My 19th summer was spent working at a camp. Groups paid to come and use the campground and the camp provided food. I helped out with various things for very little pay because room and board was part of my pay.
There were a few really amazing things about that summer and a lot of really terrible things. I was introduced to the show Daria, which was wonderful and I watched every episode over the course of the summer – sometimes multiple times depending on the TV schedule. I made a co-worker friend who was kind of an outcast too. We drove all over the place on our days (and nights) off and explored the area. She struggled with depression like I did and we helped each other through some rough times too.
Another friend I made was a co-worker a couple of years younger than I. He was nice and it irritated me to no end that we were always coupled together by other people. I learned a lot of really cool things by talking to him.
I would not have made it through that summer without those two friends and without regularly watching episodes of Daria.
Of all the good things that summer, the most confusing thing by far occurred one day when I was restocking the silverware in the dining room.
A woman approached me from behind and spoke to me. I don’t remember her exact words – I’ve perused my journal from that summer, but oddly I didn’t write anything about it. I suspect that I thought I’d never forget because it was so very surprising.
The general gist of her words was to tell me that I was different and special and that she’d been “led” to tell me that. She claimed to be a prophetess. I didn’t understand what she meant exactly, but I thanked her because that seemed to be the right response to being told something like that. I was too stunned to think of any clarifying questions.
Whether she knew what she was talking about or not, I have no idea, but I do know that the general meaning of her words carried me through many difficult moments as I endured lies told about me by my co-workers and the resulting censure from my employers and primary manager.
That entire summer was an example of how I had no idea what people were doing or why. It should’ve been a good thing and was for a while, but once I started letting any of myself show through, people reacted poorly and I was always the one who got in trouble.
I left that job early, confused and upset.
TW: self-harm and suicidal thoughts mentioned in the next paragraph
That was the summer when I started cutting myself in earnest. I went on long walks without enough water and without any concern for my safety because I really just wanted to die. On the way I’d look for sharp rocks and use those to gouge a deep scratch into the back of my hand. I let the scratch get infected and only at the insistence of one of my friends did I finally agree to put antibiotic cream on it.
But sometimes that moment with the woman who claimed to be prophesying would come back to me. I had always felt different. Maybe different wasn’t bad and toxic. Maybe different could be important and okay.
Her words, whether they carried a deeper meaning, got me through that summer better than I would’ve managed without them.
And now, looking back, I can’t help but wonder if maybe she actually saw me. Maybe she saw my Autisticness but didn’t have any framework through which to view it other than her religious beliefs and the idea that she’s a prophet. I do truly believe that her words also helped me accept more easily that I’m Autistic once that information came into my life and for that I will be forever grateful ❤
I wasn’t planning to write anything today, but a song came on earlier and it took me right back to that moment. It wasn’t a song that we were allowed to listen to while working, but one that I listened to with my fellow outcast co-worker friend as we drove around the back roads of rural New England in the middle of the night. Linkin Park, In The End. Not a song I usually listen to, but it brought that memory back just as vividly as though I’d just experienced it.
I remember watching her leave and her incredibly long hair flowing down her back. Looking back I wish that I’d recorded it more reliably than just in my memory. But the exact words don’t ultimately matter because sometimes just one encounter, a few words, can make a huge difference in someone’s life.