Excerpt for Fighting Against Failure: Memories and Thoughts of a Black Autistic Woman by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Fighting Against Failure: Memories and Thoughts of a Black Autistic Woman

Copyright 2018 by Arlinda Jackson

Published by Arlinda Jackson at Smashwords

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Table of Contents


Feeling Like Failure

My Mom is My Hero

Storytelling Means Everything

Should I be a Hermit

Not the Life for Me

Being Clean

Doubt Will Ruin Everything

Meet Arlinda

Other Works

Connect with Me


I want to dedicate this book to my Kitty who has been in my life for nearly 8 years now. She is part of the reason I was inspired to write this thing, and I love her dearly. This work is also dedicated to all the black autistic women and girls out there. I also write this to give more attention to the autistic community in general- we need more of our own work out here in the world, so people can learn and understand what it means to be autistic. This work is dedicated to all the black women and girls who are learning they are autistic and have yet to learn that they are on the spectrum. This is for all of you.

Feeling like Failure

Let me start by saying that my entire life has been nothing but a failure. Everything. Let's begin with my earliest memories, from when I was a little kid. All I ever wanted to do was tell stories. I was always making them up, always trying to write them down, drawing pictures because I saw all these things and I wanted others to see them. I wanted to entertain, I wanted to give people something to talk about and laugh about and even cry over because the world is always in need of more stories. That was my biggest dream over all the others. Even at that time, I was thinking about wanting to be a neurosurgeon because I was obsessed with the brain and nervous system- every autistic kid has something they obsess over. I was no different, even though when I was little I never got diagnosed. I sort of figured something was different about me.

All my life I've never understood people. I'm not that great at it. I don't get emotions at all, especially my own, or those of others. If something causes an emotional reaction in me I tend to flee. I don't like showing feelings, especially because I never learned how. My mother never showed emotion around me. If she needed to cry or was upset about something she would go off in her room alone and tell me not to come in until she opened the door. I used to worry about my mother when she did that. I clung to her growing up, even though now I know she had her own issues and I was there, trying to be supportive even when I didn't understand.

I think that for me, emotions are the worst thing that happen to me. I don't know how to deal with my own, I don't know how to feel about others' feelings, I just wish I could exist without being subject to emotion. It's been so damn hard for me that I don't even know where to begin, to be honest. I remember the times my sister told me that my purpose in life was to be a storyteller, to entertain and move emotion. But how? How when I don't even understand them? She always said I was my happiest telling or creating a story. All I've been doing in this life is fighting to keep my head above the water. The world is the water. It's going to pull me under and I'll drown. I have no equipment for this place. I have no way to know if I'm going in the right direction. I have always made stupid choices. I have always let people change my thoughts about things.

I had always wanted to write and create. When I was around ten years old, and my father lived with us, he destroyed all the pictures that I had printed out that inspired me for stories and I couldn't get them back. He told me that there was no way I'd be able to survive with my head in the clouds. That was the first time I got dragged down by someone telling me I would fail. Of course, me being the child I was, I didn't listen. I went and tried again. I kept writing. I wish I still had some of my old writing from when I was a child, it would have shown my improvement over the years.

I kept trying to write. I was in high school when the concept of Nanowrimo became a thing. I didn't try it out until I was out of high school, where I finished 50k words in two days. It was the first time I won, but that account I have long since lost access to on their website. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to participate. Every year, my November was taken up. Every single time. I tried balancing writing with work, with school, and with a relationship.

I’ve only been in one relationship in my entire 30 years of life. One with a woman that I used to be wary of at the beginning because I couldn’t tell if she liked me or if she was trying to play tricks on me. Turns out, she wasn’t playing tricks on me. She really did like me, and then I found myself in a relationship. But that’s when things started getting difficult for me.

She wanted me to be open and share things with her. This concept was highly new to me, because I don’t talk to people about anything, especially me personally. That’s because I felt there was nothing important for them to know. I told her that I like to write, and she mentioned loving to read books. That made me a little happy, because then I could have someone to share my love of writing and reading with. Like I totally avoided her so much in the beginning.

But as we grew in a relationship, something was wrong. She would be upset about something and I really wouldn’t know what to do, so I would just stop. I would shut down and not speak. I was freaking out because I didn’t know how to handle her being upset. And every single time, she’d say I was ignoring her. Or being cold, or that I didn’t care. That shit shatters me every time she says it. I do care, I don’t know how to show you this. I don’t know how to talk about feelings with people. I don’t even talk about my feelings easily (its even difficult telling professionals what the problem is) and I just want to reset every time she’s mad at me. We get in the worst fights, complete with screaming, yelling and me being hit because I’m stupid about emotions. I can’t deal with emotions that personally involve me. I never have been able to do so. And these past few years have been the same.

