Several months ago, I posted an article titled, "I'm sorry..." in which I describe some of the social issues I know I have and still have issues with. This, sadly, is not a sequel to that article. This time I was not the one apologizing.
The Rock Island Grand Prix is one of my favorite race weekends because of how close the audience is. I am not sure at the actual numbers, but the numbers are in the multiple thousands. Why so many? As my photo I took in 2006 illustrates, the RIGP is a street race ran on public streets.
I am stationed in turn three and after one of the early races a spectator called me over to ask what my blue flag with orange stripe meant. I explained it and then she asked me if displaying the blue flag at street races was my day job.
This woman was in her mid 30's, give or take 13 years as I am awful at ages, and I figured this was going to be a "typical" conversation people have. How fast a conversation can change.
I told this woman that I am a Community Education Specialist for a non-profit in the the autism field in Saint Louis. She asked what that meant and I told her. She asked what makes me qualified to be in such a position and I told her that I am an author and that I am on the autism spectrum.
Her response? "I'm sorry."
I'm sorry? For what? I was taken aback by that comment and I was unable to respond. I don't know if I was offended or saddened. Whatever I was, I was frozen because no one as ever apologized or expressed sympathy to me for being on the autism spectrum, and they shouldn't.
Is there that big of a fear of the word "autism?" I had my sunglasses on and was making partial eye contact and the look on her face was one of true pity; like I was a disappointment or a defect.
Words eluded me. I just stood there oblivious as to what to say next. I now realize that was the prime opportunity to be a Community Education Specialist. But how does one react when one apologizes for who I am? I reacted by simply returning to my post some 10 feet away and waiting for the next race to start.
I now know what to say and that's why I am writing today. There is nothing to be sorry about! I am going to be honest and say that, yes, there are challenges, but other things come easy. Most of the time I am happy as can be and have a wonderful time lost in thought. There are times where the only word that can describe my perception of social situations would be "confused" but I have grown to accept this and am always challenging myself to become a little bit more adept at the art.
It is because of my Asperger's Syndrome that allows me to write. I have one semester of community college to my credit and there is no obvious reason as to why I am able to write at the quality and quantity that I do.
It is because of my Asperger's Syndrome that I have all the race official positions I have. My reflexes and ability to hyper-focus allows me to excel at these positions.
I am who I am and a part of me has Asperger's Syndrome. I see it as a strength, most of the time, so please tell me why you are sorry. It isn't that bad and I would not trade it in to be normal even if I were offered an insane amount of money.
If this perception of autism, this need for this woman to apologize, is prevalent then my job just become more important. I never once had any event like this happen, and now it has. Next time someone apologizes to me I will be ready and I will simply ask, "Why? I am happy as myself. Do you think I am wrong for being me?"