Right now, I don’t think I could be happier. I graduated from high school, my family threw me a huge party, and I finished my PCC [Portland Community College] poetry class yesterday. I have been sleeping in, and my mom hired two awesome PSW’s [personal support workers] to support me this summer. One of them is the mom of a classmate, so she is going to be in my life too. I feel like things have lined up nicely for the first time in my life. It’s amazing to think that this all came together so well. It has been a lot of stress, and my OCD is through the roof, but I am proud and happy to be able to say that I am an Oregon graduate!

It’s probably one of the last times I will see some of my classmates, and that makes me think back to my first year of high school where I didn’t know anyone, and they didn’t know me. It took months of being there and making a point of explaining how autism affected me before any of them tried to interact with me. I think the first two years were the best ones because I had an amazing paraeducator who bridged the social gap between me and the other kids.

I want to emphasize how important it was to have the right person in that role. A para needs to be likable, honest, smart, and a good fit in a school’s culture. When they are not, the student they are working with is short-changed. I should know – my senior year was quite lonely. Had my para been happy in her position, I think it would have been a very different year. I do know that they liked me, only not enough to finish out the school year with me. That hurts.

I don’t want to spend energy on that person, however – I want to look forward to all the people I will choose to spend time with who appreciate and understand me. I really hope I fall in love with someone (and they love me back this time). I want to take college math and write poetry and travel to faraway places. I want my family to be happy and healthy, and for my sister to stop calling me stupid. I love her, but she resents me and all the support I need to do the things she can take for granted.

I want to get my OCD under control, and not be imprisoned by so many rituals that control my life. I want to be my own definition of normal – autistically normal – and not feel like I am making other people upset because they have to deal with my rituals. This is my priority right now. Getting there isn’t going to be easy, but I’m going to try my hardest. Having that support will help get me there. I think, maybe, it will actually happen for me. Stay tuned…

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