May 18, 2011

Guest Post: A Very Special Note

This guest post is courtesy of my brother, Jon Dorfman.  I've mentioned him before, most notably in my post, My Oxymoronic Brother and for his participation on the II panel for the VU + UII project in February.  Jon has Asperger's Syndrome (this makes him an 'Aspie'). 

Misdiagnosed as a toddler, he went through many rounds of added and revised diagnoses until he was finally matched up with this condition on the 'high functioning' end of the Autistic Spectrum at 8 or 9 years old.  Fortunately, his theraputic early school environment had been right either way, and he had every support therapy/service our parents could arrange to help him actively learn things that are subconscious for us neurotypicals (NTs): how to communicate verbally, to relate to people around him, and other social skills needed to succeed.  Some didn't work so well and there were P-L-E-N-T-Y of setbacks, but even if it felt like 10 steps backward, there was at least the eleventh step forward to hang onto.

In college, Jon became HIGHLY involved with the Kinney Center, acting as a summer camp counselor, school-year social skills instructor, and resident media darling.  You can see just a few of his interviews (articles and videos) here: Kinney SCHOLARS Profile, Philadelphia Inquirer story, Twitter, his startup website, or his 2nd NBC interview.  Google him if you want more, I'm tired.

Jon wrote the Facebook note recreated below immediately following his graduation this past Saturday from St. Joseph's University.  It is addressed to his friends - friends he made in college and who filled a social void in his heart with amazing speed, affection, and compassion.  Even though he (accidentally, I'm quite sure) left out his favorite sister, his note is a rare glimpse into the SOUL, the emotion, the heart, and the logic of an 'Aspie'.  When something in it reads strangely, pause to understand that it is a unique expression of something we were told Jon would never be able to communicate. 

Hear the 'voice' of Autism once the shackles are broken...or, once we've learned to put them aside.

A very special note to EVERYONE who helped me get through despite myself.

So, let's start out with a simple advertisement, shall we?

Fine Arts Major: 4 years.

College Education: $120,000.

Yelling at the Registrar staff every God-damned semester: 40 courses.

Increasing to anxiety levels untold of for centuries while waiting for grades: 124 credits.

Graduating 2nd out of 1,112 students despite all odds and predictions: PRICELESS.

I realize that I would not have made it this far without the help of several (teams of scores of you) people in my life to keep me going.  I was never supposed to reach college, much less graduate from one. (The official Rub-it-in-the-doctor's-face Award goes to the doctor who thought I was mentally challenged based solely on the fact that HE did not realize Crayola had changed the name of a crayon from "flesh" to "peach" when I was two. Congratulations! You're a freaking moron!) But there were many people who never gave up on me, even when I wanted to.

I can still remember my anxiety spat with my parents that I felt that I couldn't go through with college right before the first day of Freshman year. They calmed me down and persisted that I could. I got to college, went on a couple of tirades, and landed in some hot water in the first semester. Rather than kicking me out all together, the University saw my potential before I even did and gave me a second chance to pull myself together. So, I did just that.

The second half of Freshman year was a depressing time for me. But those who mattered didn't mind, and those who minded ended up not mattering. They reinforced in me, the idea that I was never alone, despite my being single and never having gone on a date before. My friends actually cared about me, and that was empowering to me to say the least.

From September 2009 to October 2010, I suffered 13 months of a debilitating depression.  Debilitating to the point that I needed daily reassurance that I was a good person, and that I had Goku-level amounts of potential. My friends are pretty much (in my opinion) the only reason I survived Junior year emotionally intact.

And now, I've completed my finest hour thus far. I have graduated 2nd out of 1,112 people in the Saint Joseph's University Class of 2011 (that is 2nd by virtue of my placement in the line, not by GPA). I defeated all of the odds that my doctors placed on me when I was two-years-old.  Much more to the point, the people who minded and didn't matter... they were at least a year ahead of me during my Freshman year. I ended up graduating before a vast majority of them. (One person comes to mind, who is entering his 8th year Undergrad at SJU next year [with no known or aparent reason]. His parents must be so proud...) They claimed many battles over my peace of mind, but Karmic Retribution helped me win the war.

Much more to the point even than that, I reiterate that I could not have done it all by myself. I have the one thing those people will never have, even if they ever get their college degrees: TRUE FRIENDSHIP.

One of my best friends greeted me after graduation just to tell me that he was proud of me, and that I can do anything I set my mind on.  Another of my best friends called me later in the evening from Harvard to tell me that she was equally as proud of me and that I "deserve everything good [I] get." Mind you, this was all the way from Harvard. I think I should be proud of her a little bit more, though...

So what did that advertisement in the beginning have to do with all this? Well, here's the last line of it that I intentionally left out until now:

There are some things money can buy, for everything else, there’s HOPE.

I overcame all adversity, shallow odds, and half-baked prognoses to prove that I am powerful. Not by my physical nature, but because of my emotional and mental nature. Yes, I am an Aspie, but this little Aspie has an army on his side willing to fight the good fight alongside him for better or for worse.  And I could never be more grateful for that. Thank you. Thank you all. I love you all with every fiber of my being. Grad pics up soon. I promise.

May you all find peace with yourselves, within yourselves. And never stop believing!

1 comment:

  1. Really glad I read this - what a great letter (and funny/warm intro from you) and testament to friendship, support, perseverance, and accomplishment. Congrats to your brother and you, sis ;)


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