Friday, October 30, 2015

The Day I Almost Gave Up


It's not often I start a blog with a picture but this picture, one I took on my national tour two years ago in Utah, is a perfect example of a point that I want to make in this post. Anyway, what's in this photo? A picturesque sky, booming mesas, and a road that just stretches for as far as we can see. Isn't this, if this were a metaphor for life, what it should look like? A destination firmly set out in front with a nice, smooth road leading to the destination under a magnificent would be ideal sky, but is this how life often plays out? I think you already know the answer to that and where I am now and the path that got me to where I am often looked as if the road was going to be like the picture above, but even with a good start the road can take sudden twists.

In January 2009 I was an unknown author having a book signing on the north side of the Saint Louis area and the response was incredible. This book author thing looked as if it was going to take off and "look out New York Times Bestseller list because here I come" was my mentality. I had another signing on the west side of town and the response was even stronger. My confidence was booming but just because of this initial response I was not prepared for what was to come.

There were a couple more signings, then I consulted with Easter Seals Midwest in the summer of 2009 and then, a few weeks later, I got my book to be featured by a seller at a big conference in downtown Saint Louis. A conference?! As I was writing my book, and specifically the chapter of "The 4th Wall" I had this vision that the conference life was going to become my life. The roads looked as perfect as the picture I began this blog post with.

The conference came and I was standing near my book and person after person passed me by. What was going on? At the signings I had been to people came up and talked to me first and it was sale after sale but here I was invisible. The fact that I was an author didn't matter to any person there because I was an unknown in a world of well established people. A couple hours went by and not one person as so much picked up and looked at my book. Despite my early success, and all the sleepless nights I spent writing my book, I didn't take any pride in any thing I had done. The only thing that mattered was those hours in which no one cared, no one looked, and no one acknowledged my existence.

In the weeks that followed that conference, I was discouraged and I swore to myself on the day of that conference that I had given up because there was no point in trying to reach whatever destination I was reaching for because it was unobtainable. This, however, is flawed logic. Maybe I was a bit spoiled with the attention I got in my first few signings, but for any future speaker or author out there I implore you to not fall into the trap I did. Even in my speaking career, early on, there were those moments that I felt as if I had failed, but here's the thing; no road to success, or even self-improvement is a nice flat road with awesome scenery. No, most certainly not! Instead it is a challenging path with peaks and valleys that will test a person. Is it impossible? Again, most certainly not, but had I stayed in the state of giving up I wouldn't be where I am today.

This post is really directed towards those wondering if writing a book, or maybe giving a presentation or two is really worth it, but the concept really applies to life. I tell people at my presentations that, "you're really seeing the almost finished product of who I am. This just didn't happen overnight" and so to is the way life works. I would love to say the path to whatever success, or improvement a person wants is a smooth road, but life is full of twists. I, I firmly believe, needed that conference experience. I needed to know the feeling of being ignored because when I got closer to the destination the sense of achievement felt greater and the moments interacting with those talking to me meant more. I wasn't this superstar I thought I was on those first few signings but instead I was there serving a purpose greater than myself and if books sold great, or if I had a presentation and only five people showed up great. Will big things come? Maybe yes, maybe no, but while we have this destination in our minds of where we would want to be, whether it's a top of the NYT Bestseller list, or selling out an arena, it, I believe, isn't the destination that matters at all but rather the way one handles the journey to it. There will be highs, there will be setbacks, and most of all it's going to be hard work that requires unwavering dedication. This dedication will be put to the test and I'm thankful that on that summer day in 2009 when I was put to the test I didn't 100% accept defeat. I thought I had, but deep inside I'm a fighter and I came back stronger and with each set back since then I have done the same. I don't know if this is motivational in any way, but this was my story of a day I haven't shared with any one and could've been a day that led me down a different path away from the road I'm supposed to be on.

Monday, October 26, 2015

60,000!

I don't know how I should feel...

I presented at Robinson Elementary in Saint Louis today and I spoke to the 5th grade, I knew it was going to be close on whether or not I would reach 60,000 but when I put the numbers in my spreadsheet I did... 60,001!

