Today, an old friend of mine from my college days tagged a picture of a bunch of people we knew back then on Facebook. It was taken at the house where we used to live, a year after I left, and about half of the people were familiar to me. Seeing this picture, remembering my year of living with so many of those people in my crazy senior year at UC Berkeley filled me with a lot of sweet nostalgia...
But also a ton of regret.
Regret of the times I was careless of other people's feelings. Times I let my emotions get totally out of control. Times I thought that if I didn't want to go to a mandatory meeting, I didn't have to, and didn't bother to hide my feelings on the matter. Times I complained bitterly about installing water saving shower heads because it made it much harder for me to wash my very long and thick hair (though for the record, those water saving shower heads do suck!). Times I figured I could play whatever music I wanted however loudly I wanted and never mind my roommate and my neighbors. Times I didn't do the dishes because I wasn't in the mood and used the excuse they needed to soak, then complained when others did the same. Times I put pressure on people to like me and want to hang out with me when you know...for the most part, they didn't.
Times, in other words, when I was being my very worst Aspie self.
It pains me to know how badly I behaved, how callously I treated people, and all without really intending to. I am sure I wasn't always bad--I like to think I have a basic streak of decency and compassion, and one of the people who I lived with did ask me to be her maid of honor so it couldn't have been all bad--but I remember the times I was my worst self and I regret. I regret deeply. And I am ashamed of my actions.
The thing is, I was an Aspie, I have always been an Aspie, and I didn't know it. Just had no clue in 1997-1998 that I had a brain that was wired differently. I can see now my horrible social rudeness and ineptitude, but at the time, I just didn't. I didn't know, had no way of knowing, and without knowledge had no way of doing it differently.
If I had known then I was an Aspie, I could have shared it with people, and they would have helped me. I lived with a group of truly wonderful people and I know beyond doubt that if my Asperger's had been a known fact at that time, they would have understood me more, helped me handle it, and been more patient. And I, if I had known, would have been able to work even harder to overcome the social shortcomings.
But that didn't happen. And now, sitting at my desk in 2011 almost 13 years after graduating from Berkeley, I just have to forgive myself. Let it go. Accept it as part of the cost of being an Aspie without knowing it, focus on the wonderful friends and boyfriend I have now, and stop mourning over what could have been 13 years ago.
Because it is OK to have regrets, but it isn't OK to let them control your life. And the God I believe in doesn't teach being ashamed, but teaches us we should ALL press on to that goal He has promised us...one day at a time.