around. I started planning these ‘days off’, and coming up with some ways to make them better. I felt so much better about life when I started incorporating these into my schedule. I slept better, I felt better, I rarely got sick, I was happier, I could think more clearly. It really seemed to fix a lot of the issues I had dealt with up to that point.

 

So, here is my system for Veg Days:

A Veg Day is a day that I set aside for ‘me time’. It is a day where I destress myself as much as I can. It is a day that I spend as far away from responsibilities as I can get.

A Veg Day consists of some important rules that are to be followed as much as possible.

  1. No work! This one is crucial, and so hard to follow. Even if I have one hour of work, then it will ruin the veg day. The way my brain works, I can’t relax if there is anything that I ‘have’ to do that day, like work. Work, in this sense, means anything that I have to force myself to do. So this means chores, laundry, actual work, anything like that.
  2. No phone calls or texting. This one is also pretty hard to follow, but I do my best. Talking to people or even sending texts is still stressful, so I keep it out of the Veg Day sanctuary.
  3. Nothing is off limits. Well, somethings are off limits I guess. But, I mean that I let myself do whatever random thing I think of without judging. I allow myself to follow anything that I feel like doing, which is a great liberty that I think we often don’t allow ourselves to experience. When I first started this step, it was difficult. I wound up laying on the grass and staring at the sky for a while, which was pretty good in itself. But then, I decided that I needed to make a hammock, which required me to make rope first, which required me to find a bunch of grass, which led me to go walk in the fields near my house and collect grass. It’s not important at all what activity I do, but it is important that I don’t ever try to control that activity.
  4. No pants! This rule is not too literal, but I used to have a rule of not putting pants on because putting pants on signifies that you are somehow more serious.

There are other rules that come and go as I see fit. Sometimes I will stay inside the house all day if I am feeling low. Sometimes, I will just sit in front of the TV all day. Sometimes I will just play video games for 14 hours. Most of the time, I work on random projects and play games in small bursts.

Some words of caution: Don’t take too many veg days in a row. I have taken up to 3 veg days before, and it gets real weird. After the 2nd day, you start to forget how to interact with people, you forget what things are acceptable to say around them, and you forget how to walk in public. These skills can be recovered pretty quickly, but just beware that you will look weird for the first few hours after returning to regular life. Plan your schedule accordingly.

Patterns

I have been obsessed with patterns for as long as I can remember. Patterns are very soothing to look at, I am not sure how else to describe it other than amazing. Patterns are anything that can be seen to repeat a few times, and it seems to add some consistency and stability to a world that lacks both of those.

Visual patterns are the easiest to spot first. Things like buildings being in a perfect line, or a house having windows in a row are really awesome. I love symmetrical patterns of plants. I really love geometric art, like Escher. I had a book of Escher art as a kid and could stare at that stuff for hours. But that stuff is pretty typical. I think everyone can appreciate a beautiful pattern like that. Let’s get to the weird stuff.

I really love anagrams. I used to do anagrams constantly while in school because I was bored. I would try to see how many words I could make out of a longer word. I haven’t done that for a while. I read the words on signs and make anagrams out of those too.

But it gets better. I can see words as numbers, and I can see numbers as objects in my mindspace. I guess it’s a part of synesthesia and doesn’t make sense to other people, but it feels perfectly normal to me. I can’t really describe it very well, because it is the only way I have experienced those things. To me, that’s just how the universe works and I don’t have the vocabulary to explain it.

I count the number of letters in a sign and I think about that number. I really like signs are a multiple of 3 or 5. “Highland Village” is a great name because it is both a multiple of 3 and 5, “Flower Mound” is ugly because it is prime. A sign that says Exit 54 is ugly because it equals 13, but Exit 55 is a little better because it equals 14. Exit 56 is the best of that family.

I find it unsettling to go to places that have what I consider ugly names, like Walmart. It’s prime and it just sounds awful. I will often count other punctuation marks to make it into a better number. Like Rosa’s Café, it has 9, which is normally a good number, but it is not a good number for a restaurant. A restaurant needs to be solid and strong, so it needs a multiple of 5. I read Rosa’s Café as 10 because I count the apostrophe.

I read the titles of things and care a great deal about those. I was really into Lord of the Rings as a kid, notice I said “Lord of the Rings” and not “The Lord of the Rings”. The first one has 14 letters, the second 17 letters.

