29 June 2015

Normal isn't real

https://www.flickr.com/photos/57768341@N00/3558561251/ 
Lately I've been thinking a lot.  About who I am, what I am, what is real, what isn't real, dreams, reality, dinosaurs, etc. etc..and I keep coming back to a few things.

1)  That we live in a very weird and disturbing world where we try to tell people that they aren't people, because they don't conform to our idea of "normal" or reality.  Apparently being different means that you aren't really human, you're something else, like an otter.  I pick otters, because at least otters are cute and playful.

2)  That we have trouble accepting what someone is trying to change and grow, even though it doesn't match our version of "normal" or how we do things.  This is something that I experience a lot being on the Asperger's spectrum.  For example, how I take criticism.  I honestly thought I took it well, because I want to learn and improve from it.  I found out recently from several people I trust and that care about me, that nope...I'm kinda of a defensive asshole about it.  It isn't how I mean to appear and I've gotta figure out how to work around that, but I'm willing to change.  Some people though...just don't understand that.  They think I'm just an uncaring asshole, even though I'm trying to learn.  And part of the problem is that no one has ever told me this before.  Or not in a way that stuck with me.  I mean, I don't know about y'all but I can't change what I don't know.  And if you tell me "Well you know some people have trouble accepting criticism" I'm going to go "Yep, they sure do" and not realize that you're talking about me, because...well I'm oblivious unless you sit down and go "OK Andy, this is hard to say and hard to hear, but when someone is giving your critical feedback you're reacting this way."  And I can say "Wow...well that's not what I meant to have happen.  What I'm trying to do is ask questions and figure out what the heck is going on and how I can improve.  I'm not trying to be an asshole."  And we can come to some type of shared reality and go forward.

3)  That as a collective humanity tends to have their heads stuck in hole in the ground, insisting that they're getting enough sunlight coming in through the gaps in the ground and that if we try to take them out of it, that there's just way too much sun, and screw seeing colors and shit we've never seen, we like our hole and we'll stay in it!

Lastly though I'm realizing that...normal isn't real.  I wrote a post a while back about normal being bullshit, but I've realized normal isn't real either.  It doesn't exist at all.  It's this ideal that some people have about wanting us to be stuck in a group together so that we can determine how other people should behave or should act or should think and so on.  And while it sounds great in theory...it isn't.  Because we as a culture take it to the extreme.  We look at the most popular or biggest group and say "OK those people are normal that's how we should all act.  They get 8 hours of sleep, work 40+ hours a week, have 2.5 kids, a dog, a house, a white picket fence, eat meat & drink and read about business and the news" and so on and so forth.  And while it's great they don't do things that are decidedly wrong...how is that something to strive for?  How is that something that we should all do?

And we extend it to behaviors as well.  "Its not normal to ask so many questions!"  "Its not normal to act like an asshole while accepting criticism!"  "Its not normal to not know what type of face that your making!" and on and on and on.  There are other ones that I've gotten, but I'm not at a point where I can write them out yet.  Or feel comfortable writing them out yet.  But, I've been told enough times in the last few years that I'm not normal, that I hate the word.  Some people were trying to help, some were trying to bullies, some were somewhere in between...either way.  Normal is a horrid word.

We are a wide and diverse group of people, with a variety of ideas and talents and concepts, why should anyone have to fall into "normal"?  Why can't we accept people for how they are and encourage them to leave "normal" behind?  And to explore the limits they can reach?  I know this encourages good and bad, but...we soar to far greater heights when we tell people to reach for the stars than to be "normal."  How far can you reach?

10 June 2015

Thinking Type Things

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Let me start this post off with a bit of a caveat.  This is going to be a post that makes people uncomfortable.  If you want to turn away now, that's ok.  If you want to stay, that's ok too.  And for some they'll likely be wondering if the things I'm writing are directed at them.  And the answer is yes.  And no.  Its not written with anyone specific in mind, but with everyone I've ever encountered in my life.  If you read something and think I'm making comments about you, pointing fingers at you, or whatever, please don't take it personally.  I'm not.  I'm just trying to get thoughts out of my head to help people better understand me.
 
I've had a lot of things on my mind lately.  Good things. Bad things. In between things. Things that make me cringe in horror.  Things that make we want to go screaming into the night never to return.

And that last is where I am at the moment.  I've spent the last few months working my way back from one of the worst bouts of depression I've had in a long, long time.  It was bad enough that I was planning out what would happen after I died.  Not when or how, but that I knew I was ready to end it all and I was figuring out how to take care of the things that needed to be taken care of.  I wasn't just on the edge of the cliff, I was hanging on by two fingers and actively letting myself slip off.  I'm not sure I've ever been there before.  Lots of things led to it, but I was there.