That number is fitting because it isn't the "6000" that matters but it is that last digit of "1" as that's the target. Am I proud of the 60k? Who wouldn't be? However, if we look at the masses we lose sight of the individual and each single number of the mass is a person who may be on the spectrum, or may not be; may know a person, may not know; may someday interact with one, may not interact but whatever the case all in all each person may have a little bit more hope, may know how to support a person, or may better be equipped to interact due to what I've been doing the past five years. That's what's important and it took just over 670 presentations to get to 60,000 but the mission, dedication, and excitement I have on what I do hasn't ebbed an inch. Actually, today, have 60,00"1" just reinforces the fact that I need to keep at it and milestones aside it's time to look at the next 9,999 it'll take to get to 70,000.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pure Hope

After what seems to be a couple weeks of posts that just weren't on the happy side I'm going to mix things up today and talk about hope. Hope is really a subjective thing and is in the eye of the beholder. Where one person may see an empty field another may see a field ripe with opportunity. That being said I think, after this story, you to will have just a bit more hope of where we are headed.

I presented at a junior high school yesterday, to about 650 people between students and staff, and I did my normal 20 minute school presentation and as usual I opened it up to questions. I've said it once, twice, and many more times than I know but I wish you could see the true magic that occurs during the Q&A. Yesterday though, yesterday was different.

There's been several times in the past where a person will have a comment or start a question by saying, "I have Asperger's..." or, "I have autism" but yesterday there were no less than six of these. Here's the thing; some that opened up was completely unknown to everyone else around and for the setting to be comfortable enough for a person to open up is, well, I see it as hopeful. One question, which I know I'm never going to forget the way I felt, and feel now writing about it, when this student asked me, "Yeah, I have several stims with my hands and I'd just like you to explain it to everyone on why we have these." I let out a big smile as she asked that because the question touched my heart because I have stims and in school each time I couldn't hold back my peers would look at me with a look of, "and that was???" but here I was able to have the words I didn't have then and put it in a way that all there, students and faculty, will understand.

More questions came and it's getting harder and harder to hold back tears on these questions. I know I'm a professional, but when I realize that this could be the first time a person on the spectrum has had the nerve to speak up, and advocate for the first time, how could I not be moved and wherever you are in the world I hope you can see this one day. I truly do because, for one, it would mean I'm presenting at another school, but secondly because I'm sure your level of hope will increase.

If we want to change the future it starts in the present and it hasn't failed yet that when I present to a student body I leave there filled with this conviction that we are headed in the right direction and we are headed to a place where autism understanding is the norm. Are we there yet? Not by a long shot, but me it myself, or you, we are all working on the same mission and that, alone, is the seeds of hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My 2nd Book

I have a letter of intent to publish in hand for my 2nd book, I Think Therefore You Should Know, and last night I started the editing process. For Finding Kansas I never read a word of it until February of this year, but in the three chapters I read I was, well, a bit envious of what I had written as I don't know if I'm as keen today as I was. Is it bad it be envious of one's self?

Anyway, the editing process hit a snag when I realized the continuity was a bit off. As this file has gone from computer to computer from email to email so being the perfectionist I am I'm going to have to go and figure out what the correct sequence is. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Friends We Had

Life... If we don't pay attention to it and those around us it can one day suddenly be a different place. That happened as I got a text a couple days ago informing me that a racer I grew up watching at the Saint Louis Karting Association and then became a coworker was in the final verse of his battle with cancer.

Gary Shekell had been in karting for many years before I had ever turned my first lap. The name Shekell at the SLKA was regarded with esteem as both Gary, and his brother, were fierce competitors but also raced with the utmost respect for their fellow racers. I never really talked to Gary much in my first nine years in racing but he actually did make an appearance in my book when I talked about the time I black flagged a board member.

It was 2004 and was the next to last race. The ICC shifter class was on the track and the race director raced in that class which put me in charge. For safety's sake we had a zero tolerance policy on passing in any sector that was yellow. If a pass was made the black flag would be shown and Gary made a pass in a yellow zone and there was no wiggle room and even though he was the 2 cycle tech director and the pass was of a slower kart rules are rules. I displayed the black to him and next time by I had my first conversation with him as he stopped at the finish line and asked, "What did I do?" I didn't have much of a voice back then and I was very much weak in confidence so I meekly said, "You passed under yellow?" to which he said, "What? You're going to have to speak a little louder, my engine is running and it's loud!" Here's a driver who's just been black flagged out of the lead and he still was able to make a joke. Once he heard me when I spoke loud enough he said, "I did? I didn't see it but okay." and he sped off. No yelling, no protesting, just acceptance.

