Okay, yesterday I showed you the videos from the Champions of Mental Health banquet so there wasn't any personal input so today let me tell you how I felt and still feel.
First, I don't know if my speech showed it, but giving my acceptance speech was the most difficult presenting I have ever done. I knew I had to print out what I wanted to say ahead of time to keep me on track as I would've of spoke for a dozen minutes otherwise. So with that being so I have never read in public since 5th grade so that certainly was difficult. But also, after seeing the video about me, I was 3/4ths the way of being completely overwhelmed and choked up.
Time went on and I still was in a trance reading the words, "Aaron Likens 2012 Mental Health Champion". Champion? How did this happen? My thoughts continued to race and I remembered that first night I had finally reached a breaking point; I either was going to be consumed by my emotions that I wasn't able to express or I was going to find a way to get them out. It was one or the other; to implode or to survive.
Minutes passed and I was still staring at the amazing shades of blue reflecting off this trophy I was given. This was now a harder time than seeing the tribute video or giving my speech because I was recalling all the emotions and the proverbial road I had to travel to be in this moment that I had this amazingly beautiful trophy sitting in front of me.
I began to think of my mission, "To raise the awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum" because there are too many people out there that are in the same spot I was in when I was on the brink of inner destruction. I know I can't fix the world. I know I can't conquer supreme ignorance, but what I can do is, for those willing to listen, open up the door that leads down the path of understanding. Thinking back to where my journey began this was the only thing I wanted; this thing called understanding.
To receive this honor, this label of "champion" has been a tough thing to understand; even more so because I think I'm one of the younger recipients of it as I'm only 29. As I said in my speech though, this is something I will carry with me forever. It was a long road from that first day I started to write to that banquet, but in a way it is a symbolic passage of eras. One could argue that the release of my book would be the end of that era, but I disagree. This award, I believe, is the end of the era from diagnosis, personal discovery, writing, and then becoming a public speaker. Yes, with this award I have made the jump into the next era. Over the past two years here at TouchPoint my voice has become stronger, clearer, and the amount of people reached grows by each month. Now though, moving forward in this new era, I now have a new label; that of "Champion." Society thinks, as I did for the longest of times, that the word champion is used solely for sports. While my journey didn't have a season, didn't have a table with stats, and didn't have a playoff system it had something much more serious. It was sink or swim. It was be consumed and lost within myself or find a way to survive. With this new label it's no longer and surviving but rather thriving and with this award I am sure my voice, as loud as it was, will become louder.