“Note: Some of the information in this piece has been changed to protect the privacy of those involved”
Do you remember the old saying that there are plenty of fishes in the sea? Well, I’ve had a hard time accepting that the past couple of months. In the process of losing a special girlfriend, I fell into a really bad place. I thought she was amazing and in my efforts to work on myself to show her that I could be better for her, I wrote several blogs on her i.e. The One That Got Away about how much I cared for her and what I was doing to work on myself which I featured on both The Mighty and The Autism Society of America’s blog.
During this time my self-esteem was at an all-time low. Out of all the women I dated, this one clearly mattered the most to me. I kept thinking I would do anything to get back with her because I loved her. At the same time, though I learned that you cannot wait to see how things are going to turn out and need to live your life the best you can and let whatever will be, be. I needed to move on and make sure I didn’t make the same mistakes twice.
That’s when I entered the world of online dating. It was something I’ve always encouraged my mentees with autism to try who have had difficulties with face-to-face communication. For me though communication with my peers, no matter the method now comes easily. It wasn’t always this way. Being able to speak on a national level of my life with autism and open up about myself gave me the opportunity to build my confidence in who I am, which led to a lot of dates both in college and my career so far.
With the end of this break up though I wanted to try something new and something I have advocated for many in our community for years. I wanted to start off by giving myself a promise to try it for one month. I stuck with that and went in with the mentality to open myself to as many women who I thought I had a mutual interest in. I started off with a recommendation in doing eHarmony. I followed that by joining Match.com, OkCupid, and Coffee Meets Bagel.
As the trial month went on I noticed both positives and negatives to the online dating scene. First, there’s no guarantee when you reach out to someone that they are going to contact you back. This was probably the hardest part of my experience. How do you make that amazing first impression that has them reaching back to you? I tried many things: complimenting photos, asking questions about their interests on their profiles, telling funny jokes, etc . The first week was definitely the most challenging of all because nothing seemed to work. I was beginning to lose hope.
Then, when I thought, all was lost the “aha!” moment happened inside my head while I was pitching a story to a local news station about my giving a speech about autism awareness at J.P. Morgan. That moment of clarity when it came together. I didn’t need a gimmick. I didn’t need a pick-up line. Maybe I just needed to tell them who I was. Who I really was.
I start writing out my messages to these women telling them my story; how I was non-verbal until I was two and a half, how I was diagnosed with autism at four, how many people thought growing up, I may never have a girlfriend, and now at 27, I’ve become a professional speaker who has had several relationships. It was really just a shot out of the dark. “Why not?” I kept telling myself. What do I have to lose at this point? I sent my first message to one woman on eHarmony before I went to bed and at two am my email ring goes off on my iPhone with a response.
“Jasmine wants to get to know you.”
That moment right there was enough for me. The next day we started talking, and even though we ultimately didn’t end up dating, that wasn’t my last message on a dating site. The next day, I sent out more messages, and more and more women were responding positively. At the end of the month, with only having the evenings and weekends to invest in these dating sites while having a full-time job and speaking career I had communicated with 1,386 women *thank Baby Jesus for my iPhone charger*.
Since that month ended I’ve dropped my communication down to just a few really amazing women, and I have to say, I’m really excited to see what happens next. My confidence was low but the best lesson I think I learned from a rocky and shaky couple of months is that there is a right person out there for everyone, you just got to be willing to work on yourself and be true to who you are and what you have to offer.
For those on the spectrum, I hope you hold that dear to you everyday. We all have our quirks out there but at the end of the day you have to be comfortable with whom you are before you can expect someone else to do the same. Be who you are, love who you are, and ultimately, whether it’s in a relationship or not, you will be happy with your results every time.