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Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Journey Home

My day started about 24 hours ago from when I write this. As with the past three weeks I woke up to a irritating sound. Then, as with the past three weeks, I looked around and had no idea where I was. I rose out of bed and just stared trying to piece together where I was. Then, I really wanted to know what that noise was. I looked over at my phone and it wasn't my normal alarm, in fact it wasn't my phone at all. The noise became familiar and I knew what it was; car alarms. Yes, plural as there were two of them and they kept going and going.

I lost a couple hours of sleep trying to figure out a way to drown out the beeping and screeching, but when 6:30 came the all too familiar sound of my phone alarm rang and it was time to get up.

Breakfast at hotels is something I am enjoying when the hotel has a "make your own waffle" machine. I was hungry and that waffle I made didn't stand a chance at survival.

After breakfast I went back to the 2nd floor of the hotel and into my room and I became frozen. Emotions filled me with no mercy and I wanted to cry. This was it. This was the last day of my extended road trip and my longest journey since I was in Las Vegas for a month in 2003. This trip has meant everything to me and it all came crashing down on me when I entered my room.

I began to reflect on all the people I had met and all the miles I had driven. Also, I became fearful of losing any of the memories I had on my trip as I don't know when I will be in Clinton, Missouri again. To leave a place and to wonder if I will see it again has always made me sad, but this time it brought out raw emotion.

Composure was regained and I packed and loaded up the Nissan and plugged in Saint Louis in my GPS system and away I went.

I wanted to get back to my home region at a decent time because I wanted enough time to unwind with a game of golf before I headed to Tri-City Speedway for the USAC race. Even though I was in a hurry I still managed the mandatory stop in Kingdom City for a Red Bull Cola stop.

As I neared Saint Louis I decided I would play golf in Foristell at the course at Incline Village.

Golf is something I haven't done in quite some time. I played about once per year since 2005, but since my first outing this year with Ryan in Indianapolis I have become engrossed in the game. I guess you could say golf has become the first "area of interest" in 2010 as it is the only thing I have been thinking about.

Playing the game of golf is something that I am falling in love with. Last week while driving towards Kansas City I played in Clinton, oddly enough, and had the course to myself. It was amazing, but short as 18 holes lasted 90 minutes. I had a blast and told myself I would play when I headed back towards Joplin.

The weather on Monday was putrid. The wind was gusting over 30, it was misting then raining then misting and it was in the 50's. I had my heart set on playing and play I did. I'm sure the older folks in the club house that were waiting for the weather to break thought I was out of my mind, but I headed out on the course. What ensued thereafter on the front nine was amazing as I had five birdie attempts (none of them I made) and it was a true battle of will as the weather made all my muscles ache. If you were to put one word as a label to the weather that day it would have to be "depressing".

As good as the front nine was the back nine was equally as bad. On one of the short par 3's I lost 8 balls! It was certainly not one of my shining moments, but I still find elation in the conditions I was playing in. Being in the rain is something I avoid at all costs. I simply don't like it and the threat lightning will always win out, or so I thought. I am deathly afraid of lightning, but here I was playing golf in bad weather. On this journey I have been on I can feel the growth, and I don't know if golfing in the rain is a good barometer, but something obviously happened. Was it for the better? I don't know.

Flash forward back to today and I was going to play golf again. I have never seen a crowded course at Incline Village... until today. I had my heart set on golfing so I paid and went to the first tee and waited.

I was paired up with two friends, and I'd say they were best friends, in their early 30's. One person who I was going to be paired up with, but he left, knew me when I said I wrote a book from a radio interview that I had here in Saint Louis. I heard a celebrity say that each person who "makes it" always remembers the first time someone knew them, and perhaps this was my first time in regards to that. What was odd was that he said he knew nothing on autism, but still remembered that I race directed and still understood my Kansas concept.

As my round of golf unfolded I was reminded that I am on the spectrum, and not just because someone remembered me from the radio. Trying to respond to the people I was paired with was just awkward for me. My timing was off and to some comments I didn't know how to respond. Furthermore, watching what they had in terms of friendship made me envious in a way. I could never be free from composure as they were, and they weren't obscene or vulgar, but they just had a carefreeness to them that I never have. I think this right here is one of the biggest hurdles I and other people with Asperger's has because as awkward as it is for us, I'm sure the two of them I was playing golf with felt the same way about me.

On this day slow play had a new meaning as it took 4 hours to do 13 holes. I did not want to catch traffic at a bad time because I wanted to be early at Tri-City Speedway so I left and my journey home continued.

I got to the track excited. Two weeks have passed since my first taste of the flagstand and I was as anxious as humanly possible. My excitement was short lived when I saw the size of the flagstand. There was no way two people could fit in it so I quickly began to panic. I didn't know what I could or should do for the night.

I hung around the USAC rig hoping someone, anyone would just tell me where to go and what to do to be useful. Everyone there already knows what they should be doing and being new I don't and I can't exactly ask. Trust me when I say I wish I could. Initiative is something that is rare because to ask is to expose so much about myself. I will process this, "If I ask I am exposing weakness because I view the world and don't see anyone else ask. That being so people will get annoyed with me because they know what they are doing."

The last sentence in the last paragraph is only the beginning as that thought process just keeps going down and it gets to the point that I am paralyzed to ask. Time was ticking away and it was time for the quick practice session and I was alone at the rig that was parked outside the track. The action is on the track of course, and I was behind wondering what to do.

I paced quickly. I didn't know what to do, but I knew where to go so I slowly crept towards the track. With each session that went out I got closer to the point where I could cross over and enter the infield. I was worried about being yelled at though. Even though I had the all access band I still was fearful. Just because I am in my element (racing) doesn't mean I am immune to my fears and over processing. This was a new track and only my fourth race working with USAC. If anything, because I want this so much, it is harder because I may be, in my own mind, trying too hard.

I made my break across the track and decided to hand around the USAC race directors. If I were to be given direction it would be by them. When the USAC midgets took to the track for their hot lap sessions I heard over the radio that the race directors could not see turn one due to the scoring tower. Without thinking I got their attention and asked if they would want me to go over and be the observer in that area. "Great idea, Aaron" was the response and I walked towards that end of the track victorious.

For the first time in a long time I gave myself direction. Granted the door was left wide open with a sign saying, "enter here" but I wasn't fearful. I asked and that was my job the rest of the night. It wasn't an easy post as I was kept busy. Tonight marked the first time I spoke over the radio and many times I shouted, "yellow yellow yellow" and three different times, "red! red! red!"

The night came to an end after a long day and I was so thankful I spoke up and got to really contribute to the race. The drive home was only 30 minutes, but it was the longest 30 of my entire trip as this was the last 30 minutes.

I am home now and I don't really know what to do with myself. There is no presentation tomorrow and no race for me to work. It's now 3:30 in the morning and I am literally confused as to what to do with myself. I should be sleeping, but I still want to go. There must be something I can do. I want to give a presentation, but I'm sure no one else is up right now. I can look forward to going back to Joplin on Tuesday, but that's so many days way. I want to do something tomorrow!

This trip has made me even more dedicated, if that is possible. I no longer see this as a job, or as work, but rather this is a calling. Very few people can say that their job brings hope, but I can. That being so can you see why I want to keep going? Can you see why I want to keep traveling and keep presenting? I am home now, this near month long journey is over, and now I am playing the waiting game. Waiting until Tuesday as Tuesday I go back at it!

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