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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Line Between Hope and Dream

If there is one emotion I've had trouble experiencing throughout my life it is hope. For many years I lived in a hopeless world as I allowed my diagnosis to define who I was an with that came a state of supreme hopelessness. I did have one hope in that time and that was that maybe, just maybe, my dream, or rather hope to become a race car driver would play out.

Times have since those days but hope is still something that I have trouble comprehending. The wording now is different as I don't live in a state of utter hopelessness, but understanding that what is now won't always be and things can and will get better are something that I struggle with. However, there is a line here as I still have ambitious dreams that, as I did the math the other night, are actually more difficult to come true than when I wanted to be a professional racer and this is where the lines get blurred and a dream can create a problem with hope.

I can't speak for other people as I only know myself, but in my mind hopes and dreams are two different things but when a dream seems less likely to come true then it makes the concept of hope harder to understand. For your knowledge I should explain my definition of hope; I believe hope is the understanding that who a person is today won't be who they are in the future as things will get better, more of life will be understood, and that there will always be an increase in one's ability to cope, and even thrive with what life brings. In other words hope equals the understanding that growth is not just possible but is a fact of life.

One of the keen strengths and at the same time one of the greatest weaknesses I have with being on the autism spectrum is singular thinking; that is that whatever is is the only thing that is. This can create a problem with anything at anytime because if dream X doesn't come true, or event Y doesn't happen then all of life is going to remain stagnant and all is lost. It can happen that fast, as fast as it took me to type this sentence for things to so quickly change. Unless you live with this then this may seem foreign, or even downright impossible, but it's something I have to endure day in and day out.

The other problem with singular thinking is that we can have a destination planned out in life without the road map to get there. It'd be like driving from Indianapolis, Indiana to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and just having directions for the final two blocks. Yes, that will get you there, once you're there, but you'll be driving blind up to that point. This is a common problem I've heard from teachers with students with Asperger's as the student has their mind made up on what they want to be so why should they learn something outside their desired expertise?

What truly is tiring for me, more tiring than you can imagine and I hope I don't come across as whining, is when this line between a hope and a dream collide. When this happens it's as if all that I've done is forgotten and the only thing that matters is what isn't happening, or going to happen. I experienced that a couple nights ago and it was as if the previous five years didn't happen. In my presentations I always try to state that, if you saw me five years ago, you would not recognize the person I am today as there's been that much growth. However, so quickly I can go back to that time and it doesn't take much.

The problem is this; if something is difficult or impossible the singular thinking of getting to that point gets reversed which means, instead of seeing the final two blocks of the trip it is realized that the trip is impossible and therefore the trip isn't worth making. This is why this singular thinking is my greatest gift and greatest challenge because I can be overly dedicated to achieving a goal yet at the same time I can be extremely deflated and not even try to achieve a goal because it is impossible. This impossible thought leads to a avalanche of other self-loathing thoughts and by the end there's just a pit of bitterness and self-resentment.

I don't have an answer as to what to do to fix this, but understanding this is of the utmost importance because it is something that can pop up in many different ways. What might have seemed as a minor set back, or even just a minor inconvenience to you might have been a devastating blow to me. Whatever I find important is going to be, perhaps, the only thing I'm thinking about and if it doesn't come through then the whole system crashes. So again, I don't have the answer but understanding how this mind process works, I hope, may lead to a better reaction around us should this situation arise.

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