Friday, January 30, 2015

A Trip to Disney

Yesterday I flew out to LA and tomorrow I'm attending the Monster Eneregy Supercross series race in Anaheim, but today I went to Disneyland for th first time in my life. I do have to say I have been to Disneyworld but that was on a sponsor's exemption pass and I could only get in two hours before the park closed and this was back in 2003.

Anyway, this was my first official trip to a place many people have been and I didn't have any expectations of any kind. For one, I really am not a fan of roller coasters, secondly I'm not a big fan of crowds, but here I was navigating the parking system and one thing progressed to another and I was in the park.

Quickly I noticed the family element. Yes, I know, obvious statement there but to me it was deeper than that. How deep? I actually was misty eyed for much of my time there as I thought about the memories being made by all who were there. It was unfiltered emotions as I thought, "I wonder what that kid is going to think in 35 years of this moment being made right now." Now, add thousands of kids to this kid adding to these thoughts and it was, well, could I call it empathy in a future's sense? Whatever it was it was hard to deal with.

I had to put this aside because there were places to go, things to see, and rides to possibly avoid. Again, I became observant and another observation was that this was a place of timelessness. It was a, it was, I'll call it a neat experience to see parents as enthusiastic, or even more so, as their children were having their photos taken with Pluto, Goofy, The Mad Hatter, or even Mickey Mouse. It brought a smile to my face seeing such a thing.

After walking around a bit the spinning teacup ride caught my eye so I rode that and that was rather fun. When the ride came to a stop I still could see the world spinning and it was rather a unique experience sitting across from someone and whilst spinning really fast my eyes could perfectly focus on them but when trying to make sense of the world outside the spinning teacup (writers note: I never thought I'd ever have a sentence in my blog that contained the words "world outside spinning teacup") it was nothing but a blur. I felt this would make a great metaphor in a future piece about focus, or something of that nature.

As the day progressed the crowds grew and grew and the wait times for some rides grew to an hour. They have a fast pass system but I didn't look into that and I wasn't really there for the rides but for the experience.

I did come across another ride I wanted to try and this one was a roller coaster. This coaster wasn't th biggest and most certainly wasn't intimidating and after driving on highway 34 last week near Piedmont, Missouri I already felt as if I'd conquered a roller coaster so I went in line and it was in this line that I had a revelation.

Several years ago I my blog I wrote, in regards to storms, "it isn't the storm, exactly, that can be the worst part but rather the anticipation of the storm." That being said there's more to a roller coaster than fast speeds, fast turns, and high G-loads. For myself, being on the autism spectrum, the part I've feared the most, and I don't know if you'll believe me, is the screaming. Yes, the screaming! Tone is something I'm highly sensitive of and typically screams mean something really bad is or is about to happen therefore avoid a place where people are screaming at all costs. Truly, the sound of screaming makes me want to turn about, run as fast as I can, and scream twice as loud.

With each run this coaster made there were screams and each time I wanted to tuck tail and run away. I stood steadfast, um, I stood confident, um, I stood there like a nervous wreck certain that life as I knew it was about to come to an end. I mean, how else could it? People were screaming!

I got on and the coaster began and it wasn't that bad, the anticipation that is as I was at the front. This was a short coaster, maybe 30 seconds at most so I knew it wasn't going to last that long and as we went up up and and reached the top and made that drop I, well, I loved it. There was no screaming from the group I was with and I was able to enjoy the ride without having my body's defenses triggered. That's what screaming does; it triggers things and creates alerts within my body I can't control but without the screaming I want to, at the end, go faster!

After a trip on the Mark Twain riverboat my trip ended where it began with a trip down Main Street USA. I looked up "things you should do/see at Disneyland" and it mentioned the daily parade but more importantly the retreat of the colors which means the lowering of the flag by th Disneyland color guard accompanied by singing by the Dapper Dans. Seeing this triggered another unexpected emotional response as this ceremony has been daily, twice actually with the raising of the flag in the morning and lowering at the evening, since the start of the park. I'm not sure what it was, whether it was being just six feet away from the ceremony, or the people that served in the armed forces being recognized, or the formality of it all, I'm not sure, but I was brought to the brink of, and over actually, tears.

It was an experience, for sure, and while I didn't go all in like some people do I'm okay with my day because I soaked in the place, the atmosphere, learned a little bit more about myself, and was in the midst of an infinite number of memories being made in a place that, at the end of the day I learned, is timeless which adds to the aura of the place.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

After Kansas and The State of Doing

If you want to know when I feel at my absolute worst it is when something I really enjoy doing has come to an end. I'm sure most people are like this, right? I mean, if you are in the midst of an activity you really enjoy and it has come to an end there's going to be this feeling of a let down. However, for myself, this feeling seems to be amplified.

I'll take last week for example. This week I've felt tired, a bit sad, and have not had much energy. Okay, so maybe the fact that I'm sick, have a fever, and can't quit coughing has something to do with this, but there's more to it on the emotional side of things.

When I am on a presenting tour like last week (11 presentations over four days) or have come off of an intense race weekend there is this absolutely dreadful feeling as if everything is wrong. When I'm "go go go" everything makes sense. I was like this when I was younger to albeit it a more minute way. If I had been to my friend's house, or a school project I enjoyed, which was rare, was over I'd feel the same way.

