For a long time, I've struggled to figure out "what" I am. Our tendency, at least what we're taught, is to figure out which of a set of buckets we fall into. Which career to choose, what kind of person we are, what physical or mental illness we suffer from, etc.read more
But as I've started to see patterns in the people I connect with the best in NY (most of them I've met in Washington Square Park), some things really started to stand out. After 4 months, ~300 hours in the park, and meeting exactly 288 people, I've found I get along best with people who:
- Grew up around or intensely love a lot of animals, often species other than just dogs and cats
- Are exceedingly empathetic, sometimes to a fault
- Have struggled with gender identity/depression/anxiety/drug abuse
- Are marveously intelligent
Perhaps due to these traits, these people also have a tendency to be incredibly creative. Almost all of them are musicians, painters, poets, photographers, chefs, or comedians, and a subset are polymaths.
I was trying to find the common thread that connected all of us. I looked at ADD/ADHD, and there were a decent number but it wasn't universal. I looked at alternative educations (e.g. Montessori, Waldorf), but that was even less common. Same with OCD/OCPD. Same with childhood trauma. Same with migraines. Each thread I considered just had too many counterexamples.
Another pattern that kept coming up, even more than the others I considered, was that many of them had histories of autism in their families or suspected at one point that they might have autism. But the DSM-V clearly details that a requirement for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is deficits in social interaction and communication, which not all of these people displayed. What they did display (especially me) was some of the other characteristics of autism, though, such as "highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus", "repetitive motor movements", "insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines (such as eating the same food every day)", as well as other traits which I can only accurately describe given our current understanding of neurology as superpowers.
So I think there's really only one conclusion: this group of people is not covered by an existing bucket. Maybe they'll never be, because just as no two of us have both identical genes and identical experience, no two of us have the exact same brain. Yes, there is a number of buckets that's sufficient, but it's the number of people on the planet.
That said, buckets can be helpful, so I'm going to propose a rather general one for these folks: the creatives.
Within creatives, I think there is also the "prolific creative", who have difficulty "turning off". They have all of the characteristics of the creative, but they also produce an obscene amount of whatever it is they create. Filling entire notebooks with song after song, screenplay after screenplay, drawing after drawing.
Note: I think one thing that's important is ensuring causal order is considered. I don't believe it's the fact that growing up around animals makes you this way, for instance: my hypothesis is that the parents of creatives might be more commonly autistic or exceedingly empathetic, which is associated with a proclivity toward animals (by the way, there is a school of thought that the social "deficits" of autistics are not actually from an absense of empathy, but having too much). Similarly, I don't think prolific creatives, like Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla, only slept two hours a day in order to be more productive. I believe their sleep patterns were a consequence of being prolific creatives (they weren't prolific creatives because of their sleep patterns). They simply couldn't "turn off" their brain, nor did they want to.
Note 2: A Reddit user tipped me off to the BAPCO-DMAP theory for Autism, which maps very well with what I've written here. Rather validating given Dr. McDonald presumably explored this with much more scientific rigor than my late night musings!