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Thursday, January 9, 2014

To Make a Mistake

I can remember a blog I posted in my first year in that I stated, "perfection is a virtue" and there was a comment from a reader that said something along the lines of, "I feel very sad for you living like that" but that is the way I live. I do everything I can to be mistake free because handling mistakes and all the ramifications that come with them are overwhelming. I've been mistake free at my job up to this point but since I'm writing a blog on this topic I'm sure you've already figured that this streak has come to end.

A common question from friends is, "Aaron, how do you keep track of your schedule? I mean, it's exhausting just keeping track of you on Facebook." I respond that I have everything on my iPhone calendar and I take each day one at a time. It was awesome on my national tour to essentially have a script of the entire month as to be where/when. It was on this tour that the seeds of yesterday's mistake were planted.

On October 10th, between two presentations, I was asked my availability for the 2nd Wednesday in January and in a rush I said the 9th looked good. I got a response that this worked and into my calendar it went. Now, if you are reading this today, on January 9th, then you know today is not the 2nd Wednesday but rather the 2nd Thursday. The only thing I can think of is in that in my haste I looked at January 2013 which the 9th was the 2nd Wednesday.

Dates aside, last night I was having dinner with my girlfriend and mom at Fortel's Pizza Den and I got this e-mail stating if everything was okay because they were expecting me. I panicked because I instantly lost track of days and thought it somehow warped from Wednesday to Thursday, but I looked into my calendar and it said Wednesday. I was now confused.

Two days ago I got an e-mail confirming this small presentation and I asked if my mom could come because she has never seen me present at all and I was told this was okay. In that e-mail I was going to put in something like, "On Thursday..." or, "see you Thursday" but then I thought that would be a bit redundant. There was a major thing I missed in these e-mails, however, and I blame my tunnel vision/hyper focus as the subject line read, in big bold letters, "WEDNESDAY..."

So for the first time I missed something I was scheduled for. It had to happen eventually, right? That's not the attitude I have despite my mom and girlfriend saying, "no one is perfect" but an error like this is unlike me. Perhaps, in the end, missing last night is actually going to benefit more people because the presentation was to our sibling support group we have and due to the still sloppy roads the turnout was low and it was an easy reschedule as I'm now scheduled for the 2nd Wednesday in February and unless a blizzard pops up the turnout will be back to normal, but that's not what I see. The thing I see is a mistake and ever since I realized this it's the only thing that's been on my mind.

If there's one thing that seems to perplex teachers the most it's this problem when a person makes a mistake. I do this after almost every presentation; I don't see what I said, what the response was, or the impact but I'll remember that one story, or one line that I omitted. So often we on the autism spectrum don't see what we've done, or are going to do, but we see that one slight (or in this case somewhat major) mistake. Just six days ago at a presentation I had several teachers with students with Asperger's talk to me on this subject and unless you live with this I don't know if you can understand the daily pressure we are under by ourselves to not make mistakes.

So what is it? I mean, if to error is to be human why are errors unacceptable to us? A good chunk of this lays within social anxiety. How so? If I can be as perfect as can be then there will never be an unexpected conversation. If a person gets the job done then there will be no, "Look, we need to talk..." type conversations and because anything 1% confrontational or anything near a conversation talking about a mistake gives me a feeling of falling at the speed of mach 4 I must be as perfect as can be. Essentially, to be error-less is to achieve a sense of invisibility and my goal, in public, is to be invisible. On the flip side, another thing I've heard from teachers, and my parents will agree with this as I was this way, taking compliments can be difficult for us. While not all people on the spectrum will be the same and this won't apply to everyone, some of us, including myself, struggle with the concept of a compliment. It wasn't until writing this blog that I realized why and I believe it to be the same as making a mistake. The random conversation is just that, random, and since random can't be calculated I get extremely fearful when it happens. On top of that I don't really know how to react to either type of conversation be it a mistake or a compliment so either one brings about a burst of social anxiety.

I hope you can see the problems all this brings; no one is perfect and the only way a person learns is through mistakes, right? I mean, no one can do everything perfect the first try. And yet, often times, that's the standards we put upon ourselves because perfection brings a safety net of not having to socialize or speak about anything we've done. This too goes to the fact it's easier for us to talk about facts than anything about ourselves.

My mistake I made was bound to happen and of all the times for it to happen this was the best because more people are going to here me now and it was certain some were going to be disappointed because they were unable to make it. So that's good right, things work out in the end, right? Only if I could convince myself of that. But, 1 mistake in 470 presentations isn't bad with all the flights, time zones, and some 75,000 miles I've done with this job is okay, isn't it? Again, only if I could accept this. I go back to, "to error is to be human" and that's what I am. If anything to error is to be normal because the one thing everyone has in common is making mistakes, right?

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