So I've mentioned this feeling; what is this feeling? It's an odd one because history tells me I'm wrong, 600 times over, but it's a feeling as if what I did will be something that I never do again. Read that again, or rather I'll just write it again, "never do again." That seems like an absurd statement since I have done 600 presentations but, and this goes to the title of the post, if I'm not in the state of doing an activity it's as if the activity never took place. Read that again, I won't rewrite it this time, but think about it; to do something, enjoy doing it all the way to the soul, and when it's over believing that it's never going to happen again is not conducive to a positive mindset.

As I mentioned, I've always been like this. It's evident on my blog going back to May 4th, 2010 and when I thought I had given my final police presentation.Almost five years later I'm still involved in CIT training and have actually increased the amount of academies I present at. But at that time, I felt like it was all over.

To add to this it can be difficult for others to understand this. I can look at my calendar and visually see all the presentations to come, and there will be more added I'm sure, but it doesn't seem real because I'm not in the midst of doing it. When I'm not presenting, like this very moment I write this for example, I can't fathom how I can stand up in front of a group and present. It boggles my mind, and yet each time I do and when I present I have the time of my life and as the lights get turned out, the people leave, and I get into my car it's as if that part of my world got sucked up into a black hole and has ceased to exist.

I have only spoken of major moments in my life but for others this can be much more milder events such as an intense round of Minecraft (is there such thing? I don't know, I don't understand the game) or a conversation about what that person's Kansas is. When we are in our Kansas everything just clicks, things make sense, and at least for myself the crushing amount of anxiety I feel isn't there. This is why I cling to Kansas and will do anything to take part in it, to extend it, and to stay there because once it's over, it's as if it never existed at all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What They Have

This happened much more frequently when I was younger, and even more so immediately after my diagnosis of Asperger's, but is something I still struggle with to this day. I think, in a way, this is something everyone may deal with from time to time, but being on the autism spectrum the amounts of "they" out there is much, much higher.

There they are, out there, everywhere actually. It's hard to go through a day without encountering one, two, maybe even three of them. Who are the "they" in they? They're the ones out there that have it good, that have it easy, that have a normal, perfect life. Even before I was diagnosed I'd look at them and wonder, "how do they do it?" What they had, have, or will have was, is, what I think I will want. I can remember, rather vividly, being at the bowling alley when I was 15 and seeing a circle of friends and wondering, "what's that like?" From the outside looking in it looked at too easy and yet, for myself, it was all too difficult.

Times have changed but I still find myself wondering what they have and what it is like. It doesn't take much to fall into the trap of “they” envy because, from my shoes, everyone has it easy. A couple weeks ago, at bowling, a bowler whom probably had a little, okay, way too much to drink randomly blurted out an expletive at the full booming power of his lungs and I was frozen in time as my body's defenses were triggered and I was ready for whatever unknown crisis was about to occur. Everyone else? Well, there were no deer-in-the-headlight reactions and many people laughed at the situation and the tomfoolery behavior this bowler was putting on, but no one else had adrenaline pumping through their bodies. No one else feared a calamity, a tragedy, or the apocalypse and that's exactly what “they” have; they have it all, perfection.

They also have this unspoken language that I still don't understand. I even see it when I'm presenting and I tell a joke, but also see it when a group of people is watching the same thing in that, when something is funny, everyone seems to unknowingly know to look at each other that creates this shared experience. I've never understood this because if something is funny it simply is and looking for approval from others to confirm the funniness of it is something I don't understand, but it is within this as well that proves that what “they” have is something I don't.

There's a problem with “they” though; they is a general term and from my vantage point they all have it all. It's easy to fall into this trap when certain things are more difficult. During my dark years after my diagnosis I'd have given anything to have what “they” have because, surely, “they” have it good with never a dull moment and never a challenge. I saw them and they all were normal and life, for them in my eyes, was perfect. To put simply; “they” were what I was not.

It got to the point that just being around the “they” of the world, I would become more bitter because it was just a reminder of everything I'm not. I said I'd have given anything to have what “they” have, but I'd also have given anything to experience the normality that “they” have just for a fleeting moment because, surely, it would be the greatest thing ever.

As time progressed, and I got this job and became even more self-aware and have met tens of thousands of people my views of “they” have changed. Yes, I can fall into the trap of “they” envy as I did at the bowling alley a few weeks ago, but I now realize what “they” have isn't this perfect world I envisioned. Yes, “they” may have it easier in some regards, but my view that everyone not on the autism spectrum leads this stress-free life was wrong. Everyone, autism spectrum or not, has challenges, things that stress them, and at times will look at the “theys” of the world in envy wondering what it is like to have it perfect.

The problem with dwelling on what “they” have, and the things “they” seemingly do with ease, is that I forget who I am. Anyone can fall into this trap. Anyone can relate to this because, compare yourself to a business mogul, an A-list Hollywood celeb, or a random person in the car beside you whom looks like they've got it good and you'll quickly see what you're not. Doing this, if dwelt upon, would not be good for self-esteem, self-image, and motivation to improve upon one's self because what's the point as you'd probably never reach the level that “they” have it. But that's the point right there, what is the level that “they” have it?

