Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"I don't Know What That Means?" Said the Aspie in an Angry Tone

There are times my tone of voice may sound a bit angry, or downright rude and yesterday had one of these events. The thing about these events is that I’m not intending on coming across as rude or angry, but the level of frustration I feel inside brings it about so here’s what happened…

I walked into my bank to make a deposit as I had several checks from the races I’ve worked the past month that needed deposited. I approached the teller and gave here the deposit slip and the checks. She started doing the inputting and then she asked a question I didn’t understand, “Sir, have you deposited these checks before?” I stared at here blankly as I couldn’t understand what it was, exactly, she was wanting because surely she wasn’t thinking I was trying to double deposit checks.

A few awkward seconds passed and she asked again, “Have you deposited these checks before?” The panic of processing was setting in as I was trying to come up with a reason as to why I was being asked this. Was I under suspicion? What for? Check fraud? Identity theft? I tried to muster up a great question and all I could ask was, “What?” After I asked that I thought to myself, “really, Aaron, that’s all you could come up with?”

For a third time she asked, and this time in a much slower tone, “Have you deposited these… checks… before?” My level of frustration grew to a level that internally I was raging at myself and I exclaimed in what sounded to be the rudest of tones, “I don’t know what that means!”

As soon as I said it I realized my tone was nasty but I wasn’t trying to be nasty towards her but I was so angry at myself. I didn’t know what she wanted and I figured she knew I was confused because since I knew it she surely knew it. The “I think therefore you should know” system was running wild but again, I didn’t know what she wanted. She then replied, “Have you ever deposited checks from these companies before?” Now it made much more sense. Perhaps the initial question she asked hinted towards that and maybe some would pick up on that but I have a hard time filling in the blanks. I couldn’t simply understand the first question and being able to ask, “What does that mean?” right off the bat isn’t my strong suit. It probably should be because the ire I felt towards myself wouldn’t have occurred and I probably wouldn’t have come off as a complete jerk, but processing is something I try and hide. I don’t want others to know that I don’t understand something. It’s okay to, though, isn’t it? Everyone needs some clarification at some point in time, but asking for that help is, at the time, more difficult than trying to figure out what is going on, but in the end it often leaves with two people that are frustrated and angry and both are angry at the same person.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dramatic moment

An incident occurred at the race I worked yesterday and I experienced something I haven't felt for eight years. I need to write about it but right now I can't. Maybe this will be good going into the final travel trip of this first travel book, but right now my emotions are all bottled up with nowhere to go. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The final trip looms near

9 days; that's all that is between me and my final trip of The Aspie Traveler. The canvas these trips have created for my words has me convinced this will be a series so in a way this isn't the final trip so to speak. However, it is the final one of this first book and that's a thing; how often does one get to fully complete a book? The sense of completion is going to be immense! There's a problem with this trip though and that is I'm not sure how much it's going to be bloggable. You can read the previous trips on my blog but there's also an overarching plot thread that has become so intertwined with the final trip I don't know, as a writer, if I'm going to be able to distinguish between the two. I'm sure I'll write something for my blog, but it might not be to the length of he previous trips. I do, in a way, also need to give you a reason to buy the full book when it gets published, don't I?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Half Million Thanks

If you take a look at the counter on the right hand bar (if you're on the desktop version) and scroll down you'll see I reached a major milestone as this blog has been read 500,000 times. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Are Minecraft's Days Numbered?

In my presentation I mention what the top seven things Kansas could be for a person on the autism spectrum. Before I get to those I’ll remind you my definition of Kansas as it isn’t the state but that activity or interest that a person on the autism spectrum is going to talk about or do to the exclusion of any or everything else. Now also remember that if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism. Okay, since that’s out of the way here’s what’s been the top seven…

7. Military/airplanes

6. Weather

5. Movies

4. Trains

3. Dinosaurs

2. LEGOs

1. Videogames, specifically Minecraft

Now here’s the thing; I’ve been saying for almost three years that Minecraft is clearly number one by several galaxies and that nothing will ever come close to the top spot. However, there’s a rival now with this new thing called Pokemon Go. Pokemon has always been popular but now it’s coming on strong. I don’t know a thing about what Pokemon Go is so I’ll ask you, will it dethrone Minecraft as the #1 Kansas? Either on here or on my Facebook page let me know and also fill me in on this Pokemon Go thing… Is it a good thing?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Reason I Wrote

It’s been three presentations in a row I’ve been asked, “Why did you write?” so I’m taking that as a sign that it needs to be blogged about.

