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Friday, August 31, 2012

Taking the Stand

This was supposed to have been posted on Friday morning but when I pressed published it didn't...

It's early and I'm about to head to the USAC office and then we're off to Toledo for the next round of the Generation Next series. I've been thinking about this day for almost two weeks as today will be the first day back on the flag stand since Kalamazoo.

To be perfectly honest, I do have a sense of hesitancy in me. The day after Kalamazoo I, for the first time ever, thought about hanging up the flags for the final time. I then thought who I would be without racing and without flagging.

If you've followed my blog since the beginning I'm sure you noticed the increase in my confidence level since picking up the USAC national .25 series. Being able to flag this series might be one of the most important things that has ever happened to me because that confidence has carried over into other things including presentations. So, if I were to lose that, what would I have?

When I raced I had crashes and the very first one I had at the old Gateway Raceway in 1996 when I was 13 gave me "the bug" for some time. For a little over a year I was hesitant when I raced and this got me caught up in more accidents. Eventually I realized that I could not race with fear and expect a good result and eventually I got over my fears and got back to my self before the crash.

So, how will I be this weekend? In my role as flagman being hesitant is not an option. As I say when flagging, perfection is a virtue and it's something I strive for each and every time. To be perfect requires 100% hyper-focus and any sense of fear will not be conducive to that. Of course, isn't a sense of fear natural after an accident?

I've thought about today for almost two weeks. There may be a sense of worry now, but when I take the stand and I'm in my role I think, no, know that the fear will go away. It has to because it means to much to me to let a little thing such as fear get in the way. I'm going to take that stand today, tomorrow, and Sunday as if nothing ever happened and the only thing that matters is making sure everything is ran as smoothly and safely as possible. This means to much to me and I learned from before that racing scared is not good. This weekend is about perfection and whatever happened two weeks ago doesn't matter. Perfection is a virtue and this weekend is going to be perfect.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Equipped

I was thinking last night about some of the stories I heard during my tour in April and it got me thinking. What was it? First let me ask this; would a baseball player start a game without his mitt? Would a race car driver hurdle around in a car at speeds over 200mph without a helmet? Would an actor star in a play without knowing the script? All of those things may have made you laugh because it is just so ridiculous to think of any of those things happening because having the right equipment is vital to doing one's job. Am I right?

Okay, so I am right (aren't I always? Ha! I thought that was funny.) but then why are there areas of society that have not been equipped with the awareness needed to handle a situation with the autism spectrum correctly? There are still teachers who have not received any training down to the simplistic thing of even knowing what the autism spectrum is.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of good and a lot of momentum for the autism spectrum right now. However, I don't think this is good enough. In vital roles, such as teachers and police officers (the Saint Louis area police departments have done an amazing job on this front. I know I've spoken to about, if not more than, 1,000 officers in the area) the need for them being equipped is 100%. 99.9% just isn't good enough.

I'll go back to the start of this post. It is silly to think of a professional going out to perform their job without their equipment. Why then is it acceptable for some professions to go out without being fully equipped for their job? How can we expect a teacher that doesn't know a single thing about Asperger Syndrome to be able to do a stellar job? I know some can do this because several teachers I had were amazing and I did not have my diagnosis at the time. But there are cases not like mine where the whole ordeal is a disaster for all parties involved and it quite simply doesn't need to be this way. The equipment, with equipment being things such as books or speakers, is out there and there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to get the parties that need it equipped.

As I said, I was thinking back to some of the stories I heard and the negative impact that ill-equipped people had on their child. I also heard stories of those that were equipped and the positive impact that those had. When it comes to teachers it shouldn't be a matter luck if the teacher has been equipped. The impacts of a negative situation can have a lifelong effect. I say again, we would laugh if a pro fisherman showed up to a tourney without a rod or reel or we would laugh at the hockey player who skates an entire game without a stick. While those are sporting examples and the ramifications of sports is minimal to the impact of society, the consequences of not being equipped with the right autism knowledge can have a profound lifelong effect. Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will be at the 100% level and everyone who should be is equipped with the knowledge needed to be able to teach, help, and support the person they come across who is on the autism spectrum.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Keeping the Numbers

A couple days ago I made a spreadsheet of all the presentations I have done in my career. It was a lot of data entry but I enjoyed every moment as it truly was a trip down memory lane. As I began with the 2010 numbers I couldn't believe just how far I've come. It feels as if it were just yesterday that I was starting out. I guess the saying is time flies when one is having fun.

Other than that today's blog is going to be short. I know, I'm sorry as it's been a phenomenal run of great blogs, but I did a presentation yesterday for the families going through parent training (it honestly might have been my best presentation ever. My energy level is rising in the realm of presentations) but since then my throat and voice have been giving me fits. I think this might be some leftover issues from the issues I had with morphine. Whatever the case tomorrow's blog should be more relevant.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discerning Information

Let's say the writers of Jeopardy! want to give Alex Trebek a hard time and give him the longest answer possible and you were a contestant on that episode. The category is World Capitols:

Located at 48.8742° N, 2.3470° E and with a population 2.2 million people this city has a famous structure that has 2.5 million rivets and each year around 5.5 million visit that structure. Also, this city is the site of the end of a 2,000 mile annual race. The average temperature in January is 39F and the July temp is 69F. The city boasts over 70 museums and was founded by a Celtic tribe around 4200 BC. Cuisine, arts, culture, and fashion are a big part of this French capitol.

Okay, so that was a lot of facts thrown in at once, wasn't it? Did you get the question right at the start with the latitude and longitude? How about the population? Average temperature? Or that it was founded in 4200BC? No? To end the answer I gave the easiest thing to understand, "this French capitol." so the correct question would be, "What is Paris?"

Now, before you go off thinking I'm auditioning for a role as a writer on Jeopardy let me tell you how this all is relevant. Going through life discerning information is important and I have always had a had time doing so when too much information is thrown my way. If you ask me what the French capitol is I would known it instantly. However, if you throw out all those obscure facts and get to the end and still say French capitol I am going to be processing all the other information and I am going to be unable to discern what is and is not relevant.

I suffered with this is school in a way. If things were presented one at a time I was able to do it, but when presented with a long list of topics, or a long list of assignments I see everything at once and become overwhelmed. This too happens with me today with e-mails; if I get an e-mail that has a forwarded message that's been forwarded I can't focus and see what the e-mail is telling me because I get lost in the length. And this is something that I think could baffle some teachers. Yes, they can have a really smart person with Asperger's in their class but when a bunch of information is given at once there can be a delay or confusion.