When I was my saddest and my view of what they had was at its strongest, I knew I'd never be happy because I'd never be them. To use yet another sports metaphor, which I remember my college comp teacher said never to use, when I was at this point I wouldn't have known improvement, or even if I had what “they” had, or maybe even if I had more than they had it because it sort of was like playing football running towards the goal line but that goal line continues to move away from me at the same rate that I'm running.

I mentioned that I still fall into this trap to this day and when I do it takes a while to come back to the realization that the concept of “they” is a myth. No one has it perfect. I have to often say it again that "no one has it perfect." This isn't to discount my challenges in life. The few examples I gave at the start of this, especially the one from when I was 15 would keep me up at night, but from the outside I saw this perfect world that they have, but I was just seeing what I'm not and when one does this a haphazard piece of art may appear to have the same grand traits and value of the Mona Lisa. Art is in the eye of the beholder and living a life of “they” envy makes every person around you seem as if they're flawless.


Unless you've lived with this long term I don't know if you can truly appreciate the words put forth in this post. I wanted, well, needed, to share this because I know there's others out there that have this view of what the normality of they is and the perfection that “they” have it. Here's the thing, though, if you'd have given me something like this to read when I was at my darkest point I'd probably have said, "Yeah, well, anyone can say that; anyone can say no one has it perfect, but do you know how bad I have it?" and that would have been that. That being said, if you're a parent or a teacher, I hope this post has had some benefit because, perhaps, it's allowed you to see the way I view normal and all the other random people that fall into the realm of a "they" and how I saw them, and sometimes see them. At this moment I know that the perfect realm of they that I had painted in my head is a fallacy, but there will be a time, be it an awkward social situation, or someone acting in a tomfoolerish manner, that I'll look around and wonder, "only if I were “them” because if I were, I'd have it good."

Monday, January 26, 2015

600!

Sorry for the lack of posts, last week was incredibly busy with over ten presentations over four days. The final presentation I gave, however, celebrated another milestone as I gave my 600th presentation.  It was also the hardest presentation I've given to date.

During the day on Thursday I progressively felt worse and worse with severe sinus pressure which led to one of the worst headaches I've had in quite some time. It was the type of headache that moving, changing eye focus, breathing, and doing anything that requires, well, anything making the headache worse. I was in Poplar Bluff and I had a thirty or so mile drive to Doniphan where my evening presentation was and with each passing minute I wondered if I'd be able to present.

I've never missed a presentation and have never had to cancel due to illness and this, being the milestone of my 600th presentation, well, taking a sick day wasn't going to be allowed. I made the drive and my already raging headache proceeded to get worse and worse. When I got out of the car at the Doniphan Middle School I thought to myself, "now how are you actually going to make it through your presentation?" as my head felt it was in a vice, my throat now was starting to ache, and my muscles and joints were joining in on the pain bandwagon.

When I walked into the gymnasium where I was going to present the bright lights were harsh. I thought about throwing in the towel at that point. I had been to Doniphan before and my first time was when I presented to the schools and the reception by the students had been awesome so I felt more inclined to try and toughen up and play through the pain. This isn't to say that a place I haven't been before would not get the same treatment, it's just that those students had been amazing when I had been there.

People started showing up and a few people turned I to several turned into a dozen turned into two dozen and now canceling would be in bad taste seeing that over 70 people were there. Over 70 people took time out of this day to come out on what was now a chilly night to hear me talk so talking is what I had to do.

I did say this was my hardest presentation and it was on two separate fronts. The first was the pain. I took the maximum dosage of medicine the bottle said to take but I felt no difference. This made scanning my eyes across the audience difficult. This also made concentrating difficult and I made several mistakes in terms of losing track of where I was in a story. Somehow, despite all this, I kept my energy up but at the same time I knew there wasn't much left in me so I did shorten my presentation a bit because I wouldn't have been coherent for too much longer.

At the end I felt terrible due to, well, being sick but secondly for cutting my presentation's time by a bit and feeling I wasn't my usual high-quality self. The reception proved otherwise as those in attendance, whom knew I wasn't feeling well, were very gracious and appreciative of the presentation. It was actually one of the warmest receptions I've had after a presentation.

So there it was, my 600th presentation. A milestone like that doesn't come around all that often and it was a struggle, but I made it and my streak of never missing a show continues on.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

50,000!

It happened! The milestone I could never have imagined when I began was reached. Yes, yesterday at a presentation to over 100 teachers in Piedmont I eclipsed the number of 50,000 people spokent to. 

I've been looking forward to 50,000 for a long time and I had no idea how it would feel once I got there. I mean, would I feel elated? How about a sensational bit of joy? Well, actually, there was none of that as it was just another presentarion. 

Just another presentation? Could I make it sound any more mundane? For myself, "just another presentation" means that it was a roaring success, and indeed that was what it was. 

I had a total of three presentations spread out over a couple hundred miles yesterday which I feel was quite fitting because it was a challenge to keep my energy level (and navigational) skills sharp. This made the number of 50,000 a little more special once I got to the hotel last night. 

At the hotel I tried to put into context what it means to have spoken to over 50,000. This was hard as I thought back on all 593 presentations I have given thus far. I thought back to an eat presentation in 2010 in Portageville that only had three people show up, I though back to 2011 to when I presented for the DMH Commision is Jefferson City, and then I thought to the numerous school presentations I've given across the country. 

