I bought my beard trimmer in the summer of 2007. The world looked very different than. I was a yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) student studying to be a rabbi. I told almost nobody that I studied & socialized with that I was #ActuallyAutistic beyond those whom I knew to be autistic as well.
I lived a very masked life. Not only in terms of pretending to be NT, but in how I lived my life as an Orthodox Jew. I wasn’t true to myself, but bits of my true autistic & authentic self shone thru, even then. I’ve come to see that I was hiding in plain sight.
I was opinionated & forceful, like now, which was looked at as a plus in my yeshiva. I was also, however, totally contemptuous of authority and most of my teachers – a big no no in any strict religious world. I challenged not only people, but Jewish Theology & Jewish Law.
I would stim (jump up and down) while praying, which blends into the general swaying of Jewish prayer and wasn’t looked at badly, maybe just a bit “eccentric”. But I’d also massage my hands & feet often, causing me occasional ridicule.
I was considered smart and a promising rabbinical student (and great husband material – this is Orthodox Judaism after all), but also “arrogant”, “self-centered”, and constantly said to “need to have more face-time with others”. Sound familiar?
Today that beard trimmer broke, nearly 16 years after I bought it. It has served me well. Since then I have left the community in which I lived (though am still a part of it).
I’ve lived in 5 countries since then, had an interesting career, met amazing people, and honored my autistic self more & more each year. Throwing this trimmer away is a bit of a bookend for me, with the attachment I have to this & other objects from back then.
I’m glad to see that today the Orthodox Jewish community is becoming more accepting of autistic folks, but there is a long way to go. I’m glad to still be a part of it in my own way, on my own terms, teaching my friends & family about Neurodiversity & Autism.
by Matthew Lawrence, the #ActuallyAutistic Coach