When I answer this question I start by stating that there was no noble cause in the genesis of my writing. I didn’t seek out a book and I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m an author by accident. In fact, writing was one of my least favorite things in the entire world to do. However, I got my Asperger’s diagnosis in December of 2003 and there wasn’t much information about it back then like there is now. My doctor didn’t know what to make of it and told me, “Good luck” so I had to look it up on the internet where I found the worst information possible and sadly I believed it. At the same time my racing career was falling apart and I lost the only girlfriend I had ever had up to that point. My life, despite the answers I finally had as to why I am the way I am, was in shambles and quickly getting worse.

There was a period of hideous stagnation as I stayed in a state of supreme depression for 15 months. The ill-feelings toward myself and the misunderstanding the world had about Asperger’s grew and grew and I had no outlet except to stay silent and feel miserable. This went on until one evening in February 2005, just past midnight, I decided I had to write about the relationship that fell apart but not just write about the relationship in a narrative but write about the mechanics in play. If anything I was writing as a way to justify my actions and to explain to her should she ever read it which I doubt she would but I had to get the words out.

I ended the last paragraph with a major phrase of, “get the words out”. I always had emotions but lacked the ability to fully express them. If you asked me anything remotely close to requiring an emotional response you’d get a generic answer of, “I don’t know.” Did I know? Most of the time yes, sometimes I truly didn’t know, but when I knew I still was unable to put it into words and get over the fear of speaking about emotions. This is what writing allowed me to do; it bypassed the need to process and bypassed the instant reaction from the person I was speaking to.

The weeks went on and I started coming up with concepts. This was shocking to me as I never had come up with something new much less coming up with a way to describe the mechanics behind the reasons why I do what I do but these concepts, be it Kansas or Film Theory or Alias, would just all of a sudden appear in my head. There was no conscious thought to these concepts and there was nothing one second and the next BAM! There was a concept and then I’d rush to the computer to write a chapter.

Again, through the whole book writing process, I wasn’t intending on any accolades or anything to come of it as I was writing as a way to express myself. I said there was nothing noble in it but then, perhaps, that’s what in the end makes this noble because I wasn’t seeking out a job, a career, or a passion but a way for someone, anyone, to understand me. I felt alone, isolated, and misunderstood and I wanted above anything else for just an ounce more of understanding.

To this day I still write from that same voice; that voice of wanting understanding. Writing now is different than it was when I began in 2005 and I know things in my style have changed from my blog posts in 2010 to today. The voice though… the voice is still the same and maybe it isn’t all that unique because everyone probably has that voice that they had when they were younger seeing the big world outside and fearing it; fearing being misunderstood; fearing not fitting in and most of all fearing a life of solitude wanting nothing more than to be a part of the world. Maybe most lose that part but I still feel it, I still have those fears and that’s why I continue to write because even with the million or so words I’ve written across all the things I’ve done the goal is still the same, the fears are the same, and this is still the best way to express who I am and why I am.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What If...

I was in another person's office at Easterseals Midwest and this blog post was on the wall. It seemed familiar to me but I couldn't place it so I asked, "who wrote this?" to find out it was myself. I was astounded and knew I had to repost this...

What if we lived in a world where there was full autism awareness and understanding? How much fuller would lives on and off the autism spectrum be?

What if we lived in a world where the autism spectrum is misunderstood and feared? How many challenges would be faced by those on and off the spectrum that wouldn't have to be?

What if we lived in a world where everyone on the autism spectrum got the services they needed? How many more people would be able to be just a little bit more self-sufficient and have more confidence?

What if we lived in a world where everyone on the autism spectrum fell through the cracks? How many more people would be unable to be self-sufficient and will eternally be dependant on everyone else?

What if we lived in a world where the words autism and Asperger's doesn't have a stigma associated with it? Would this better the awareness and understanding?

What if we lived in a world where the words autism and Asperger's will forever be stigmatized? Would this lead to more and more prejudice of the autism spectrum?

