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Trees and Vines

by | Mar 4, 2021 | Top Left Box, Voices of Davidson

(Daniel Williams photo)

There are two kinds of people in the world, I’ve come to realize–I call them vines and trees. Trees grow up tall, strong, and sturdy, without needing any outside support. If you’re a tree, you can manage your own life. You can make responsible decisions, hold a job, and live independently. But vines need support. Without a tree to provide it with the structure necessary for its life, a vine just flops around and never amounts to anything.

The problem is, a lot of people who are trees expect vines to be trees too. They don’t understand that if you’re a vine, you just can’t live your life without someone providing that structure for you. I’m a vine. Even at 27 years old, I still need a lot of support to have anything resembling an independent life. I need help making a schedule, planning the events of my day-to-day life, and doing my chores. And I probably always will. I’m never going to be a tree. But I have to thank the trees in my life for helping me get as far as I have. My friends, my family, my teachers, all of these people. As a vine, they are the trees who have helped me grow.

I do not feel lesser or inadequate because I am a vine. It is part of what I am, and I have accepted that fact. I need support from other people to do things that most people are able to do independently, but that does not make me an inferior person. In the words of autism expert Temple Grandin, I am “different, not less.”

And I am proud of that.

Gray Stanback

Gray Stanback has lived in Davidson since he was two-years old and was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. He graduated from Guilford College with a degree in Biology, and now serves on the Accessibility Advisory Committee for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. In addition to attending the Autism Society of NC Ignite program here in Davidson, he participates in the Strange New Worlds Book Club and Main Street Writers Club, and he has his own business selling his art on a range of products through

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