Gary would've locked the championship up had it not been for my call so he had to run the final race and in practice he had a nasty flip that required a helicopter ride. I wondered if he held it against me so I always stayed a bit away from him the following year, but there would be no avoiding him when I became the race director for a regional series and I would be riding in the car with him to Quincy, Illinois.

The car ride up is a ride I think about every day. This post is not about me, but while today I travel with USAC and SKUSA around the country this race in 2006 was my first bit of doing anything of the sort and he, along with Greg Yocom, were there to see it. In the first several miles once we left the metro area Gary brought up the sequence of 2004 and the passing under yellow and said, "if I did it then you did the right thing. That's what you have to do as race director." This calmed my nerves and he then gave me more advice on running a race and being race director because I was nothing short of a deer in headlights, but after all that he asked me what I was doing not at the track but in life. I mentioned I had been writing a book and he asked many questions on the subject and all in all he made what was going to be one of the more stressful days of my life and calmed it. Looking back at many of the races I went to with him that was one of his finest qualities.

I would eventually become a coworker with him at PG Racing and we'd see each other at the track, or at the office, and twice I rode in the truck with him all the way to Vegas for the SuperNats. On one of our trips there we got a run down of what a WalMart sidewall is from an employee there and none of us had ever laughed harder.

 While he was a fierce driver he was a master mechanic and whomever he was wrenching for would have a chance. The smile he had after Rock Island in 2007 was contagious as this photo shows. (he's on the right)

Here's the thing; life happens and jobs change and the people we know become the people we knew and communication may end. I'm trying to think about when the last time I saw Gary was; it might have been the 2009 Supernats, or a trip I had to make to a motorcycle shop that he worked at, and each time I drove by that shop for the past five years I've thought, "maybe I should go in and say hello... nah, better not." That's the thing, there may not be a next time.

Could I truly call myself a "friend" of his? Probably not, but then again I'm not much of a friend as I stick to myself and rarely will communicate outward, but that's no sign of the respect I had for Gary and all the miles we traveled and stories we told. Every one, everywhere is leaving a lasting impression as everything we do could be the last. Gary lived that way; everything I saw him do he did to the fullest, even if it was throwing a kid kart chassis, with one hand, into a trailer because of a barking dog, but he gave no indication other than that of his frustrations. Whether it was on track, or the check, double, and triple checks he would do for his driver's karts Gary was always striving for perfection. I have no memory of Gary ever doing something at 90% and that's going to be my memories of him. On that ride in 2006 he did everything he could to calm me as it was overtly obvious I might have been in over my head, but he didn't let me think that.

What you, the world, sees today is a project that took a long time to get to where I am. I didn't become who I am over night and at the end of my presentations I now am saying that and also adding that, "I really wish I could thank the people that got me here" and often people think I am only talking about the person that hired me at Easter Seals Midwest, or my parents, or my teachers, but it's more than that. It's the people like Gary that supported me in seemingly minor ways but that helped me be confident at that time and if it weren't for that successful debut race in 2006 I guarantee you I wouldn't be doing what I am today.

So with all this said what can I say? How can I have a fitting end to this? Again, I doubt the word friend can be used and I certainly am not family, but I feel this great sense of regret not giving him a ring when I first learned he had cancer a year or so ago, or stopping by the shop five years ago just to say hello. This never happened and now it can never. I, along with everyone else, am now just left to memories of Gary from the daring moves he pulled off onto the race track to a personality that could really never be kept down. I wish I would've said then, but Gary Shekell you were awesome!




Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Hidden Words

Writer's note: I can't stress enough that, "if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism" as it applies greatly to this post as these examples are mine and mine alone. Also, to some of these situations, on any given day, the words behind the words could be different...

A teacher once asked me, "do you need any help?"
I responded with, "No."
Why did I say no? I do need help, so why did you ask instead of just helping me? I know I need help but why don't you? I just don't get this, these fractions make no sense and the rules for inverting or, flopping, or whatever it is when dividing, or is it multiplying, makes no sense. Please come back, help me, but if you ask again I'll probably say no.