I think this all goes to seeing everything at once and a concept I put forth that will be in my fourth book of, "Life Unfiltered." Without the ability to filter out the non-important words or facts the actual meaning of a question or task can be lost. Sometimes we need things to be made a little bit easier to understand or, as in the example above, we may be processing what on Earth has that many rivets or what race covers 2,000 miles when in the end the only thing that mattered was, "What's the capitol of France?"

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Trials of Checkout Lane #7

If I am ever short on stuff to write about I think I should just visit supermarket after supermarket because over the course of my entire blog there has been so much blog material experienced there.

It was Saturday and I needed some food so I went to supermarket. I quickly realized why I don't normally go out on the weekend (it was crowded) and navigating the store was like navigating a busy harbour in rough waters. This made the whole process difficult but nothing could prepare me for the overly social checker-outter of checkout lane #7.

There was a person in front of me that the clerk was talking to. This man was very friendly and had the utmost of casual ways about him. I stood firm on my ground and was quite stiff in my movements. I was really hoping that his social ways would not carry over to me. There was time so I counted my items to see if I could use the self checkout lane, but having the fruit as I did I didn't know if that worked and now there was a person behind me so I was trapped in this lane.

The person in front of me was done and paid so it was my turn. I stood, almost at attention as I normally do when I am socially paralyzed (the checkout lane has never been easy for me; even more so when I'm fearing being spoken to) and the checkout process began.

There was no bagger at this point in time so the clerk (I know they have a name but I can't think of it at the moment) went to bag then went back to ringing the items. As a bagger came he said to him, "See, look at what you're doing! We have this man here waiting patiently and you're making him wait." Here we go I thought... His words were in jest but once he started I knew I was in trouble, "We can't make this man wait, right?" He looked at me when he said right and I knew I was supposed to answer, but how could I? The clerk was joking, but I didn't want to state that I had been waiting because the only thing my mind was thinking about was getting out of there ASAP.

"Right?" he asked again and I shook my head in a direction that wasn't quite up but wasn't quite down. He then added, "Ah, a man of few words. I like that. All you want to do is spend your $20 and leave. Rather efficient." Please please please get me out of here!

For you this situation may seem like nothing. For me this was sheer terror. I don't know how to respond to this small talk. The clerk got it right, I aim for efficiency and I am always thinking about how to get in and get out as fast as possible and to minimize the social component. I hope I don't sound like I'm angry at the clerk because I'm not, a normal person would be able to have simple banter like the woman in front of me had. Obviously this guy is popular and I gathered he has regulars, but I'm not equipped for such encounters.

"So your total is... Cash? No? Credit card. Once again efficient. And yet not one smile..." By this point in time all words had no meaning. I was still trying to figure out the ramifications of the question of, "Right?" and had no idea where in the script of conversation we were. To put simply, I was lost.

Other things were said but I don't know what they were. Hearing was the last of my concerns as there was a feeling of flooding anxiety flowing through my body. I say flooding because I could feel what must have been adrenaline flowing and it became the only thing I could feel. I think by the end the clerk was a little perplexed as to why I had this attitude of sorts but it wasn't directed towards him. I became overwhelmed and my ability to interact with those in my environment ceased.

I've said all along that random social encounters are not easy for me. In this instance it was a barrage of comments and jokes that I couldn't handle. Once again, the clerk did nothing wrong, but in the end it probably looked like I was a standoffish jerk. For anyone who saw this, which was probably just the clerk and bagger, I may have appeared that way but there was no way that they could imagine just 1/10th the size of fear, anxiety, and sadness I was feeling at that point in time as I was screaming my lungs out in silence.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

1,000!

What an honor! When I started this blog, and let me say I started this not expecting it to last more than four days but the CEO at TouchPoint, Ron Ekstrand, told me to start it so I continued it. Again, I wasn't expecting much and yet here I am on a Saturday night celebrating a huge milestone. 1,000 followers.

I can't tell you how excited I am. this is huge for me. I can remember presenting how excited I was at 10 (3 were family, 7 coworkers) and then 50, 100, 250, and 500 was huge, but now 1,000! This isn't something that is just a feather in my cap, this is further validation. This just fuels my passion more. I try to keep my blog to a certain level and sometimes it is hard to keep each post fresh, new, and relevant, but to know so many of you visit here each day and care what I have to say... well... let me just say this right now before I blabber on for eight more paragraphs... Thank you!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Silent Struggle: What is Different About Me?

I've been thinking a lot of my years growing up as of late. Sometimes this hurts as I think of times that, socially, everything went wrong. Back then I had no idea that there may have been a reason for my oddities and quirkiness. Back then I had no idea that not everyone shared my physical reaction to fire alarms or that not everyone shared my intense interest on whatever it was I was interested in.

Slowly I began to notice that my classmates would socialize about anything. It seemed to be almost as if I were watching a scripted television show because it was so seamless. For me, any conversation outside talking about facts was nothing short of an ordeal as I tried to make every sentence perfect which led to a choppy speech pattern.

As time went I began to wonder what was different, or even wrong with me. Where was the circle of friends like everyone else had? Why could I do difficult math problems with ease but when it came to figuring out why a joke was funny was an impossible task. Why could I name every state and its capitol but not understand why some people got mad if you told them the honest truth of the situation (i.e. "Why don't you know that?" "Why are you wearing that?")

From those few examples to enduring thoughts like that every day I ask you, what conclusions can one draw? I didn't have a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. Well, for the first half of my schooling years it wasn't even a diagnosis yet. Anyway, what conclusion could I come up with? Maybe it was that all my other classmates were weird? Maybe it was that I was smarter? Or maybe even you would think that I thought that all was normal? All those answers are wrong as each night I thought to myself, "Am I bad? What is different about me?"

It was a silent struggle and I had lots of issues trying to describe this but for the most part I kept quiet about my core feelings. I mean, how could I explain that I felt different? Without understanding that people are different how could I accept that fact? Without knowing about Asperger Syndrome how could I ever forgive myself for my social awkwardness?

I was my own worst enemy and it wasn't until I got my diagnosis and wrote my book, Finding Kansas, that I began to ease up on myself and begin to accept who I am.

Why do I write this today? I've been hearing a trend of stories from younger people who have been fighting the same battle I was when I was their age. Even though we have social media and more ways to communicate than anyone 25 years ago could ever have imagined, when it comes down to it, we humans are still social in a physical presence. Social oddities stick out and the way I felt when I was young was that of being on a island, stranded, but people are always swimming by and as I call out no one hears my words.

Feeling alone is a horrible feeling and even more so when one feels alone and does not know how to describe it. Another thing I've heard in recent months, and I've written about it several times, is whether or not to tell a child that they have Asperger Syndrome. I want to say I wish I knew and I wish my classmates had known. Through understanding comes compassion and while I was never bullied I was also really never included; I was simply there.

