HOME TOWNSHIP — Puzzles have a special meaning to Spencer Hatfield, who will graduate from Montabella High School on Sunday.
Spencer has Asperger’s syndrome — which is considered to be on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum — and he proudly wears a blue puzzle piece and “Autism Speaks” tattoo on his right arm.
For the past three years, Spencer has worked on building his personal, metaphorical puzzle.
“Life is like a 1,000 piece puzzle,” he explained. “The borders of your life are easy to put together, but you need to take time to put the inner pieces together to find out who you are and who you’re going to be.”
In 2012, Spencer began his freshman year, which he describes, along with his sophomore year, as “rocky and drama-filled.”
“I got suspended a couple times,” Spencer said. “I was in trouble a lot because of my former anger issues. Plus, I used to be the target of bullying nonstop.”
Those two years of high school, he didn’t connect with his teachers and didn’t care too much about his school work. He confesses he had some anger issues and was even suicidal at times.
“I was hell-driven to be negative,” Spencer recalled. “I‘m still negative now, but it’s not as controlling as it used to be.”
When he started Montcalm Community College’s Early College program in 2014, he was able to step away from the high school environment and begin life as college student while still in high school.
“Once I went full college, I was with people who were older or just my age. That’s what I was looking for,” Spencer said.
When he graduated with his associate’s degree from MCC on May 5, he did something none of his three siblings had done.
“I’m very proud of him because he’s my only child to finish school and do college and graduate from college,” said Spencer’s mother, Marjorie Hatfield. “He’s a very determined young man. I think he’s going places. He’s determined in anything he does no matter what it is, school or work or whatever.”
Between starting classes at MCC and earning his associate’s degree and high school diploma, Spencer has learned a lot and even authored and self-published a book, “The Light and Dark Side of Life,” which is available on amazon.com.
According to Spencer, the book portrays the most negative and most positive side of humanity and what happens when the embodiments of those two meet. Writing the book was a form of therapy for Spencer to be able to deal with his dark thoughts.
‘When you have thoughts, like really dark thoughts, but you’re able to write them out into a pretty decent story, I just wrote them out of my head,” he explained. “For people like me, when you have too many thoughts clogged up in (your head), it just messes with your mental stated. I was able to write those thoughts out, so it helped me get out the negative aspects in my head.”
According to Spencer, through the book, counseling and classes at MCC, he has taken on a better outlook on life and no longer views it as a burden.
Spencer has another tattoo on his forearm stating, “In the end, I’m realizing I was never meant to fight on my own.” The portion of the chorus from of “On My Own” by Ashes Remain represents how he now lives life, knowing there are things he needs people in his life for.
After five years, some of which weren’t the smoothest, Spencer will graduate with his high school diploma.
“I am very proud of him and his accomplishments,” Montabella High School Principal Shane Riley said. “He has come a long way, and I look forward to seeing him march in his high school commencement wearing his college colors.”
After graduation, Spencer will leave Edmore for a fresh start in Tennessee with Marjorie, as well as his older sister.
Just like starting classes at MCC was a new beginning for Spencer, he plans to use the move as another chance to improve his life. He hopes to write another book, get in the best physical shape of his life and learn martial arts.
Marjorie hopes that as her son continues his life other people will be able to see the kind, loving son she has always known.
“A lot of people never gave him a chance when he was in school,” she continued. “As an adult, I’m hoping that more people do because I think people will find there’s a lot more to him.”