Me fighting against my failures. They always come back. Even when I think I’m doing good, they show up to bite me on the ass every single time. I feel like a failure on a regular basis. Can’t find a good job. Every job I get I end up hating or people treat me strange and I leave. I thought life would get a little better when I got the courage to go out of state, but there I ended up being used by a former friend and her mother until she came to help me get an apartment.

We had four cats in that apartment, and it was our little home. But I ruined that, because I’m constantly at war with this failure that keeps fucking up my life. We had to pack up what we could and come back to Michigan, and there isn’t a time where I’m not sad over what I had to leave behind. Sometimes I randomly think about it and must stop myself from crying. My life is one big fight against failure. I just want to write. I just want to tell stories. I want to make that the focus of my life, but I can’t because of the need of money. And in a lot of self-help books, I have learned that once you’re happy, things get a lot easier. Positive minded people rarely struggle in life. They may have setbacks, but they see those as challenges and not as failures.

I always thought that if you’re doing what truly makes you happy, all the parts of your life that are not happy will fall in place around the happiness you’ve built for yourself. Unfortunately for me, I’m stuck in a box labeled failure that keeps making me mess up every aspect of my life. I keep reaching at this dream and I feel there is no actual way I can get to it. I have made plans. Maybe I’m not very confident with my plans because I don’t want to discuss them. I have never wanted to discuss my plans with anyone. It is hard for me to trust people with my plans, my goals and dreams. Because even though I know they just want to help, I don’t think I can handle being told I’ll fail.

Everyone wants something in life. The something I’ve always wanted is a comfortable home, cats, and a place to write in peace. Because of the internet, I would happily interact with my fans and all that. Did I ever think I’d be in a relationship early on? No. I didn’t. And upon being in one, I realized that was just another thing to trap me under all this failure. I can tell you that there were several times it nearly ended. For a time, I did think it was over. But we tried again. And tried again. And tried again some more, and I still don’t get a single bit of it. I swear, she has it easier than me. She knows how emotions work. Me, I feel I’ll never get it.

As I said, for a good number of years of my life I’ve been fighting failure. I’ve been fighting this feeling of not being good enough at all for anyone. This failure stuff has me on all sides. I’m a black woman, for starters. People still have issues with respecting and treating black women like human beings. And the main people who do this are black women themselves. Growing up, I got dogged out by so many black girls that I began to dislike most of them. There’s a certain type that I despise even now but I tolerate them because they’re everywhere. The other thing against me is being autistic. Hell, black women deal with enough, but throw that in there and it’s a bit worse. I have people treating me like a little damn kid because they think autism makes an adult childish or something like that. It’s stupid to think honestly.

My Mom is My Hero

I'm not exactly super close to my family. I never have been really, and that's an issue in many urban/black families. It didn't help the fact that I was growing up with undiagnosed autism. My mother is an undiagnosed autistic woman herself, but she thinks she's normal. I think because we both have similar traits, she just thought I was normal like her while everyone else is weird. I remember my mother always saying, "I'm not from this planet, I'm an alien" and years later getting older I find the wrong planet forum and found out that autistic people often share the feeling of not belonging on Earth at all. That's why I suspect I got my autism from her. My mother has a lot of the traits: she has her special interests, those being everything science fiction and Johnny Depp. Seriously, my mother can tell you about any given episode of older science fiction shows like the original Star Trek and she even knows about the anime Astro Boy and stunned me when she told me the Japanese title, Tetsuwan Atomu. She knows her stuff, like seriously. She's even into Marvel and DC comics/cartoons and knows like all the old animated theme songs. She taught me some of them.

I think that my love of science fiction and wanting to write such stories came from my mother. At first, I didn't care too much for science fiction, especially Star Trek. My main gripe was that there were no female captains, and as a child I saw all women as being like me simply because we're female, skin didn't matter. That was before it came apparent to me that I had a male presence as well as a female presence about me. Anyway, I fell in love with Star Trek: Voyager as a child because of Captain Janeway. She had to help keep all these people together to get them back home to Earth, and there was some timefoolery going on in that series. (Timefoolery is a term I use to describe anything in a story that involves time travel or manipulation of events based on time.) She became one of my childhood heroes in media and I still respect the actress that portrayed her (even though she's now known for her role in Orange is the New Black) because she had that much influence on me in her previous role and she's just great, okay?

I feel that my mother didn't bother with getting me checked is simple- I was normal to her. We were normal to each other and thought other people were abnormal. When I got into my young adult years and I still lived with my mother, we often would go on these long tangent conversations about science fiction stories we've watched or read. My mother went to see the first remake of Star Trek with me, and she loved it. She basically described it as repackaging to get the new younger generations into Star Trek because the older series had push buttons and all that. The technology was upgraded to what young people now might expect of the future. Anyway, we saw that movie together and loved it.

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