Thursday, March 19, 2015

In The End of Finding Kansas Revisited


Aliases

            This was a prophetic chapter and I say this in every presentation that I use this concept in. I know I did skip ahead several chapters, but my thoughts on those chapters were just more of the same of material I’ve already covered.

            Anyway, the story I use about not having fuel at the race is something that still holds true at races to this day. Well, not having fuel isn’t an issue as I only flag, but if I asked to go get a certain tool from any given crew I clam up. I can display the flags with vigor and passion, but if you ask me to be put in a position where I need to interact to acquire an item it’s difficult. This is due to “Alias”. I can play a role just fine, but if it’s personal I mat struggle.

            In presentations I state this and say, “If you see me off this stage you may not recognize me.” I don’t know if people believe me when I say this, but for those that have they do believe it. It also had to be confusing to my coworkers when I was worked, or my classmates and teachers when I was in school.

            When I wrote this I never imagined that I’d have a stage alias but un life sometimes we don’t know what we are capable until after the fact and even then sometimes we may wonder how we do the things we do.

 

In The End

            What a fitting place to end! It was October 14th, 2006 and I was back at where I first thought about my writing journey having relevance. That, and the first time I was in that room I had such a close encounter were death, and here I was over a year later with so many thoughts about who I was, who I am, and who I was going to become.

            I lied in this chapter, though. I said my “Quest” was over but it wasn’t, and still isn’t. I realized halfway around the globe that I was and am capable of love. I realized I was different but everyone is.

            When I finished the final sentence and put the final period on my work I froze. I had achieved what few do. It’s easy to start a book, but to have the follow through and get all the way to the end was an accomplishment. I then cried. I cried unlike I cried for some time because the journey was over (or so I thought). And what a journey it was! I couldn’t have imagined shifting from simply my story to using concepts to describe who I was and why I was. I had questions though; what would become of this work? Would anyone ever read it? Was it any good? And with so many things in my life, like claiming the #1 spot on a racing game, I felt this void. What did I actually achieve? The emotions then quickly went back to hibernation and I didn’t allow myself the thought that someday, someone, somewhere would be able to download my book, or drive to a bookstore and read it. I didn’t allow myself to imagine that I would continue to grow and continue to come up with even more ideas. I didn’t allow myself to think I’d have a blog that has visitors from all around the world. I didn’t allow myself the thought that I’d someday be on a stage giving a presentation and actually making people laugh, cry, and think. I didn’t allow myself the notion that I would ever amount to anything.

            It’s odd that I called this chapter, “In the End” because I thought it was the end but little did I know it was simply the beginning.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: Quest, and two others


Quest

          This chapter came to me in a flash and an interesting sequence of events set my brain to come up with this. It was June 10th, 2006 and was a Saturday. My dad and I had planned to go across the river to Illinois and watch the midget races at Belle-Claire speedway, but also that night the Indycar series was racing at Texas Motor Speedway and was always one of the better races of the year. We decided to stay at home but before the race started I entered this free poker tourney online. Thousands of people entered, close to 8,000, and the top 18 people won a prize for free. Hours went on and I remained, and when we got down to about 50 people I didn’t have many chips left and I was dealt pocket 10’s. I pushed all-in and I came up against pocket aces. If you don’t know poker this meant I was dominated and I will only win about one in eight times. After the flop, or the first three cards of five that come out in Texas Hold ‘em, I was even in worse shape as an ace was on the board. I now only had a .1% chance of winning the hand and that was if two 10’s were the next two cards and sure enough the impossible happened and I stayed in the tourney.

            Later on there were 19 people left and I was in 10th and I was dealt two aces so I went all in. This was a bad move because whether you got first, or 18th, the prize was the same. I should’ve been patient but this guy, and I still remember his username to this name, called with two duds of a card, but he won, I was eliminated, and I sat there in shock. Then, out of nowhere, this chapter popped into my head. It was an impossible sequence of events and if just one thing had been different the ultimate chapter of not just Asperger’s but perhaps what it means to love, wonder about love, and to be human never would have been written. As you can tell from my lead in I remember this chapter extremely well. If anything, as other chapters were building the groundwork for my future, this was the sending off party.

            In this chapter I don’t shy away from my fears, I don’t make mincemeat of the issue, and I tackle the subject of love head on. A person can change a lot in a decade and in my future books I explain a lot more about love.

