Just over four years ago a person asked me, "Now that you have a book out do you still want to race?" I end my presentations with this and my answer in that, "Yes, I still want to race now but it's a new race; the race is to spread as much autism awareness and understanding as possible because there is so much hope out there only if people are made aware of it."
I'm back in Las Vegas and it feels weird. 10 years ago I was an instructor here at a racing school at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and driving in from Phoenix, as we drove through Henderson, I was almost breathless as we drove past the exit I lived off of and the hill with the radio towers. I was taken straight back in 2003 and the feeling of freedom I felt. And pride, yes pride as this was my first real experience away from home and I was living my dream as being a professional race car driver. I was a professional, right? Since I was being paid I think that is the apt term.
One thing that also is major about my Vegas experience 10 years ago was that was the last major event in my life before I got my Asperger's diagnosis so that era is even more major in my memories. Of course, the racing career didn't pan out but I go back to what I told the person four years ago that, "I'm in a new race now..."
There are many types of races. In the Olympics one of the events that captures the greatest attention is the 100 meter dash. The distances go all the way up to the length of a marathon and then is the world of auto racing there are races of varying distances. At the lower levels sometimes it simply 30 laps, then when you work your way up the professional ladder 100 miles, then 200, and for most drivers in America the most special race to win ends in 500. There are also endurance races which last from 2, to 6, to 12, to even 24 hours. In those longer events there's a team of drivers that take turns behind the wheel, of course, but the race I am in is even more demanding than all the famous 24 hour events put together.
Being on the road for this month as been harder than last year. My first tour I was very much awed by the entire experience and this go round I've felt much more ambitious about everything. At the same time I've been wondering what my life would have been like if I had made it in motorsport. I never really wrote about it this month, primarily because of the inner conflict it was creating, but I was going down the road of chasing normal.
Anytime a person on the autism spectrum "chases normal" bad feelings usually ensue. Sure, being a race car driver is by no means normal but the concept is the same. It's been a while since I've talked about this concept, but several students at my presentations have asked questions that unlock the answer that allows me to explain it. Anyway, what chasing normal is, is that, "if I see what I am not I will forget who I am." My race is one of extreme endurance and this period of chasing normal slowed down the pace greatly.
I had four days of downtime in Phoenix and I was left to my own thoughts and I kept thinking about how much more I could be if I were a racer. What does "more" mean? I can't answer that as I don't know, but I was just sure that what I am doing in life had no meaning or relevancy. If you haven't chased normal then I'm sure my words might have just made you mad because you, wherever you may be, may be thinking that, "how could you think that? You're on a national tour speaking to thousands and getting to see more of America than most people will ever see." I do have to give you that point, but the core of chasing normal is the fact that, if I see who or what I am not, then who I am is irrelevant. I hear this from so many parents and from some very self-aware students who are on the autism spectrum.
Very rarely will a race go perfect. Perhaps a pit stop was erred, or maybe at some point in time the handling might go away, but the winner of any race is the one who might not have been the fastest at the start, but rather the one who pushed through the problems, learned from what was going on, and was there at the end. My race, right now, is sort of like that. I just went through that period of yearning for those days of 2003 when the possibilities were endless as to what my racing legacy was going to be. I am driving out of that funk now. The possibilities are still endless, but this time it is to what I can do for the world. Will there be a legacy? Will I have a room dedicated to the trophies I have collected from winning races? Probably not, but I now see who I am. I am not a race car driver but I still race and I'm racing harder than I ever have before. The race I'm in now is one that can't be lost and I can't be slowed by being saddened by the past, or by seeing who I am not. This race must be won. There is so much hope out there but it can only be obtained through understanding. I don't know who I seem to be a conduit that this can occur, but I must go on with a stronger will and passion than ever. I'm over 440 presentations given and I still am developing my craft. Someday I'll have my 2nd book out on the market which will mean a new presentation. The challenges will remain, but I must see who I am; I am the Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals: Life Skills and my race, which may seem like it's in the mid point or nearing the checkered, is just getting off the starting line.