I can’t stop thinking about this Tweet.
I want to go far in life. So that kids with autism have me as an example of what their future could be like instead of Rainman or Sheldon. (Though I love Sheldon)
Zjos is 22, has autism and suffers from depression. Just like her brother, who killed himself.
It’s not the heartbreaking-ness of her story that gets to me. Neither is it the fact that my brother is autistic too. What grabs me is her forthrightness about wanting to make it in life.
It is scary to express your dreams publicly. Most people don’t say things like “I want to make it in life. I want to accomplish ____.” Doing so makes you weird and makes some of your peers nasty.
You are saying: “All of you are not trying to change the world, but I am.”
They are saying: “So this isn’t good enough for you? What’s wrong with me not wanting to make a ruckus? Why do you have to be such a saint?”
All of a sudden, you’re a threat to their self-image: if you can do it, they can, too. There will be envy.
For some twisted reason, realizing your dreams begets criticism. For instance, at every party where I talk about my aspirations to go to Harvard and to be a big player in educational change, there are people who give me cynicism or ridicule. As they say: “High trees catch a lot of wind.”
Many people don’t realize that this is what you get when you out yourself as wanting to get far in life. People are always so eager to talk you down.
There seems to be deeply ingrained cultural resistance against aiming to be exceptional. As they also say: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”
The ambitious person has a reply: “That approach to life doesn’t actually make any sense at all. I call your bluff.”
We need to ask ourselves some questions. Why is there a taboo on chasing your dreams? Why do we encourage children to shrink rather than to shine?
We also need more people like Zjos: heroes who seek to make a change and proudly share their mission — head up high.