All in all it was a sense of disbelief. As I've started saying in presentations now at my close, "you're just seeing the end product and this didn't just happen overnight." This is a multi-layered statement as for one I'm talking about my ability to present. If you'd have told me six years I'd have the skill, the nerve, and the bravery to present I'd have laughed at you. Also, however, I'm speaking about the progression of my numbers. I didn't just reach 50,000 overnight. It's been a process, a long process actually, of honing my craft and putting in presentation after presentation over mile after mile. 

Whilst I do have this sense of awe and disbelief at this milestone there is no time to rest on this achievement. I'm giving four more presentations today and whether there's three people, or hundreds, it's all just as important because there's so much hope, I feel, but only if we are understood. 50,000 May be great, but I'm not finished yet!





Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Blue Wave 2015

Last year, with Dynamic Dezigns, I started The Blue Wave which changed the checkered flag in auto racing from the traditional black and white to a blue and white in an effort in increase autism awareness. The picture to the right was the last race I used those flags in 2014 at the SKUSA Springnats in Dallas, Texas. My personal intent was to only use them in April, seeing that it is autism awareness month, and the flags were a stellar success last year. A portion of each sale benefit autism awareness and through other fundraising methods I did the project raised a tick under $4,000. However, this is more than just a way to raise money. My goal when using these flags was to make people look, think, and ask, "Hey, what's with the blue flags?" That's exactly what happened a couple nights ago at the Chili Bowl.

The Chili Bowl had an autism awareness night at the flagman there, Terry Mattox, brought his Blue Wave checkered which can be seen with the assortment of flags in the stand.

Autism awareness is something that has various levels. I think most people have heard of the word "autism" now but there's more than just the word and one of my goals with this flag, as mentioned above, was to not bring the word autism to a person but make them curious as to why something which has been the same for over 100 years is different. This allows an interaction and even if it's just a few words that's going to be a few words more than they knew previously.

The other factor in all this is to show support. There's going to be people at races who need no introduction to autism and they aren't going to need to be told what the blue checkered means. This color of blue has, along with the multicolored autism ribbon, have become the top choices in autism awareness related materials so for those with, or those who have a family member with autism will need no introduction as to what the significance is to the flag.

As I viewed the Facebook chatter about the flag at The Chili Bowl I realized something; my intent and dream for this flag has materialized. You see, last year I put together a video (you can view it HERE as well as order yourself your own Blue Wave checkered) at the end of February and the project was somewhat rushed and I knew I had used it at my events, but in terms of outside my own world I didn't know if it would catch on, or if more than just a handful of others would use it, but seeing it at one of the most prestigious events in dirt track racing has shown that this flag can achieve the dream I had set out when we rolled it out.

What does the future hold for this flag? I'll be honest and say I hope that we reach a day where every major and minor series, and every series in between, use it in April. When I was diagnosed with Asperger's in 2003 I felt isolated, alone, and hopeless. I didn't know anyone else cared, or even knew that what I had existed. To say this flag can bring hope may be a stretch, and then again, for a select few (or hopefully many) it may just do that to show that someone out there cares. At presentations I give I'm told time and time again that one of the most important factors in that all important four letter word known as hope is that knowing that a person isn't alone in their struggle. When I started writing my goal was to, "explain myself so the world won't hate me as much." Extreme? It may sound that way but that was my perception of the way the world viewed me and had I known that there were others with my struggles, and had I known that other people care, and others are trying to increase awareness AND understanding of the struggles I face, well, I think I would have experienced hope much sooner rather than later.

I'm highly optimistic that we will see The Blue Wave checkered fly over race tracks all over the world in the month of April (and others) someday. As with all things with awareness and understanding it starts out at the grassroots level and work upwards and I'm thankful to The Chili Bowl and Terry Mattox for furthering the effort and working The Blue Wave to higher and higher levels.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Silence in the Burrito Line

I had a presentation in Kansas (the literal state, not my metaphorical state) yesterday and on the drive I was thinking about how amazing it is that I am able to give presentations. Even after 590 of them I still can't believe I can do this. After so many presentations presenting is, well, it's easy. Because of this I often forget the simple struggles that can arise from having Asperger's, but I was reminded of this while ordering food last Friday.

When I started blogging I had many stories of everyday things and their struggles. There were often stories from the checkout aisle, or my daily trip to Taco Bell when we were at our old office, but once again I've got a story from ordering food.

This happened at a burrito place near the office and I went in, well, I tried to enter but the door was locked. They open at 11 and it was 11:03 so I got sent into a panic as I tried to figure out what to do. The LAST thing I want to happen in any social situation is make anyone mad because, should I make someone mad, the result of a mad person can be random, random is scary, therefore I've learned that upon all circumstances to try and never make a person upset because the outcome can't be predicted. So, that being said, I didn't want to make the workers angry by knocking so I quickly got out my cell phone to pretend as if I had phone call. This is often my way to avoid a social situation so I did this and waited a minute and I tried the door again and it was still locked.

Another minute passed and then another customer came from the inside and opened the door. I walked in and started my order. When the burrito I was having got to the final station that has the salsa, cheese, and lettuce I was asked what I wanted. I stated that I wanted, "cheese, lettuce..." and I waited for that be done before stating that I also wanted salsa but before I could get to that point the employee started wrapping my burrito up. I stared in a silent amazement as I tried to figure out why salsa wasn't being put on my burrito. I mean, I knew that I wanted it and I've ordered the same burrito from the same employee dozens of times so why wasn't I getting the salsa?

