How the love of the Arts, Gaming and Film making, has shaped Zou’s World

8 April 2019

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Family has a funny way of being able to surprise you. Sometimes it’s coming home to find a puppy, sometimes it’s waking up to see they’ve drawn all over your face. Other times it’s the amount of insight you can gain into another’s life.

This week for Autism awareness and acceptance month, we’re celebrating neurodiversity through our interview with Zou! He is a relative to Sunny, an aspiring film director and a lover for the arts, literature and games! He was beyond thoughtful in recollection of his life with Asperger’s, providing us a personal perspective into his world.

Do the people around you know you have Autism?

Zou: Pretty much everyone I’m friends with knows I’m autistic. I don’t really make it a point to tell them right off the bat, but I don’t hide it or anything either.

What do people say when you tell them you have Autism?

It’s about an even split between “Aaahh, that makes sense” and “Really? I never would have picked that up”. It’s a fun game to play whenever I meet new people… Will they pick up on it, and will they be surprised by it?

Have you ever experienced a meltdown? What happens? How do you feel?

Used to have meltdowns a lot. It’s a very apt word for it because everything would feel really hot, and my chest would actually feel like it was going to melt. I would become quite obstinate and no longer interested in a solution to whatever the problem was. Kind of like the Hulk in that it felt like the only thing that would fix it is to break stuff, but then any time I actually did break anything all I would feel was guilt so that never really worked out.

Nowadays, I don’t really get them. About the closest I get is occasional flashes of disproportionate anger at very minute things that I can’t really explain. The same heated feeling in the chest, and my eyes sort of glaze over and I quite literally see red. But then after about five minutes, it’s gone. Really weird.

What things do you think other people take for granted?

I think other people take for granted the ability to communicate well and pick up on subtext and contextual clues. People sometimes get really frustrated trying to explain things to me because to them the thing they’re explaining was implicit or doesn’t need explaining. This is especially true of concepts that just don’t make sense to me. One example is that I was once told I need to be better about hiding people and deceiving them (not like, maliciously. Just like, white lies to appease people when it’d make things go smoother and not have any adverse effects) but to me, I just feel like any decision I’m going to lie about in future is one I shouldn’t have made in the first place and to this day I still do not understand exactly what they were trying to convince me of. I wouldn’t even count on my recollection of their point being accurate.

 

Tell us about something you’ve done that you are proud of?

I wrote and directed a short film. It’s not finished yet, as I still need to sort out all the files and hand them to the guy who’s going to edit it. I’m not under the illusion that it’ll turn out to be a masterpiece or anything. I won’t even be surprised if the final product is utterly dreadful… but I wrote it, and we shot it, and it’s done. Maybe I’ll do another one if I can think of a story idea that’d translate well to film

 

What is the short film about?

The short film is about a girl who’s having nightmares and is contacted by a Dream Eater who offers to eat her dreams. The subtext that I tried to go for was sort of more about how valuable dreams are, and that they’re not just limited to our sleep, and I sort of wove the idea of dreams and the Dream Eater into a metaphor for depression and Nihilism. At least, that was the goal. Hopefully, it comes across XD

 

What do social situations look like for you?

I think I mostly get social situations now. Though, sometimes I need people to repeat the things they’ve said not because I didn’t hear them, but because for some reason it took me too long to process the meaning from their words and I forget what they’ve said. If it takes too many repeats I get worried that they’ll be annoyed, so I usually just try to joke around the fact I didn’t hear what they said properly and that usually goes over fine.

 

What do you want people to know about you?

I don’t know … Knowledge is relative really. There are very few people interesting enough that they’re worth strangers knowing anything about them. My friends and family know everything they need to, and that’s about as far as that needs to go I guess XD

Who inspires you?

If we’re talking about people I know, my boss. Dude has lived a hell of a life. I feel really lucky to be working under him because I don’t think I’ve yet heard somebody else talk about their boss in anything more positive than a completely neutral light, whereas my boss does his best to help out his employees both in and out of work.
If we’re talking about people I DON’T know…, a few authors I guess. Kentarou Miura for one. I love everything he’s written. Alexis Kennedy, fantastic writer. Stuff like that.