            When I started out on this chapter I was afraid I was going to state, “it is impossible for me to love” but I hit a major point that is my belief today that the emotion is so powerful that I try to deny it. I wish I could skip ahead to my 5th book and the views I share in that, but without the context it wouldn’t work.

            At the end of my presentations I sort of give a nod to this chapter. I don’t state the word love, but I state that, “anytime a tragic event happens with the autism spectrum there will be misguided experts that get on the news and proclaim that people on the autism spectrum ‘have no emotions and are incapable of caring.’ Never listen to them. We have all the emotions in the world and that part of our brain where we experience to where we express it is like a clogged interstate with more accidents and brick walls than you can imagine, but trust me when I say the emotions are there.”

            Yes, I have grown since I wrote this and this was the dawning of wondering what makes a human a human. What is love? Is it a myth? Is it what the media teaches us? There’s so many confusing messages about it that how can I know that my emotions are normal? And on top of all that, emotions are overwhelming to begin with so how can I be sure I even feel what I feel when I try not to feel? I’m thankful this chapter happened because I don’t know if I’d be where I am without it and not only that, this chapter set off a quest (fitting, considering the title is named the same) that hasn’t ended, but isn’t this what being human is? The pursuit, the chase, the bewilderment? Would this mean that these questions, while stated in a book about Aspergers, is simply normal?

 

Tomorrow Is an Eternity Away

            I mentioned this several chapters back, but it’s rather odd to agree with myself so passionately, but the words within this chapter were true then and they hold true now. I do believe my concept of time is different and this occasionally will come up in the Q&A segment of a presentation. It is a hard thing to explain because what does this mean? Students from 3rd graders to seniors in high school, to even police officers, take notice at presentations and ask, “Aaron, just how good is your memory?” I can be asked a question I’ve never been asked and give an answer I’ve never been given because I can access the memory and it’s like it happened right now.

            This is a gigantic strength and can be a big weakness as I put forth in this chapter and if you have my book this may be another chapter that, at first glance, may not seem all that relevant but the words within that chapter are highly vital and could be a key as to what’s going on underneath if a person can’t simply “move on.”

If I Were Dying of Thirst Would I Ask For a Glass of Water?

            This chapter was inspired by the events of being in Marshalltown, Iowa on the weekend of July 21st, 2006. One side note about that weekend, I had one of the oddest red flag situations on the practice day as deer overran the back straightaway. Deer aside, the stories from that Sunday are prime examples of, “I think therefore you should know” which I didn’t have that quote then, but this concept of not asking for water if I were dying is due in part to, “since I know I need water than you do to!”

            There’s two other examples of this, one was with Greg, the kart shop owner, at a race in Michigan. We were loading the trailer and I was pulling the karts in and he was pushing. We got to the end and my back was against the shelves but he kept pushing not realizing. This hurt extremely badly as I had 600lbs of equipment being pushed into me but I didn’t speak up. I was stuck in “1,000 Outcomes” in that, if I spoke up, how mad would he be?

            Even after I started presenting, I was working a race in 2010 and it was dry, hot, and windy. A perfect combination for dehydration and in a break someone drove by and asked, “Hey Aaron, you need a break?” to which I thought about it and said, “No.” Why would I say no? I needed that water, and my book title prophecy was very much trying to become true, but I said no because since I knew it he already knew it and he simply didn’t give me the water. Several minutes later I broke the prophecy and I did ask for water, but I use this example in presentations to teachers because if I need help then you already need it. As with other chapters this may seem like a simple chapter, but read it again to get under the surface and understand the elements in play.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: The Conscious Coma and Invisible Reminders


The Conscious Coma

            This was the chapter that started my dream of being a presenter even before more than a dozen people had read any work of mine. As I wrote this chapter I had dreams of maybe someday being on a stage, perhaps in Germany, and traveling from town to town presenting to anyone and everyone about this concept. Alas, this concept isn’t in my presentation as it’d be too difficult to describe orally, but there’s more to this chapter than that.

            A week prior to writing this Temple Grandin was in Saint Louis and my dad took me to see her presentation. I must admit I protested because I still was proclaiming that there was no hope and blah blah blah. My dad didn’t give me a choice and I went under protest, but we met her before the presentation and then, in seeing how many people attended the presentation, I began to wonder if someday, maybe someday, I too would present to just a least a crowd 1/20th of that size.