Finally, and perhaps the strongest aspect of fighting this silent struggle, is that the feeling of being alone grows and grows. When I get an e-mail, comment on this blog or my Facebook page, or when someone tells me at a presentation that, "I never thought anyone else felt like I do." I must admit I get this feeling of ice flowing through my body because I don't know if there is anything more important I, or any other speaker/writer/advocate can do because, before that point in time when one realizes they aren't alone, the silent struggle will continue. I know because I was there. The void of isolation grows and grows and since, socially, I could never seem to do anything right I figured that I would keep all my feelings and thoughts to myself because those must be bad too considering everything else I did was. And on top of it all my thought cycle was, "even if I spoke no one would understand."

I came out of the silent struggle through my writings. I don't want to imagine what I would be like if I had not found this medium to communicate. Still though there are those with Asperger Syndrome out there that are in the midst of this silent struggle. Perhaps they are diagnosed, and perhaps they haven't yet, or maybe never will, and for them I hope someway somehow these words will find them. First and foremost "you are not alone!" I know those words probably are irrelevant now, I know if someone had told me that when I was a child my reaction would have been, "there's no way you know how I feel" but I was wrong. Also, the world is learning. Sadly, there are bullies out there that like to target those that are different. My hope is that someday, through all this increased awareness, those who aren't bullies will band together and will protect those who are different. As I said, I always asked myself, "What is different about me?" and just thinking that thought alone can create an issue, but to add complex and perhaps awful social situations just makes things worse.

All that I do and all that I am comes from my hope that the lives of those on spectrum can be made better through understanding. I lived without understanding for a long time. While there was an obvious external struggle going on my real fears on being different were always silent. I didn't understand that being different is okay! I didn't understand that everyone is different. And most of all I thought I was the only one in the world that thought the way I did.

The silent struggle is a dark voyage. It was always difficult to see my peers socialize so freely. In my struggle I often lost myself because I would look at them and completely forget who I was. I didn't see who I was, but who I wasn't and, well, I could write on and on about this but my hopes and dreams lies within the fact that I hope we as a world can get to a point where the education about the autism spectrum is such that there is full acceptance and the best inclusion as possible. In that world people, and I mean everyone, won't see what they're not but rather each person will see who they are and I hope no one has to go through the silent struggle I did of wondering "Why am I different?"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Rules of the Walk

In my presentations, sometimes, I mention that I am a rules stickler when it comes to the rules of the road. I've blogged several times about slow drivers in the fast lane and other errors other drivers make. I understood the logic and flow of traffic from the youngest of ages and was always excited to learn all the road signs (my #1 checked out book from the library at the age of 5? Pictures of street signs... honest!) so I could properly understand how all the chaotic madness is managed. However, from the earliest memories I have, I have believed that the rules of the road are also the rules of the walk.

So is there a rules of the walk? You know, perhaps on a sidewalk or a mall, or maybe even an airport. I know in America, when there are horizontal escalators (I don't know what else they're called... Ha! Talk about an oxymoron!) the flow is just like the road with movement to the right and a passing lane on the left. But does this carry over into the normal world? At a supermarket do people adhere to these rules, and if so is it because of the way the road works? Is this an unwritten rule people learn, or is it just a rule that I have transferred from the road?

Social rules are often a grey area and maybe I used the rules of the road to make sense of how I should walk in public because without rules I am fully lost. Of course, just as I get frustrated with slow drivers in the fast lane, I get highly annoyed when there is a person going counter-flow, or at least what I perceive is counter-flow, to the natural flow of the rules of the road. If, at a mall, someone is walking against the left hand wall that, in my mind, is a complete breach of everything I've ever known.

I do have a couple questions; do you follow the rules of the road when walking and... I hope someone has this answer, in countries where they drive on the wrong side of the road (I know, I know, those countries say that places like America drive on the wrong side of the road) does the natural flow of walking follow that way as well?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Employment Dream? Unemployment!

Whoa, whoa, WHOA! Don't jump the gun here by reading this title. This isn't another case of burnout or me getting tired of what I am doing. Quite the contrary really and here's why. What's my job title? Autism Ambassador. What do I do? I do everything I can to raise the awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum. Why do I do this? Because there is a need. When there is no need my job position will cease to exist and that should be my goal, and it is.

When every school teacher has not only the awareness, but the understanding of the autism spectrum the schooling experience for those on the spectrum will be better. Almost every presentation I do I hear of a horror story of a school simply not understanding the quirks of Asperger Syndrome and what should just be a mild issue escalates into a catastrophic episode. My heart breaks each and every time I hear this even though I've heard it hundreds of times, but the reason why my heart breaks is that it quite simply, and purely, should not happen. Let me say that again; IT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN. The training is out there, the resources are out there. Sometimes I hear something like this, "Well, us teachers, we can't redesign the wheel!" and I understand, in a way, where they are coming from. The autism spectrum is a vast, mysterious place but we aren't asking you to redesign the wheel; sometimes just a little bit of awareness and understanding of the situation is needed and when all teachers know this my job will be done.

When every parent understands their child with autism the process of growing up will be a much smoother process. I'm not going to lie and say that I think raising a child with autism is an easy task; it's not, and many of the parents I've met have some of the strongest souls and wills I have ever met. It all starts with understanding though. With no understanding every behavior may be taken as some act of defiance when it might not be the case. Constantly having those small battles may make fighting the real battles an unwinnable challenge. Someday in the far future when all parents have all the tools, resources, and understanding my line of work will be outdated.

When the general public can state what the autism spectrum is when as asked and has compassion for it all those on the spectrum can breathe easier in public without fear of being looked down upon. It doesn't take a major episode in public to ruin a day, week, perhaps month of maybe even an event that will last a lifetime. One time, at a video game store, the two clerks were talking too much and too fast and I was bombarded with too much info too fast and I couldn't make sense of the situation. As I left the store one of them told the other, "Wow, was that guy slow or just stupid?" It took years for me to move on from this. In certain situations I am what I am and can't help it. It's hard enough going through life as is but the last thing we need is a general public who is ignorant of the autism spectrum and makes harsh judgments. In their minds, if I were slow or such, those words won't mean anything, but contrary to what some people (I have met some of these "some people) think autism means there is no level of intellect at all. Again, this is a thing that couldn't be farther from the truth. Some on the spectrum may have no ability to communicate, but they are listening and they are aware of those words and, once again, there is no reason why a person should go through this!

