College  (Separation, Rejection and Regrets)

My mother used to tell me that high school friends faded away and college friends stayed for life.  I started out my college days in a junior college and when I moved on to a 4 yr university, I found out that other students had bonds and friendships established from their freshman year and since I was very shy, I was very lonely.   I didn’t stay in my hometown, so I lost my high school friends and I didn’t make any lasting friends in my one semester of university (dropped out after due to lack of funds).   I wanted my children to have the benefit of forming freshman relationships and bonds that I hoped would last a lifetime, so I carefully handpicked a small private university of 1500 students, hoping Daniel would be safe and thrive.  His roommate was wonderful but Daniel’s grades were poor. He attributes his poor grades to the fact that he failed to understand that unlike high school; just showing up for class wasn’t enough.  In one of my worst parenting moves, I threatened Daniel with rejection if he didn’t get his act together and make better grades.  He had lost a partial scholarship and money was very tight as always.   My threats wounded Daniel deeply and scared him.   I later determined that scare tactics used on an Aspergian are deeply damaging.  Daniel did return to school and he did bring his grades up for the 2nd semester, but my threat of rejection caused him to feel a sense of deep failure that followed him for years.   It was also in the spring semester during a home visit that Daniel announced that he was giving up his anger.   He had hung on to his anger and frustrations (from the childhood abuses) because he believed it fueled his creative writing.  He felt his anger defined him and it was frightening to let it go, but he decided in that Aspergian Logic way that he didn’t want to carry the burden anymore.  In reality, what Daniel was deciding was to stop internalizing his anger.  He had kept it hidden well, revealing himself only in his writings, but after that time he actually seemed angrier with the world, because he began to express it outwardly, verbally.

Daniel’s Dad and I were greatly surprised when baby brother decided to attend the same college.  We were so sure that brother would run for the hills; separate himself from the confines of being Daniel’s brother, but not so.   Brother joined Daniel at college and once again wove him into a network of buddies, including Daniel’s roommate, who incidentally was just brother’s type – a big dude for protection!   I think brother’s present kept Daniel’s college days alive, and I know for a fact that Daniel saved his brother’s college career when he stepped in one summer day and begged me not to withdraw my support for his brother’s college tuition.  Baby brother preferred playing video games rather than complete his college work assignments.  Happily, both boys did graduate college.

Daniel managed to challenge, astound and earn the respect of many of his English professors.  I have all his creative writing papers and love to read their notes on his work.  Unfortunately, Daniel graduated with a degree, but no practical work experience or internships.  We never realized what a necessary part of his future would depend upon those lost opportunities.

It was also at college that one of the cruelest pranks was played on Daniel.  Due to childhood taunting and a few snubs by the female population, Daniel had shielded himself from the approach of young ladies since middle school.  His freshman year, Daniel received a call from a young lady expressing an interest in meeting up with him outside the student union.   Deciding to step out and take a chance, Daniel left his dorm room and waited at the assigned place for a long time before deciding it was a joke on him.  He returned to his room and received another call stating that she had been delayed and asking him to come back.   This time, sensing a prank, Daniel asked his roommate to accompany him.   They waited long enough for Daniel to decide that it was indeed a prank.   This further deepened Daniel’s distrust of anyone outside his immediate family and friends.

Even though most of his college buddies, were actually baby brother’s friends, Daniel did form a lasting friendship with his roommate.  They are still in contact, but living in different states.

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