            That night was monumental because that was the first time I got any outside information about the autism spectrum, first time I heard a speaker, and first time I saw how many others were interested or affiliated with the autism spectrum. A few nights later I wrote this chapter.

            The Conscious Coma is abstract and I have no way to quantify its existence other than to say I experience. The night I wrote this I put the song “Zero” from the video game “Ace Combat Zero” on repeat and I wrote the most difficult chapter to this point. I’d written things that were more personal, yes, but I felt as if for the first time I was getting to not just the “what is” but the “why it is” in terms of my ways of being on the autism spectrum. This scared me in a way as I was diving into a world that was new and foreign to me.

            It’s fitting that I mention that I dreamed of giving a presentation in Germany because on this day that this post is up I’ll be passing through Germany (pure coincidence, I swear!) but this chapter allowed me to dream. It wasn’t just a dream, though, it was a dream that could be realized. From recently seeing Temple Grandin present I knew that there was a chance that could be me someday. Was it a large chance? No! I was shy, quiet, and had the public speaking skills of, well, I don’t know how to end that comparison but standing in front of a group terrified me, and yet, just four years after writing this chapter, I would be in front of groups and not only that I would be on a panel with Temple herself!

            I can’t add anything to this chapter than this back story. I still feel this concept is not only valid but is something I struggle with and can be a cause as to why I may be apathetic to a change one minute, day, or month, and then at one moment down the road care with all my heart.

Invisible Reminders

            This chapter was written after having a night of vivid dreams. I do mention in the chapter, and I’m still reminded of this in presentations when people ask me about dreams, in that I remember them in realistic detail. I thought everyone had this.

            There is an update from when I wrote this. I explained, when I first wrote this, that I felt this to be a curse because there was no running away from a memory. However, I feel this is one of my biggest blessings now because so many of my future chapters in my upcoming books, or some of my greatest blog posts, were born in my dreams in the middle of the night. I guess my brain is always working on ways to better describe the autism spectrum.

            I’ve heard from others that have this and unless you have dreams to this level I doubt you can appreciate the fear that going to sleep can have. When I have repetitive dreams, and it’s been a long time since then, thank goodness, the moments before sleep are terrifying as I’m sure I’m about to lose a person again, or relive a scary or socially awful event. Now though, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t give this up as I’m the writer and presenter I am because of this.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: Future, 1000 Outcomes


Future

            I’ve written short blog posts longer than this chapter but provided in this short chapter is yet another example of the true struggle of what I was to deal with. I find it interesting that I used the word “predicting” even before I knew that those on the autism spectrum crave prediction.

            As with other chapters I don’t have too much to add to this. My thoughts haven’t changed and the fear of the future remains. Well, I will say that perhaps my struggle has gotten worse. Worse? How so? When I wrote this my future was rather bleak and I didn’t realize the possibilities of life nor the places and people that I would see. My fears back then of the future were fears that one would have in a very small world. My world is larger now and the variables of the future are greater. This isn’t a bad thing because without it I’d still be stuck in a tiny bubble, but it is something I do have to deal with. I’m not “cured” as some people may think. I still struggle with things and these things have grown as I have. It’s a challenge, but one I must face and one I must conquer.

 

One Thousand Outcomes

            Perfection. That’s what came to mind reading this chapter and much like digging a time capsule out of the ground I have been reminded of examples I used to know. This is a major chapter, for me, because it was my declaration that, “I’m not slow or dumb.” I struggled with those thoughts before writing this and I wanted a way to explain why I was different in certain social situations.  

            I went about it in a most complicated, and mathematical way, but I explain that it isn’t that I’m slow, but I’m too fast in social situations. The thing to understand is being too fast creates a slower response as I process all the potential outcomes and as I’ve made more and more social mistakes I take my time even more truly analyzing the potential outcomes.

            Other than that I can’t add more. If you have my book I would suggest you to read this chapter once more as the daily grind can’t be explained any better.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Trip of a Lifetime: Relocation Theory 1.0

What am I doing? No, seriously? It's just dawned on me that I am about to embark on the biggest trip of my life. Sure, I've gone to Madagascar, Kenya, and done two national tours of the US, but all those involved going with someone else. Today is different as today I go alone.