So, can you see why my goal is unemployment? When there is full acceptance and a full level of awareness others won't have to endure the leering eye of the public or experience a disaster at school. I'm afraid we are more years than I'll be alive before we'll achieve this, but maybe I'm wrong. After all, it's my dream because if we achieve this the lives of us all, spectrum or not, will be much better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Raging Fire

I hate to write another post along these lines as I've done so a couple times the past month but it's the only thing on my mind after the events of Sunday.

I'll be honest, the accident on Sunday scared me. The end result wasn't as severe as the previous crash this season, but the suddenness of it as well as the fact that this car vaulted into the air towards me left me reeling later on when I realized just how lucky I was.

What does this mean? I've had way too many close calls in my life but after each one I realize that I must be here for a reason. To get through so many "episodes" as one person calls them and to have still be in one piece is nothing short of a miracle. So again, what does this mean? This means that I realize time is short. In life we don't have a redo button, or three continues. We have what we have and we've got to make the most out of it.

The after effect of these episodes are sometimes rougher than the actual event. Connie, the person I gave a big shout out to yesterday for putting up with me while I was in the ER, told me that I can't play the "what if it had been worse..." game but I must apologize to her because I'm breaking her rule. And it's that I can't help it. But I don't think playing the "what if" game is 100% bad because every day a "what if" situation happens. This should be motivation of sorts to live every day to its fullest. This should be motivation to do the most each day possible.

I carry around me a sadness of sorts and this is my motivation. There is still a part of me that is living in the time frame right after my diagnosis. I was alone and in a very dark place. I had no way to share my feelings and because of this there was no way for anyone to understand who I was and why I was. That is my motivation to keep going today because I may have been in that lonely, dark place but I know I wasn't the only one in that place. There's still people to this day that don't have the understanding in their environment and without that it is very difficult for that person to get the support they need. This is my fire! Each of these episodes keep the fuel on the flames. To be honest, I was about to quit writing because, "Why should I keep diving into the depths of myself for nothing?" but after the episode of Kenya in 2005 I kept going on the offshoot chance that maybe, someday, someone would read what I have to say. This time though it's different. My passion, I thought, was maxed out, but I was wrong. It just got stronger. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Crash in Kalamazoo

It happened again just like what happened in Nashville back in March. As with that incident that was no one at fault as it was just one of those racing incidents.

I could talk about the crash itself, but this time there was nothing broken (BIG shout out to the speedway there; the flagstand was solid and was built to sustain a hit like that and that certainly saved this situation from being worse. Also, the drivers involved were perfectly fine. In the picture you can see my shoe under the "5" of the banner.) however a trip to the hospital was still in line thanks to the first words out of my mouth were, when asked what hurts, "back."

On the ride to hospital I was given morphine and the pain started to ebb. A couple hours later though I began to have issues with dizziness and nausea. After a couple hours of that other medicine was given to me and then the truly odd stuff began to happen.

From this point on everything was a like a dream. I felt as if someone kept tapping me on the shoulder and the person that was with me, Connie, (another BIG shout out, thanks for being there! At least, for the time frame I remember you being there) when she would talk to me, it became very difficult to answer. What I mean by that was that my mind was there, but trying to get my body to respond was heavily delayed. It was one of the worst feelings I've ever had in my life.

I slept, woke up, slept, woke up and after Connie left (I don't recall when this happened) Kyle showed up and while the hours went by it was as if a minute went by. Finally, after nine hours of being there, I was let go and the drive back to Indy started. The medicine was still in my system as I felt odd and out of place. I slept most of the ride back which is unusual for me as I don't sleep in cars, but once we got back to the USAC office I guess I got in my car and started driving for home.

I somewhat remember this drive but again, it was as if it was a dream. Somehow, someway I made it to a rest area West of town and that's where I woke up this morning in the back seat of my car. Today I made it home and I'm still rather sore around my lower back and rib cage, but considering how close this accident could have been to being worse I am rather thankful this is all that I've got.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fighting Fire and Fire

There's a fire burning within me right now. It's been with me since the day I started writing and that is the desire to have someone, anyone, and everyone understand. It started out with the simple desire to have those around me understand who I am, but over the past two years it's been growing as I've been blogging and presenting and now the feeling is growing to a massive level.

There's a fire burning within me right now. It's been an on and off thing in my life but when it burns it's as if everything else is irrelevant. This fire burns intensely and it chars everything it comes in contact with. As it burns it distorts all other thoughts and consumes them into a vortex of worry.

When I want to achieve something it is the only thing that matters. Right now all I want is to be better, louder, and clearer in my voice for the autism spectrum. I've always been passionate but this is passion in overdrive. My fire for the cause is burning at a level I could never imagine. I mean, when I wanted to race it was the only thing that mattered but this, this feels as if there's lightning within me doing everything it can to explode out in a blaze of stunning perfection.

When something is worrying me it becomes the only thing that matters. Right now all I want is the matter at hand to be gone. I've always had issues like this but each time it's always as if it's the first time. The bad thing is, is that when this fire burns, it blinds. Who I am is lost, small matters become mountains, and the will to fight and not give up ebbs. Slowly it feels as if the fire will collapse my very being and I will implode inward in a blaze of darkness.

So that's the point-counterpoint of my being right now. This is an unique situation because I've never felt both at the same time. Thankfully the two are unrelated, but both examples are important to understand. One thing I get asked a lot by parents, often after a presentation off to the side, is, "I just don't understand why my child let's something bother him that much." Or the other is, "I just don't understand why my child, when he wants to do something or reach a goal, obsesses on it to the level he does."

I feel this is one of the main issues that I deal with because whenever there is a destination I want to reach all other paths are irrelevant. This can play out many ways and in school, when one subject struck my interest to a level that it lit a fire, all the other subjects didn't matter. Ha! I can remember in 2nd grade, during the science hour, I constantly would ask about outer space. Granted, we were learning about plants and photosynthesis, but I didn't want to know about that! I wanted to know about the asteroid belt, or Neptune. My great teacher, Mrs. Jendra, never got mad and always responded that I'd have to wait until fourth grade to learn about that. Oh, how I wish the internet would have been around back then!

As this fire can play out in a way that drives learning and ambition it can also consume. When something troubles me it may start out like a burning ember, but soon that embers catches something else alight, and then before long an out of control wildfire is raging. This fire can start out as something small, or something big, but eventually it will be the only thing that my mind can think of. To simply say, "Don't worry about it" is to diminish my feelings about it because at that point in time that worry carries with it the weight of the world.

