Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

A Tourist Among Men

Everything others do automatically, costs me tremendous effort: I have a bad sense of time, no feel for social etiquette, and unexpected events and sensations smother me.

A trip to the baker may be simple for you, but it’s a fight to me.

When I walk the street, I have to fix my eyes on the ground because I can’t feel my legs without watching them.

I don’t feel hunger. So when I’m alone, I don’t eat.

I had kidney problems by the age of 25 because I don’t feel thirst.

And any bodily sensations I do feel have no clear meaning. Only sensations that scream for my attention can break my focus.

I have to approach everything rationally. Even something as simple as saying hi demands deliberation: how loud should I speak, and with what pitch? 

Now I think about it, all my attention in social interactions is spent on avoiding spontaneity, because otherwise I’ll say the wrong things.

When I was young, a number of classmates died at around the same time. I was the only one who didn’t cry. I didn’t feel sad.

It’s not that I can’t feel sad, I just feel sad in different situations. Like when I can’t find the cap of my pen. To me, that’s a terrifying loss of control.

It’s always been obvious that something was wrong with me. I rub people the wrong way.

Because I’m smart and have a large vocabulary, others assume I can behave normally. But I didn’t always know what normal was.

So when I was a kid and unknowingly broke social norms, I was seen as unruly, rude and disobedient.

Teachers punished me, thinking they could steer me into the right direction. But that only made matters worse.

My teen years went much better. Thanks to my behavioral problems, I was taken out of school. And because it was the ‘70s, people appreciated misfits. 

So I did as I pleased and made art. Being an artist somehow justified my weird behaviour.

My disability didn’t blow out of proportion until I reached my thirties. 

Just like everyone else my age, I tried to take care of myself and settle. But because I ignored my hangups, my whole life fell apart.

Only once I finally got diagnosed with autism did my life take a turn for the better. It allowed me to seek help. 

Now I live my life via an unbreakable routine that makes everything manageable.

Today I know a lot about emotions. And I’m much better at recognizing a good piece of writing.

I learned what’s ‘good’ through reading many novels, watching films, and observing others. 

I wanted to understand what feelings were. I wanted to have them too.

I’m bothered by the image that most people have of autism. They either expect me to be an introverted loon, or are disappointed that I can’t recite the phonebook.

Bill Gates, Da Vinci, Einstein—all geniuses are supposedly autistic. 

I don’t believe it for a second. Autism is a handicap, not a gift.

P.S. These are the translated words of the late Belgian artist, author, and autist Landschip, who spent most of his life feeling like a lost tourist in the world of people. He died in 2017 at 61 years old. Thanks for your contribution, Landschip, you will be missed.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach