This is the 10th year I have shook in fear of the coming of these days. You see, 11 years ago my life changed on those two days. Before those two days I never truly had an emotional conversation with someone my age and I certainly never had experienced that "connection" between two people. 11 years ago I did.
I have wrote about this incident several times, and the person with whom I shared this connection had a chapter about them in the first book I wrote, as well as the two books I have yet to be published. This event, 11 years ago, was life altering.
The odd thing about this was that I never saw it coming. 11 years ago today I was at a convention in Minneapolis and while I was sitting in the empty exhibit hall this person came up and just started talking to me. I am not an initiator of conversations, and what made this a HUGE exception was that this person was a girl
For the next two days we were virtually inseparable. We toured the building and played many games of Uno, but most importantly we talked. I didn't, and still struggle, talking to anyone much less girls. This person though, who is named Linda in the book (not her real name), took the time to talk to me and I was hesitant at first, but we spent over 11 hours in two days just talking.
When it was time to leave, and I watched her disappear into a mass of people after a goodbye hug, it was the most crushing experience I have ever had.
So, if I have this story in my book why am I writing about it today? It still hurts and with each year it feels as if it hurts just a little bit worse. If you don't know the full story Linda and I kept in contact, but due to some disagreements and over reactions on my part I have not heard from her since Feb. 2000.
So yes, it still hurts. I was asked two nights ago in my Q & A segment of my presentation on my take on friendship and love and I must admit I squirmed. Those concepts are so difficult for me, but what truly makes it dangerous for me is that I have realized I won't know what level of emotion I had for a person until they are gone.
For me, 11 years ago was something that had never happened and has only happened once since. I felt a connection, and if anything I can smile right now throughout the tears I am fending off in knowing that I am able to share that connection. It is there, somewhere, but it is there.
What I hope you take from this is that an event, like this, may stay with a person forever. Heck, someone not on the spectrum may struggle with the memory of that first experience where there was a connection with someone else. I have some similar experiences that don't involve people that have stayed with me, and I think it is important for people around a person on the spectrum to realize this.
Every so often this event from 11 years ago will get me down, and for the first three years or so my dad always downplayed what had happened, but now he doesn't and this helps. Minimizing the experience is like minimizing my pain now. In my mind I would think, "If he says those conversations I had were not that big of a deal and that it will happen again why do I hurt now and why hasn't it happened again?" In other words, don't downplay or disregard the emotion.
I try to stay very unemotional, but today I will be. I don't experience emotions too often, but when I do they are strong and will distract me from what I am trying to think about. Mild emotions elude me as I either be the happiest I have ever been, neutral, or the saddest I have ever been.
It was the tragedy of this relationship that started the ball rolling that would eventually allow me to write. As sad as I am now I can smile knowing that. With each thing I write I feel as if I am thanking her in a way. I don't know if she ever thinks of me or knows that I wrote a book and I don't even know if she knows I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Regardless, I have this tragedy to thank for everything that I am now and while a few tears may be shed today (too late!) I will crack a smile knowing that I am able to communicate on the emotional level and that through hardships come great things. Linda, wherever you may be, thank you.
I will be posting this weekend. Tomorrow I will re-write an article laying the groundwork for "The Sunglasses Experiment" that will start Sunday. I am not yet sure what my writing format will be whether my entire blog will be dedicated to that, or if it will be a mix between my normal format and the experiment. Also, I may be posting multiple times a day should my experiences warrant it.