The burrito got completely wrapped and packaged and sent to the cash register and I still was silent. I couldn't protest and I couldn't speak up as to the fact that my burrito was just a shadow of the burrito that I had wanted. However, had I spoken up at any point in time I would have risked, perhaps, making her angry and that can happen so I just accepted the fact that my burrito would not be having salsa.

So okay, what happened? I've been going to Subway a lot as of late and I'm used to their ordering process in that the spicy stuff and the sauce type stuff is put on last. That being said, after I said, "cheese, lettuce..." and I used the "..." to illustrate that my voice had a tailing effect to imply that I wanted something else, I was expecting her to ask what type of salsa I wanted, but, as was the case, that question never got asked and the salsa remained put. So a couple things happened; I had a serious case of, "I think therefore you should know" and my social anxiety played out in that I didn't want to risk a 1% chance of making her mad.

To add to this; I've mentioned this fear of making other people upset and one of the downsides to that is that this often leads to myself, or the other person, getting upset. At a former job that I had, when I was given directions I didn't clearly understand, I wouldn't ask for clarification because this could make him mad. So, instead of doing the job right, I would do the job and hope that I would get it done the way he expected. This often would be worse than if I would have just asked for clarification, but the process of asking for help, or asking for clarification, is difficult because of the risk of drawing ire. Upon all circumstances at all hours of the day I try to keep my world as stable as possible. With sameness and stability comes security and within that world comes a world where people don't speak with a harsh tone or yell. The emotions I feel when the world around me gets unstable are severe as I fear all the worst case scenarios. Worst case? At a burrito place? Odds are nothing physically bad would happen. Yes, I understand that, but what you need to understand is that, when things get unstable, or tense, or harsh tones are said, the effects in my body stay there a while. I don't just "shake it off" and the words remain and the tenseness and fear I experience remain for a long time thereafter. Sure, I may have had a burrito without the most essential of ingredients, but I avoided a potential momentary crisis. She could have been mad, she might have said, "why didn't you say you wanted salsa in the first place?" There were many possible outcomes and I had to keep my world as safe, and as stable as possible. It may not seem like much, just a story from a burrito place, but this is one of the daily struggles I face in keeping my world safe from uncertainty.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Presentation in Dexter

I know I have many readers in the Southeast Missouri area and I've got a presentation open to the public in Dexter on the 21st. Here's a link to a news story with more info http://www.dailystatesman.com/story/2154833.html

Friday, January 9, 2015

Trying to Revisit Kansas... And Failing

For the longest time I've had the policy of not reading what I write. I've had many reasons along the way be it that I didn't want to over-analyze the words I used, or perhaps even being overly critical on myself, or maybe even hating the words all together. Those are what I've said, but under it all I have been afraid of how I would react to reading the words.

In July of last year I set out on an ambitious project (ambitious by my standards) entitled, "Finding Kansas: Revisited" and I thought that it would make a wonderful series and would be appropriate in 2015 to celebrate a decade since I first started to write.

When I started I flew at first. Writing a follow up to "The Best Day" was easy as I still remember that first race day as if it were just yesterday. Then I got to the stories of Emily and Linda and those were easy as well. I will say though that in this version of my book those chapters were cut to a fraction of what they were in their original form.

Then I got to "Game Theory" then "Work" and things started to become difficult. I wasn't analyzing my word choices, I wasn't nit-picking my writing style, the problem was that I was feeling emotions; and not just a little amount of emotions but a tsunami of unabated emotions that could not be contained. My fears of what would happen if I read the words that I had written were coming true.

I ended up, on July 31st, writing a follow up to the chapter "See" and after that I had to take a break. This break was only going to be a day or two but turned into a month, then several, and it wasn't until Sunday night when I was at a hotel in Neosho, Missouri that I once again picked up my work entitled, "Finding Kansas" and I opened the book to the chapter, "Fear" and once again I was overly consumed with emotions.

As I read my words I could clear as day remember the setting to which I wrote the words and yet when I read them, instead of writing them, it was as if I didn't recognize the words and I was experiencing the thoughts, the ideas, the emotions, and the fears for the first time. In my follow up to "Fear" I wrote that I couldn't believe that I wrote something so deep so soon. I thought my writings started out somewhat, well, to use another sports metaphor, "in the minor leagues" but reading "Fear" then the chapter after entitled, "Trapped" I realized that my understanding of myself right off the bat was amazing and I started off right in the majors.

After "Trapped" I was unable to continue on once again. Since reading those two chapters I just have been consumed, utterly and fully consumed by the thoughts put forth in those chapters. It's odd to read something so eloquent and precise that I wrote a decade ago. To be honest I felt as if the 22 year old me is stronger, wiser, and more assured of the current form of me. This most certainly isn't true, and if I were to go back and read my blog posts from 2010, 2011, and 2012 I'd probably feel the same way about then as I do about my words from 2005.

At this point in time I don't know if I can continue on. I write this at my desk with my book opened up to the table of contents and I'm looking ahead to the chapters that lie ahead and I shutter at what my reactions could be.

