Thursday, February 02, 2023

The delight of wisdom wrapped in goth

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| January 25, 2023 1:00 AM

When she was born her mother said to me, “Now what do we do — sit back and watch her grow?” I told our youngest there is a little more to it than that. She found that out when she and Joe added four more.

Sarah is 19 now, visiting us from Alaska with her sister. She's brilliant — understanding math and science and space in an orbit far beyond most. She'll engage animatedly on just about any subject and back it up with her research and thought.

Her look is goth. Her artistic side uses eyeliner to paint her face with cat eyes — a creature she loves. She cuts her own hair and colors it magenta. In her luggage she packed six stuffed animals. Sarah doesn't go anywhere without one. Right now it's Catalyst — a pink Squishmallow that's part cat and part unicorn.

Nineteen you ask — and reliant on stuffed animals? Yes … they are like friends. She also has other “neurodivergent” inclinations. She cannot brush her hands over fabric — even pulling up jeans can be difficult. Clapping and knocking sounds disturb her. Meltdowns can occur when her brain cannot process what to do or how to respond when her rhythm of order is disrupted.

Sarah is on the “spectrum.” She has autistic behaviors that set her apart from the “norm.” Driving — if she manages that — will be challenging because there are too many things to concentrate on at once. Missing social cues — such as facial expressions, and taking everything spoken literally — has limited her friendships.

She is both refreshingly and painfully honest — right and wrong don't wiggle.She doesn't care for small talk. Let her present the sweeping panorama. Let her imagine and create. Thousands watch her captivating videos on social media. Her mind is so busy contemplating she forgets to eat. And make that menu vegetarian. Eating meat isn't wrong, but it's how the industry treats its animals. They are sentient beings.

She astounds with her insight. “We should forget about society's notion of growing up — and just grow wise instead.” “We should embrace the uniqueness in every person — all fit in together by each one standing out.” “Judging others is one of the greatest things that holds back a society's progress — because it stops other people from showing their 'inner universe' and stops society from seeing things from a new angle.” “If we teach sexual content to children at a very young age it's taking away their rights to experience play and fun and be filled with wonder in their childhood.”

Sarah is herself — a whole person. Like she says, “I'm not against behavioral intervention, but if an autistic person's behavior isn't wrong and doesn't hinder them from doing what's good then there's no point in trying to stop it. The goal should not be to make everyone be like neurotypicals — but to learn from other perspectives in order to better yourself.”

Back to that newborn moment 19 years ago. Her mother and I could never have dreamed this fabulous, wonderful girl — wisdom draped in goth.

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