August 10, 2020

I’m terrified of improvisation, so I often spend more time preparing for things than actually doing them. It feels like building a staircase into the sky – I could attempt to fly, but falling is so painful that it isn’t worth the risk.

As a teacher assistant, I sometimes have to substitute for absent teachers. The first time this happened, it was at the last minute, and I stumbled through the class haphazardly. The second time, I had a few hours to prepare, and the teacher ended up thanking me for “so capably and competently and thoughtfully taking my classes.” That was a direct result of my preparation, which was a direct result of my fear.

Ideally, I’d like to wield both powers at once: A drive to enter every situation exceptionally well prepared, and a fearless spontaneity that makes it easy to improvise. Realistically, I think reducing the fear might lower the drive, but that’s a balance I’d be willing to accept.

I think it’s important to recognize when a weakness is also a strength. That doesn’t mean I have to stop calling it a weakness – it can be both at once. But seeing the positive flipside lets me evaluate the trade-offs of change, and identify a balance to aim for, while feeling better about who I am in the meantime.

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.