Meaning of Life—an over-thinker’s guide to the universe by Barb Cook

I have elevated over-thinking to an art form. Ever since I was a small girl, I often wondered what life meant, right down to the atom level of existence. I have always felt compelled to believe that there was some higher meaning or bigger picture to this existence on planet earth and I want to know why, in detail, from every aspect and angle.

In my pre-autistically identified younger days, I was often found lost in my head. The world inside often gave me a source of wonderment as well as a place to try and analyse all that I came across. In some sense, I was that little Miss Professor, taking on deciphering the world.

It all started at the age of three when my much older brother gave me a book on ancient Egypt. I was completely fascinated by the adorned blue and gold sarcophagus of pharaohs; the hieroglyphics danced before me, holding a key to information from another time lost, and the black cat sculptures of Bastet (well of course that  got my attention—cats) had me yearning for a time where I believed I belonged. I certainly didn’t feel like I belonged in the time in which I was born.

My parents allowed me a form of free-thinking as I was growing up in what I classified as the bush (15 acres and a dirt road—close enough) where my constant desire to learn more could be left in my tiny little hands. I would often be found sitting in amongst the stones down the side of the house, picking through like an archaeologist looking for signs of life from ancient times. The tiny pieces of green glass and white and blue porcelain constantly had me wondering who had lived here long before. I was convinced they were major discoveries.

My dad had a significantly large workshed where he would spend many an hour working away welding and building all sorts of projects. This was where I came across at age three-and-a-half those wonderful wax chalks they use for writing on metal. Dad had them in yellow and white and my goodness it felt wonderful to draw across the sheets of metal that composed of the walls of dad’s shed. Even at that age, I could sense the differences in how the chalk moved and felt as it transitioned across each sheet of metal. Each one had a slight difference in its textural feel. The subtle changes felt enormous for me and would also have an effect on what I would draw on these sheets. I think my dad called me the youngest graffiti artist ever back then…

Expressing what was swirling around in this little head had an opportunity for free-will on this shed. As the years went by you could see the transition in the style of drawing and how much I had grown in terms of how much further I could reach up on the walls. I was extremely lucky to have this freedom, as I do know many a parent would have the absolute horrors if their child took up drawing all over the walls of the house. I had the same rules of sorts, no drawing on the walls of the house itself… fair enough.

Nightly visits to dad’s shed to say goodnight always taught me something new. Standing there, peering up at dad who appeared to be 10 feet tall, waiting for that bear hug that I always loved (and most times would crack a few bones in my back), dad would point out the different constellations in the night sky, often with a story behind what they were. A merchant seaman for over 15 years had taught him a thing or two about that big ole night sky. I always think of him when I look up at a clear night sky wondering if he had found that fabled star that could never be seen behind Sirius, with its connections to ancient Egypt…

A microscope for my ninth birthday had me completely hooked at looking at the opposite end of the macrocosm: the microcosm now awaited and it could be found now by peering through this eye-piece to reveal the tiny wonders before me. I studied just about anything and everything that would fit under that slide glass. This tiny magical world was just as fascinating as that big one around it. My head would often be so filled with thoughts of how this world, the worlds of the universe and the worlds within where I struggled to comprehend it all and at times completely consumed me in thought.

At the age of 10 I turned to reading the bible. I thought answers must be in here surely. Unlike the other kids of my age I was consumed by reading and filling my head with information. I felt like the logical world couldn’t answer my questions, history had hidden its answers in the past and the universe was just too far away, so I turned for insight in religion. Problem was, as analytical as I am and was as a child, and not realising just how empathetic I could get, I found this bible to be one of pain and suffering to levels my young mind couldn’t understand. My first big insight was into how can people be so cruel? How can this book be called ‘good news’ when everyone was being smited, stoned, drowned in floods and then some very nice man being nailed to a cross. Talk about a loss of faith at such a young age.

On the many quests through my childhood, my teens, adulthood and even today, I am still forever yearning to learn more to fill this information-hungry mind of mine. I do wonder if I will ever find that ‘holy grail’ before me. I think if I ever did, it wouldn’t satisfy this raging thirst for knowledge, but knowing that I have an autistic mind certainly unlocked one of those mysteries of the world within me. This is how I think and view the world, constantly lost in wonderment, feel things to intense levels, see beauty amplified a hundred times more than those around me. My meaning of life is one that is never enough, or too much, but I will say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About Barb Cook

Formally identified on the autism spectrum along with ADHD and phonological dyslexia in 2009 at the age of 40, Barb is founder and editor in chief of Spectrum Women Magazine and editor and co-author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, published by Jessica Kingsley PublishersBarb is a highly committed neurodiversity advocate, writer, speaker and keen motorcyclist, making a variety of appearances on Australian radio, television, in newspapers and magazines and the SBS television documentary, The Chameleons: Women with Autism. She is co-founder of Bikers for Autism Australia, Community Council Member of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together) and an independent autistic peer reviewer of the journal Autism in Adulthood.

Barb was awarded a Special Commendation in the 2017 Autism Queensland Creative Futures Awards by the Queensland Governor, his Excellency Paul De Jersey. She is also currently completing a Master of Autism at the University of Wollongong where she is also a research assistant (Australia) and a businesswoman providing consulting, and life coaching services as well as workshops, webinars and presentations for the neurodiverse community. Barb is also the Employment Services Manager at Thriving Now Pty Ltd.

Barb currently rides a Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 called Ron ‘Strom’ Burgundy and implements a combination of her passion for motorcycling with her dedication in neurodiversity advocacy, creating acceptance and pushing for action to improve the lives for women and girls.

Read more about Barb Cook here.

About Barb Cook 14 Articles
Barb Cook - Editor in Chief Formally identified on the autism spectrum along with ADHD and phonological dyslexia in 2009 at the age of 40, Barb is founder and editor in chief of Spectrum Women Magazine and editor and co-author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Barb is a highly committed advocate, writer, speaker and keen motorcyclist, making a variety of appearances on Australian radio, television, in newspapers and magazines and the SBS television documentary, The Chameleons: Women with Autism. She is co-founder of Bikers for Autism Australia, Community Council Member of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together) and an independent autistic peer reviewer of the journal Autism in Adulthood. Recently Barb was awarded a Special Commendation in the 2017 Autism Queensland Creative Futures Awards by the Queensland Governor, his Excellency Paul De Jersey. Barb is also currently studying a Master of Autism at the University of Wollongong (Australia) and a businesswoman providing consulting, mentoring and life coaching services as well as workshops, webinars and presentations for the neurodiverse community. Barb was recently awarded the University of Wollongong Community Engagement Grant as part of and Community of Practice Lead for a research project "Facilitating the voice and self-determination of young adults on the autism spectrum. Barb currently rides a Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 called Ron ‘Strom’ Burgundy and implements a combination of her passion for motorcycling with her dedication in advocacy, creating acceptance and pushing for action to improve the lives for women and girls, increasing opportunities for employment for all and supporting the neurodiverse community in attaining meaningful and fulfilling futures.