During these times of fire, be it the fire of wanting to achieve something, or the fire of worry, I hope this post will be remembered so you can be better equipped to understand the elements in play. Right now I'm trying to harness this fire that will be a blaze of brilliant colors and at the same time trying to put out this fire of worry. (Yes, I know, I have not made any mention of what said fire is but it in the end it isn't an issue blog worthy... yet... it isn't a serious issue if you are concerned though.)

I'm excited about all this though! My writings and presentation were born out of the fire of worry and having both at once has, for one, made this blog today. Also, I think I've come up with what a potential new presentation I could give would look like, so it isn't always a bad thing to be feeling the way I am. But I just wanted to share what I am feeling because I go back to why I started writing and that is the simple desire to be understood.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back on the Road

Being home was nice while it lasted but once again I am about to head out the door. This weekend it's off to the USAC races (yes, races; the .25 series and the Mopar D1 and Ignite midgets as well at Kalamazoo Speedway) to flag.

At the same time my thoughts are on computers as I'm on a new laptop as my old one had a weird issue and as of now all my data is missing. This has me troubled as all the pictures and maps I used on my blog were there as well as various Excel and Word documents. It's not a lost cause yet, but I can't help but worry.

I'd write more but I need to head out the door so I'll certainly write more tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Answering a Comment

There was a comment on my blog yesterday asking if I knew of a way to ease the issues with yesterday's blog topic. What that means is that, is there a way to know I actually understand what was asked or expected of me when I might say "yes" regardless.

To answer this I must first reiterate the fact that, if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism. So, with that being said, what my thoughts are, or what others have done with me, may or may not work.

As I thought about this there was only one thing that came into my mind and that is the much dreaded follow up question. To be honest, if I'm asked something twice I can get a bit snippy (I should blog about that sometime). However, over the long term I think this would ease things. So, what is this follow up question? I don't think the hotel front desk lady would be in a place to ask this question as it would seem rude I'm sure, but asking a follow up question such as, "Okay, where are you going?"

Did you read the way my follow up question was worded? By eliminating a question that can be answered by a simple yes or no I now have to repeat back to you where I am going. A quick side note: I'm just using yesterday's blog topic as an example to this applies more than just knowing where a person is going at a confusing hotel complex. But, keeping on track, if I have to repeat back the direction it will be quickly obvious if I understood the direction or not.

So yes, this applies more than just getting to a hotel at 2AM. If given a task I almost always would just agree and many times I actually didn't hear the words spoken. If the follow up question is to state what I am supposed to do then that would let the other person instant knowledge on if I understood or didn't. Often times I would leave a task unfinished, okay, I never would start the task because I didn't know it was expected. And it's not that I'm being rude or that I'm ignoring the person who gave the task, but if my mind is fixated on something in space, or if I'm thinking about something it is as if there just isn't enough processing abilities in my brain to do it all.

I hope this answer proves to be decent enough for the anonymous user who asked it. It was a great question and I hope this shed some more light on the topic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"So you know where you are going?"

Today's story goes back two nights ago after my arrival at the Tan Tar-A resort. It was two-something in the morning and I was tired from the day and the drive of dodge em possums. The only thing I wanted was to lay down and go to sleep, but first I had to check in.

Due to an error of one sort or another the check-in process wasn't smooth. Eventually a room was found and the lady got out a map of the complex and asked, "Have you been here before?" I responded with the fact that this was my fourth time. I was expecting to be staying in the same building as I had every prior time, in fact I think I have been in the same room every time, but this time was different as I was told I would be in a different building.

The front desk lady started pointing out things on the map such as the best place to park and where my room was. She was talking but I wasn't hearing because my mind was stuck on the fact that I was going to be in a new building. The entire time leading up to this I was prepared to park where I normally park and stay where I normally stay. On the outside it may ave appeared as if I was intently listening on all that she as saying but on the inside I was a storm of thoughts thinking about what would happen next despite the fact that the lady was telling me just that.

What happens when my mind is deep in thought and I am being spoken to? I agree with everything that is being said to me. I was a broken record of head nods and "yup" and that continued up until the point in time when I started to walk away and she asked, "So you know where you are going?" I turned around and said, "Certainly!" with the thought in the back of my mind saying, "Not really, but how hard could it be?"

I got into my car and turned towards the area I thought it was in. I passed the turn off that went to the place I normally parked but obviously things were different this time. I did have an idea though on where I was going as all I had to do was find building C. this was something that I thought wouldn't be that difficult, but at 2:30 in the morning on a black night, well, I followed the signs but there were too many buildings. I was really hoping for a bright neon sign on the side of the building that said "C" but that would have made things too easy.

After passing all the buildings I followed the road and I was right back at where I began. The words of the lady came back into my mind and I was wondering why on earth did I say I knew because I had no earthly idea. None! This has happened so many times in my life and was a big hindrance in school because I would always decline help. Why? Often times in conversations my only goal is to end it. Perhaps my mind is elsewhere or perhaps the art of conversation at that point in time is too much. Whatever the case may be, in those times, I want the conversation over with ASAP. What's the fastest way to end a conversation when a question is asked? The answer is to give the answer of least resistance and to decline help is the way to go about it.

Oh, how I wish I would have paid attention and oh, to have just been given one little extra heads up as to where to go. Eventually I just parked my car and I got out hoping to find my room on foot. I walked towards a building and when I entered I was elated because there it was, the elusive building "C". Now to find my room of 209... Easy, right? Ha! I saw a sign that read "Rooms 201-207 ----->" and another that read "Rooms 210-217 <------"

My anger level was now escalated to a, well, angry level. Where was my room! Why hadn't I heard every word the front desk lady said? Then, I did remember that she said, "You can park on this stretch of road because you don't need to enter at the main entrance." Okay, what did this mean? I didn't have to enter; this meant, maybe, my door to my room was on the outside? I walked outside and found room 208, but where was 209.

I was tired of walking, tired of being lost and I just wanted to go to sleep. There was no way I was going back to the front desk because that would be admitting some form of defeat. I trudged on and then I rounded a dimly lit corner and I almost took a fall, but there in front of me, in all of it's dark glory, was room 209. I had made it.

As I said, this is something that has played out in my life many, many times. At school, in the workplace, and in life this has played out and, as mentioned above, the reason why is that the conversation, such as being asked if I knew where I was going, can be too much for me and at that point in time it is easier to say yes and when I do this I am not thinking about the issues that will come later. The only thing that matters is ending that conversation. Then later when I am lost or struggling I will often struggle in silence because having another conversation is too much.

So that's the story from two nights ago. I hope in the future I will learn from this but I'm 29 and haven't yet so next time you ask me a question like this just be aware that my answer might be the answer of least resistance and I might actually have no idea where I am going.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Amazingly Awesome Solitary Midnight Drive

Once again I am at the Tan Tar-A resort in Osage Beach, Missouri to present at the Missouri Department of Mental Health's Real Choices Real Voices conference. Just like last year I drove through the night to get here. Unlike last year though the drive was a happier experience.

