The day I have been fearing for a decade is here... 30! Today is my birthday and I am an emotional wreck.
Birthdays have always been hard but this one has had the biggest build up of fear and sadness. Sadness? Yes. Of all the days, at least for me, that I see what I am not today is the day that I do it the most.
A decade ago I was full of so much potential but not in terms of writing or presenting. The only thing on my mind a decade ago was becoming a force in the world of racing. It's amazing how things can change in 10 years as writing wasn't even an imagination for me 10 years ago.
Another thing that wasn't even an idea at all in my mind was that anything at all was different about me. 10 years ago I still did not have my diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and not only that I had never heard of it either.
One thing that I struggle with my memory, and if you don't know my memory is super strong to the videographic level, is that I feel as if I'm still in those moments. What I mean by that is the anxious anticipation I felt of my 20th birthday, the knowing that I would be one of the best racers ever, is still within me. The only thing I feared about 20 was the change itself never having a "1" in front of my age. (and to be honest, the transition from 9 to 10 was just as difficult)
So that's how I felt from 19 to 20, so how do I feel 29 to 30? As I write this the only thing I can say is that I am full of sadness, confusion, and questions. What a long, strange journey the past 10 years have been. I have so many questions; what would my life be like had I never got my diagnosis? Would my relationship with Emily have turned out better? Would I be, well, normal? By the way, what is normal?
I am chasing normal today. This is a chase that can not be won and yet I'm chasing it with a fury. Today, lost among the emotions, are most of the events of the past 10 years. The time I was a racing instructor in Vegas? Irrelevant. My trips abroad? Doesn't matter. The night I bowled a 300? Nope. The only thing I'm seeing is what I'm not and who I didn't become.
Then, earlier today, I gave a presentation in TouchPoint's Parent Training Program and my energy picked up. It was one of the more scatterbrained presentations as I was trying to present as well as processing the meaning of 30. As I told my stories though I thought that who I'm not has made me who I am. If just one thing were different the past 10 years I can almost guarantee that you would not be reading this because this path in life would not have been discovered.
10 years ago, when I turned 20, I was on a mission. That mission revolved around me. The world didn't matter, others didn't matter, and the only thing that mattered was becoming the greatest racer ever. That probably sounds selfish, but to be the best at something this is perhaps the needed mindset. Also, having Asperger's, well, maybe that had something to do with it as well. Anyway, that was the mission then the decade of my 20's came and to be perfectly honest it was not the easiest of years. I got my diagnosis, read bad information, and was felt hopeless for many years. My racing career never even got off the starting line and I thought all was lost. I spent many night fearing the nothingness I was sure I was destined to endure. It was in all this though that I was sort of reborn.
It took a while but I wrote, got published, and found out I had a gift as a speaker. Who knew? My mom still can't believe I am a public speaker and, well, neither can I. Along the way during my 20's I realized I didn't want anyone to feel the way I felt. No one should feel hopeless the way I did. Slowly my dream of racing vanished and the only thing that mattered, and matters, is getting the word out about the autism spectrum. This is why I say if one thing was different, if the timing of one event, or meeting each person that has played a vital part of getting me to my role didn't happen, again I have to say that you wouldn't be reading this. Who I am not has made me who I am. Sure, I may still get down about that as I did earlier this morning, but at the same time I think it is extremely amazing to be who I am.
So today, just like I did 10 years ago, I am on a mission. The mission has changed though. As dedicated as I was to becoming rich, famous, and a legend in racing has changed to becoming as much of a servant to the autism field as humanly possible. I want as many people to have the right information about all things autism as possible. True hope and awareness can't happen until there is an understanding and I hope I can do my part in raising the level of understanding.
I want to thank more people than you would care to read so those that have played a part in getting me here, well, you know who you are. Everything happens for a reason and I never could have imagined the path my life took from ages 20-29, but in those years my mission, calling, and true passion in life were found. I have a mission and it isn't about myself. I look forward to the next 10 years with the same excitement I did ten years ago. However, this isn't about myself, or becoming a champion of a racing circuit. No, this excitement is the hope of what the understanding of the autism spectrum will look like 10 years from now. What a mission to have, right? I can't wait!