There is one critical thing I have learned from this so far and that is my coping skills for life is better. This isn't to say that the issues put forth in the first fifth of my book aren't still there, trust me when I say that they are, but the challenges aren't as challenging. Perhaps this is because I am aware of the challenges, perhaps it's because I'm simply older, but whatever it is there is certainly growth of when I wrote Finding Kansas to now.

So I don't know what to do now; I don't want to quit the project but at the same time the emotions I have felt from reading my own work has not drawn out the most productive of emotions in me. I have to say I just got a chuckle as I looked to my left at my desk and I found a version of my book I could read without any issues. Granted, I wouldn't understand a single word of it, but there it sits, "Odnalezc Kansas: Zespol Aspergera rozszyfrowany" which is the Polish edition of my book. That would be cheating, however, because I know the chapters of my book and I could write a follow up to most of them without reading the words, but wasn't this the point of my series to begin with? To read the words, not just the concepts, but to revisit where I was? That's the fear though, what if I'm just older but the words of then are still as valid as today? I'm a fighter and instead of giving up (which I wanted to) I started to write, but what if I don't/can't dive back to where I was when I started?

We'll just have to wait and see if I am able to do this. I have talked to a few other writers who are very much like me in that they've never read any of their own writings. I have a nagging voice in the back of my mind that is telling me if I don't finish my own book and this project I will have failed somehow, but perhaps my fears all along were true and as I've said at presentations, when asked why I haven't read my own book, "My fears of reading my own book are like this; imagine you had the most intense therapy session in your life where you spelled out all of your fears, all of your regrets, and you and your soul were laid out with nothing hidden; no hidden thoughts, no hidden problems, for the first time in your life you were able to share everything with no hidden meaning nor hidden agendas. Now, years later, would you want to go back and be a witness to that in the third person?" For myself, that's what writing is. I can write from the first person but when I read I'm now viewing myself from the third person and riding the vessel I created in my words is, as would be witnessing your most intense therapy session ever would be, an uncomfortable ride. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying my book or my words are bad as if they were I would not be having such a hard time with them. The thing is that I read the essence to who I am and I viewed it from the third person. That's a difficult thing. Also, however, I know now, just from the short distance I've made it in my book, that my words I wrote are beyond valuable to understanding Asperger's and in the other part of my brain I'm plotting on how to get my 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th books published and I've got the excitement once again to restart writing my 5th book. It doesn't matter how long the time span is from when I started writing Finding Kansas because the thing I've learned is that the words within my book are timeless.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Toca Race Driver 2 and The Road That Led to February 8

This is the first of many posts this year looking back on the events of 2005 and how it played into who I am now. I did state on a post either at the end of 2014 or on Friday's post that February 8th was the first time I wrote without being forced. This is only somewhat true as I was writing, willfully mind you, on a whole different topic.

On January 8th, 2005 I started the "All Series Championship" on the Xbox game of Toca Race Driver 2. I've blogged about that game several times on how it greatly aided my ability to speak and have conversations but in all of the times I've written on this topic I never have written that I wrote about that game.

Toca Race driver 2 came out in April of 2004 and the competition was thrilling at the start. To this day this game, along with its sequel, Toca Race Driver 3, remain my favorite console racing games of all time. However, as with most games, the user base begins to dwindle as time goes on. Full grids started to become scarce and just getting a room going with more than five other racers proved to be a challenge. That said I had to do something that brought back the notable names, the racers that challenged me, so to do so I started a league that would go through each championship the game offered and I also came up with a point system to determine the overall champion.

In that first week the races were awesome. It was great once again battling hard for victories, but now it was even sweeter with the point system that I created. However, I realized I had to do something more than just offer a series as anyone can do that. What could I do that would make people want to come back the next week? My answer was to write a recap of the day's action. But, I couldn't just say that driver X won race Y and has a 10 point lead over driver Z. Nope, that just wouldn't do. I'd have to write it as if these races were on par with the Indy 500, or the Grand Prix of Monaco, or the Daytona 500.

When the final race of that first week was over, which I'd say we raced for about 90 minutes, I assembled the score sheets and headed to the computer to write about the day's action. This, at that very moment, would be the first time I wrote willfully with no assignment being given, no due date, and no reason except to do it. Well, I guess I had a reason and the motivation was to keep the great racers interested in the game.

I spent about as much time writing as I had racing and when I was done I uploaded the post race report to the Xbox.com Toca forums and the write-ups were a hit. Week after week drivers would ask if a certain moment would make it into the race recap reports. The goal I had set out to accomplish had succeeded.

Now why am I writing about a game and the write-ups I did a decade ago? I do credit February 8th as being the first time I wrote, and it would be the first time I wrote on the emotional level, but the writings I did on Toca gave me confidence that I was able to write. Had I not been spending the hours I put in to write the race recaps I don't know if I would have started writing about myself on the emotional level. There was a big difference there; with Toca I was writing about facts and points and passes. That was easy for me as I was motivated because I wanted to keep the game alive. Would I have invested the same amount of time on any other topic? Ha! Absolutely without any doubt in my mind the answer is the biggest no possible. With that, this is why I stress to teachers the point of needing to start from within Kansas and expand outward.

