Jacob Stolle: Diagnosed With Asperger’s and ADHD, Future Zoologist
“I have seven fish tanks, a ball python, bullfrogs, a dog, a parakeet, a corn snake, and a lot of shrimp.”
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Medium: This is your senior year. Are you excited to be done with school, or do you hope this year lasts forever?
Jacob Stolle: I kind of hope it lasts forever, because this has been a really fun year so far. We’ve done labs, and I love science. We study beta fish and Darwin’s Galapagos finches and how the beaks differ from one another. I love learning, and my favorite thing in life is other animal species and nature in general.
Do you have pets?
I have seven fish tanks, a ball python, bullfrogs, a dog, a parakeet, a corn snake, and a lot of shrimp.
Do all of your animals have names?
No, I couldn’t name all of them. Just the main guys. Mainly the ones that breathe air.
When you’re able to vote, what issues will be most important to you?
Environmental issues in general. Mainly the dumping and the disposal of chemical waste. It’s very harmful. It can be very harmful to the environment, and many people don’t dispose of it properly because they aren’t legally bound to, or there’s nothing in place to stop them from breaking the laws to harmfully dump those chemicals.
Are you starting to apply to colleges now?
Yeah. I want to study zoology. I want to get a zoology degree, and I’m not sure exactly what career I want to follow, but definitely something working with animals and probably studying them or helping them out.
Do you have a job?
I work at a movie theater. I’m an usher. It’s basically just a glorified janitor. I check movies, I clean the facilities in general, and I clean the theaters after everybody’s left. And if somebody’s on the phone, I’ve got to tell them to get off. I usually have to tell people to get off the phone about three times a day.
How often do you get to see a whole movie?
I get free movies, so every once in a while, I’ll go back and just watch an entire movie. The last thing I saw was Slender Man. It was decent. It was a horror movie. Wasn’t fun to walk home, though, at 9:00.
What do you do after school?
Most of the time, it’s just staying in my room and playing with my dog, cleaning out tanks or cages, watching my fish. I love to cook. That’s something that I really love to do. I love messing around with chicken. There are so many different flavors you can give a piece of chicken.
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
I have a single brother. He’s eight and a half years younger than me—a big difference. I go along with stuff he wants to do, even if it seems embarrassing. We do goofy dances. My friends go along with it, and it actually turns out to be really fun.
What’s the sort of thing that keeps you up at night or makes you worried?
Just the fact that something can happen at any time that may be out of my control to harm my loved ones, whether it be my parents or any of my pets. Stuff just happens, and you can’t always control it or fix it.
Do you think about anything bad in particular?
Probably just because I’ve had a lot of animals and a lot of them have died, just the fact of waking up in the morning and one of them died of stress or something. I know I’d be completely devastated if something happened to my dog, because it has happened to me before where I’ve woken up in the morning and had a dog dead next to me.
In your bed?
Yeah, she slept with me. She had cancer. She died a couple years ago. Now it’s just Charlie. Ever since then, I’ve been kind of nervous that I’ll wake up and one of them will be dead.
Are you feeling optimistic or pessimistic?
About what, specifically?
Just in general about life. About today, or tomorrow.
I feel pretty optimistic about the future in general. People are starting to figure out that a lot of the stuff they’ve done in the past isn’t okay or right, and we’re starting to learn how to work with the environment a bit more rather than go against it. So I hope that one day we’ll be in an environment where our technology and our lives are working together.
Do you feel safe in your life in general?
I definitely feel safe pretty much all the time at this point in time. I’m almost never alone, because I have so many animals with me all the time. I take my dog with me almost anywhere or have a friend with me or something. At this point in time, I mean, I’m a big person and I know how to fight, so I’m not really afraid anything will happen to me.
How big are you?
I’m about six foot. It really fluctuates, because I have a curvature in the spine, so it really depends. After the chiropractor, I’m six foot. But the day before the chiropractor, like today, I go tomorrow and I’m scrunched up, I’m probably 5'11", 5'10" and a half. It’s a form of scoliosis. It’s extremely rare. I think it’s called Scheuermann’s kyphosis. It hurts. They give me physical therapy exercises to do at home.
What do you do when you need cheering up?
I like to walk through the forest or maybe talk to my mom or my grandma. Play with my dog. Really depends on what’s available in that point in time.
What do you think the future holds for you?
I think it holds a wonderful job working with animals, a beautiful family, a beautiful house in the forest. One of those houses where you see the mailbox but you don’t see the house. More animals than you can count.
This interview is part of The Edge of Adulthood: Forty-Six American Teens Discuss Their Lives, Their Struggles, and What’s Next.