Of all the things I've done this year the drive last night easily ranks in the top 5 of favorite moments. The initial drive was simple interstate driving, but once I got near Rolla I turned onto a small two lane road and then either then or down the road the road turns into Missouri route 42 and the real fun begins.

The drive during the day is exciting enough as the curves and elevation changes is very much like Germany's Nurburgring. The speed limit is a brisk 55 and the trees line the road. After a few miles on this road all exterior lighting is gone; there are no street lights, no stop lights, maybe a house light every five miles, and all other traffic ceases to exist. Truly, one is alone. This feeling of solitude was an amazing feeling. Well, I was almost alone but there was an occasional game of dodge the possum and other wildlife. To add the to mystique of this drive there was flashes of lightning on the horizon. Despite the dangerous road and awesome light show in the sky my mind was hard at work thinking about things.

There were words that were replaying in my mind over and over. At a recent presentation someone told me the strongest words ever in terms of what my presentation meant to them. Normally, unless I am presenting, I don't have any concept of what I do, but on this drive I thought about the past, and the present, and the future. One thing I don't normally think of is what I want for the future, but if anything, as I was going up and down on the hills and my sense were working in overdrive mode to scan for deer and the like, my ambition grew.

I have to admit, I felt like a race car driver on that road and that got me to thinking on what I would be like if I were racing professionally. All the people I've met, all the places I've been, and all the eyes I've opened would never have happened. The streaks of lightning was a great symbolic event because that's what the passion and ambition felt like within me.

My arrival at Tan Tar-A was at 2:04 and I had not seen another car on the road for over an hour. I was sad to see the drive end because with each passing mile my desire to be a better writer and to be a better presenter grew. I found it odd as I walked into the lobby that a drive of pure solitude inspired so much passion. But that's what it did and I feel as if there is an explosion going on within me; an explosion of wanting to do more, be more, and, well, do everything that I do more.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Not Much to Say

Yesterday's presentation went better than the day before and it's amazing what one bit of practice can go to get a person back in the groove. However, that's about all I've got to say today as I need to get out of the door of this hotel and on the road to head to my next presentation.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aaron Meets an Eight Year Old

If there's one thing I love about being a blogger it's that I honestly have no idea what life is going to throw my way in terms of giving me writing material. If I am awake I am working on my next blog; sometimes it's easy and sometimes I have to struggle to find something, but yesterday was one of those days where a door was opened, literally, and the subject of my blog was obvious.

Yesterday I traveled to Cape Girardeau to give a four, yes, four hour presentation. It was the first time since November 2010 that I gave my police and parent presentation together to make a super presentation. Despite my fears that it would be a train wreck the size of which the world has never seen it went much better than I expected. However, that is not my story as today's blog takes place at the hotel afterwards.

I arrived at my hotel rather tired for it just being 5:30PM and I checked in and went to my room on the third floor and when I entered my room I realized I left my computer in my car. I didn't want to go back down but I did, got to my car and retrieved my computer, and walked back into the lobby. As I walked back in I noticed that I was walking with a stronger, more confident stride which I attributed to the presentation and I turned briskly towards the elevator and I waited, almost standing at attention.

The elevator took a long time to arrive and my patience was running thin as I wanted nothing more than to enter the hotel room and crash upon the bed. I waited, and waited, and waited some more when finally the elevator arrived.

An arrival of an elevator car is always a high stress situation for me; not because I have a fear of the elevator but because there could be someone in it exiting it and then the protocol for letting them out and waiting to get on always seems to be different and often times, like the first time I went up yesterday, people have an odd obsession with saying, "hello" or some other non-relevant non-binding greeting.

The door opened and I nervously awaited to see if anyone would be coming out. I saw no one, but then there was movement and a baggage cart began to lurch out. I waited, still standing with a posture that was a little too good and was far out of place and the cart kept on moving but I didn't see the person pushing it. Well, they were there but it wasn't a man or a woman pushing it but rather a kid of about 8 years old.

The kid was trying to get the cart out and as he got it out he finally saw me and did a stutter step and he said, "Whoa, sir! You scared me standing all strong like that." and as he walked past me he turned back and said, "Carry on and have a good day!" As the door of the elevator shut I couldn't believe what I just witnessed; normality.

What that young child did was something I have never and could never do. When I startled him he instantly said it, without any processing delay and then he used humor (his tone was perfect for it) and after all that he made sure to tell me to have a good day.

My elevator ride felt like five years as I thought of just how neat it was to see someone so capable like that because I am not. And on top of all that he made sure to say goodbye; something which I hardly do. Honestly, I end phone calls often by saying a elongated, "okay." It's just something I don't fully know how to do, and they're always awkward, so I prefer not to say it and yet this eight year old from yesterday sad it as if it were nothing.

It's an odd feeling that of knowing someone much younger is better than you at something. I didn't know whether to feel bad about myself or to think just how amazing to see such a polite and vocal child. I'm sure I will be thinking about that chance meeting for some time to come. As for today it's another dose of a four hour presentation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back at it

I don't have much time to write today as I need to leave to head to Cape Girardeau for the first of three presentations across three days. It's been a while since I presented so there is actually some nerves popping up. Also, today and tomorrow will be my longest presentation ever with both being four hours long. Will I make it? Probably, but the true answer will be known later this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Imposing the Biz

If this wasn't a big red flag that I was on the spectrum I don't know what would be! From an early age I loved video games and I really didn't dislike any genre. However, when I was 10, I found a game that was nothing short of pure bliss. This game was nothing short of awesome combining cut throat strategy, geography, and money. Sounds awesome right? Now, if I say it involves airplanes does that make it even better? And not only that but they're officially licensed planes! That sounds super amazing, right? Now, what if I were to say you don't actually fly the planes? Well, you don't, and that's okay because this game is an airline CEO simulation!

The game was Aerobiz and from the first time I read about it to the first time I rented it I was in heaven. My love of this game might have been teetering on the level of an obsession. From the colors, to the music, and the graphs this game was sensory heaven.

At school this was the thing I talked about for weeks on end. One day, after we moved to Saint Louis, a couple friends were coming over and I had a rented copy of Aerobiz (I rented that game at least 100 times!) and my Dad advised me, "Aaron, don't ask if they want to play Aerobiz because they don't." This confused me because everyone should have wanted to play that game. There wasn't one ounce of thought in my body that said a person could dislike that game because it was the supreme game of all time.