This trip was thrown together in haste and could be called an impulse purchase, but the travel bug has been nipping at my heels for sometime and when my relationship with my girlfriend came to an end I figured I needed to go away to write my fifth book, but what started out as just an excuse to get away has now morphed into a miniature version of an experiment I wanted to do.

I was flying to Paris en route to Madagascar and we were over Ireland at night and the towns and village lights were flickering below. I then had a thought, "Could I make it down there?" That was it. Would I have the ability to simply go to a new place and be there, find my way, and not starve. This idea has stayed with me for a while and I called it, "Relocation Theory" and I figured that at least myself would be able to step up to this challenge.

Just 12 days ago I was shopping around airfares and hotel rooms as this trip was booked on a tight budget and eventually a town, a hotel, and even a sporting event were booked. Since that day I've done minimal research and this has been on purpose. I hear there's plenty of amazing museums to visit, and places to see, but I don't want to much info. I don't speak the language, at all, which this too will be part of the challenge. I did meet someone is passing late last year from there and they said English is widely spoken, but is not a first language so I doubt I'll have issues. Besides, if I have pictures on my phone of addresses that's all I'll need. And you see, it is in this that I thirst for this challenge. I do plan on writing a big chunk of my fifth book, as that was my original intent, but I see this now as being bigger than that.

There will most certainly be blogs about this trip, however it will be post-dated. I have Finding Kansas Revisited to finish up next week and then starting on March 23rd I will begin posting. These will be written as if they are current day because I will be writing things as they happen, but part of this experience is to be cut off (minus one exception but that'll be explained in time) so very few people know where I'm going because I can't risk this experience becoming a constant social event from people that may know me from here, racing, or the like.

Wow, okay, again, I got to ask, "What am I doing?" People that I've told about this said that they wouldn't even try this. I don't look at this in fear, though. I've grown so much in the past five years that I anticipate this challenge with wide open arms and not since I moved to Vegas for a month in 2003 have I been so cutoff from everyone and everything I know, but that too is part of the excitement and adventure of it all. I can't wait to write about the excitement, the challenges, and the overall experience of doing something that is, well, the biggest adventure of my life. Again, my blogs next week are finishing up Finding Kansas Revisited and maybe it's fitting that my response to, "In the End" will be on my next to last day overseas, but make sure you read that post, but then make sure to start reading March 23rd as I tell the story of my big travel adventure.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: The Hazards of Firsts and Media


The Hazard of “Firsts”

            I froze while reading this chapter. I have no recollection at all of writing this, but it didn’t read like where I was in 2006 and much more read like something I’d write now. This was haunting because it’s clear that the groundwork is being laid for me to do more than write random essays to my dad. It’s strange, though, as my “cement theory” which I state in my presentation and will be in my 2nd book was somewhat in this chapter but not fully realized.

            It’s weird to say I love a point I made, but seeing how it was almost ten years ago I think it’s right to say I agree with myself on the safety of sameness. The topics I wrote about as what could be a potential Kansas haven’t changed. I wrote this chapter in 2006 and a 1955 Chevy is still a 1955 Chevy and the 1911 baseball season is still the 1911 baseball season. Whatever our Kansas could be it’s often going to be heavy in facts because if we are talking about facts we are talking about something black or white and facts rarely change.

            With each chapter it’s like I’m turning a corner coming closer to realizing there’s more to this than just my story and with this chapter I’m turning a corner coming closer at maximum velocity.

 

Media and “Firsts”

            This was almost a prophetic chapter, to be perfectly honest. I don’t know, though, if we are going the right way or the wrong way.

            This chapter deals with the fact that I believe that the interaction between various forms of media and those on the autism spectrum can be a hazardous situation, yet at the same time can be positive.

            When I wrote this Facebook was still years from going mainstream, and Minecraft had yet to unleashed on this world. When it comes to Minecraft I don’t know if there has been or will be anything as major as it in terms of generating interest. You should see it when I present at a school and mention Minecraft is the #1 Kansas those that I know are on the autism spectrum instantly light up.

            Now, with the same thing I put forth in this chapter, is this a good or bad thing? I think there is no one answer and the statement of, “If you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism…” holds true here because for person it may be their social outlet and their way to build team skills. For another it may become a world that is so safe, so awesome, and so perfect that leaving it will be impossible.

