I originally posted this on LinkedIn, as a statement about mental health, equality, equity, and my own journey.
Autistic Manifesto of Niceness
~Happy Mental Health Month | LinkedIn 5/30/20, 5:42 AM~
Thank you Johns Hopkins for making this possible. The middle finger picture is for folks who think sharing and equity does not matter. If you think equity isn’t important, then it’s for you too. My life today would not be possible were it not for the opportunity you’ve given me to contribute to your mission, which I find honorable and dignified. You do some crazy stuff too, and about that I’m a pragmatist.
My little boy’s future is brighter because he has 2 parents at home, because my spouse and I formed our relationship on honest and open communications, and we stuck it out together, no matter what. I found my spouse because I was brave enough to come out of my shell, approach her honestly, and make a connection.
My dad blew that Dad part early on, but tried hard to make it up later in the game. He did, it was just too late for me. It was too late for my mom, who still pays for his decisions, and those decisions led me down my own paths. One day, I was able to learn that it’s what I do today that matters, and sometimes, now. I was able to pull it together late game too, but in time for it not to be too late. Connections.
I learned I have autism while working for you, Johns Hopkins, and have travelled a painful, but amazing road of self discovery. It’s truly been epic. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity.
Thanks for allowing me the right to express myself like this as well, Johns Hopkins. To be embarrassed, honest, and open. Thank you for helping me to come out of my shell, even if you do decide to throw me out the window. It’s all good. I understand.
Proud to be me. Yep. If you’re real mad about the middle finger picture, then you’ve completely missed the point, which was my point, entirely. If you think I’m waiting for likes or support, then you’ve missed the point too. Which is kind of the point.
If you still don’t get it, the point is – Don’t judge. Be nice, slow down and listen to the people around you. Folks need to be able to communicate in their own way, and we all need to make compromises, so focus on the shit that really matters. Like honesty. Equity. Sharing. Trust. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, just don’t hurt other people.
Also, practice empathy. I TRY not to judge how others express anger and outrage for transgressions I haven’t experienced. It’s important not to do that, because if you haven’t felt that pain your question should be, how can I help? If you don’t slow down you just might end up missing a really valuable connection.
If that anger touches you, it starts to get fuzzy again. Shit does happen. Always will. Family first, then decency. No matter what, don’t throw down unless you have to, and don’t be provoked. You’ll do okay. Trust me, I’ve been to prison.
I walked out of city jail scared shitless but without a scratch not because I’m some sort of badass, but because I’m a decent person. And lucky, and a tier guard who saved my ass when I’m pretty sure a dude was going to kill me for not giving up my juice box. I didn’t hand it over, not because I’m some kind of badass, but because I knew I needed to hold on. I didn’t check in, didn’t go to PC, just held on. I told him, “fuck you, I drank it.” I lucked out that a bed opened on another tier and a kind African American guard moved me just to keep me safe. Connections.
And decency. I kept to myself when I was locked up and people that matter inside noticed that, and I made it out okay. I sold roll ups in the court yard for a kind African American criminal named Ra who thought I was cool cuz I kept to myself. I remember walking the court yard, and there was a pigeon, in the court yard. It had a broken wing and was stuck there. I remember thinking, man, what a shit deal that bird got.
I almost got beat down when I thought I came up short, with the blue steels, because that’s how it is. I didn’t take it personal, when I left for county, I thanked Ra for the opportunity.
I got scars for shit I did when I wasn’t decent. So I’ll pass on your judgement, thanks, though.
Like, deal with it. Your stories aren’t the only ones that matter. People are living like this, right now. I’ve been there. (PS – the Wire, shit’s really like that. Worse now, from what I hear) So yeah, I’m willing to give up some of my privilege and put my “social rep” on the line. I’ll tell you one thing, my career isn’t over because I’m really good with computers. And nice. And loyal. And decent. And I believe our duty is to empower, not enslave.
I’ll always put my ass on the line for decent people, and walk away from some of the comforts I built up from scratch. With hard work and honesty.
Can you say that?
Anecdotally, I was adopted at 2 months. My name used to be David, then my parents named me James. You can’t make this kind of shit up. Connections. Coincidence. I don’t like that name, David, and no offense to anyone else named David, unless you have shit to hide and debts to pay, of course.
We used to say, in the NA meetings – I’m gonna get real honest up in here. My birth mom was 14 when she gave me up. Apparently my birth dad was military, and I get the feeling he was a decent guy. She was forced to give me up, and that’s all I know. That’s all I want to know. I have a good life today, and I practice acceptance.
That’s okay though, because my family is here with me now, and that other stuff represents a life that isn’t today. I walked away from that life a long time ago, and I know what you were doing to me now. Thing is, no matter where I go next, I know it’s not back to you, and I’ll have a next place to go. Which means, I won. I won on November 19th, 1999 when I stopped shooting dope and coke. When I found my spouse. When I held my little boy for the firth time.
I won because I know I’m surrounded by love, and so are you. And decent people will always do the right thing, sometimes it just takes a little while for them to see it.
I can keep being honest, about the wreckage you’ve caused with your cowardice, the other lives you’ve touched when you lived that lie. I can keep going, but I’ll stop incase I’m making anyone uncomfortable with my flat out honesty.
I’m glad I’m not David, I’m glad I’m Jimmy Smutek today.
Anyway, I digress. If you fuck up, and you will, as we all have, then get back up and try again to do what’s right. Just keep trying. Simple. If there’s ANY chance to understand, look for what matters and focus on connecting.
But like, that doesn’t mean folks shouldn’t be held responsible, especially people who take shit too far.
I’m putting myself out there for all the other people who might be too worried to be called out on a past they already paid for. Because this “social media” shit doesn’t matter if it’s holding you back, everyone deserves to send their own message, and to speak to one another.
It’s just, the answers are so simple. Don’t be mean, try your best, be honest, repeat. No big mystery here. Deceptively simple though. Like the wheel. It’s modular and applicable to many problems, if not, it’s a good foundation to build on.
Call that my weird autistic manifesto of niceness, or whatever. I’m proud of it. I’ll not delete it either. That’s another reason I love Johns Hopkins, and I think they know they need to slow down and listen too, as a whole great big institution. I can see the changes upstream. I think so, anyway. Like our new diversity and inclusion officer, for example, who I personally want to thank for arriving just in time. I hope.
I’m done now. Okay, thanks. It’s still mental health month somewhere. Folks who know me, know I always get the job done just in time. It’s wild, how much one can accomplish with not help from others, flying completely blind. With simple honesty and hard work. Unfortunately, honestly and hard work isn’t enough. I’m proof as to why equity matters.
ps. I have a doctor, stop asking mentally-ill people that. It’s a cop out.
Originally posted to my LinkedIn profile on 5/30/20, sometime around 5:42 AM