It’s been an interesting summer so far. Like any teenager, I’ve been sleeping in late and not doing a whole lot of anything. It’s been great, to be honest! I’ve been scheduled to the point of being overwhelmed by activities that I needed to take part in or had to complete written assignments for that doing nothing for a few months is awesome.

Niko and Hutch

I’m looking forward to a trip we’re going on in a few weeks that will be pretty fun. We’re visiting family in Serbia, and then my mom is taking me to Lithuania for the first time. I like traveling with her because she is a totally different person when we are away from home. She isn’t overscheduled either, and slows down when we are together. It’s nice to see her relax and embrace a slower pace. I usually see this cloud of nervous energy emanating from her over the course of the day that flares bright orange and pink depending on what her mood is like.

Did I mention that I have synesthesia? I see colors in people’s strong emotions and especially when I hear music. The colors are my emotional response to it, and I see them no matter what kind of music it is. That is not to say that I like all music, but when you think about it, no matter the genre, it produces some sort of reaction: nostalgia, longing, discomfort, love, sadness, excitement, and just about anything you can think of.

Having this response to music has had an interesting effect on how I see people. They are like music in that their emotions flow out of them like currents or fountains of colors which blend and swirl like a visual heartbeat. I was sure that everyone also saw my colors, but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized that this wasn’t the case. How sad! Much like the heightened sensory insight my autism gives me, I can’t imagine not seeing colors all the time, and I would be devastated if it went away. Having synesthesia, like autism, is a gift. I wish more people viewed it as such. I wouldn’t feel so alone.

It might surprise you to know that my most emotional reactions come when I experience music through someone else. It was an amazing thing to hear The Thermals’ lead singer Hutch Harris play an acoustic set at my graduation party. I love this band and the punk, loud, fuzzy sound three people can produce. The lyrics are thoughtful and cover a wide subject range. My favorite album (“The Body, The Blood, The Machine”) questions the role religion plays in politics and society. Having this album in my head on constant repeat might drive another person loopy, but it brings me great comfort, and with each play, I hear something new and colorful.

So to hear these songs in a different way by the person who wrote them was such a thrill that all I could do at that moment was to get lost in Hutch’s colors. They ranged in hues of the deepest purple to maroon when he sang about lost lovers; blues and browns when he sang about fighting powerful systems of oppression; and nuances of gold and yellow when he was happiest hearing people’s applause in appreciation of his music. Having this live experience was incredible, and I’m so glad I get to know this side of someone whose music I like to listen to.

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