A man entered an elevator last week that I was in and said, "hello, great day, isn't it. How are you?"
I responded with, "..."
What is going on? I may not know much about social rules but I know beyond any reasonable doubt that no one, and I mean NO ONE, speaks to those they don't know on an elevator, so why did you just talk to me. This is going to be awkward, isn't it. You don't know it, but you've freaked me out and I'm frazzled so I'm just going to stare at the floors now, three, two... why are we slowing? Come on ground floor, you can't come soon enough... There, we made it, I'm sorry I didn't say a word to you, but you sort of broke a social rule and I wasn't prepared for any conversation to take place so I meant no disrespect, it's just that I don't speak on an elevator.

Many times in my life I've been told, "Aaron, that was a good job!"
I have often responded with a hesitant, "Yeah," and with a halfhearted, "thanks"
Was it a good job, really? I know I could've done better because it wasn't perfect. With that said, are you just telling me it was a good job or are you just telling me it to be nice because I know that's what people do so I'm actually confused right now. If I seemed a bit stuck up after your compliment I had no intentions of seeming so, it's just that I don't know how to respond because I quite honestly have no idea if what I did warranted praise because I simply did what I did because it needed to be done.

On a hot day at a race track five years ago a person was delivering water and asked, "Hey, Aaron, do you need any water?"
I thought about it and said, "Nah, I'm good."
Come back! Why did I tell you I was good? Oh, I wish I could tell you my concept of, "if I were dying of thirst would I ask for a glass of water" because I feel as if I am actually dying right now, but you've already driven away on your golf cart so how would you react if I radio in and actually say I'm not good? Why couldn't I just accept the help then and there? Would you have thought me weak? It's a 100 degrees out here though, and I'm not Superman, we all need water, but for some reason I told you I was fine when I'm not. I'm sure in fifteen minutes I will radio in and when that time comes I can only hope you won't be angry with me for refusing help when it was offered, but I just don't know how to accept help.

In first grade he music teacher played something to show us what heavy bass felt like and I quickly rose my hand and said, "it is hurting me!"
She responded with, "no it isn't!"
No it isn't? Then what am I feeling? I can't state that it's hurting again because my classmates will probably laugh at me, but teacher, I'm feeling something I've never felt before. My legs and arms feel as if they're on fire and I'm feeling every bit of noise. Why didn't you believe me? Maybe someday I'll be able to explain this, but for now I'll just close my eyes and try and endure this onslaught of noise.

Many, many times in my life a loved one has told me, "I love you."
My response is always the same, "..."
Oh my goodness, I'm silent again, but I do, I do love you, but I can't say it. I don't know why I can't say it, but I do. In this silence is the struggle I face. For some reason expressing emotions just isn't there but that doesn't mean that I'm lacking in it. Maybe it's fear that someday I won't hear those words; maybe it's a fear of your reaction should I say it and this could be even more so because I haven't said it for so long. This silence must be hard for you, I understand, and you may think you're talking to a wall as I stare back at you in a blank stare, but I'd like to say so much but am simply unable. I know I'm loved because you keep telling me and yet I keep responding with silence, but you must, I hope, know that I love you because you keep telling me and each time I wish I could reciprocate, but I hope you understand hidden within the silence, or the words I may sometimes say in brief, are many more emotions and thoughts than you can imagine. I'm in here, I really am, but sometimes I just can't tell you what I want, what I'm feeling, and that fact that I truly appreciate you and all that you are and all that you've done for me.

Monday, October 12, 2015

They Say It's Cannelloni, But I Know Better

From this story five years ago that took place during my sunglasses experiment a mainstay of my presentation has been to call for a boycott of The Olive Garden due to them taking manicotti off the menu. What's the big deal with that? The segment in my presentation that this is talked about, which is also episode two of Asperger Insights in which, "whatever happens first always has to happen" is film theory. To put simply, if I do one thing, one way, one time then it must always be the same and from my first experience at The Olive Garden when I was five, which I vaguely remember my brother working there that day but I could be wrong, was that I first got manicotti (after a hunger protest because when I was five I only ate three foods) and since then that was all I got. That was until it got stricken from the menu in 2010.