What if we lived in a world where teachers are made fully aware of Asperger's and are better equipped to give those students the education they need? How much easier would the education system be for students and teachers? What future revolutionary thinkers would make it out of the school system equipped for the world and life ahead full of hope?

What if we lived in a world where teachers were not given the resources they need to understand Asperger's? How much harder would it be for students and teachers? How much potential would be lost as those on the autism spectrum fall into the fail set and give up and lose hope?

What if we lived in a world that understood that, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism"? Would this help all the points made above? Would this decrease the stigma and misunderstandings? Would this make the media give a better portrayal of autism than using the phrase, "all people with autism..."?

What if we lived in a world that had no understanding of, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism? Would this help all the points above? Would this increase the stigma and misunderstandings? Would this give the media more power to state confidently that, "All people with autism..."?

What if you could make a difference?
What if you couldn't make a difference?

(Writer's note: The worlds above are starkly different but by just using slight changes of words. One little change of one word created a completely different world. Look at the last two sentences, just one change of word changes the world from hopeful to hopeless, but that's how I see awareness. Each single person we reach can, for them, be the difference between one of the paragraphs and the opposite and that difference, well, I think you know how big of a difference that would be.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Asperger's and The Power of Support

I wanted to start this post by using the word success story but that makes this too grand because success is relative and in the eye of the beholder so instead I’m going to talk about growth because I believe that is the goal of not just people on the autism spectrum but every person that has lived. That being said, and this has been an echoing theme for the past year or so on my blog, I have to say there are many people in the lives of those on the spectrum that will do amazing things and yet they may never see the growth or the person that they will become. Parents though, they will see and I got to share an amazing experience with my dad just a few days ago.

For the USAC Battle at the Brickyard all the drivers got to do a lap around the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As excited as the kids were to take to the most famous racetrack in the world I was probably equally as excited to climb back up into the stand I was in just less than two months ago when I got to flag a day of Indy 500 practice. That was a crowning achievement in my life two months ago but that day I was alone. The support I received from all my teachers and family wasn’t really shared that day unless one happened to be watching the live stream of practice that day and even then you had to have known about it via social media. My dad was watching but he wasn’t there, however two days ago he was there and the experience in the stand would be shared.

We’d been up there before back in 2012 when I did a video blog from up there the day before the Indy 500 when I thanked Duane Sweeney for planting some major seeds that has helped me become who I am. On that day it was neat being in the stand with my dad but it wasn’t really, say, special as it would be like walking onto a football field before the Super Bowl without having any true connection to it. Now though, two days ago, I had been a part of the experience of the stand and as we climbed up the ladder I had to fight back tears. Yes, I’ll admit it, I did because I was getting to share this most sacred spot of my life with the person that has been the biggest support in my life. True, it wasn’t on a day where Indycars would be going 230+mph under the stand (although there would be over 230 cars) but the space was the same and Indy has an aura to it where days and events are timeless.

The sun reflecting off the pagoda was much like the end of practice back in May and I pointed out all the positions to my dad where timing and scoring is located and other tidbits of info. After that I tried not to talk all that much because I wanted to just soak in these moments with my dad. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back in that stand and I most certainly don’t know if my dad will ever be up there again with me so this was a true culmination of every bit of work, drama, heartache, hardship, high, and low that saw me get to that point.

Could a person call this the happy ending of a success story? Perhaps, but I don’t want it to be seen that way because a success story washes over the true work that takes place incrementally because it isn’t about a sudden life changing win like winning the lottery. Instead, it is a bunch of small growths that leads to the next bit of growth that might see a giant leap of growth followed up by more small growths and some people, like parents, are going to have a major hand in it while there will be a multitude of supporting cast members but it’s a process that needs to work in tandem to see the fullest amount of human potential realized.

The cars went around and did their lap and I did the longest double checkered in perhaps history at about 10 minutes but when it was over I lingered for a few seconds longer than one would expect, but for myself this was a silent celebration with my dad. He’ll know now what it means after reading this, but for other success, I mean growth stories out there I assure you there’s a cast of people that helped. You’ve read my story but for the teachers that are reading this, and paras, and to you the parents I hope you realize things are a process, there is hope (I used to tell my dad every day that there, “no hope”) and growth can and will happen and is a wonderful thing that helps pave the path towards whatever one’s definition is of a success story.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Asperger’s, Patience, and The Expansion of Kansas

So there I was yesterday standing in front of 200+ kids at the USAC Battle at the Brickyard and I was given the task of giving the driver’s meetings. The kids ranged from 5 to 16 and it was my duty to tell them the start/restart procedures and go over various other racing related things that were important to know for this weekend and I must say I stood up there without fear or any hesitancy. Fear? Hesitancy? Yes! It’s easy for me to present to student bodies about the autism spectrum but I hadn’t given a true driver’s meeting in seven years but times change, progress is made, and it’s this progress that is the topic of today’s blog.

