Adulting for Autistics: Not Leaving Childish Things Aside
Happy Halloween, everybody!!
I LOVE Halloween! I love everything about it, from decorating and jack o’lanterns to dressing up and trick-or-treating. Classic monster movies, Vincent Price features, and Tim Burton flicks are in heavy rotation all month long at my house. It’s my favorite time of year!
But I’ve been told that I’m “too old” for Halloween. Apparently, this holiday is “just for kids” and it’s “childish” for me to get so into it. But nobody says a word when NT adults get this excited and go overboard about Christmas, now do they?
Every year about this time, I start thinking about the pressure autistic adults get to leave childish things aside and “grow up”. We’re constantly told to stop “acting like a child” and give up things we love because they’re “kid stuff”.
Pardon my language, but screw that!
It’s OK to Love What You Love
Who here still loves cartoons as an adult?
I sure do. I watch Looney Tunes all the time and I will always love Animaniacs. Perhaps you’re a diehard Disney fan. I’m not ashamed to admit I sing “Let It Go” at the top of my lungs in the car. Maybe you love Pokemon or Dragonball Z. Those aren’t my thing, but if they’re yours, awesome! If your toons bring you comfort or make you happy, that’s great! It doesn’t hurt anyone, and nobody has the right to tell you to stop.
We all have our special interests, too, and for lots of us, those include some “childish” things. Some people have a great love for Lego, others collect comics or action figures. Many people who are into Anime draw beautiful art themselves.
And somehow it’s not “childish” when NT adults go nuts for Disney characters or collect Barbies. (Maybe that only happens here in the South? I’m not sure, but I’ve known several women who keep Special Edition Barbies in boxes and have Mickey Mouse plastered all over their homes.)
My point is that you don’t need to “grow out of” loving whatever it is that you love.
If It Makes You Happy…
As the song says, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad”. If it brings you joy, then it’s worthwhile, regardless of what anyone else says. You shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about anything you love.
For example, I’m devoted to Harry Potter because those books saved my life and the movies gave me a new way to experience the world I loved. I know my house (Ravenclaw!), my favorite Hogwarts classes (Herbology and Potions), and I know that I would have been in Ginny Weasley’s year. To some people, this is a sad obsession for a woman in her 30s – but it brings me so much happiness, I don’t care.
Be True to You
Loving your passions out loud and proudly is part of being your true self. It helps you drop the mask and live authentically as an autistic adult. That’s good for your mental health and well-being, plus its easier than keeping the mask in place all the time.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy things and don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t love. What makes you happy is nobody’s business but your own and you have the right to your passions, however “childish” they may be.
Besides, who wants to be a complete grown-up, anyway? Isn’t it more fun to keep some of that childlike wonder and excitement?
The rise of nerd culture into the mainstream has made me think that NTs have been giving us crap about our “childish” joys because they were ashamed to publicly enjoy their passions for comics or cartoons or movies or whatnot. Some of the pressure they put on us has lessened in the last few years, and it’s gotten a bit easier for autistic adults to hold onto our “childish” loves without shame.
Don’t let someone else’s shame keep you from what makes you happy. You can be an adult without leaving childish things aside.
Now excuse me while I go get into my costume and light my jack o’lantern so I can watch The Nightmare Before Christmas while eating candy!
Have you been told to “grow out of” something you love? Do you have a special interest that people think is childish? Have you ever felt ashamed of loving something because you were told you were “too old” for it? What do you love, loudly and proudly, in spite of what people think?
Bonus question: What’s your favorite Halloween movie?