            Another thing that is different is the way the news is delivered. My fear when I wrote this chapter was how a growing person would process their world around them when exposed to the media. In the media’s frenzy to be the first, or perhaps most shocking, the amount of gruesome violence has gone up by a margin I don’t even know how to measure. Is it real? Yes. Should it be shown? I don’t know, and that’s not for me to decide. What I do know is that witnessing things on the television when I was three, four, and five years of age troubled me for a long time. Maybe times are different, maybe people are stronger, and then again if exposed to so much violence one could be desensitized to it. Maybe yes, maybe no.

            This is topic where there is much debate, autism spectrum or not, and I’m not going to say one way or the other except the questions I put forth in this chapter. These questions and these thoughts are becoming more and more relevant each day as media becomes more and more accessible and seemingly intrusive. I go back to an example I use in my book about what life was like 100 years ago. There was no media and the only “firsts” and “musts” there were was survival; that was it, there was no status updates, no checking in, and gruesome crime scenes from around the world weren’t seen. Times change, and maybe people change, but for people on the autism spectrum is this a change for the better, or a change for the worse?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: Crippled in Addiction and Must


Crippled in Addiction

 

            In reading this chapter I thought, “Gosh! I sound like a jerk!” Then I got to the part where I mention this. It was difficult for me to know that something shouldn’t make me mad and yet be powerless to do something about it. And herein lies the problem; I know what the problem is and yet it continues on.

            I use a new term now instead of the title of this chapter and I say now, “Whatever is now is the only thing that matters.” Another phrase I’ll use is “hyper-Kansas” when something gets to that level.

            I’d like to take a shot to rewrite this chapter and yet at the same time my words in this are so honest and pure. My struggle is obvious in this chapter, and this struggle continues. I find it so odd that I dreamt of a life of going from place to place like that I mentioned a race car driver would have and yet I’ve got that at times and I was right! I was right in that with a constant change of scenery there isn’t the ability for things to get to a routine basis. Sure, I have my favorite places to eat across the state of Missouri, but here’s the thing; from traveling so much my routine at home isn’t as rigid as it used to be. I’m not sure if this just happened by coincidence, or if I really knew that this would happen, but whatever the case I’m glad it did and while I still like my routines, the addiction I word in this chapter isn’t as over encompassing as it used to be.

 

Must…

            Where do I begin with this one? What I put forth in this chapter is, about word for word, the same as today. I haven’t talked about this chapter, and I don’t remember writing it, exactly, but I do remember the concepts I used in it.

            I take that back, I do remember writing it because I wrote it a week or so after claiming the #1 spot on Project Gotham Racing 3 and I was puzzled as to why I felt nothing. Truly, nothing. As I put forth in the book the amount of hours, hard work, and disappointment were staggeringly high but I achieved a goal that I put many, many hours in and in the end, when I was the best in the world, there was emptiness.

            To this day I still fight this. In the history of my blog I have several stories whether it is pinball world records, or my struggle to become #1 at Bejeweled Blitz, there is certainly a pattern here and the results are the same when I reach the pinnacle. There could be several reasons as to why I feel nothing, and I’ve thought about these in length. The first is maybe it isn’t the destination that excites me but the chase because it becomes a hyper-Kansas and everything else ceases to matter. As emotional as I got when there were set backs this paled in comparison to the struggles of real life and when I reached the top I was left with, “now what?”

            A second thing could be that being #1 is a solo experience and when reached there is no fanfare, no ending, no accolades outside of a screen that proclaims to the world who is the best. What does it mean to be the best, though? For those outside the top 10, or maybe 100, nobody cares. Maybe, for myself, this attempting to be the best in the world was trying to replace a void that was there from being isolated? Perhaps, but even in my previous relationship I would still have times where my mind was set on being a champion, set world records, or to be known as the best in the world.

            Further on in the chapter I talk impulsive buying and my mentality when it comes to purchasing is, “don’t thing about it, just do it.” Not the wisest of ways to shop, and the songs I mention in this chapter on Karaoke Revolution I, um, well, I bought them and NEVER used them once. I’ve tried to curb this and think, before buying, “Am I actually going to use…” whatever it is that I am purchasing. It’s difficult, however, because once something gets in my mind on needing, or “must having…” it doesn’t simply go away.

