I'm sorry, I have to apologise before I start, to myself and all other aspies. Yes, I know I am a real person and I know you are all real people too. But this question plagued me for many years, wondering what real people would do in a situation which flummoxed me. It was only when I discussed it with others that I realised I wasn't the only one to phrase it this way.
It seems ridiculous, doesn't it? Thinking of other people as real and, by extension, of yourself as less real in some way. After all, if you believe your senses, we are really here, in this world, eating cake and starting wars (only the cake for me, thanks). That means we're all real, doesn't it?
If we go back to those senses, a bit like Spiderman, there is such a thing as an aspie-sense. Your aspie-senses tingle when something isn't quite right. You don't need them to tingle when the room falls silent or you laugh out loud at cousin Dora's new set of false teeth. No one needs extra senses to work out what's happening there.
Aspie-senses are for when you can't put your finger on the problem, especially those occasions when you appear to know all the facts, as well as what should be done with them, but things still don't feel right or go as expected.
An example of this would be one those many occasions when I tried to make employment work for me. I was surrounded by people who enjoyed being there and were more interested in the money than not going insane. Once the novelty of my surroundings wore off, I would begin to feel I didn't belong, wasn't coping, was unlikely to stay and so on.
Logically, I knew that the money was essential and being without it a disaster. I had children and pets to feed, a house to keep. I knew to do these things you needed money. Jobs give you money and, unless someone is poking you with a sharp stick every day, there's no reason you can't follow the example of others and put up with the job to get the money.
I would wonder, again and again, how do people cope when they hate their jobs? Is it pure desperation to have the money? It couldn't be as I was also desperate for it. What made them able to turn up every day, for years on end? Was it love of the money? Not that either, in a lot of cases, as they never had enough spare to love it.
I realised one day that they were doing it for their loved ones, that the job was a means to an end. This is one of those amazingly obvious revelations which everyone knows and assumes you know too. I did know it, on some level, but it didn't make the jobs any easier.
So, other people were able to put up with bad or boring jobs, which they hated, to get the money for the people they loved. Simple and devastating at the same time, as this was something I couldn't do.
The notion of real people often rose up then, as a way of defining what they could do as opposed to what I could not:
1. real people manage their jobs
2. real people manage their homes
3. real people cope with stress
4. real people don't crack under pressure (or not every day)
5. real people know what is important
6. real people know everything
There are so many more to add to that list. I didn't actually sit there and think like this, but if you consider what real people can do often enough, then you work your way through a list like this. Eventually, it's inevitable that you reach a point where you feel real people can do everything you can't.
I have to tell you, reader, I felt no animosity towards these people who could do everything I couldn't. I really admired them and wanted to be like them. I appreciated the way they could go to work with a smile and just do it. I tried to learn from them, to see what their secrets were. I would ask questions of them, designed to lead me to the truth and then find they were normal, ordinary people with the ability to exist in this modern world - back at square one for me then.
It wasn't until I discussed this issue of feeling I wasn't quite real that I saw it in the full light of day. My friend and I had worked round to the discovery that we both thought of others as real people. We talked about it and realised we also had much the same criteria for thinking of them in this way, criteria that naturally led to thinking of ourselves as Failures.
I would often lie there in bed at night, thinking of my failures. Not consciously, but I would catch myself going over things and thinking I had failed. And I had, in a lot of those cases, failed at what I set out to achieve, so I wasn't lying to myself.
It was only when comparing notes with my friend that I was able to see how bad it was to judge yourself in this way. I would have been very angry if other people judged my friend like that and counted her as a failure, and she would say the same about me. So, neither should we do it to ourselves!
You can fail at something, without being a failure. As an aspie, you often fail at things because you're attempting something you're not suited for, so are almost bound to fail. Like me and my hectic, public-facing jobs: as a socially-awkward introvert, given to not understanding what people wanted to say, I had chosen the worst jobs possible. Yet I still chastised myself constantly for failing at them.
The reason that other people seemed more real was because they succeeded where I failed, but that only meant they had chosen more wisely than me and were attempting things they could manage. Also, it has to be said, they seemed more real because they were succeeding in the real world: the world of proper jobs, bills, houses, families, cars, banks, society - everything that can become problematic for someone on the spectrum.
Once I changed careers and started trying things I was more suited for, I succeeded more often. I still had to deal with lots of the things I've listed above, but with less stress and more accomplishments behind me, I grew in confidence and was able to leave the failure-mantra behind.
Now, I do still think about real people and myself as different entities. I've just about eradicated the feelings of failure, but still feel unreal. I'm not quite of this world, I don't think. Or at least, not a part of the world I inhabit. There are times when I feel completely part of it and it's a surprise, but mostly I muddle along and try to make the alien environment work for me.
I don't want to be the same as the real people; that would be impossible. I still admire them too, but they can keep their secrets, like I keep mine. We are different and there's no harm in that.
The secret to success is simple, you have to work out what you, personally, are meant to be reaching for. Once you have that figured out, you're on the right track at last. Then you can focus on yourself, as a person, instead of worrying what other people are all about.
I now know it doesn't matter if I sometimes wonder what a real person would do, because they are no more real than I am and would be horrified if I explained it to them. We are all just people, with differences, some of us more likely to achieve A, B and C and others reaching for X, Y and Z.
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