Back on Saturday night I got to be the assistant for the USAC portion of the Night Before the 500. This was my first time doing this event since 2010 and I was EXCITED. I got even more excited when Tom, the chief starter, informed me that I could flag qualifying.
Why would I get excited over flagging qualifying which, if you didn't know, is just one car at a time for two laps? Because, well, it's flagging! I get excited over any event I do and when it's an event as prestigious as the Night Before the 500 it just adds to the excitement.
Whenever I do something I do it to my all. At presentations I may seem laid back, but in whatever I am doing I do it to the best of my ability. Once again it's an all or nothing, black or white system which this system is one of the reasons I do have to deal with extreme exhaustion from time to time. I do have a video example of myself putting my all into this as here's a video of one of my checkered flags from Saturday night.
As you can see I really get into it even though it's just one car coming by, but that's the way I operate. I don't simply want to do something for the sake of doing it; if I care about doing it I'm going to try and give more than I am capable of. This, along with many other potential aspects of being on the autism spectrum, is one of those things which is a strength and a weakness. First, there will be those not on the autism spectrum that, when they are passionate about something, will give it their all regardless. Maybe everyone does that, actually, but for myself there is no middle ground.
It's obvious how this could be a strength but how on earth could it be a weakness. For one, the exhaustion factor can be great. When I have a string of races, or a string of presentations, I am usually unaware of the state my body is in. If my voice, or body needs a rest I will often be unaware of it until I'm so exhausted that I can barely function. There will be times that I will need a break and it will take me hours of thinking about it before I am able to. I was proud of myself back at the SKUSA race in Dallas on the final day when I was able to say, "Hey, can someone fill in, I need a short break" and I have to admit I was fearing some sort of wrath such as, "How dare you require a break!" but after 28 hours of flagging in three days in 90 degree weather I did need a break and there was no wrath, no anger, just a, "Wow Aaron, you went this long without one! How'd you manage that?"
The next problem with this can be attitude from coworkers. I experienced this at the video game store and the bank I worked at because, at those jobs, I did give it my all and after the manager saw my numbers of efficiency the manager began to expect more from others. This created a little bit of tension because my coworkers didn't like the fact that I was making them look bad. I had no intention of making them look bad, but if I'm dedicated to something I'm going to do the job just well enough to get by but rather I am going to do it to the best of my ability with no questions asked.
There is another aspect to this and that is if I don't buy-in to something. I experienced this at the video game store when the rules of sales were changed slightly and numbers I didn't care about became important. The sales numbers they were looking for I found irrelevant so I kept going about my sales the way I always had. Perhaps it was the change I didn't like, or maybe I thought that this new system was just irrelevant, in any event I didn't even try to do what they wanted me to. This was confusing to the manager because I had always done everything without question beyond what anyone had expected and now I wasn't even trying. This, again, is an example of an all or nothing system and can be one of the confusing aspects to a teacher, perhaps, if they have a student on the spectrum who can do a couple subject amazingly well, but when it comes time for another subject, perhaps one that they find zero interest in, there will be no buy-in and the student will want to go back to what they want to give there all in.
So there you have it, another aspect of the autism spectrum that is a strength and a weakness. I've noticed recently at schools I've been asked many times, "Aaron, you've talked about the struggles but what are the strengths?" and I love that students from 4th grade to grade 11 are asking these things and I hope to highlight more of these over the upcoming time because we can, as a society talking about anything in general, focus on the negative side without looking at the positive. Sometimes, like this blog, a strength can be a weakness at the same time and it has to be explained or it isn't going to be understood and I can only hope I did a little bit of good on this post to explain it.