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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

There should be about 1.5 seconds of silence between a question asked and your response. When you answer, smile, otherwise people will think you’re rude; but not too much, they might figure out that something’s wrong with you. That you forgot what they were saying as they were saying it; That you were too distracted by the tapping of their foot to follow along with the conversation; That you can’t wait for this to be over so you can go home and curl up in a ball.

As someone who has ADHD and anxiety, understanding all these social cues feels like speaking a language I attempted to learn via Duolingo. I’m able to pronounce a few pre-rehearsed phrases, but anything else, I butcher. It is exhausting at times and leaves me with the capacity of doing small talk for no more than five minutes before I get burned out.

However, I’d rather see myself as Sherlock Holmes, coincidentally a canonically neurodivergent character. I observe patterns of behavior in other people, dissect them, and add them to my repertoire of facial expressions I pick and choose like the clothes I wear every day. Some might call it mirroring; I call it fine detective work.

I am slowly becoming proficient in the art of translating body language. One of my most recent discoveries is that people are not secretly waiting for the conversation to be over. On the contrary; they want more. This is a skill I have yet to fully master, but my favorite so far. It leaves room for real connections and friendships that you otherwise wouldn’t acquire. Hopefully, this is the last phrase I force myself to translate, and then maybe, just maybe, I might be able to understand and be understood, as if it were my first language. 

Hi! My name is Valeria, I am a freshman Neuroscience major and I'm also getting a teaching certificate in natural sciences. Spoiler alert, I am very passionate about STEM + teaching. However, the way that STEM topics are communicated tends to be boring!! and hard to understand!! Especially if that has nothing to do with your interests/major. That is why I decided to cover topics that I personally find interesting ranging across topics like biology, chemistry, and even psychology, in an easy-to-digest way. I believe that knowledge is power, so hopefully, you will learn something new and not completely hate it while it's happening.