This is the title chapter from the book and writing this chapter I knew, if my work would ever be made into a book, “Finding Kansas” would be its chapter.
I wrote this chapter late in the evening of April 30th, 2006 after coming up from race directing and flagging the Central States Super Series in Carrolton, Missouri. Now Carrolton isn’t a town most people know of so on the race schedule we put Kansas City. Why is this relevant? Because my book came real close to being “Finding Carrolton” as when I started writing this chapter, instead of using a state name, I used a much smaller place and used a town instead. This, I thought, made the world way too narrow so while thinking about it I pulled out a sheet I had in my pocket which was a protest someone submitted earlier in the day (as race director I handled protests and this protest was protesting me. I denied the protest) and on the flip side was the series schedule and once again I saw Kansas City so I deleted the town name and put Kansas City, but again that was too small of a place. I wanted a place that was large and that anyone could relate to so I dropped the City and made it a state. What was the inspiration for this chapter, you ask? That answer was a couple weeks in the making.
I was still at a point wondering if my work had any relevancy despite the one doctor whom had wrote the endorsement earlier in this series I shared saying so. My dad then sent my writings up to this point to another doctor out of New York City, and she would write the 2nd endorsement of my book, and she was intrigued in all that I had done and said my work was, “highly valid.” This gave me slightly more confidence that what I was doing was worth it. Worth it, you ask? Writing, while it came naturally, was a difficult thing. Yes, I wanted to express myself but I was now 14 months from the first time I had started to write and expressing so many emotions was tiring. However, the day of April 30th made me realize that I had something to offer the world.
It’s a shame I didn’t use the inspiration story behind this chapter in the actual chapter. What had happened was this; during the race day I was in my “Alias” (we’ll get to that chapter later) and I had no problem making decisions and having conversations with those around me. Yes, I may have been protested that day (I was protested for not cutting laps with impending rain, but that’s what rain tires are for!) but during the lunch break two drivers came up to me and I was in a jovial mood and had no problems conversing. We talked about flags, the history of flags, karting, races from years ago, and it was just a good ole fun conversation. I allude to this conversation by saying, “if you met me just in Kansas you would assume nothing was wrong” or something along those lines. However, if you saw me outside the borders of Kansas then that’s when you would see it and at the end of the day, after I had been protested (the rains never came) and after the time period that I was the race director had come and gone, those same two drivers tried to talk to me and they got a much different person. Gone was the enthusiastic historian of races of yesteryear replaced by a person who could barely make, well, let’s forget eye contact and say in eye gaze in the general vicinity of these two guys. They asked me questions and I said, “I don’t know” to most of it. Several minutes of this came and went and one the drivers, and they weren’t trying to be a jerk (I hope) said, “Are you sure we are talking to the same person we were talking to earlier?”
Imagine hearing that question. Imagine having limited times where socializing is possible and after having no problems imagine being asked this. It’s no wonder I left it out of this chapter because at the time it was too raw and it was from this pain I knew the world needed to know this.
As I read this chapter I can remember the thoughts I had with each paragraph as if I was still in the midst of writing this chapter. It was a lonely night when I wrote this as I didn’t remember the successful race weekend I had put on, or the six hour drive home with Greg, whom I’d eventually work for, and the adventure with the flat tire in Kingdom City, Missouri, or the fact that I had just been named race director for another series as well. Nope, none of that mattered. What mattered was someone called me out on not being normal. Again, they weren’t trying to be mean and I use this example, without naming it, when I say in presentations, “It had to be so confusing for those to see me in Kansas and then see me out of Kansas.”
The first bit of a true hope statement comes at the end of this chapter as I realized all was not loss. When I first started writing this chapter I had a depressed tone, but as I progressed through it I didn’t focus on all the other 49 states, or North Dakota as I refer to it in my presentations, instead I looked at Kansas itself and my final sentence may very well have been my very first mission statement. At the time I didn’t know what this meant, exactly, but I knew it had a significance that I didn’t quite understand at the time. The statement holds true though, and maybe I should incorporate this into my presentation because, “when I’m in Kansas I don’t just run, I fly” and little did I know just how much Kansas would allow to me soar.
My first reaction to this chapter was that I’m 99% sure I’ll offend any music teacher out there when I say that my music theory isn’t as boring as talking about half-notes and treble clefs. So to all you music teachers out there, I’m sorry.
Anyway, apologies aside, I was certainly onto something on this chapter, but compared to what I know now about this subject it is much deeper than when I first wrote this. This could be because music is easier to have now. When I wrote this chapter YouTube was something that wasn’t widely known, and I never had any device capable of playing music outside of a portable CD player in my car. It wasn’t until 2011 that I got an iPhone that could actually play music and since music has taken on a larger role in my life.
I’m still protective of my music choices because I was right in this chapter that music is a pathway to the associative memory system. If I admit that I like a song it’s like letting you in on all the memories associated with that song so for instance if I said I like song X then you’ll know song X equals airport Y when I was going to race Z and then you’ll know every thought, word, and action from that trip and it’s not like anything odd, weird, or wacky happened on that trip, but in my mind, being all or nothing, there’s no end to the amount of knowledge you’ll have about me.
With the advent of the 32GB phone I now have 1,152 songs on my phone and many of them are, well, to take a phrase from the previous paragraph, “odd, weird, and wacky.” The oddest selection I have on my phone is a 10 minute remix of the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish ad. You know the one, the fish is on the wall singing, “give me back that Filet-O-Fish, give me that fish…” To anyone that has heard it you’ll know 10 seconds is too much, but try 10 minutes! FUN! Anyway, funny story about that song, just over a year ago I was in southwest Missouri and I was riding with the southwest director of Easter Seals Midwest to a presentation and this director loves giving me a hard time. It’s all in good fun so I thought I’d return the favor by slyly starting that song on my phone without warning. I did so and she was unfazed by it. She simply gave a half smile and said, “Aaron, if that song isn’t silenced within a few seconds I’m dropping you off on highway 60 right here and you can find your own way to your presentation. If you don’t make it I’ve seen your presentation enough that I can do it. Got it?” I did, and I believed her! Then she asked me, because she knows about this associative memory system, “Aaron, what on earth does that song represent and right there the defenses went up and I uttered a half-believable, “I don’t know” because again, if I give just one percent of the story she’s going to know the whole story and then some.
This chapter may seem small, or almost irrelevant, but what it represents is much larger than music itself and maybe someday I’ll give a full rewrite to this chapter to give it the impact it deserves.