With next week being the rerelease of Finding Kansas I felt it right to explain who I was and how I became who I was. Also, starting next week, I will be going on a national speaking tour to raise awareness and understanding. However that is now, but how did I get here? This is my story.
I was the quirky kid. No one ever knew what to make of me. In preschool I was more interested in talking about weather and racing than playing in the sand box or make believe. In kindergarten I was more interested in talking to the teacher because she either knew what I was talking about, or she could pretend on knowing what I was talking about. But in any case talking to my classmates was difficult as I would only attempt to talk about what I knew and sympathy was not something I did well. When playing with others there was the wrong way and there was my way which was, and still is, the right way.
While other kids were developing social skills I spent my time playing with blocks, putting the U.S. state puzzle together, and thinking about numbers. At the time, and this was 1989 (it's odd to write a year now with a 19 instead of a 20... sorry, I just found that interesting) there was nothing to call me except how I started this post; the quirky kid. At every parent teacher conference my parents heard the same thing, "Your son Aaron, he doesn't socialize or associate that well with the other kids, but I don't think you need to worry about it because, well, maybe he's just smarter than the other kids." My dad always took that line as a badge of honor proving his superior parenting skills.
The years progressed and I developed more and more issues in school. The social gap grew and I was always lost in social settings. Sure, I never was fully isolated and always had one friend, but it was always on my terms and there was no give and take. Also, school became harder and harder for me as I tried to navigate the slalom course that is socializing and at the same time I was always tried to stay engrossed in whatever it was at that point in time I found interesting.
Many things bothered me in school and usually I was powerless to speak up. This was for several reasons. The first was that I thought everyone had the same issues I had. I thought everyone had the same amount of pain caused by fire drills and I thought everyone got distracted by every noise coming from every corner of the school.
To be honest I tried to develop friendships but I was always unable to have a conversation that flowed naturally. Always I would give a race recap or race preview or talk about a great race from years ago. Or I would give the weather forecast (people now always tell me I am the bearer of the, "doomsday weather forecast" so I still am a weather buff of sorts) but I was unable to be, well, I just couldn't act my age so to speak. I couldn't have a conversation that involved small talk and I always stuck out of the crowd.
So all in all there were really no big alarms that said I was different. Or rather there were, but nobody knew what to look for because after all, I was just quirky. My lack of eye contact was never thought of as anything and my lack of social empathy never really came up because I didn't socialize all that often. And besides all that what did that matter because I knew I was going to be a race car driver.
Again, would anyone have taken notice of this? No one did. That photo was the way I always was from kindergarten all the way through life. Even in a group setting I was on my own little island.
Never did a point cross my mind that I was different. I too bought into the fact that it wasn't me that was different, it was everyone else. With that being the case I stayed on my own little island without any thought. However, after constant social friction with my girlfriend and other people I started opening my eyes and I will never forget the place; it was at a Denny's in Orlando Florida that I was during a time I was driving a late model race car at USA International Speedway that I saw three brothers or friends goofing off playing a game of keep away and as I saw that, while talking to my dad on the phone, I broke down. I asked, "Dad, why have I never done that?" It was then that I began to think that it wasn't everyone else, and I wasn't simply smarter, but there was something more... but what could it be?
The answer you and I know now as, obviously, this is a blog about my life with Asperger Syndrome, but how did I come about finding out this information? That story will be tomorrow's blog post as I count down the days to my book's release and my nationwide speaking tour.