Of course, when those people came over, the first thing we did was Aerobiz and I tried to explain how opening a route worked and how matching the right plane to the right route was important and that when a price war happens you've got to sometimes barely break even to not allow the competition a foothold in the market and after five minutes the two of them were staring at me as if I were trying to explain quantum mechanics. They never came back to my house again.

The few times I have gotten people interested in the game were some of the best gaming moments ever. My sister-in-law got hooked the same way I did and when I was 12 I think we played for 10 hours straight. Also, a friend that lived behind me was just as interested and we probably played through the game 20 times, plus we played through the sequel Aerobiz Supersonic.

I think it would be safe to say that Aerobiz was a strong Kansas but at the time, and even now, I don't understand how someone couldn't find this game engrossing, awesome, and the best game ever. I often get comments of, "oh, that sounds like an awful game" and when I hear that I don't know how to respond. Okay, I understand a little bit more than I used to as to why people wouldn't find this game interesting; I mean, there's no guns, you don't fly the planes, and you can play the stock market in the game. As game designers sit down today I doubt that those are the markers of a sure-fire hit. Back then though I imposed this game on everyone. It was the only game that mattered and I was sure every other 10 year old shared my passion for it. I was oblivious to the fact that no one else shared in it, but thinking back on those days, when someone else entered my Kansas, those were the best moments ever.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Heroes

On my blog I've written many, well, hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts about my life and my experiences. I've given many quotes such as, "Understanding is the foundation for hope" and, "If one sees who they aren't they will forget who they are." I've done social experiments (see these blog posts) and have become nothing short of an open book. Some might say that this is a sure sign of a success story. Perhaps that it is, but I'd be nowhere without the true heroes.

In interviews I'm always asked how I'm doing what I'm doing and, sadly, I don't think I've given the perfect answer and quite possibly the answer is too long because it isn't that I, exactly, did everything by myself. As I think of other people on the spectrum that have success stories they too didn't just make it without effort as always there was a supporting cast of heroes. So it is to you, the real heroes of the autism spectrum, that this blog post is written for.

To the parents: I'm not a parent, but I would have to think that everything changes when the doctor breaks the news of, "you child is on the autism spectrum." That moment, that singular moment when the world comes to a complete halt and the only thing existing in the universe are those doctors words, is a life changing event. That moment can be taken many ways, but at every presentation I do there are parents who charge full speed ahead. "What more can I do?" and "What do I need to understand better?" are questions I hear every time. The importance of parents can't be stated enough; what you see from me was done because of the support I got throughout my life even before my diagnosis. As I write this I am truly thinking of hundred, if not thousands of parents I've met that would give anything for their child on the spectrum and just by doing that I think they already have given so much; the time, the willingness to learn, and making sure their child has every opportunity to grow as possible. That, in my opinion, is nothing short of being a true hero.

To the teachers: I can't imagine being a teacher; I mean, to speak to a large classroom each and every day and managing all the different personalities while somehow maintaning your own sanity is a steep effort I'm sure. Also, and I think this is a shame, on the news we never hear of the normal teacher; the one who goes that extra mile to make sure that their students are going to reach their full potential as the news will only focus on the unfortunate incidents where a teacher has made a bad choice. However, I have met the normal teacher, the one who sheds tears at my presentation because, I've heard this so much, "I wish I knew back then what I know now!" With the rates of autism/Asperger Syndrome on the rise I think every teacher will encounter at least on person in their career and I will be the first to admit that we can be a handful to handle; I know I was as I asked "why?" at least a dozen times a day as I didn't just want to know the facts but I wanted to know why it was that way. I wasn't trying to be annoying, but I just wanted to understand the whole picture. Also, I was the first to correct the teacher if she broke a rule or misstated a fact; again, I wasn't trying to undermine her position but rules are rules and facts are facts. And to be perfectly honest each teacher I had was overly patient with me and at the time I wasn't diagnosed. In fact, they always explained the rest of the story or the rest of the facts afterwards when I was still enquiring. Teachers... you have so much power in giving us on the spectrum the power to grow. I wouldn't be where I am today without the teachers I had and to each teacher that cares so much about their pupils that they will shed tears thinking back on past students and to the teachers that think outside the box to give us the best platform to flourish, well, I think that constitutes hero status.

To the therapists: Before my work at TouchPoint I had no knowledge that there was any hope for change out there but since my first time through TouchPoint's parent training program I now know the potential and it lies within the hearts of the therapists. It takes a person with a strong heart to work with children on the spectrum as the progress sometimes can be slow and the level of patience needed is great. However, day after day across the country these therapists are giving it their all to unlock the human potential for those on the autism spectrum. Working at TouchPoint I've met many of these amazing people and I know I've never said it but I see these people as some of the strongest, selfless people out there. I could write on and on about the sheer dedication it takes, and the fact that they may never know the end result of their work in 20 years, but in the end it is these selfless individuals that have chosen a difficult line of work and they give it their all to enrich the lives of those on the spectrum with growth and that, without a doubt, is a sign of a hero.

There are many more segments I could write about; the police officer who handles an autism case with grace and patience or the doctor who has a full knowledge of the autism spectrum and gives the parents a full array of options and with it the most important word of all, hope. There's one thing that ties each aspect I've mentioned together though and that is a heartfelt passion to give the person on the spectrum each and every chance to become more and to grow. As I started this out with, when I'm interviewed the interviewer wants to know about me but in all reality over in the hidden shadows in a long list of all the heroes that helped me along road in life to get to where I am now. Some know who they are, others will never know, but the where I am today would've been impossible without them. So to all that have had a profound impact, or even a small impact, in the life or lives of those on the autism spectrum I salute you, the true heroes. The world may never know the impact you have made, but for that one person you helped, in their heart, they will remember you forever.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Stand in Kansas

The feelings of yesterday's blog continued throughout the morning and into the afternoon. I, along with the rest of the USAC Mopar .25 crew, arrived to the track in the morning and begin the set up process. My heart really wasn't in it and to say I was sluggish would be to say a riding lawn mower would be slow in a drag race.

Hour after hour passed and I just felt wrong with thoughts of, "Why am I not this?" and "Why am I not that?" I knew the cycle of questions was making the whole ordeal worse but that's what the cycle is; a self feeding monstrosity that once begun continues feeding upon itself in a cruel downward spiral.

The hour of 5 o'clock was nearing and there was a slight change in my thought process. Practice would begin at five and slowly creeping into my mind was focusing on the track. "Why am I not this?" was being pushed out the door by visually preparing for the cars that would be taking the track. To be on my game during the event I can't allow myself to think about what I need to do as I need to be able to do it as a reflex yet with full confidence.

