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Wandering Without Strings - Part 6: Embracing the Fringe

Amid the chaos and the challenges, I often find myself questioning the very essence of my journey and purpose. To be a social innovator feels like perpetually existing on the fringes. I have come to accept my fringe position, and my autism diagnosis a year ago helped me understand why I was so unaccepted in so many spaces, ostracized, bullied, and excluded so often in my life. I am not one to adopt a victim mentality; in fact, I have always emerged stronger from every situation I have faced. Resilience is something I honor in myself. However, now at 45 years old, I am starting to understand the why behind the fear and intimidation that seem to permeate those who reject me.

My pragmatic optimism was hard-earned. I wouldn't consider myself privileged beyond the color of my skin. Every win I have had in life, which are few by traditional definitions of success, has been fought for with determination and perseverance.

This journey of understanding my place on the fringes has been both challenging and enlightening. The diagnosis of autism provided a lens through which I could reinterpret my past experiences, offering clarity on the reasons behind my exclusion. It wasn't just about societal misunderstanding or intolerance; it was also about the unique way I perceive and interact with the world.

Being a social innovator means constantly pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. It means having ideas and visions that are often ahead of their time, which can be intimidating to those who cling to conventional norms. My presence and ideas disrupt the comfort of the familiar, and this disruption can evoke fear and resistance.

In this context, my resilience is not just about enduring hardship but about continually striving to create space for new ways of thinking and being. It is about holding onto my vision of a better, more inclusive world, even when faced with rejection and misunderstanding. My optimism, tempered by pragmatism, keeps me moving forward, grounded in the reality of my experiences but also inspired by the potential for change.

Yet, even with this understanding, there are moments when I feel profoundly misunderstood. I seek empathy and connection, but often, I am met with logic and rational explanations that miss the core of my emotional experience. This lack of empathy cuts deeply, turning my journey into one of isolation. It is in these moments, when I am longing for a simple acknowledgment of my feelings, that the journey feels most daunting. The desire for understanding and acceptance becomes a profound ache, a reminder of the human need for connection that transcends words and reason.

These moments of disconnection underscore a harsh reality: while I may understand the fear and intimidation I provoke in others, this awareness doesn't always bridge the gap between us. My journey has taught me to approach interactions with empathy and patience, recognizing that resistance often stems from insecurity or a lack of understanding. But knowing this doesn't lessen the sting of exclusion. Instead, it provides a framework—a way to navigate these painful experiences with greater compassion for both myself and others.

Last night, I experienced an unexpected meditation, finding myself once again in a building with countless doors, hallways, small rooms, and stairs—a recurring dream I have had many times before. I wandered through this labyrinth, feeling stifled by the small rooms yet excited by the stairways, which felt like opportunities. The maze was confusing but also like a puzzle to be solved, mirroring my own journey. The small rooms symbolized the limitations and constraints I often feel in conventional settings, stifled by narrow perceptions and rigid expectations. The stairways, on the other hand, represented the moments of opportunity and growth, the exhilarating ascent towards new understanding and innovation. This dream encapsulated my life’s path—a complex and often bewildering maze, yet filled with potential and discovery at every turn.

At 45, I see my life's work as a testament to the power of resilience and the importance of staying true to oneself, even in the face of adversity. My achievements may not align with traditional definitions of success, but they reflect a deep commitment to authenticity and innovation. Each hard-fought win is a reminder of my strength and determination.

As I continue on this path, I aim to embrace my role as a guide and innovator with even greater confidence. I understand now that my fringe position is not a disadvantage but a unique vantage point from which to inspire change. My journey has been one of self-discovery and acceptance, and through it, I have found my place in the world—not by conforming to its demands, but by contributing my unique perspective and insights.

This realization brings a sense of peace and purpose. It allows me to navigate life with a clear sense of direction, guided by the rhythm of my own journey. By accepting my role and embracing my differences, I can live authentically and help others do the same. This is the essence of true integration—acknowledging and honoring all parts of oneself and finding meaning and connection in the process.

Ultimately, being a social innovator and existing on the fringes is not a burden but a gift. It is an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective and to contribute to its evolution in meaningful ways. It is a path that requires courage, resilience, and a deep commitment to one's vision. And as I continue on this journey, I am reminded that every challenge faced and every victory won is a step toward a more inclusive and compassionate world.

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