These days I'm working myself slowly back.  Right now most days I just want to run into the woods and not return.  Be the crazy dude that lives in some cave and jabbers at the squirrels and birds in my own language.  And some days I just can't deal. I have to remind myself that there are some people that would track me down in the afterlife, kick my ass, and tell me to come hang out with them for a bit and get me to feeling a bit better.  Zombie life or not.

So I'm a couple feet back from the cliff now. And trying to figure out the next move.  And so I've been thinking a lot.  Who I am.  Who I want to be.  How I communicate.  Who I want to communicate with.  All of it.  Everything.  And it's led me to a few things I want to share about me.

I've talked before about discovering what life is like on the Asperger's Spectrum before and everything that comes from it.  And its a lot to handle.  I mean seriously.  Not just for me, but for people that I interact with online, in person, in passing...wherever.  Its been enlightening and frightening to discover the things that I do that aren't part of the "social norm."  Most of the time its scary as hell, because things I've done all of my life, I had no idea they weren't part of "normal" behaviors.  My brain just never caught onto it.  And I want to change you know?  I don't want to do things or say things that make other people uncomfortable.  And I'm making changes slowly.  Seriously, I'm trying to change what I can.  But its hard you know?

People don't like confrontation and they don't want to be hurtful....so they don't tell me things.  They let things build up to the boiling point and walk away.  Its happened so often I feel like I need to wear a flack jacket all the time to protect myself.  But...I hurt because I don't want that to happen.  I don't like hurting people.  I don't like losing friendships or acquaintances or whatever the heck we are.

But its more than that.  I'm not aware of how I'm coming across when I'm reacting to things.  Am I showing distress?  Am I glaring? Am I acting like I don't care?  I mean seriously what am I doing???  I don't know what it looks like when I'm getting feedback...because that's another aspect of being on the spectrum.  I often think I'm project calm or neutral and its apparently not those things, but I don't know what it is!

And then there's this post.  This is all stuff that I want all of you to know.  Seriously.  I'm not trying to be socially unacceptable or cruel or whatever else it is.  I'm just trying to fit in and I don't know how. Trying to do the things I've seen other people do, trying to do what I think is right, but sometimes it comes off wrong. Or out of place. But I am trying, as best as I can.

So I'm trying.  Trying to learn. Trying to move on. Trying to understand.  Trying to be understood.

21 April 2015

Last Call for Donations

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Hey all, one last call for the donation drive to help me with school for the next year.  Things are a bit better than when I launched the campaign, but any help would be greatly appreciated.  

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I'm currently pursuing my dream of completing an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Applied Cartooning, with the goal of working with libraries and the community to help them connect to comics.  To help me towards this goal, I launched a a call for donations in December to help me pay for the upcoming school year.  Since I launched it I've gotten support (thank you!).

So here's the deal. The Center for Cartoon Studies is a fantastic and great school and is accredited by the state of Vermont, but not nationally. This isn't an issue at all, but for one thing...it limits where I can get loans from to pay for school to one place. This one place offers great rates, but does require a cosigner on the loan. I put a burden on my parents to have them cosign for me this year, which I greatly appreciate, but I can't ask them to do it again. 

Now, as of right now I do have two PT jobs that will cover most of my living expenses.  But there are things on the horizon that will complicate things a little bit.  Plus the fact that I would really like to put some money down for the school.

So what do I need?
  • If you can contribute that would be great.  Any money raised will go towards paying for tuition for next year.
  • Want to help your library, school, place of business better understand comics and how you can use them?  Hire me.  
  • I'm going to be teaching classes on comics, sign up to take them.  Here's the first one at Library Juice.  Others will be posted on this blog as they're posted.
  • Looking for an artist for reports, portraits, or just for an idea for comic and books?  Take a look at some of my work and let me know if we can work together.
The deal still remains that I will create a unique piece of original art for every person that helps. It may take some time, but I promise it will happen. 

So that's the deal.  If you can help out that's great. If you can offer support that's great to.  I'm making the dream happen and I'm glad that y'all are along for the ride

12 March 2015

What types of comics classes do YOU want to see?

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A few weeks ago I posted that I was teaching a class on comics for Library Juice on "Comics, Literacy, and Standards" and I have a couple of more in the works. But honestly...I don't think there are enough classes on comics in the world and I want to create more of them!

Now, while I have plenty of ideas on what types of classes I'd like to offer, I'd love to hear what you're interested in learning about!  So if you can take a few minutes to fill out my survey that would be most helpful.  And stay tuned to find out what classes are coming next!