• Sarah Nannery

My Idea of "Fun" might be Different than Yours

Updated: Jun 9

Excel spreadsheets! Cropping photos to look "just so." Listening to the same song or reading the same book over, and over, and over, and over again. And again.


Fun!! Yes?


Maybe not for you... =D



But my idea of fun isn't the same as a lot of other people.


I mean, sure, we all have our own unique ideas of what fun is to us - but you will agree that there is a much smaller percentage of the world that finds delight in breaking out the old Microsoft Excel software and plunking in some data to work with.


It could be any data. It could be something as highly useful as crafting a daily schedule for our quarantine lives, incorporating certain amounts of down time, outside time, family time, learning time and alone time into each day. (In our dreams, right? The perfect 2-dimensional world of paper...) Or, it could be something as innocuous as tracking how many Spell Books I've earned in my Harry Potter Wizards Unite game and which Lessons I want to spend them on first, second, third, and fourth. #SpecialInterest


For me, working with data and laying it out in various ways so that my brain can consume it one way and then another way until the data is fully worked through is very much fun. (I can feel some of you cringing... =D)


My Idea of "Fun"

But data-diving is not my only quirky idea of fun.


When I was in grade school, I used to avoid recess (the "fun" time) like the plague: I would find excuses to stay inside the classroom or the lunchroom and help organize or put things away, or just do quiet solo work rather than go outside. The incredible noise and commotion and unpredictable social environments that inevitably bubbled up on the playground were absolute chaos to me, and I much preferred the quiet, orderly process of cleaning or stacking or sweeping. My peers thought I was weird. Some of my teachers over the years thought that I was being bullied (not untrue but not the cause of me wanting to stay inside), or that I was trying to become the "teacher's pet" (also not necessarily untrue, but again, not my main motivation). When in reality, the messy horrors of unstructured and highly social recess were far from "fun" for me, compared to the tempting lure of organizing classroom supplies.


Here are just a few examples of what I find THE MOST fun - and no, not every autistic person is going to share my ideas of fun, and quite a few neurotypical people might also find a lot of these fun - the point is opening our minds to the fact that "fun" can be found in many different forms by many different people.


My "fun" looks like:

  • Reading (or listening to) a book (9 times out of 10, it's a Harry Potter book...)

  • Sitting quietly outside while sipping tea

  • Listening to the rain

  • Working in PowerPoint, Photoshop, Illustrator, Photo Collage, PiktoChart, Canva, or pretty much any online design or photo software

  • Writing

  • Going for a walk by myself

  • Playing my flute/piccolo (Marching Band was HUGE fun for me in college)

  • Solving logic puzzles

  • Drawing, sketching or coloring

  • Kayaking (single-rider boat)

  • Pretty much anything related to Harry Potter (video or phone games, crafts, legos, movies, books, art/illustrations, news, quizzes, trivia, etc.)

  • Spending quality time with my husband, and quiet(ish) time with my kids

A great way for me to make my idea of fun more "normal" is to mix one of the above with a chance to go out or to spend time with others in community. Like going to a live model drawing event, or doing Harry Potter trivia with a group of friends.


My Take on Other Ideas of "Fun"

Why does my idea of fun look so different than what other people might consider fun? Lots of reasons, most of them having to do with how easily I can become overstimulated and go into sensory overload, how quickly social interaction exhausts me, and how difficult it is for me to navigate unpredictable or unstructured situations.


Going to the movies? Fun-ish, but depends on what movie, the temperature of the theatre, what it smells like, the texture of the seats, how many other people will be in the same theatre, who I'm going with, and whether the theatre has the right flavor popcorn.


Drinks with friends? Fun, yes, but exhausting. Like I don't think you know how exhausting. Totally worth it, once in a while, but as a special occasion that I save up energy for and have to replenish energy from afterward.


Watching a comedy show? Could be fun if I'm familiar with the content and the structure of the show (Who's Line, anyone?) - but things can quickly get hairy if it's a show I haven't seen much or if it's something entirely new. Because, you know, ASD and humor...


Just the other night, my husband and I were watching some comedy show after the kids went to bed, and they did a spoof "breaking news" interruption. The whole point of a spoof, of course, is that it looks semi-real. But to me, lacking contextual knowledge on a number of fronts due to my ASD and with a tendency to take everything at literal face value, I had to spend too many brain cycles trying to figure out whether it was a spoof news item or if it was actually real. My husband was like, "Of course it's a spoof! It's funny! It takes the fun out of it if you have to think that hard." And he was right: it wasn't very fun for me to have to spend that energy on trying to decipher whether I should believe it or not.


Part of what makes something "fun" or "funny" for a lot of people is the fact that it is unexpected. Surprises, new experiences, spontaneous decisions, etc.


But I don't like unexpected things. Even good things.


I spend so much energy thinking through every moment of my life that something unexpected, even if it's great, forces me to go back, rethink, tear down and rebuild, and figure out how to now incorporate that unexpected thing into my (fairly rigid) framework. I don't even like biting into my sandwich and unexpectedly getting more mustard taste than I did in my last bite, for goodness sake. Which is why my sandwiches look like works of mathematical precision rivaling the Fibonacci sequence - a quirk that still baffles my family to this day.


Fun in Flexibility

My framework is too rigid. I know this.


Never will I be as fluid and flexible as most people - I will always be on the rigid side of things - but I am working a lot on being more flexible in life. One of the many reasons I want to be more flexible is so that I can enjoy more "fun" things - because a lot of cool stuff happened at recess while I was putting the classroom books in alphabetical order by title, and I missed it.


I'm cool with missing a lot, in exchange for peace of mind. Life in "neutral" is completely fine for me. I am A-OK with neutral, and find plenty of fun in the small, mundane, even intricate areas of life. And life in neutral is by far preferable to life in overdrive (...and it's very easy for me to accidentally get into overdrive).


But life with little splashes of color here and there is nice, too.


Just don't splash me too much, please. =D I will have fun - I will dip my toe into recess - but in my own way, and in my own time.


What does your fun look like?


#ASDinsider

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