It was a total of five weekends of writing recaps before I would sit down at my computer, in the still of the midnight hour, and write about myself rather than an online race. With each week I became more and more confident and eventually it spilled over and allowed me to write about myself. It's odd to think of how seeds in our lives get planted and that hobbies, events, chance meetings, a word of encouragement, or any random event can lead to another thing that puts a person on the road to something else. For myself, that's what Toca 2 was. I loved that game so much and the competition that I was willing to write to keep the fast people on the game. That's saying something because before that, as I would say, "writing is the most awful, painful thing imaginable!" It's amazing how things change and that change began 10 years ago today.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Shout Out to 1995

On Thursday I'll have my first official post about the events of ten years ago which led to where I am today, and last week I talked about what 2005 meant, but in all this nostalgic talk I do have to mention another reason why 2015 is important to me and that is that it marks 20 years since 1995. Okay, that may not seem like much because 2016 will mark 20 years since 1996, but for myself 1995 was a memorable year.

I didn't realize how important 1995 was until about 100 presentations ago (I've given 589 to date in the past five years) when I noticed that I start several stories with, "back in 1995..." Yes, many of my stories in my presentation were born in 1995. The story of the soda can which my friend put on my dresser that remained there for five years until my mom threw it away happened as well as the story of the first Supercross race I went to in Saint Louis and the ritual of my dad and I eating at the diner on the way home. Also, 1995 was the first year I raced karts as well as held a flag in my hand as an official during a real life race.

Perhaps it's this combination of 1995 and 2005 that have given 2015 greater meaning. Sure, there is no actual correlation between these years minus the fact that they all end in a five, but I've always seen patterns and even though I know there is no logic behind it I have all this pressure to make this year the greatest year yet.

Wow, we're just a week into 2015 and I'm already repeating myself which is a point I can make. When I feel something I just don't feel it; rather it becomes a notion with so much motion that it is all consuming. The words of "wanting" or "desire" to convey how strongly I want to make this year amazing fall way short. Not even the word "ravenousness" is strong enough. (writer's note: I cheated, I looked up the thesaurus to find a work that is a synonym to desire and found that ravenousness word.)

I wish I could just accept the fact that I know I will try my hardest and that's all can do. Why should I worry for things that I have no control over? I wish I could give an answer that dispels my angst, my worries, my anxieties, but I can't. I do worry. I do fret about all the "what ifs" that may occur. If a person plays a game and gives it their all what more can be asked? Why can't I accept this. Perhaps it's the Asperger's in me, perhaps it's just who I am. Whatever the case may be let me get back on track and finish this post out by saying that as important as 2005 was 1995 was important as well and I don't have anything exactly planned like I do for posts about 2005, but maybe an idea or two will come up over the course of this year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Planning for the 4th quarter...

I have to start this post with an apology because I'm breaking a major rule that my college comp 101 teacher made. She said, "You should never write about a breakup or an ex boyfriend/girlfriend as it's all been done before" okay, I've broken that rule many times, but she continued, "and never, ever use a sports metaphor." Maybe she wasn't a sports fan, maybe she had a point, but today I will be using a sports metaphor.

I've got a lot on my plate right now and there are so many exciting projects and future projects that could stem from the exciting projects that is a little overwhelming. The biggest things right now are The Blue Wave campaign and my YouTube series which should be debuting next month.

To say I've thought about this YouTube series a lot would be an understatement. My mind is on it, and I even dreamed about it last night, on how to market it, make it bigger, and yesterday I even came up with the framework for my 2nd season. Then, I started thinking about what could come from the 2nd season and then got a slight hint of anxiety as I feared coming up with an idea for season three. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Right? I'm planning out the endgame when the game hasn't even started yet (cue the sports metaphor) which is like planning a strategy for the fourth quarter of a football game when the coin toss hasn't even happened yet. How can one possibly plan out a relevant strategy when one doesn't know what position one will be in at that point in time.

To be honest, I've been a pro at this metaphor my entire life. When I think of something I don't think of step one but I see the entire project all at once. This was one of the near debilitating things for myself in school because I would see all the work needed to be done in all the subjects all at once. Think about that; it isn't simply going from subject A to subject B. Instead it is seeing months and months worth of work in A, B, C, D, and let's not forget the total of 14 long paged essays that need to be written, and the week upon week of spelling tests and to top it all off there will be an entire semester's worth of fun with fractions.

If you were to see everything that needed to be done at the beginning you too might get a little anxious and a little overwhelmed. The way my body handles this is that I have to fend off all this signals telling me to give up and all these signals that say, "it'll never get done. You'll never be good enough, it's too much work, just give up!"

A couple factors create that mindset. First, when seeing everything at once, there isn't a sense of progression. Through progression comes a sense of accomplishment and from that comes motivation to continue onward. Secondly is that the way I plan the progression never quite happens the way I intended just like my sports metaphor. If you plan for the 4th and plan on having a big lead but the 4th comes around and you're behind you're going to have to change your plans. But, change is bad and calling an audible isn't the easiest of things to do. Thirdly, comes frustration from thinking about it over and over and planning over and over.

Thinking about something, whatever it is, over and over and over is exhausting. This, too, was one of my challenges in school. Not only was the work itself potentially exhausting but thinking about the work to come and all that would require was downright catastrophically exhausting.