 

If you could be anything in the world, what would it be?

I think if I could be anything, I’d be in the entertainment industry SOMEHOW. I’d like to be a good writer and author, so I do write a good deal of stuff, but if that was my day job, I’d absolutely hate it.
I quite like performing too, so acting wouldn’t be too bad, but I don’t know I’d like being like, Hollywood famous either, so I don’t know. Really, just sort of creatively entertaining somehow. Brighten up the lives of people even if I don’t know them.

When people find out you have Autism, what do you wish they would say?

I actually love the reactions I get to telling people I’m autistic, but that’s because I find it really funny the way people react to learning that someone’s different from the norm. If you learn to see the humour in people’s ignorance and well-meaning word fumbles, life gets a lot easier and a lot more fun.

 

Is there any advice you would like to tell people that aren’t on the spectrum?

To people not on the spectrum, just a bit of patience can go a fair way. Most of us aren’t acting like idiots on purpose. We just don’t understand why we’re supposed to do things in an inefficient manner to appease the public. Like, it’s so much easier to say “I gotta take a crap” than it is to say “Excuse me a moment, I’m off to the bathroom. Don’t wait up for me”.

 

What is something you wish people knew more about from being on the Autism spectrum?

I wish people understood that it’s not a disability, in the same way, that other… I don’t know what the classification is now, but it’s not like we have Down’s Syndrome or something. People get worried about their kids having autism and refuse to accept it sometimes. It’s that kind of attitude that fuels the fear-mongering that leads people to stop vaccinating their kids

 

How old were you when you were diagnosed? Do you remember?

I THINK I was like, 7 maybe when I was diagnosed. Less than 10 is about all I’m sure of. I vaguely remember the building I went to for the diagnosis, and kind of remember the room I was in, but that’s about it.
I also made a few smart-assed remarks to Mum about the whole thing that she still has a laugh about sometimes.

 

What was life like before the diagnosis, compared to after the diagnosis?

I don’t really remember much about life before being diagnosed as it was so early, but I do know that there were a lot less visits to professionals. Paediatricians and psychologists and the like. None of that prior to diagnosis.

 

How have games helped you through your life? Did you find they helped or offered an escape?

Its a pretty common thing that you’ll have heard over and over again, but I find games help with escape, yes. If I’m feeling really anxious, I can throw a game in and go into a sort of zen mode where the world around me ceases to be and I can just have an empty mind and not worry about whatever’s going on. Actually, I got so zen the other day that I bruised my thumb playing Dishonored the other day. Didn’t even notice until I put the game down and noticed my thumb was throbbing XD

 

What kind of games do you enjoy? Do you feel you excel in certain games or situations more because of your diagnosis?

I’m partial to well built FPS games like Halo. Also play a decent whack of Overwatch, as well as a few others. That, and anything with new or interesting mechanics. I’m a bit of a hipster when it comes to games, really. In my top five list are two games that nobody seems to have heard of, despite their large communities (Sunless Sea and Cultist Simulator. Both written by the aforementioned Alexis Kennedy. Everybody should throw their money at him).
I think the diagnosis helps with the more twitchy, reflex and skill-based games. Autistic people tend to be better at being hyper-focused on something, which makes that zen state easier to get into. When you stop thinking about the things you’re doing and act on reflex and instinct, you tend to succeed a lot more. Or at least, I do anyway.

 


 

Zou is such a passionate and genuine person, who we are so lucky to be able to interview!
We will be keeping up with him and the progress of his short film, hopefully being able to share it with you all. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us here at WomANZ.

Specials thanks to the following people for making this possible:

Thank you to Mivaro for proof-reading and editing and for Sunny for taking the time to interview and write this.

An extra special Thank You Zou for sharing your story with our team.

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