            With everything else I’ve written in all ties together. While all chapters are their own self-contained world they are all intertwined. Film Theory can stand on its own, but when one understands the Crippled in Addiction, and Must, it all becomes clearer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: Fear Vs. Fear and Sentence


Fear Versus Fear

            Again, this chapter is so right, so precise, and filled with so much of the emotions that are hidden well below the surface. Early in this chapter I talk about money and the amount I was talking about in this chapter was having $1,000 in the bank. That was it. I had been flirting with being at $0 so often that my mind would always, ALWAYS, be worried about the next credit card payment.

            When I wrote this I never could’ve imagined being able to make a car payment, or a house payment. While I am at this point now the fear vs. fear concept is still there. The stressors may have changed, somewhat, but fighting fears of daily life remain. How long will I have a job? Will I ever be in another relationship? Can things truly be better? These questions go on, and on, and on. They repeat and then repeat the repeat. As with the other chapters recently this is another one that I can’t add too much on because I still consider them right and there’s nothing more to add except that the game I quoted at the start is now tied for amount of innings played, but a game between the Giants and Nationals in last year’s NLDS in the sport of baseball had a longer amount of time played.

 

Sentence

            You want a short chapter that summarizes where I was? The chapter “Sentence” is it. I still couldn’t tell the story of the first website I found, which said there was no hope, but the firsts that came from my first few weeks of knowing were awful.

            This is where I hope there is true change in this world. The battle I’m fighting is in essence born from the way I felt and the way I described my life in this chapter. When I wrote this I felt as if my life had already been lived and that there was no possibility of anything ever becoming better. It’s still a battle I face, myself, and I have to constantly remind myself that these thoughts are wrong. It’s difficult, I can’t lie, but deep down I know these words are wrong.

            One of the battles here is the media. The media can very easily create one of these sentences that I refer to. Before I get to that, I’ll explain I feared that my diagnosis was a life sentence of solitary confinement and there would be no changing that regardless of how hard I tried. Now enter the media; when a news story happens and all people on the autism spectrum are lumped together and generalizations are made and there are no mentions that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” it is very easy to create a sentence in one person’s brain.

            Awareness and understanding are the way to combat this and one of the many different reasons I do what I do is because of this chapter. This may read as one of my most depressing chapters, and it very well may be, but it’s still there because I’m here now. When I wrote this hope wasn’t in my dictionary, vocabulary, nor would it be something I’d ever imagine and yet, here I am. That’s where the hope lies. We are all going to take different paths, and no two people are going to have the same story, but even though things may seem and appear hopeless things can change. What I saw as a sentence that all but guaranteed that my life would never amount to anything was actually a calling, not a sentence, and now I wouldn’t trade what I have for anything in the world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: Travel, What Has Become...?


Travel

            When I wrote this chapter I couldn’t have imagined that I would be traveling more than I could ever have imagined. I wrote this chapter after traveling to cover a couple hurricanes and visiting two countries. That alone is a lot, but since then, having my job, I’ve put on tens of thousands of miles. Also, when I wrote this, I could never have imagined becoming a flagman for not just one, but two series! Last year I flew over 25,000 miles!

            As Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Midwest I’ve done two national tours and these were with driving, not flying, and I’ve got to say that the description of liberation I describe in my book was amplified and if I had a top five memories of my life both of those national tours would be in the top five.

            I don’t have too much more to add to this chapter. I think a lot of my future concepts about change were born within this chapter, but this chapter is so honest, pure, and right that it is timeless.

What Has Become…?

            This chapter is beautifully tragic. On one hand I talk about being cold, but on the other there is this deep desire to be a part of the world and to know what has happened to those around me.

            The world is a much different place than when I wrote this thanks to social media. The originating inspiration to this was wondering what had become of Linda. With the ability to find anyone with a Facebook account it is possible to find out what has become of people. In 2008 I tried messaging her, but she never responded. I expected as much.

            To show I’m not the only one on this I had a fellow classmate from 3rd grade recently track me down to wish me a happy birthday. This elated me as I did go to his sleep over birthday party, but I didn’t last the night due to the stress of it all, but it was a major thing to know that other people too has this.