My boycott was in jest (or was it?) in my presentations but a big part of my life (okay, may not be big in terms of life changing but with my associative memory system losing The Olive Garden wasn't just a small loss that I could say, "oh well" to) had been changed. That was until a couple weeks ago someone posted a picture to my Facebook wall that had a picture of a menu from The Olive Garden AND.................. MANICOTTI. Sort of.

The picture showed what I was used to but now it was topped with this red sauce that wasn't the normal sauce (normal? It'd been five years... Surely I wasn't about to complain, right? You bet I was!) and it was topped with chicken. This was certainly a foul (HAHA!) in my book because manicotti, since it was first introduced to me in 1988, was and is forever supposed to be served meatless.

A couple weeks passed and two days ago I was in Springfield with a 3:30 presentation so I had to search out lunch and it was time to return. Was it a reality? Could I order it in the traditional way and not in this new pushing the limits way? I hadn't been this excited and anxious to have lunch in, well, potentially ever.

The menus came out and on the seasonal specials was, in fact, this manicotti and it was labeled as such but it was also name Cannelloni. I have no idea what that is, but all I knew was under the unneeded new meat and sauce was the tubular pasta filled with the cheese that I grew up with and when I ordered I said I wanted the manicotti without the chicken and the server responded with, "and the new sauce is highly recommended" and I looked at him in befuddlement because, when it comes to food, "new" and "highly recommended" do not mix. Give me what I know, the way I've always known, because I've been waiting five years three months for this day to return.

Just with trips to The Olive Garden in the previous decade the irking experience of having the breadsticks, salad, and the entrĂ©e coming all at once happened but there it was, the manicotti! I asked for the traditional marinara sauce and I got it! Forget the breadsticks, forget the salad, what happened once was about to happen again and it did taste the same. For most others I'm sure an event like this would be a non-point, but for myself this was a return in my memories to all the other times I had from the highs to the lows. This was, in essence, a return to my childhood but also a key thing knowing things once again were the same. I don't like change, change is bad, and if something has been a part of my life, no matter how small it actually is, and is taken away this is an emotional response to it. It irks me when I hear the misnomer that those with Asperger's, "have no emotions or care" because we do, but perhaps it isn't in the traditional sense. To most food is food, but this manicotti represented the time my family was together at The Olive Garden all those years ago, the times after school when we would go, discovering the Saint Louis locations after we moved here in 1993, and eventually losing it only to be able to have it one more time.

One more time... This is just on their seasonal menu so odds are it will disappear again for, well, perhaps forever. Maybe it was fitting that on the receipt it did indeed say cannelloni because in a few weeks perhaps that's the only thing that will remain and the manicotti, once again, will fade into darkness and with that I'll become even more fierce with my call for a boycott in my presentation because I know there's hope and someday, yes, someday we'll get it put back on the permanent menu!

Monday, October 5, 2015

True Hate

After the tragedy of last week in Oregon, the initial reports stated that Asperger Syndrome was in play. This led me to, on my Facebook author page, reshare my "Open Letter To the Media" post from 2012 and I've got to say, in my limited listening and reading of this tragedy, the media hasn't sensationalized or even mentioned Asperger's the way they did three years ago. However, a much more dangerous entity has popped up and that is a true hate page on social media.

I will not name the page as I do not want to give them attention directly. I filed a complaint and was chided saying, "it's not hate speech" but any page that clumps every single person with any given condition, disease, syndrome, or what have you and warns the world about them is, in my opinion, not just hateful but dangerous. I go back to the pseudo-psychology web page that I landed on when I first got diagnosed that said, "people with Aspergers will never have a job, will never have friends, and will never be happy." That was nothing compared to the things this page is sharing, and people are resharing in droves.

