The day after Donald Trump made his idiotic comments about autism at one of the Republican debates, I wrote on Twitter that, by speaking the way he did, “you are telling us we are a malady.” A parent of a 12-year-old who is on the spectrum contacted me in a direct message and thanked me. “Knowing real examples of people w/ comparable challenges who have found the kind of career she’d be interested … in is just phenomenally reassuring,” he wrote.
WHILE I WAS interning at the White House, I found out I had been accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When I returned to California, I learned I had received enough financial aid to attend.
I made few friends my first year at UNC and felt deeply isolated. It wasn’t until I became overwhelmed with the course load that I started setting up regular appointments with an academic coach, who was a specialist in learning disabilities, to map out my weeks and better manage the stress.
Returning to UNC for my second year, I made it a point that I would try and get involved with something. Since I was majoring in journalism, I joined the campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. During the 2012 election, I dove headfirst into covering North Carolina politics. By the end of my first semester at the newspaper, I knew I’d found my niche. And thanks to the paper, I built camaraderie and friendships that persist to this day.
During college, I interned at The American Prospect, and eventually, I landed a job at National Journal. For the most part, my employers have been pretty accepting of certain aspects of me being on the spectrum as long as I deliver in my work. And journalism has, overall, proved to be a good fit for me. The nature of political journalism is asking powerful people questions to elicit answers and, hopefully, get them to say something they shouldn’t have said. I have found that my penchant for bluntness and my utter inability to tolerate spin has made me more willing to be forward in demanding answers.
This isn’t to say all of my problems have been solved. I still take medicine for depression and for Tourette’s. And when I go back home to California, I see the same psychiatrist I saw for years for my prescription. I also regularly see a therapist here in Washington. In addition, I abstain from alcohol and do not drive.
AS I WRITE this paragraph, I am sitting in my dining room on a Sunday evening listening to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life album, occasionally taking breaks to dance by myself. The night before, I’d gone to see him perform the album live in concert with Maddy, one of my friends from college who now works in D.C.
Earlier in the day, Maddy and I had brunch with three of our other friends—one of whom is my roommate and another of whom is also on the spectrum. (From what I know, most of my friends are neurotypical, though I am friends with some people on the spectrum.) We all met working on The Daily Tar Heel. We talked about our work, reminisced about our college days, and our trials and errors in dating, like any other group of people. There are times when I make social hiccups or I don’t realize when someone is joking and I need clarification. But overall, I can’t help but think how fortunate I am.