When I walk through the crowded hallways of my high school, filled with loud chatter, groups of students walking in big swarms, lovers making out against the doorways, I occasionally spot a kid with a heavy backpack slung over one shoulder, always looking down, always by himself and always wearing a “Life is Good” T-shirt; and I believe it’s my brother, Jacob.
I believe that everyone who looks at my brother Jacob does not know who he really is. They say loner, weirdo, or retard.
Jacob is different, not you’re typical 17-year-old teenager; he has aced every single vocabulary test he’s ever taken in his life, he knows every single Marvel superhero: date of birth, power, and weakness. Jacob could recall every single Thomas the Tank Engine character by age 5, he has a limited wardrobe because he only wears what feels “good” to him, and every night I can count on him to turn off the hallway light and say, “good night Mike.” Growing up, I believed he was just like me, except for having these special abilities, but at age twelve while riding shotgun with my mom, I learned he had Asperger’s Syndrome. I got nervous because I believed it was a disease.
This condition, a high-functioning form of autism, affects Jacob’s ability to analyze a social situation. This doesn’t mean if someone walks up to him and strikes a conversation it won’t register, it means that if Jacob walks into a room, such as a crowded cafeteria, it would feel as if he walked into the middle of a discombobulated train station with thousands of trains coming in his direction. To avoid the piercing noises and nuances of facial expressions that Jacob cannot understand, he maneuvers through the crowds to find comfort, often at a table in the corner.
I always take it for granted walking into that social situation. For me, it’s easy to navigate through the different types of people to find a comfortable place. I can see the difficulties that Jacob faces in this situation; and I envy his perseverance.
Jacob’s ability to cope with what is difficult, what doesn’t come easily to him, has inspired me to not give up and stay strong when life gets tough. High school is full of obnoxious teenagers and everyone ends up getting teased. When the bully train comes in my direction, I look for an alternate track. I believe if Jacob can find his way through life’s obstacles, so can I. Jacob’s perseverance has served as my conductor; I believe life brings many challenges and the truth is, everyone will be faced with a discombobulated train station at some point in their lives.
I believe Jacob has many gifts; and I believe he knows how to use them. It’s a coincidence that Jacob wears “Life is Good” T-shirts because I believe when I’m around Jacob, my Life is Good.
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