Managing Editor's Note: Zack Peter is an autism sibling, like our Contributing Editor Natalie Palumbo, who is just beginning her freshman year at college. The sibling perspective is so important - having a brother or sister with autism affects the entire family for better and yes, sometimes for worse. Zack offers his own zany brand of humor and coping skills as he stands by his little brother Ethan.
By Zack Peter
What can I say? My life isn’t anything what I expected it to be. Then again, I’m not quite sure what I expected of it at this point. But when you compare it to how things usually are for people in their 20s, I guess I’m right where I should be: annoyed, frustrated, heartbroken, madly in love, happy, sad, lonely, yet full all at the same time. Some nights I go to bed at ease and others I can’t desperately wait to fall asleep at end of the night.
How I balance it all? Going to school, working a part-time job, running Just Plain Entertainment, producing and hosting my show Just Plain Ridiculous, building my personal brand through my books and comedy, doing work for autism, all while still trying my best to be a great big brother and caring friend. Sometimes I run myself dead and at others I take off too many hours in a day. (All while very heavily caffeinated!) Some days I feel guilty and others I feel entitled.
Which begs back at the question: How do you balance life? Especially with autism in the mix. One thing people tend to always forget is when autism comes in the picture, life doesn’t stop. Autism just adds to it. Marital problems are still there for the parents, high school is still a bitch for us siblings. I saw a meme online the other day with the caption, “I know life isn’t supposed to be fair, but this is just ridiculous!” Yes!!
I may not know very much, but I’m sure this juggling act of life is just as confusing in your twenties, as in your thirties, or forties. Maybe not fifties. I think it gets less confusing and just a lot more physically achy, with a lot more naps.
So when do you figure out how to balance it all? I don’t think there’s a real answer to that. I have tips. 9 out of 10 of them include alcohol, but hey, I’m learning as I go. I think one of biggest things we have to remember in this balancing act of life, in this struggle with daily autism, is that it is crucial to stop and appreciate what we have. Gratitude is so important. It keep us going down this road to recovery. And this bitch of a road called life. Is it easy to have a brother with autism? No. Is it easy trying to figure everything out on my own? No. But when I stop and appreciate the (get ready for it) beauty autism has brought to my life, it helps me through the frustrated tears and back up to fight through another day.
For me, I use my brother’s progress as something to look forward to. He has his good moments and his not-so-good moments, but I never give up that hope on him. Just the other day, a friend said to me, “What if he’s already reached his fullest potential?” I nearly ripped his head off, as I broke down in tears at the thought of giving up hope. Although I know the intention behind the comment wasn’t ill-hearted, it still hurt to imagine that. So I hold hope strongly. When I’ve made a new mess of my life, I look at Ethan. I appreciate him. And I appreciate the time I have with him and milestones I get to be a part of. Just the other day, we were at our usual Thursday night dinner when Mom asked, “Ethan do you want fish?” He demanded, “No. I want a cheeseburger!” Even though he wasn’t getting the damn cheeseburger, it lit up my face to hear him say a full sentence. No matter how much of a brat he was being.
So stop, take a minute, bitch to yourself if you need to, then stop again, take another minute and write out what you’re thankful for today. Leave it in a comment or even tweet it to me @JustPlainZack
. I’ll be sure to retweet with a follow back. Now go!
And don’t forget to stay sexy!