As I recently graduated from high school, my focus lately has been on preparing myself for college. I have found it necessary to take extra steps in this preparation process as to avoid the transitional mental breakdown of epic proportions that greeted me with the beginning of high school. In order to avoid the chronic and severe panic attacks and fits of anxiety that plagued me for about 45% of my freshman year, I have already begun to coordinate the transition between therapists by connecting with my college’s psychological counseling center and have been sure to transfer my 504 plan (which allows me to have extra time on assignments and tests and requires that I have a quiet testing area) to the disability resources center to ensure that I may retain the same accommodations that proved to be necessary during high school.
Though I am enrolled in the honors program and most likely going to be double-majoring in piano and bass clarinet (double the practice time, double the lesson time, etc.) it is not the academic workload that worries me most when considering the changes that I will face. Instead it is the fact that I will be in a brand new social environment with all new people and will be spending more time with these people than I spent with my grade school peers. Luckily, I have attended camps before in which I have lived in a dormitory setting, so I have a general idea of what the living situation is. Through the disability resource center I was able to secure a single room with a bathroom that I will only have to share with one other girl. My dorm is brand new and so it is fully air-conditioned and heated, and I am positive I will be comfortable there.
However, I recognize that it would be infinitely more helpful for me to go into college knowing people I will be spending time with. At my orientation for the honors program, I had hoped to meet somebody who I could plausibly become friends with. I connected with a few girls over our love for the web-movie-musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” but forgot to take mental note of their names so that I could find them later. Once I got my housing assignment, I began a Facebook search for girls who would be on the same floor as me, but found that it was extremely difficult to find ways to connect with them as I do not share in typical female interests like make-up and fashion or Nicholas Sparks books and movies.
In fact, I don’t really share any typical interests with teenagers. While many enjoy “Jersey Shore” and partying and hip hop or rap, I like the Food Network, crocheting, and classical music. A lot of my peers enjoy drinking alcohol, but I only enjoy wine tasting and can’t stand to taste more than a sip. This, combined with my natural inability to, well, talk to people, makes it extremely hard for me to advance socially. I fear often that I will come across as being like an old person because of the stereotypes attached to my interests, or that I will be thought of as uninteresting without the person giving me a chance and talking to me. In a pinch, most people respond well when I explain that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but I am taking care to not use this explanation unless I have no other options, as I do not want to be labeled “the autistic girl.”
I have another orientation coming up on July 13th for the arts program, and am hoping that that will be my best opportunity to find people to connect with. In this situation it will be most helpful to me to create real-life relationships, and hopefully I will be able to meet somebody despite having to sit through “get-to-know-each-other” ice-breakers that really do not reveal much about a person besides their favorite color and that they wear contact lenses.
It is important, I feel, that I remember that everybody will be facing new things in college, and that others may be experiencing the same anxieties that I am, whether or not they have Asperger’s Syndrome. This sentiment could ultimately be the one that leads me to meeting somebody who I could consider to be a close friend, so it will be beneficial for me to keep it in mind. College is scary for everybody, and having Asperger’s Syndrome shouldn’t make it more scary than it needs to be.