October 13, 2018

I try to make brave choices, because bravery seems like a worthwhile trait to cultivate. And I have frequent opportunities to do so, because so many “normal” things are difficult or uncomfortable for me.

I met a new friend for brunch, and afterwards she suggested we rent electric scooters and ride them around the block. I agreed, but she could tell I seemed nervous, and asked why. I said that I never ride bikes because the wind hurts my face and neck, and a fast scooter might feel similar.

“We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” she said warmly. “It’s totally up to you.”

We did it. We went slow enough that the wind wasn’t actually much of a problem, but the multitasking was terrifying – keeping my balance, keeping a steady speed, keeping an eye out for cars, keeping up with the conversation.

“Are you getting any sort of enjoyment out of this?” she asked. I must not have been hiding my discomfort very well.

“I am doing a hard thing!” I answered. I don’t think that sounded like a “yes” to her, but it was. I felt empowered, because I knew that I could stop at any moment, and was choosing to continue anyway. As a kid, participating in activities at school or camp, I didn’t always have that choice.

They say bravery isn’t a lack of fear, but rather choosing to do something in spite of your fear. I think when autistic kids (or adults) are forced into situations that are scary for us, it takes away the opportunity to make that choice.

But when we’re encouraged to try something new, and given full freedom to say no, then it’s a chance to be brave.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.