Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Trick is to NOT be the Asshole....

Mom's Rule: Wherever you go in life there will always be one asshole in the room. The trick in life is to make sure that you are NOT the asshole....

I can't tell you how often I have stressed that rule to the boys. But every once in awhile they forget Mom's Rule. Case in point, whenever anxiety gets the better of CM1.

Right now this is a hard time for CM1. He is beginning that transition from college into graduate school. The reality of leaving a known environment and heading into an arena where he knows no one, they don't know him and the environment is totally foreign seems frightening. The questions I am sure are familiar...

Will there be nice professors? Will I be able to find my way around easy? Will the college grant me accommodations? Will the other students be nice to me? Will I maybe make a friend this time? Will I be academically successful? Will I enjoy what I do? Will I have a future?

I know that these questions are the same for NTs and aspergeans alike. The difference is that for the aspergean, the anxiety these questions produce can be overwhelming at times. Furthermore, CM1 is having issues with his graduate school application essay and his senior portfolio just got sent back with further questions.

In other words, the protfolio has not been accepted and he has some more work to do on the project. (The portfolio is not to be confused with his senior thesis, which was accepted with a grade of A-.) The changes to the portfolio, a discussion of his academic performance including papers and essays, are minor and not truly time consuming. It is simply just one more bump in the road towards his goal of graduation. Meanwhile, he cannot graduate without an accepted portfolio, no matter his gradepoint average (CM1's 3.45).

He is also having issues with the graduate school application essay because it asks him , "How does he feel and why does he want to go to this one particular program..." You can question CM1 about historical facts and figures and ideas. He can analyze history and work on computer science with the best of them. But do not under any circumstances ask him to explain his feelings. The process of self-discovery for him, from understanding his own emotions, to being able to put these emotions on paper is just not going to happen without a huge internal struggle. It in fact, may never happen and editing his essay is a struggle. But as with everything he does, he is persevering.

You would also think that by the time they are young adults that some of these issues of anxiety , transitioning and executive functioning glitches, would have found a way to resolve themselves, but unfortunately not  always.  At least not without some reminding of what self-help to employ and what is and is not socially appropriate in a classroom. The problem becomes when curve-balls are thrown and changes are made, then CM1 gets overwhelmed. It shows in his anxiety and his anxiety shows itself by a raised voice and lack of comportment.  In other words, a mini-meltdown. Not a physical meltdown by any means, but inappropriate language (said under his breath not directed at any one person but still audible) and a raised voice to the professor.

CM1 is dealing with many new issues this semester on top of the transition questions too. He is for the first time, completely alone in a classroom, dependent on no one but himself and it is odd for him. He told the para that it is hard to not have someone else to rely upon. But the truth of the matter is, it had to happen some day. He is a 22 year old youngman, who needs to be allowed to grow up. While he could spend his life having someone with him, there has to come a time, when he is no longer infantilized and that he is allowed to be an adult. He needs to learn how to be independent and self-reliant. Even if it is only in a classroom. The class he is taking is a basic polisci class and one that should not be a problem for him. But with everything going on, he feels lost. He is making more out of this course then is necessary too.

Hopefully after today's mini-meltdown in class, CM1 would have come to realize that he cannot let his anxiety get the better of him. Hubby, that Wise Old Sage, had a nice talk with him about what happened and how he could have handled it better. They discussed how CM1 could have handled the change in schedule and the fact that he had missed the schedule change from the week before. How his lack of preparedness did not effect his being in class and listening to the lecture. That all it meant is that he would have to read the article when he came home from school.

I know that part of the issue is that CM1 likes to be on top of his work. He needs to be ahead and have a total handle on the class discussion. But as in life, sometimes "shit happens" and you need to be able to handle the changes as you are confronted with them. It is not good to act out and embarrass yourself, it is not cool to be the asshole in the room.

Temple Grandin tells a story that after she started working one day there was a change in the type of cookies in the snack room. This elicited a meltdown on her part. She later recognized that if she was going to be successful in the world, she had to learn how to handle these little changes.

It is the little changes, coupled with the huge upcoming unknowns,  that gets CM1. Ironically it is the big changes, like his grandfather dying, that CM1 handled with aplomb. When he can rationalize his reality then situations seem to go well. But when he is at the mercy of others and their schedule, whims and priorities, that is what CM1 finds the hardest to assimilate.

So hopefully after fully apologizing to the professor for his behavior, which he did vehemently after class (I am told), and having a talking to and with the hubby, and maybe going to see the disability director (I left her a peremptory voice mail) CM1 will be able to handle the issues and reality of the coming weeks. Truth is he has no choice in the matter. He has to behave. He cannot meltdown. He must find a way to keep his anxiety in check. He cannot allow his anxiety to ruin the class for others as well. Hubby told CM1 to keep in mind his obligation to those around him and to not interfere with their education. (Hubby made an important point to CM1: Less than three months from graduation, after five years of hard work, he cannot allow his anxiety to doom his future.)

Meanwhile in his Java class, CM1 figured out a problem in such an extraordinary manner that the professor seemed quite impressed. CM1 has a great future ahead of him. In the end, hopefully all today was, was just another teachable moment on his road less traveled by.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.