            As with so much that I’ve written there’s so much that I have built upon from this chapter and the issues with memories really shines through in this chapter. I’ve used the example of driving down the road and having things follow many times in presentations.

            Again, as with the previous chapter, there isn’t too much more to say because it’s such a precise and perfect chapter. One thing to note is that it’s at this point in my book my chapters really start shortening up. I started feeling more confidence and I could say exactly what I wanted to say in fewer words. It made for completing a book more difficult, but filler became something that I just couldn’t do anymore and to this day being long-winded is something that I just can’t do.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Kansas Revisited


Situational Handicap

            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.

 

Music

            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.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Unprepared For Storm Preparedness Day

So earlier this week I presented at the Saint Louis County Police Academy for the CIT program and the neat thing about this program is that in the afternoon we have three groups of these officers come to our city location for even more autism training and it is in that segment that today's blog post takes place.

We had already done one group and as the 2nd group was getting seated I heard a noise. My reaction to this would be akin to a prairie dog rising up at attention to a potential threat. My mind raced because good news never travels by this sound. I looked around the room and all else were calm, but I knew a storm, perhaps, was brewing. However, it couldn't be as it was only 30 degrees, so what was going on? Oh, what was this noise that had me concerned? I was hearing the civil defense sirens.

In my opinion there is no noise as ominous as the sound of civil defense sirens whether it's the classic ones from the 40's or these new electronic ones that can even speak. Whatever it is it's ominous because, as I said, good news doesn't travel by them.

I knew there wasn't a storm so if it isn't a storm it could only mean one thing and that was WWIII was breaking out. I quickly took my phone out and saw the time. It was 1:30. This slowed my sense of panic because the odds of WWIII breaking at an even number is 1 in 60. It could be a coincidence but the odds aren't in its favor. I then thought about the monthly test, but those are on the first Monday of the month at 11 so why would they do back to back tests? Panic crept in again.

All these thoughts are coming at a lightning pace. What is several paragraphs on your screen were thoughts that came instantaneously as my defense mechanisms were triggered. I then, finally, remembered that there is a yearly "storm preparedness day" in Missouri where schools and businesses do drills and I Google searched "storm preparedness day Missouri" and sure enough several news stories were there and that meant crisis was averted and the world would continue onward.

It was visible that something had perplexed me so I asked the officers, "Does anyone else hear that?" to which only a one nodded their head. I looked at him and just gave him a smile and a nod then said, "the civil defense sirens are going off" and then the room got very quiet as all there listened, and not all could hear. I could see when each person did hear it because there was a sense of, "Ah, there it is!"

For my police presentation I cover sensory issues in more length than I do in any other of my presentations and it was great to be able to have a moment like this to illustrate the potential hypersensitivity of sounds. What no one else could hear, or make sense of it they did hear it, was instantly processed, analyzed, and understood in my brain. I was in a panic before anyone else had even heard the noise and for the twenty something officers that were there they were given an almost impossible to repeat experience on just what hypersensitivity can mean, and I know they took notice. As that group ended several officers asked, "Aaron, how did you hear that?" and while I didn't have the answer except to say my senses are heightened I was able to use that and let them know that, if they have an autism related call, to keep that in mind. For one, if they are a couple rooms over the person on the autism spectrum may hear what they are saying. Furthermore, things that anyone can hear, such as a radio or an incoming squad car siren, may be much more amplified to them than it is to the officers.

I've had several presentations where I've been able to use outside influences and put them to use, but of them all I think this was the best. I have learned a lesson, however, and that is even though I preach that prediction is great for officers in that letting a person on the autism spectrum know what's going to happen in advance I, myself, am going to have to do a job being prepared for storm preparedness day because I had no idea it was going to happen and all my anxiety of the end of the world was all for not... Thankfully!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Relocation Theory, Sort of

Just a heads up here. I do hope to be able to get back doing Finding Kansas Revisited either late this week or next week because in two weeks I'm doing a miniature version of a science experiment I called Relocation Theory. I'm going to be going overseas for a week to a place I don't know and have never been. I plan on writing about that experience as well as competing my fifth book which will encompass a lot of the events of the past week or so. That being said I'm feeling a writing exploding coming on and it's going to be great... As is the trip!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Start of Year Six

I missed it yesterday! Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of me starting full-time at Easter Seals Midwest. I'm sorry I missed it as I would've made a big blog post, but I wasn't in the best of places yesterday so instead I'll make that blog post today. And to be perfectly honest today is a perfect day to make such a post.

