A letter to both of my children

This is a quick break from my “Workflow” book review schedule. I seldom put something as intensely personal out there, on the internet. Actually, I do believe this is the very first time. This is an exception, but I wanted to share this because I have the feeling that within the community of internet nomads and bloggers I am likely not the only one in this position. While you may not be the addressees, please feel free to read this. This is one from the heart, not from the head.

Well, here we are. You have Asperger. It is a hereditary condition you got from me. Even before you were born, it was present in you. It was a genetic gift I never knew I imparted on you. Sometimes it gets passed. Sometimes it does not. It will make your life certainly more difficult than it would otherwise have been. But most likely it will be more interesting as well. Anyway, sorry about that. I had no clue. I just thought I was a difficult child.

Asperger may be the worst I have ever given you. It may be the best I have ever given you. It most likely is both. It’s important you know and realize that Asperger is not a disease. It’s a name that gives an indication that certain brain pathways are formed differently than with most other people. We are different than the “norm”, whatever that may mean.

So, we are outsiders. A bit like Martians. Asperger and everything that comes with it makes us different from most people around us. But not all. There are certain moments when you will find someone like you, or someone who likes you, very close. And you will feel that person like you will feel no other. And you will know. I knew when I met your mother. The very second I set eyes on her. And I’ve been a very lucky guy ever since that day.

You have already found out we see certain things differently than most people. Some things, often emotion bound, we do not see at all, or too late. On the contrary, some things ‘normal’ people consider irrelevant we tend to make a big deal of. Oh, and we adore stuff. Stuff like computers, or the beautiful carton boxes our type of stuff comes in. We also like our stuff and our events a certain way, and not another. Both you and I are very set in our ways. We are very process minded, and highly resistant to what we consider unnecessary change. We balk if someone, even with the best intentions, adapts our routines. We do not like surprises, no matter how well meant. We look for patterns because we want to find recognizable things we can hold on to in what to us can be the maelstorm of life.

While we sometimes feel very insecure and weak, people believe we are very intense. Arrogant is another word I used to hear a lot when I was younger, and still sometimes do. Or intelligent but lazy. All words that come very close to what you hear now. Well, it is true. We are very intense about what we do and highly committed to doing it, if we care about it or if we think it matters. If we do not care about something, it can appear to us like it does not exist. Because it really doesn’t anymore, not to us. This becomes especially embarrassing if that something turns out to be someone. I cannot count the times I felt delayed embarrassement whenever such a scene played through my head hours after playing out in reality, with me suddenly realizing I had abandoned someone in the middle of a conversation because I started thinking about something else. Be aware of this. Be attentive to this. If it occurs, apologize. But be who you are.

Oh, and about the lazy bit. Find something you love, and you will not ever be lazy. Be patient but attentive. It took me more than 40 years to find a place to practice what I love.

As to people, a few people will genuinely like you. I’ve been lucky to encounter a few kindred spirits along the way. Fewer even will love you, but then again, you only need very few of those. Most people will not understand you. Among those will be the ones that are scared of you. Scared because you appear not to operate by their rules. Which are not written down. And no one has ever informed you of or explained to you. So how can you even know they exist in the first place? But these rules do exist, and you need to be aware of them. Which is why you will need trusted friends. You will have at least three: our little family unit.

I hope you will eventually come to realize this should not be a curse. That is is an opportunity as well, but be aware it is and will always remain a fragile one. You and your sibling have it in you, more than your mother and I ever had, to make a real dent in the universe. But we try. Steve Jobs once said that

“Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Well, the gift you have is that you have a lot less filters to get rid of. You have that inherent questioning in you. Trying to change things is your default position. You do not assume, you question. More and more of your generation do. But not enough. Not yet. And while the intensity of life without those filters can be very disconcerting and very tiring, it will also give you a clarity to look in those places where others are afraid to explore.

If there is one thing I want you to do, it is to live your life, in its full intensity, even if that scares you. Be scared. Even when it is a lot safer and a lot more secure to comply with the norm, do not try to be what you are not. Dare to be alive. I know the norm abhores different. But who cares about a position that represents the concensus of those unaware or too scared to look outside of their comfort zone. You should not care. It took me more than 40 years to find out that it really does not matter. While you need to do your own discovery, I hope for you it won’t have to take that long.

Meanwhile, BE YOU, because you are the most beautiful, the most towering achievement I have ever contributed to.

You have Asperger. As have I. Look at what we can build, together. Let’s get to it. Let’s join those that have been working on building our world for a long, long time.