• Terri

Roleplaying at Being a Role Model

It’s taken me a while to figure out how I wanted to address the topic of this blog. I had wanted to write something back in May, following the being shortlisted for a Diverse Cumbria Award and launching this public blog (Autistic Adult in the Wild). I knew there was something I wanted to address, but I couldn’t quite pin down what it was, and I didn’t want it to seem like some kind of humble-brag.

Then at the start of August I found that I had been shortlisted for another award, this time in the category of Role Model. That when the idea for this blog really started to take shape; it gave me a word to describe what had me feeling so overwhelmed, confused, and like a charlatan.

Each time I have found out that someone has nominated me for an award, my first reaction has been disbelief followed very quickly by confusion; and as many people can attest, Josephine Stabler and Joe Robson in particular, this is because I don’t understand why. I go to them (because at this point I’ve learned that if it’s not one of them who did the nominating then they know who did) and ask the same question; why me?

This things I do, these blogs, the talks I’ve gave, and now the public blog, do not feel like they are overly important; I know from feedback that they help bring a better understanding of autism to people, and that’s why I continue to do these things, because even if it only ever helps one person at a time, then I figure it’s the least I can do.

But I don’t see why that would make me worthy of any kind of recognition, let alone as a Role Model. That’s the thing I struggle with. I may have mentioned previously that I struggle to understand how others perceive me, what their opinions of me are, and even if they like me or are just tolerating me. So when I saw the latest nomination was in the Role Model category it through me through a loop.

To me, a Role Model is someone to look up to, to aspire to, to emulate.

It is someone who embodies the characteristics and qualities that you yourself wish you had.

It is not me.

I am flawed.

For as much as I am trying to change the narrative around autism by telling people that it is not something that is ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’ or something to be treated and ‘cured’, it is a different operating system, a different way of being human; for as often as I will jump to the defence of the autistic community; for each person I try to educate on the appropriate language to use (ok, you caught me, there are lot of times this part becomes an argument with prehistoric rage fuelled bigots who dislike anything which does not conform to their own little rigid box).

For each of these things there is at least one time where I have caught myself thinking or saying that I am broken or wrong, where I have apologised for something that is a result of being autistic rather than standing firm and proud.

I will fight and defend anyone who is different. But it is hard to do that for myself. That is why I feel so uncomfortable when I get nominated for things; hell, I even get uncomfortable when someone offers positive feedback.

Because I don’t feel like I am a role model. I’m just me. Whole and flawed, a mass of contradictions and paradoxes that shouldn’t work together.

If anything, I should be thanking all of you who take the time to read these blogs, or have listened to me talk; you have shown me that I can make worthy contributions, and that I don’t have to be perfect to offer help to others.

Thank you all.


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