I remember March 2nd, 2010 like it was just five minutes ago; the nerves, the tension, and the apprehension. I was signed on to be the "Community Education Specialist" which I had no idea, exactly, what that would entail. I don't know if anyone really knew what my role would be down the road, and on that first day I was nervous wondering what I would be doing day in and day out. Thankfully, on that first day, I had a presentation that afternoon to give at the police academy. I had been on part time giving sporadic presentations at the police academy and this would continue into when I was full time.

The next day I was given some more assignments but it was then I was told that, "Aaron, you should start a blog." Now this was from Ron, the CEO and the person whom had hired me so saying no wasn't the easiest of options. And I tried, oh how I tried as I wondered, "a blog, seriously? Would people ever read what I have to say?" I pondered this for a while and when I thought of, "Life on the other side of the wall" I shook my head in frustration because everything I do when it comes to writing starts with a title and I work from there and on March 5th 2010 I wrote my first blog post.

Why is it fitting that today I write that I start year six? From being my former job title to now being the "Autism Ambassador" for Easter Seals Midwest the scope of my presentations has grown. The number of presentations, the number at my presentations, and the quality of them has improved greatly since the first year, but today I'm returning to where I began with a presentation at the police academy.

Each time I present at the Saint Louis County Police Academy I walk in remembering my first presentation and while it was rated decently it was awful, or at least that's what my take on it was, but I was asked back and six years later I'm still at it. There's another thought as I leave the station and that is, "where are we headed?" I mean this in a broader scope than simply my life, or how many officers I've presented to, but what has changed since the last time I presented? Today I'll be more reflective on that as I leave.

So where, exactly, are we headed? What has changed since I began? When I began the autism spectrum was a mystery, and it still is. There's still misunderstandings, still tragic stories we hear on the news and see on social media, and with each of these, I feel, there's no need or reason for them. I once had a blog post that my dream was the day that my job position was no longer needed because that would mean we would be at 100% awareness and understanding. Call me a perfectionist but anything short of this is not good enough. With all the elements in play for us on the autism spectrum whether it is self-esteem issues, not fitting in, or our constant battle with the fail-set mindset I fear that each time there is one of those awful bullying stories or the like that, for that person on the autism spectrum, they may give up on life.

I was at that point. I wasn't bullied but I had given up. If you go back seven years ago I am not the person I am today. Hope? Ha! I was the messenger of no hope. Somehow, someway, I broke through, but what if I had been bullied? What if more evidence proved to me that I would never amount to anything therefore why should I ever try? And on top of this all I'm sure for every story that is reported on the news or social media there are countless more, maybe more than we would hate to ever consider, that occur on a daily basis. When this happens human potential is lost, wasted, thrown away. The devastating impact of these events is not felt just on the day it occurs but can last a lifetime. The physical wounds may heal, but the emotional scars may never do.

So again, I ask, where are we heading? Media outlets are reporting more and more of these stories so are we backtracking, or is it just that media outlets like a story and they're reporting on these more? I hope we aren't backtracking. I'd like to think we are moving forward and if you could witness one of my school presentations where 6th graders are quoting in-depth research papers regarding the autism spectrum, or a sophomore is asking me why their sibling with autism is intrigued by things that spin, well, if you could only see it you'd too believe there's hope in moving forward. We have to! It isn't an option to standby idly and accept these tragedies. I know I'm not and these rash of stories has instilled in me a greater fire to present better, to write better, and to get to more places because we aren't talking about the difference between two small items. No, the stakes here are much, much higher. The difference could be one of a prosperous life or one where an individual feels there's no hope and has given up on life.

Writing that last paragraph brought me to tears. I don't often feel what I do; I do it because it needs to be done, but whatever I have achieved in my first five years, well, look out for the next five because my inner fire is raging and we've got to do nothing short than to change status quo and change the world. Lofty goal? You bet it is, but we've got to try.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A few days

A rather major life event happened over the weekend and writing right now isn't the easiest of things to do. Also, next up on my Finding Kansas Rebisited series is the title chapter of Kansas itself and I've got to be in a more upbeat mood to do it so it may be a few days until I am able to get it the revisiting that it deserves.