Over the weekend I drove up to Indianapolis for the USAC Night of Champions banquet and the .25 awards ceremony. Friday night was the Night of Champions at the Indiana Roof Ballroom and was one of the hardest functions I've been to in quite some time.
I'm not good at social function as I don't know what to say or even the posture to have. Everything about me in those situations feels wrong and regardless of what I say or how I move it still feels wrong.
I got there early and instantly felt overwhelmed. Over the course of the first hour while I was in the supreme "positional warfare" person after person came up and said "hello" to me and I could not place who they were. I'm used to seeing the kids in driving suits and the parents in, well, whatever it is that they were at the track. Seeing suits and ties gave me no indication as to who they are. You see, I don't look at faces all that often so I have to remember the person through other means and the color of their suits or other things worn at the track are my way, but since those we not being worn I was at a loss. I think I hid it well as people came up to shake my hand, but in my mind I was in a panic trying to remember who, exactly, they were.
Slowly, I started to get angry with myself. "Just be normal... or act normal" is what I kept telling myself but it just wasn't happening. I longed for the days of simply being at the track with flags in hand. There I feel natural and confident. This? This was a nightmare.
The anger continued as I sat down at my table and soon the .25 head scorekeeper and chief steward sat down so this was good as I could finally talk without over thinking as I have talked to them many times throughout the year. Then, three other people that I did not know sat down and I retreated back into my shell of awkwardness.
For another hour I longed for a place that wasn't there. The person beside me to my left tried to joke with me, but I was being rather literal and spent a good portion of the time utterly confused. It may have not shown on the outside, but my internal voice was just yelling at me, "Fool! Fool! Fool!" as I felt like a fool for the awkwardness I was exhibiting.
Over time I retreated into the safe world of my phone. I read irrelevant facebook updates with a profound eagerness as I started 20 different games of chess on the chess.com app. I then got a text from my dad that was a picture. The picture was of the first uncorrected proof of the new version of my book coming out April 3rd. As I was posting it to Facebook one of the persons asked me, "Who are you texting away too?" and I mentioned that I was uploading a picture of my book to Facebook.
"A book? Did you write it? What's it about?" were the barrage of questions I got. I don't think it is a big deal, but it seems those questions are always asked when it is ever mentioned that I wrote a book. And, as those questions were asked, the awkwardness vanished and I went into a small presentation Gone was the over-processing and gone was the positional warfare. As if a light switch was flipped I came alive.
For maybe five minutes I was on top of the world. What amazed me was how fast my concepts made sense to them. As the awards presentations began the person to my left said, "Let me guess, as you were talking about your job with TouchPoint and your book you were in Kansas, weren't you?" Oh yes, yes I was and it was those five minutes that saved the night for me. I felt accomplished and forgot about how awful I felt and how awkward I was.
The power of Kansas was felt once again and I can't believe how fast I went from a wreck to beaming with confidence. All it took was one question. I think back to my presentation to 5th graders a couple months ago and the question that was asked of, "Do you think people have, or will, under estimate you because you are on the spectrum?" After that experience Friday night I have to think people will because for the longest time those people at my table saw a confused, silent individual. Outside my comfort zone I am light years away from the image people see when I am in Kansas. See me outside Kansas though and 'm sure person X on the street will under estimate me as first impressions are important and the first impression they will see is a nervous, shaky person that is genuinely uncomfortable. However, get us in our Kansas and you'll see something else.
After those five minutes I had a smile on my face the rest of the night because those five minutes are what I live for. It's one thing to give my presentation to people that are already accustomed to the spectrum, but three strangers at a table at a banquet is special. I don't know if even a year ago I'd have felt comfortable explaining myself and the book as I did, but I do now and even after experiencing the banquet blues I was able to.
So, what started out as a major negative turned positive once again. Also, I love how eager people are to learn about the spectrum that don't really know it. Awareness is on the rise and if I had to endure a banquet each day to reach people I would because for those five minutes I was king of the world... or king of the ballroom... ahem, king of the table? Okay, maybe not any of those things, but whatever it was it was amazing.