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  • Loren Young

Being On the Outside Looking In

Recently diagnosed with autism at 21 years old, Loren shares her story.

Hi, my name is Loren and I’m 21 years old. I love to do anything creative, especially storytelling. Encouraging empathy and understanding is important to me. If I can make someone feel less alone in this wild world, I’ll have done my job. I was recently diagnosed with autism, and it has been a long journey to get a diagnosis, but I’m grateful to my family for supporting me and look forward to sharing my journey.

There are times when I feel isolated from everyone else.

Of course, everyone feels this way sometimes and has especially felt it amidst the pandemic. Most of the time, it seems like others have more of a social life than I do. There was a lot of talk about missing this during quarantine, but I thought more about how I never really went out much in the first place. I would forget to interact with others to truly engage with them even though I wanted to. Asking, “Hey, do you want to hang out?” was a foreign phrase to me.

It was like wanting to open a creaky door at night but knowing that door would make a wincing sound. It’s difficult to explain when you’re stuck in this place where you want to connect with others, but you’re afraid to be the one who initiates or continues the socializing. It doesn’t help that you’re not the type to be invited much anywhere.

I also have my moments where I can assert myself socially if I’m comfortable. But the feeling of being on the outside looking in is not easy to put aside. When I form some sort of connection to someone else, it seems like I’m slowly breaking out of my shell more and more. Maybe, just maybe, someday and someplace, I’ll feel like I fit in.

A blessing but also a challenge of isolation is that it allows extended time for self-reflection. I didn’t realize I wasn’t engaging in these social norms of initiating and following through on conversation until I was faced with it. I just wasn’t fully confident in engaging with others without potentially embarrassing myself. I’ve observed that people have sturdy social expectations. I didn’t want to fail to meet them. Not everyone understands how I socialize. Whether that is because of my initial awkwardness in a conversation with someone new or how I may like only talking about a specific interest a lot of the time. That’s fine. But I still have felt rejected.

We have all come to understand isolation more as a whole, but not everyone knows what it’s like to feel stifled in connecting with others even when there’s not a worldwide crisis. What it’s like to want to connect, and knowing you may have a capability of doing it, but also feeling like the way you communicate may not be accepted.

The beautiful thing about writing is that I can connect without the anxiety of in-person socialization. There is someone out there who can resonate with what I’m sharing. We don’t have to speak a word out loud for the connection to be felt.

I hope that anyone who can relate to what I’m talking about realizes that even if you feel alone…you aren’t. Even in moments of loneliness, there is someone - no matter how far - who knows exactly what you’re going through. You may never know each other, and that’s what makes the solitude more piercing. But you don’t have to be surrounded by friends to be truly fulfilled or worthy. Your lack of contacts doesn’t make you an alien. It makes you human. It’s human to have moments where you feel like you have stumbled in your life. You may think you’re not doing as well as you should be, but trust me…you’re doing just fine.


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