Maybe you are weird. In fact, you definitely are. Your parents don’t listen to you. Teachers totally ignore you. Even your friends misunderstand most of what you want to talk about..
Be patient. Be patient with all of us. Be patient with yourself. Your story is just beginning. People with long titles may say you have Asperger’s Syndrome or some other expression of the Autism Spectrum. Maybe they say it is more like Cerebral Palsy or Muscular Dystrophy. More than anything, those labels indicate their own limitations rather than yours. You are an entire universe – don’t wait to be explored and discovered by others; bring your revelations to us and change our lives.
The wisest man I knew as a child was thrown out of school when he was five years old. He sang every day. His doctors told him he would die before he was 30 years old. He worked hard with his hands and his legs. He loved everyone he met at first sight and forever. He lived for almost a century. He still lives in me. And now, he lives in you.
Realize that every medium you encounter — websites, books, newspapers, televisions, movies, music, magazines — is a doorway to another way of knowing yourself and your world. Devour them. Read, listen, write, draw, sing, and dance through every moment of your life. Know that every dream you have for yourself, someone else has a key to help you accomplish them. Read every word and sentence looking to use them to build a better you. Tomorrow morning, you’ll be smarter, stronger, more spiritual, and more beautiful because you learned more yesterday.
The best students are not the ones who score the highest grades and win the most awards. The best students love learning, especially when it is hard to do. These students quietly ignore the laughter of their classmates when they make a mistake. They work in the library while everyone else goes home. Their notebooks have the teacher’s comments on one-half of each page, and their own questions and comments on the other half. They figure out the goals of their classes in the first month, and then build their own unique projects to explore the curriculum by the end of the year.
Watch the people you see around you. Their actions tell you even more than their words do. Choose your words carefully. They have the power to reshape everything you think is real. When you decide to act, have a plan. Stick to it, and be decisive as you adapt to new circumstances. Realize that nothing has just one meaning. Layer your ambitions to encompass the legal, the financial, the philosophical, and the scientific.
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett are not the singular measures of human excellence. Study Thich Nhat Hanh, Ella Baker, and Rigoberta Menchu to fulfill your destiny. Commit yourself to build the organizations and institutions that eliminate hunger, disease, and poverty while simultaneously managing stable growth, sustainable development, universal health care, and free education.
The labels the world offers you are only reflections of its failures. You are already everything you dream of becoming. You always have been and always will be. Show us all the your best, and we will live up to your example. Have the best year ever in school, and stay weird. For your parents, for your teachers, for your friends, it is our only hope.
Dr. Walter Greason is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Center for Metropolitan Growth and the author of Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey. His work is available on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).