Last week as I was giving a presentation to a high school's senior class on Asperger's Syndrome I was asked a very important question, "Do things get better? Do things get easier?" I answered this question in an unique way, but it was the concepts I put forth in my answer that make for my blog post today.
In my answer I stated that, over time, things have indeed become easier. Why so? One of the things I have noticed, and for my loyal blog readers you have heard this line, is that when I see who I am NOT I forget who I AM. That line might be the deepest, most profound things I have ever said and I remind myself of it each and every day. I told the person who asked this question that even I fall into the trap and when I do I am, "chasing normal; whatever normal is."
Last month at another school I was asked why I was doing what I was doing. The more I think about it and the more events in the world unfold, I feel there is nothing more important I can be doing than what I am doing. Why? In my life there is no worse time than when I am chasing normal; I mean, is there anything more tragic than to want to be something that you can't be?
When answering the question last week I said I am 100% happy with myself 95% of the time. That other 5% is when I am wondering what it is like to be a part of the normal crowd; to fit in without having to think about every step, every word, and to have words come easily that aren't forced. It's in that 5% that I yearn for everything I am not. Who I am is lost within the storm that ensues.
So I have established that there are times I'm not happy. That's being human, right? Yes, but it's more pronounced for us on the autism spectrum. Now comes the question, why did I say what I am doing is the most important thing in the world I could be doing? Yeah, I'm getting to that answer.
I have to admit as I gave this answer about "chasing normal" and seeing just what I am not, I had to fight back the tears. At one point in time I paused to gather my thoughts and in this auditorium with just over 500 high school seniors in attendance the silence was at an eerie level. I was looking down at the stage trying to gather what I should say and as I looked up every person there was looking at me, waiting, wondering where my answer would go. I've had many of these types of moments, but at that moment it made every hardship, heartbreak, and disappointment worth it and here's why...
If those around us understand there will be more acceptance. If there is acceptance, then the possibility of fewer social disasters is present. If we make fewer social mistakes our willingness to be a part of whatever group we are in will rise. Our quirks may be understood; we won't be looked down upon; and when it is all said and done we may not chase normal as often as me have.
Look, I've said this so many times that, "Understanding is the foundation for hope." Without understanding our actions can easily be taken the wrong way and if this happens we will remember it for a long time. I know I fear making the same mistake. I think back to when I was in school and when a string of mistakes happened I withdrew. Why? If you failed at something, and then failed again, and you failed once more and you had no idea why you were failing would you continue attempting to do whatever it was that you were failing at? Probably not and this is the core of why we get frustrated which leads us to chasing normal.
Growing up I never thought I could change the world. All I wanted to do was be a race car driver. Helping people, making a difference, and serving the greater good never was a thought. My life didn't turn out the way I thought it would and I couldn't be happier because to be able to speak to the audiences I do and maybe create a higher level of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding is something that has to be done. I feel if there is a better level of understanding during the school years that will carry over later in life. I do hope my message creates a better understanding right then and there but I truly hope my words creates an everlasting impact. Those with Asperger's can lead a full, happy life, but if those around don't understand and the person ends up always chasing normal how can they ever become the person they were meant to be when they are chasing the myth known as normal?