Month: April 2023

We Are Enough!

A young man with black hair and light brown skin raises his hands in triumph over his laptop.

By Yamila García

After another long semester, we have reached the end. As we always do, we have survived many of those giant challenges we have encountered. So maybe this is a good time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished. We don’t always stop to look at what we have achieved, but how necessary it is! I think we should keep an inventory of challenges overcome and goals achieved as a way of reminding ourselves the next time we are faced with something, that we can overcome it too. It happens to me all the time that I forget what I have achieved. Every time I have to face a new challenge, fear and doubt invade me as if I were facing an obstacle for the first time. Many of them are even the same, and even so, I still doubt if I will be able to overcome them. I have already accumulated several years of experience doubting myself, and I believe that many do the same. That’s why I think it’s extremely important to be able to give ourselves credit for what we’ve done so far. Recognizing and valuing what we have managed to do gives us the strength to face new challenges and the certainty that with enough effort, we will be able to overcome what is coming. If only we could have those triumphs more present in our day-to-day lives, perhaps the burden would not be that heavy.

Do you remember the first day you stepped foot in Storrs? So big, so unknown, how many buildings! How am I going to learn the locations of my classrooms?! When am I going to stop getting lost or taking the wrong bus? How many times on the first day of class did you look at the class syllabus in disbelief? How many other times do we look ahead and feel that the semester would carry the workload of 3 years? And today? All that is behind us. Today, many of us already feel that Storrs is our second home. We walk with confidence, without using the GPS on our cell phones. We know the bus drivers, we know the dining hall menus by heart, and everything is familiar to us. We have also passed a lot of classes and are getting closer to the main goal! So I propose, as a way to close another semester, that we celebrate ourselves! We have done many things, faced many fears, and grown a lot. Let’s give ourselves the credit we deserve, let’s stop thinking it’s not enough. We must understand that although we always tend to want more, what we have done is already a lot. We are enough, and our biggest challenge is to remember it next semester.

Enjoy the Summer!

Autism and Empathy: We Care

A profile of a human head with a swirling line that comes out and connects to a circular line inside of the profile of another human head.

By Yamila García

Being neurodivergent comes with many labels. Among them, and perhaps one of the most harmful for ASD (and what was formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome), is the supposed “lack of empathy” label. They say that we cannot understand the feelings of others, put ourselves in their shoes, or perceive other people’s emotions if they do not explicitly tell us how they feel. While there may be those who lack empathy on the spectrum, this characteristic is not tied to it specifically. Studies in this regard have been evolving and what was previously considered a characteristic of people with autism, today is understood as a characteristic of the person regardless of their condition as neurodivergent. I’ve been misunderstood, prejudged, underestimated, and rejected just for being different. I know how it feels and I don’t want that for anyone. Going through all this made me aware of other people’s struggles.

Every time I arrive at a place, in the typical scan that I do, it is very easy for me to identify who feels uncomfortable or disconnected from the environment. And I don’t think it’s about any special ability, just that since I was in that position so many times, I am aware that there are always those who feel uncomfortable, although we tend to think that we are the only ones. When I identify them, I always reach out and talk to them because the only time my social anxiety leaves me is when I feel I can be of help to others. I have met many people who experience the same thing and who, from their differences, can identify the struggles and difficulties of others without saying a word. Many have approached me when they saw me “out of place” or as if “I didn’t fit in.” I have approached many, too. Contrary to what many may think, we have feelings and we consider those of others. It may be that sometimes it is difficult for some of us to express our feelings in a certain way, or how much we can relate to the difficulties of others, but we do relate to others’ feelings and struggles. We care.

We Need to Stop Standardizing Ourselves

A group of red game pieces clustered in a group and one black game piece separate from the group, off to the right.

By Yamila García

“The different” always caught my attention. For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to the unconventional. I was different in many ways and if there was something I hadn’t noticed yet, people would point it out to me. I don’t know when being different became my emblem and from then on, I would always be on the side of what others rejected. It was a way to protect myself, to show that I chose to be different and that I didn’t care about fitting in. Of course, I didn’t choose it, it was how I was born, but that was my way of surviving life in a society that I didn’t understand at all. And on that path of making what was different my own, I learned a lot. I was filled with different points of view, I learned how others see life, and how others feel. I was surprised to see how people that others judged as weird had great abilities, wonderful personalities, and totally different ways of functioning. That’s how I realized that being different was not bad at all… I valued and embraced my differences and those of others. After all, what can we learn from someone who thinks and works just like us? There is no learning there.

We learn from the one who thinks differently, from the one who presents us with a look that we would not have thought of, we learn from the one who does things differently, be it because of his thought structure, his culture, or his personal history. The advances that we have seen in the history of the world have not arisen from the common and ordinary, but from those who dared to get out of the typical structures. Those who dared to do or think differently even if society required them to “fit in.” I think the best goal we can have as a society is to stop trying to standardize ourselves and realize that both personal and global progress comes from encouraging ourselves to do something different, something that will make us uncomfortable, that will challenge us, but that it’s going to open up real opportunities for all of us.