I will often take a title or a sign and split it in half. Take “The Legend of Zelda”, I like it because it has 16 letters. If you split it in half you get “TheLegen DofZelda”, which is useless but mildly entertaining.

I have learned to stop doing this as much now, but it used to occupy my brain a lot. I think I mostly stopped because I found better ways to fill my mind. The only time that I start doing that sort of neurotic pattern spotting is when I am really stressed out.  I don’t really talk about it much because even as a kid I realized that this would make me sound like I belonged in a padded room.

 

Music: Movement 1

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I love music and I do not think I could live a day without it. I will probably have several posts about music, because there is just too much to talk about here.

To me, music represents a form of emotional expression that is so pure and universal that it transcends anything that words could ever hope to communicate. Expressing emotions through words takes so long and requires so much effort. But through music I can vent my frustrations or my fears or share my joys. Music is the language of emotions for me. Music is also a universal language that I believe anyone around the world can understand.

I joined band in middle school because I wanted to play the Star Wars music, I played the trumpet naturally. Once I started learning music, I could not stop myself. I love to learn new things and have new experiences. I taught myself to play the piano, and then that wasn’t good enough anymore. I wanted to learn more. I borrowed instruments from my friends in band and learned to play their instruments. This made one friend mad, because I was better than him at the French horn after about 3 hours of playing around with it.

To me, music boils down to a few basic skills that are applied in different ways. I see almost everything in life this way, but music especially. To play a trumpet, you need to blow air and move your fingers. To play the trombone, you need to blow air and move your fingers. To play the harmonica, you need to blow air and move your fingers. Same pattern with only minor differences. So to me, learning one instrument is the same as learning all the instruments. The only difference is in semantics and minor adjustments in the way to you hold it. I applied this practice and learned the trombone, French horn, flute, clarinet, tuba, and saxophone. This made all of my friends really mad at me, because for some reason they saw their instruments as precious or sacred knowledge. And somehow, it offended them that I would walk in and ask them what the fingering patterns were and then play their songs on their instrument. It made no sense to me, and still doesn’t! Patterns are everywhere and part of everything, how does no one else see them!?!

Music itself is completely made up of patterns. Chords, rhythms, and songs are all just different patterns that can be studied. I love patterns because they are calming and steady and predictable. I appreciate deeply the fact that an E minor chord will always be made up of EGB no matter what else is going on in life or in the world. E minor is the most soulful chord in existence, with Asus4 following closely behind it. C#m is also a great one. I could spend days describing the way that chords look and feel to me, there’s a fairly good chance I have synesthesia. I thought that everyone could close their eyes and see the music creating a picture in their minds, just like the old visualizations that you could turn on your computer to match the music. I often dream in music and flow through the patterns and worlds that it creates.

Music is also so very strongly associated with memory. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of music that often scares people, myself included. I can name a song within a few seconds of hearing it, name the artist, the album name, the year it came out, describe the album art, and tell a story about the artist. I can also tell the story of when I first heard the song or some experience I had while listening to the song. For example, the song Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes was released in 2003 on the album Elephant. The album art features Jack and Meg White sitting in front a red screen. I first heard this song while learning to ride my bike in 8th grade (yes I was a late bloomer to the biking world). I was biking through a park near my house and the song came on my Walkman (also yes, I was using a Walkman in 2003, I was broke and cassettes were 50 cents at goodwill so I used a Walkman until I got a job and could afford a portable CD player, which is another really dated piece of technology). I stopped riding so I could listen to the song and fell in love with it immediately. It was my favorite song for several years. See all of that I rattled off in a few seconds without googling it. It doesn’t seem as impressive here, but if you see me do that in person it is a lot cooler, I promise.

Music is awesome. If you have read the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you might remember a scene where the teens are driving in the car listening to music and the main character says “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” That is one of my favorite quotes from any book or person ever. There are so many songs that make me feel infinite and that is why music is one of the greatest things in this universe. Also, read The Perks of Being a Wallflower if you haven’t. I was so stunned by that book because it all felt perfectly normal and I felt like I could have written that book. I only recently learned that the main character was written to have Asperger’s, so I guess that makes sense. A great book on so many levels.