My mind about 2015 has now been swinging back and forth. I started with so much confidence and when the final second of 2014 passed I looked forward with so much enthusiasm. Just six days in I feel overwhelmed now. I don't want to feel this way, and if I could just accept that if 10% of the stuff I want to achieve happens it'll be an amazing year I would feel much, much better. But that's the problem; I can't simply not think. I can't simply plan for the simple choice of my sports metaphor's coin toss. A coin toss is a simple thing, heads or tails, but I'm seeing it all at once, the entire game, and planning for the fantastic end. It's a long road to get there, and for now I'm going to have to stay strong to not let those signals telling me to give up to win.




Monday, January 5, 2015

The Year Begins

This is it! For me, 2015 begins today as I give my first presentation of the year. The holidays are over and mentally I'm refreshed. Physically? Well, I still have that pesky tailbone injury but today is a day of great excitement for me as I hope to have my best year yet.

There is a problem, however, and that is the amount of pressure I have put on myself to make this far and beyond the best year yet. To make matters even murkier it's difficult to even judge just what makes a year great. Is it getting blog views? Likes on Facebook? The occasional retweet? What makes one year better than the other? That's what I'm going through now as I have such lofty goals for this year and yet it's hard to even figure out what direction to look at to determine what a goal should even be. Confused? Try living with this!

I've mentioned this many times in that it's hard to play a game and not exactly know the score of what the game is you're doing. This is exactly what life is. Games make sense; there's a score, a preset time limit or conditions that will declare a game over and who the winner is. In life there is, there's that, well, um, there's, gosh, um, nothing. Sure, there's tangible and materialistic goods that can be earned, but what will make this year professionally better than any other?

Here's my problem; I'm about as competitive as can be and am almost a perfectionist, which within itself makes me a rather poor perfectionist, but I always want to better myself. I want to raise that proverbial bar, I want to go that extra proverbial mile, and I want to exceed the proverbial, well I guess this isn't proverbial, expectations because this isn't just about me. If I go that extra mile or whatever adage of cliche you'd like to use that means I'm reaching more people. That's what I want. That's the only thing I want. I want to make sure I'm doing everything possible, plus a bit more, to raise the level of awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum.

I could keep going on this but I'll just work myself up. For now it is time to start this year off right and deliver as good of a keynote presentation as possible. It may be the 5th but for myself the year begins today.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2005---->2015

Welcome to 2015. This may sound odd, but ever since I started blogging I've been waiting for this year. Okay, to be perfectly honest, when I started blogging I thought it'd last at most 20 posts and be read by just two persons more than what is in my family, but once I passed that hurdle I have awaited this year. Why? I am milestone centric and any anniversary that ends in a five or ten is much more important than others and this year marks ten years since, well, my rebirth.

In many ways 2005 was a terrible year. I was depressed, lonely, and to give you an example of what par for the course was for that year my 2014 ended very much like the way the year of 2005 went. If you missed the posts about the end end of 2014 I was involved in an indoor karting accident and I fractured my tailbone. However, this gives me hope (odd, I know) that 2015 will be much like 2005.

While I did say 2005 was a tough year many things happened that shaped who I am today. On February 8th, 2005 I wrote a essay of sorts entitled, "Emily" about my first relationship that had ended when I broke up with her via text message on Christmas 2003. No one told me to write it, it wasn't an assignment of any sort, but I had been struggling with what it meant to have Asperger's and I was at the brink of self destruction so I wrote. The original chapter was much, much longer than what made it into my book, Finding Kansas, as I was rather repetitive and redundant. Don't blame me though as before that point in time writing was about as enjoyable as sitting in a traffic jam for three hours. I wasn't finished though as the next day I wrote "Game Theory" and "Linda."

In March I continued my writings having no idea if anyone would ever see it. I was writing simply for hoping that my dad would understand me more because I couldn't vocalize the things I was writing about. Then, in the final week of March, the event that would shape everything happened when my dad and I were held captive by a mob of homeless kids in Kisumu, Kenya. I've blogged about this several times but after our escape, and when I deescalated, I wondered if my survival meant that my life now meant something more; as if I escaped a situation that could have seen me injured or worse was a sign that my writings had merit and there was a purpose to my being as prior I felt as aimless as humanly possible.

In April of 2005 I got thrown off a moving vehicle at the karting track I flagged at and sprained my ankle. That was rather tame compared to some of my other misadventures in life but from that hospital visit I developed a MRSA infection and I was hospitialzed for several days. This was the lowest point of it all as I was alone for so long I such agony with a fever north of 104. I survived it and the writings continued.

I could keep going about 2005 but the reason I am so excited is because during this year I will be blogging about the past and what it meant. I will also be running a "Finding Kansas Revisited" series that gives updates and reasoning to the chapters of my book.

Things that aren't associated with 2005 will also be featured I my blog, of course, as a video series will be debuting on YouTube sometime this first quarter of the year. If all goes right it'll debut on February 8th as that would be the most fitting of days to do so. Also, I've got several other projects in the works that if they come through it'll be gigantic events so I hope they do happen so I can share it with you.

So be it the past, or the present, I hope my blog this year is my strongest yet and I hope I can do my best to help you get a better look at the autism spectrum. For the first time in my life I wasn't sad when midnight fell on December 31st because I've been looking forward to this year for a long time. My journey continues and this is the year to remember my genesis.