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After being raised in a country and environment that overlooks autism and neurodiversity, specifically in women, nothing made sense. There is no “special,” just normal or weird, smart or stupid; navigating this was no easy feat. In fact, I think I faltered a lot harder than I thought I did. I wonder how everyone around me missed it, but honestly, I’m kind of glad they did — it’s made me who I am today, for better or worse. 

Expressions took a while
  1. My parents decided to enroll me in a ballet class at a young age and I couldn’t put, “This is too loud, can I leave?” into words, so I decided to climb out of the window (our class was on the first floor) and ran as fast as possible. I was not invited back.
  2. Instead of communicating with my elementary school teacher, I broke every single crayon in the brand new box I bought. I had some pent-up frustration because everyone was talking. My parents had a stern talk with the teacher back then. It was kind of a ‘what the f*ck’ moment but I didn’t know what I did wrong. 
  3. Socializing was hard but largely unnecessary. I hid underneath a desk in the classroom. I truly overestimated my skills but thought that wearing the same colors as the floor would work out, like the lizards that camouflaged (we were learning about the Amazon rainforest). My teacher had to physically drag my body out from below the desk. My plan had failed. For the next three years, I’d lie that I was sick and again, ran for the hills to avoid the classroom. I ended up being the most extroverted person in my circle by the time I hit my early teens. 
  4. My friend in Thailand helped her parents out in the rice fields on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Everyone was planting the shoots that they were holding. I saw that they were holding them and only saw one reason why they would have them. They were pulling them out. One by one, I pulled out the shoots in record time, undoing all of the work everyone was doing. My friend asked me why and I started screaming. My parents were probably convinced that I was mentally handicapped. 
  5. I didn’t see the point of working on hygiene and got made fun of because of it. I didn’t notice the bullying until I thought about it retrospectively. 
  6. I made guy friends in middle school. Girls expect a lot. Guys have lower standards. 
  7. I interpreted “don’t sleep with a guy” a little too literally because I slept with girls instead. Looking back, I realized that I lost my virginity much earlier than I should have.  
  8. I was terrible at math but obsessed with numbers. I added up every string of numbers in number plates or book codes. I was actually terrible at every subject (like a straight C student) until I encountered computer science. (Also, having mild autism does not make someone a genius. Most verbal people on the spectrum are either average or above-average intelligence, but not the quirky genius type that Hollywood likes to depict. Many people with autism end up hyper-fixating on a variety of topics that might give them more knowledge, but that just means they put more time into it than it is an aptitude. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk).
  9. I analyzed social groups in various movies and collected a random number of people in hopes of them interacting like the characters. They did not. 
My all-black clothes phase
  1. I found out that I eliminated stress by wearing black every day instead of guessing what color to wear. I limited the foods I ate by avoiding meat. I cared about the animals but also felt comfort in the rigid rules. 
  2. I was obsessed with large reptiles. I think I know every measurement and cage set up each type needs. I learned that people actually didn’t care. This was a year ago. 
  3. I took the FF1 every day from Union Station to back, mostly for no reason. It was clean and it had internet. I think my love for public transportation is one of the reasons why I still don’t have my license at 21, and after landing my first software engineering job, I see why people get their licenses earlier. 

Life worked out pretty well despite my chaotic childhood. 

Maya Douglas

CU Boulder '22

Maya is a senior at CU Boulder studying computer science and philosophy. In her free time, you'll find her listening to music on campus or going out with her friends.