I wish you could’ve seen it. Many of you have seen me present, or saw my Asperger Insights series (season two is scheduled to be filmed the 19th!) and I am more than able to speak to a group or a camera, but I wish you could’ve seen my first driver’s meeting because it was a train wreck wrapped up in abject failure wrapped up in a flaming heap of rubble. The only redeeming thing about it was that I flagged so well after it people forgot my timid nature, my indecisiveness, and my clear lack of public speaking skills. That was in 2006 and yes times do change. Thankfully no one said anything snide or rude and at the next race I was a bit more able then a bit more and by my second season I sounded like a seasoned pro. That’s the thing and this is the essence of my story and that is things don’t happen instantly. What you see now, and what you’re reading now, didn’t just happen overnight. This is important because for growth there’s a great deal of hard work that needs to be put in, but at the same time if it’s done properly things may work better than not.

Better than not? This brings us to the last bit of my title and that is the expansion of Kansas. I’ve said this story many times but it fits so well in so many scenarios. I hated school as I was bored and uninterested in most topics unless it had to do with the weather or auto racing. Not too many subjects in 2nd grade include those but my 2nd grade teacher found a way. I used to go on and on about the previous week’s races and as the week progressed I’d talk about what was coming up and I could recite drivers and locations but the things with locations were that they meant nothing to me outside of the fact that it was a track someplace somewhere. Then, near the end of the school year, my teacher asked where F1 was racing and I said, “Silverstone” to which she promptly followed up with, “Where is Silverstone?” I had to think about it as I never had considered it was an actual place somewhere other than just a plot of land with twists and turns made of pavement. I thought about it and responded with, “England” and she immediately said, “Where is England?” and in that moment my love of learning about places, culture, and the world in general was born. Thinking about this today I realized The Aspie Traveler never would’ve happened without her question and I doubt I’d ever have become a writer because it was in her question my curious nature about things began. In essence, she took Kansas and exponentially slammed the borders outward to which to this day they continue to expand.

This should be the goal; we on the autism spectrum can get stuck in our Kansas but if utilized properly it may turn out to be a good thing. I must reiterate that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” because some individual’s Kansas may be rather difficult to expand, but if something is relatively broad in nature, such as auto racing, there are many paths one may take in expanding the borders of Kansas.

I think back to that day in 2nd grade and wish my teacher could know the impact she had. That’s the one thing that saddens me greatly when I speak to teachers and that is that they can have the most tremendous of impacts and never get to see the finished product. This weekend I’m flagging on the most hallowed grounds in motorsports and the largest USAC .25 race in history and looking back, as I said, this didn’t just happen overnight. I’m learning more and more about progression, patience, and how things in the past may take a long time before they show just what type of impact they’ll have. Take that driver’s meeting in 2006; had that not occurred I wouldn’t have known I could speak in front of a group and my ability to present to all the audiences I have wouldn’t have happened. It can be frustrating wanting everything to become better and to become perfect all at once, but things take time and if that time is spent within Kansas and those borders get pushed outward then perhaps the rate of growth may just pick up. It’s awesome that my 2nd grade teacher asked about racing because my entire life has been shaped on the concept of a race. Sure, I’ll be flying the colors of racing tomorrow but my race also includes, well, you’re reading it right now. Every ounce of info and insight may prove vital to one or more of you out there. Each bit of insight can lead to an, “ah ha!” moment and I feel there is nothing but hope for us out there ONLY if there is understanding and I’m still learning about myself and more about the spectrum so whereas most races have a predetermined distance to the finish my race doesn’t have that but wherever and whenever the finish I can assure you I’ll be full throttle on my way there because every day is sooner than tomorrow and even the smallest of questions, such as a track in England, can have a life-long impact.