20 minutes before 5PM and Kansas was now in full-swing (confused about Kansas? Read my glossary on the side bar in special pages, or for the full story pick up my book, "Finding Kansas.") All the doubt about myself in this thing called life was ebbing and as I began to assemble my flag holder all doubt about who I am, was, or will be was gone. The only thing that mattered was that track, my flags, and the safety of all that would be on or near the track.

Just like that everything changed and I was hyper-focused. This is the power of Kansas! My heart was now at ease and I went from feeling weak, hopeless, and worthless was now changed to strong, confident, and a strong conviction to make sure that I do everything I can to keep the drivers safe. So yes, just like that, all those rotten feelings were gone. This whole cycle of events is commonplace for me.

As 5PM came around and I was standing tall in the flag stand all made sense; I wasn't thinking on who I wasn't but I was thankful for who I am. There wasn't one stray thought wishing I was someone else or wishing I was slightly different. Being on my stand in the blazing sun was an eye-opening experience as once again I found who I am and I wouldn't change a thing! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wanting What I'm Not: Balance

I truly don't like this but when this train of thought gets a rolling it seems there isn't all much I can do.

Right now I am in full awe of how others make life look so easy. What I mean by that is how others makes the simple art of conversation easy. How do they simply go up and talk to another? When I have to do this the surge of fear is off the scale. And yet others can go up and speak as if it's nothing because, well, chances are it is to them.

I'm in that pit right now of just seeing what I am not. This is the trickiest and worst pit to be in because when one sees what they aren't they will forget who they are. This is where I am at and when in a pit like this everything, and I mean everything, becomes worse than it is.

This isn't the first time I have written about this over the course of my blog and maybe this is a one every three month experience but right now it seems worse and I'm not sure why. The only moments of respite have been the moments I've had a flag in hand or have been giving a presentation. I am in the midst of showing how Asperger Syndrome can pop up in everyday life and this is where; balance is a hard thing to find. I live in an all or nothing system and in those moments of presenting and flagging I am putting everything I am into it. As soon as it is over though it is like I never did it. Whatever is now is the only thing that matters and if I'm not doing it now it means it was like it never was.

Okay, read that last sentence above one more time. Have you read it again? I've talked to several other people on the spectrum that share this and this is one of the big hurdles to finding that balance. What's balance? Right now I'm seeing what I am not and I yearn for the ability to simply converse with ease and maybe even have a social life. Since this is the now this means everything else is irrelevant as it doesn't exist. What this means is that there is no balance; everything is to the extreme end of the scale. I'm either fully engrossed in the activity I am in and perhaps even hyper-focusing to the point that I don't realize I'm actually enjoying myself or I am fully down on myself and the inabilities I have.

The lack of balance is frustrating to say the least and as I write this I'd give almost anything to experience the normality that I witness. Those around me might say that I do a fine enough job as is but trust me when I say everything I do is thought out a dozen times and it is forced with a high level of anxiety. This alone causes so much exhaustion as I simply can't "be" in a social setting.

The final event on this three week string of racing events begins today in North Carolina and later this afternoon I will once again have flags in hand and all this worry and self-loathing will be gone. Will these thoughts continue after? Maybe they will and maybe they won't. I certainly hope it does because I want to remember who I am. I want to see me for who I am and not for who I am not. If anyone looked at life from a standpoint of what they aren't I believe no one would be happy. Hopefully I get out of this trap today because being in it makes life way too bleak.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life: 4 Years at a Time (Well, Actually 2)

For those few that aren't aware, the Olympic Games are underway in London. The world is watching (us in America are watching, sometimes just a few hours behind but that is a different subject) and winners will be celebrated. For some sports this is the only time they'll be on for the next four years. However, for me, I won't really remember the winners or which nation won the medal count bur rather I will remember the games as a passing milestone in my life.

My first memories of the Olympics on television were the Calgary Winter Games of 1988. I was only 5 at the time but my memories of Peter Jennings hosting on location in Calgary are very vivid. Each Olympic Games is important to me as I remember where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling.

My family always watched the Olympics with a great interest and I think I picked up from that 1988 example that something important was going on. It was unusual for my mom to watch anything related to sports outside Nebraska football and the fact that it went on for two weeks added to the mystique.

For the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville the broadcast rights in America switched to CBS and with it a a captivating theme. I was a broken record humming that song the entire time. "Kansas" also became hockey during this time as I was obsessed with hockey goalies.

I could share each Olympic Games memories but that might get a bit long so I'll just share a few more. The end of the 98 Games in Nagano were a very rough time. Honestly and I am not kidding I was shaken and sad because this was CBS' final broadcast and that theme would be heard no more. Even then I knew, and I wasn't diagnosed at the time, that not being exposed to that song every four years would be like having those memories of those nights with my family the Olympics deleted. A quick side note; it 2004 I tracked down the composer of the song and I got the sheet music for it!

I talked a lot about the Winter Games but the Summer Games also have memories associated for it. The 2000 games was right before the day I met Emily who is one of the primary focuses, and motivation to write, my book. Four years later the Athens games were held and I felt alone, confused, and it was a dark time in my life. Truly it was the saddest Olympics for me and I felt no hope at this time. However, I do have one bright memory from it and that was covered in this blog post.

The Summer Games of 2008 was shared with my mom. Not really by my choice, but rather my infamous run in with a horse. We watched the opening ceremonies at a hotel in middle of nowhere Iowa as my mom drove me to a race I was directing and then back in South Dakota we watched every night much like I remembered when I was young. Of course the most awesome Olympics memory I have goes back to my second blog post.

So last night I was sitting in the hotel here in Concord, North Carolina for various USAC events, and NBC's intro for their primetime coverage began (this was the first time I was able to see it this Olympics) and I was flooded with memories. I'm talking about the flood of feelings that is felt in all limbs and a feeling as if one is free falling. It was sudden, it was strong, and I realized this is now what will be remembered; right now I feel as if I have it all. Remember, I have an Associative Memory System and it's this that makes the Olympics so important as it is a great way to mark the passage of time. And with these games, the first Olympics since I got my job, I feel so lucky. When NBC's usual song (this was the version from 1996 but it's still the same song) I thought back to where I was four years ago and where I am now and what a difference and for me I measure movement in life by where I was during the Olympics.

After the Games pass I will still think about them. I will listen to both of the songs I linked to from time-to-time to remember all the memories from the Games of old. While these games from London are happening right now someday it will be like my memories of the 1988 Games. 30 years from now few will have sharp memories of these games outside those that are competing in them. For me though I will have sharp memories as these are the first Games that I had direction in my life; a true milestone indeed!