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Difforder

Updated: 2 days ago

difforder (noun): A different order; something that might have traditionally been considered a disorder by polite society, but which does not inherently lead to suffering when presented in favorable conditions.

Autism is a spectrum difforder.


 

My mind works differently. Because I didn't recognize the value of my neurodivergence until I was older, I spent my entire high school career trying to conform. I bought Sambas when everyone was wearing Sambas. I wore polo shirts when polo shirts were the thing. I listened to the classic rock station that was popular in my almost-all-white suburban peer group, and I worked hard to curb my spazzy nature.


One day, I found this quote from civil rights leader Howard Thurman: “Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”


It blew my mind. Over the years, this encouragement to embrace my uniqueness has driven me to create complicated abstract paintings that strangers pay hundreds of dollars for, dance so enthusiastically to dubstep and house music that other partygoers regularly video me, and launch groundbreaking experimental endeavors like biodieselSMARTER (a magazine), Free Range Diggers (a heavy machinery company), and The Good Listening Project (a nonprofit that builds cultures of psychological safety) that have brought joy and goodness to thousands.


I'm so grateful for Thurman's advice. None of my successes as an innovator would be possible if I had stayed shrunken in my “gotta fit in” posture. I want to give a shout-out as well to the brave activists like Mike Oliver and others who developed the social model of disability, which helps us recognize that disability resides within our society/ environment, not our selves.


Has anybody has ever told you that you have a disorder? Consider whether a small language adjustment might be appropriate. 


Difforder. 


It’s not a bad thing.


When we embrace our differences and seek out those conditions that allow us to come alive as individuals, we open myriad bright opportunities for our magnificent minds to blossom. 



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