Month: March 2022

Creativity is the Engine of the World

By Yamila Garcia

The Cambridge Dictionary defines creativity as “the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative.” Usually, creativity is linked to art and of course that makes sense. When you create any piece of art you want it to be innovative, original, and meaningful. However, isn’t innovation also pursued in many fields in addition to art? What would engineering be without creativity? It couldn’t even exist without innovations coming from creativity. Any discipline without creativity is just something flat, without progress or evolution. Even when solutions have already been found for certain problems, we can continue to find new ways to solve them. In some cases, we can find even more effective ways to solve them. Undoubtedly, creativity is the engine of the world.

So, why do we continue to learn in such static ways? I have had many academic experiences throughout my life and all of them were very traditional. Creativity and curiosity were not welcome in any of them. I have wondered why many times, but I can’t seem to come up with an answer for that nonsense. How absurd is it that creativity is the basis of our professions but in the academic field it is dismissed and even discouraged? Everything that is taught in the classroom comes from ideas that were once new and original. At some point, someone had a new idea and was able to share it with the world. So why can’t we be a little freer in the classroom?

From my own experience – and the experience of all the neurodivergent people I have met so far – when it is said that we cannot do something, that only means that we cannot do it in the traditional way. Many of us are very creative but, as I said before, that is not allowed in many areas. We can do everything and we can contribute greatly from our creative thought process if only we had the possibility to do so. Of course, this should include everyone, not just neurodivergent people. If we’ve come this far without encouraging creativity in the classroom, imagine how much more we could do if we were all allowed to explore whatever our curiosity prompted.

(Definition of creativity from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

Spring Break: Breaking my Routine

By Yamila Garcia

Routine is a safe place for many of us. Being able to have a routine is complicated but it is much more difficult to get out of it. That is why, despite being extremely tired after two intense months, the spring break is somehow destabilizing for me. I really appreciate the time to rest, but I still feel the lack of direction caused by breaking my routine. Of course, it is not the first time I am experiencing this, and I do know how to deal with it. I know this happens to me all the time, I also know that when I start getting used to the break, classes start again. Of course, that is uncomfortable, but I know I will overcome that too. And knowing lessens the burden. Being able to look back and understand that what is happening now is just “something else” to deal with, gives me the confidence to deal with anything that comes my way.

Discomfort is a common thing for me. I feel it almost all the time but at some point, I stopped perceiving it as something negative and started thinking of it as a motivation. Something that tells me I am going in the right direction and that after doing it, I will feel proud of myself. Discomfort tells me I am facing a challenge and that prepares me to accept awkward feelings. Not fighting those feelings is the main step to being able to take them and mold them the way I need. Definitely, I did not know all this when I was younger. It took me many years to learn how to handle those situations and to stop fighting my own feelings. The discomfort feels the same, but it does not stop me from doing anything because I know what I am feeling isn’t wrong and it will eventually stop.

During this spring break, I was able to reflect more on these issues. I keep learning about myself, I think that never stops, but I am also surprised to think that without knowing what it was about, I found many solutions to the difficulties I faced. I guess we do not need labels to find solutions. Just as we shouldn’t need labels to make education accessible and diverse for all kinds of learners. At school, there are professors that make the whole process easier. It is as if, without knowing it, they help us to fight the battle that we are fighting alone within ourselves. Those professors are the ones who, when I return to campus on Monday, will help carry the weight of a new adaptation. Monday will be another awkward beginning, but like all the previous ones, one that I will be able to overcome.

Neurodivergent Perspectives: My Journey

By Yamila Garcia

My name is Yamila, and I am an Argentinian adult going for a second degree –  one that I have dreamed of my whole life. I came to live in the US three years ago and started taking English classes in a community college. When it was time to choose a major, I did not even have to think about it. It would be computer science. I worked in finance before coming here, but I was always taking short programming courses as a hobby. That is what I had always wanted to do.

Since I was a little girl, I have been obsessed with numbers and logic. I was totally in love with math but deeply despised formulas because I did not want anyone to tell me how to solve something without explaining where that formula came from and how it works. I love making calculations in my mind, pushing myself to remember and repeat very long numbers, finding patterns or relationships between random things, deducing and reasoning about anything. I know that may sound boring, but numbers made everything easier for me. I could play with them in my mind without the need to interact with other people, which was such a relief, being extremely shy.

I have experienced anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager, I could not even put words together when I was in front of unknown people. I always felt I was different, but I was not about to let that stop me. The social exposure made me extremely anxious, which is why I signed up for as many extracurricular activities at my school as I could. I participated in a missionary group, research groups of any subject, choir, and sports. I hated it, and countless times I asked myself what I was doing there, but it was the best decision I could have ever made. At the end of high school, I was coordinating the missionary group and was able to give a speech in front of the entire school. Despite having plenty of experience, it never got easier; I kept doing so many awkward things.

Changes were never easy for me, but moving to the US was the biggest challenge I ever had to face. That brought me back a lot of things that I thought I had already overcome. I hated the social exposure, the changes, everything being new, and the lack of routine.  My sensory tolerance reached its limit. I asked for help and got tested. That test resulted in a diagnosis of autism. It confirmed to me, at the age of 30, that I am neurodivergent. Everything made sense from that moment on.

As I continue to learn about myself and what my diagnosis entails, it is my intention to contribute to this blog with the sole objective of sharing the academic path from the perspective of a neurodivergent person. Communicating can be one of the greatest challenges for neurodivergent people, and at the same time the greatest tool for inclusion to be possible. The richness of diversity can only be harnessed if we all can express to others who we are, how we think and what we feel.