In my full presentation I state during my "Alias" segment, "You may think this is very personal for me; this giving a presentation essentially telling you everything about me but actually this is the most impersonal thing I do because I am simply playing a role." This line is certainly true as when I'm presenting it's a one-way street with my ability to say personal things and yet have it totally be impersonal. There are moments, however, that it does reach the personal level and when it does, well, I blog about it.
The situation that started this all off was Wednesday's post regarding a 4th grader thanking me for letting him know what Asperger's was because he had it and was unsure of what it meant. I understand this is a big deal for a person because I would never have thanked any speaker when I was in 4th grade. Well, I might have but not in front of anyone else and yet that's exactly what this student did and when he did my walls of my "Alias" came crumbing down. This no longer was a job, career, or presentation as what I had just done was reached someone to a level that is almost impossible to reach.
Here's the thing; I do what I do because it needs to be done. It's not just a job or career, but a passion that is fueled by a fire in my soul and yet I do everything I can to distance myself from the emotional aspect of what I do and when emotions are felt I feel oddly sad. Sad? Yes, the reason as to why there was no blog post yesterday was I had no idea what to say or how to say it. I still don't, really, but I'm trying my best but it doesn't seem to be good enough.
Good enough... Perhaps that's the problem. For that moment when that 4th grader became brave (and empowered) to proudly proclaim to all that he too had Asperger's my job, career, and passion ceased and I, Aaron Likens, made a change in a person's world. The thought of this is almost too much for me to process and I don't write this to toot my own horn but rather to describe to you how achieving the ultimate goal of my job can create this oddly awful feeling within me.
Oddly awful... that's an odd way to put it but I know no better way. There's a void within me but, as I think about it, I don't think it is that event within itself that is the driving force of these feelings. Instead, I believe the root cause is the knowledge that this one student is not alone in his struggles. There's others out there and this oddly awful feeling, I'm sure of now, is a sense of being overwhelmed with how much work there is to be done.
The work to be done is great and I see it as a race. Each day, I feel, is a chance lost as in my mind I repeat this saying, "time lost is growth lost." These words reverberate within my brain at least a dozen times an hour and when it gets personal for me I don't just see this as a job or career but instead I see it as a race that can't be lost. From these thoughts my minds just goes around in circles wondering what more I can do to, perhaps, repeat a moment like the one in that school.
Before I was doing this (blogging and speaking) I always knew that I'd have problems if I worked in a job that required any form of caring because, when I do care, I often care too much. I try to suppress my emotions by playing the role of "Autism Ambassador" and "Author guy" but when a fantastically singular moment happens there is no alias large enough to deflect the thoughts and emotions.
When I hear misguided people say, "All people on the autism spectrum have no emotions or can't care" I have a hard time holding off laughter because I know it couldn't be farther from the truth. I do, though, try to stave off these emotions but when they are triggered it is like a gigantic dam bursting and I feel and think of too many things at once. This is where I am now. Right now I am trying to think of ways to better the situation, how to do more, to speak to more people, to achieve higher visibility for the autism spectrum, and all in all I'm overwhelmed because there's someone out there that needs to hear a message of hope beyond all other words. That person is out there, I know it, and I'd give anything to reach that person because this is more than a job, a career, or a burning passion. Yes, it's much more than that because, try as I might to deny it, this job/career/passion is personal.