What is going on? I can't comprehend this. This page, perhaps, is being manned by someone who just wants some minor infamy and attention, but with each share and each like the damage effect this can cause ripples onward and that can be beyond damaging for a person on the autism spectrum and furthers the ignorance of the general population that doesn't know a thing about autism. Because of all this, I don't know if I have ever been angrier than I am now and I've pondered what I would say if I met this anonymous person running this page. Would I scream? Shout? Curse so loudly the heavens could hear me? No, because that's what this person would want. This person trying to create a hysteria wants nothing more than confrontation, and he/she would get none of it. Instead I'd be calm and I'd say something like this:

You must be one sad person to try and prop yourself up at the destruction of an entire segment of the population. You want attention, you want likes, you want shares all while driving the ignorance and proving your own. You are the opposite of me and in a way my archenemy. Maybe you fear what you don't understand but no, I don't believe this because you just want attention. You prod on people's fears and want to rile people up but lost in your game is the souls it will impact. The powers that be say you aren't spreading hate but when you push for the isolation and almost destruction of a segment of the population, one that I'm a part of, you are and your words may not physically harm a person but it has the power to destroy a life. Is that what you're after? Is this your goal? Do you want to destroy the hopes and dreams of a teenager who just found out they have Asperger's? Or what about an adult with ASD that has been working and working and just got their first job and are on cloud nine only to have your message of hateful filth intervene? Is this what you're after? If so, how, and furthermore why?

That's what I would say and I'd leave it at that. I wouldn't say a word more because I doubt any words  would change a single thing this person is doing. I urge all of you, though, if you see anything of this nature on any form of social media to report it. I call it hateful, they don't, but the dangers this pose to families, and those on the spectrum, have the potential to be catastrophic. It seems many people will believe anything that has a picture and text and if this ignorance spreads then all the work that has been done the past 30 years will almost be for naught. We are faced, with what I believe to be, our greatest challenge yet and if this message of ignorance and hate spreads, well, this just isn't a battle against ignorance but rather it is for our future and to have the chance to live our lives the way any person wants to; to better ourselves, to contribute to society, to make the world a better place and most of all find our way in life and be happy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wisdom From Then...

First, I must thank the outpouring of support via the various forms of media I'm on in regards to yesterday's blog. Some asked me, "why so dark?" and the thing is I don't sugar coat emotions or my experiences. If I were to just paint this perfect picture that everything is going to be okay 100% of the time I wouldn't be telling the truth. Secondly, this is, for myself and what other parents have told me, the cycle I go through. A main concept of my 2nd book is that, "whatever is now is forever" which can create blinders as to what one has done because what has been done doesn't matter regardless of the size or scope. Thirdly, the event mentioned in yesterday's blog wasn't catastrophic to what I am doing or who I am. Some thought something of life changing proportions happened and it did not. Was it disappointing? Well, the blog from yesterday speaks for itself. Did it create a pit of despair? Yes. Will I get over it? Yes, and all of this got me thinking about what all the comments meant in that I've done so much and reached so many. The problem is that, the phone call mentioned yesterday, was a tangible meter that was clear cut. When it comes to being told I'm making a difference, or that I've changed a life, I can't fully understand or comprehend it. Perhaps this is for the better because it keeps me humble and honestly, I am truly oblivious to what I do which means I have to measure what I'm doing by other means. Oddly, I had a chapter in my original book that I'd like to share because it's fitting that my words from 2006 are as true now as forever so here it is, the chapter entitled, "How do I Win?"


How Do I Win?

 

            Early in one’s life, the foundation is set on values, ethics, and overall perception of life. This is quite dangerous for someone who has Asperger’s. How so? With everything I’ve written, I have constantly said that the firsts are important, and in recent thinking, I have learned that it is even more so.

            Parents with children affected have a fine line to tread. With my game theory, I stated that I operate best in a game because the rules outline actions taken. Life can become a game, though, and while the rules are unwritten, there’s one underlying question that I still haven’t answered, “How do I win?”

            From the point one can realize their surroundings, they are subjected to ways to win. Television bombards us with winning situations. These situations come in all sizes, whether it is the Road Runner outwitting the Coyote, or a contestant winning a huge wad of cash on a game show. Sitcoms even have winners, as someone always wins some social situation.

            If you aren’t watching television, video games are chock full of winning situations, as I am not sure if there’s any game that has an ending that is merely a tie. In movies, too, the good guy always wins.

            So with everyone being surrounded by winners, how does one win the game of life? How does one know if they are succeeding? Beyond that, what are the criteria for even playing the game?

            This is why parents have a thin sheet of ice to skate on and why they have to be completely unselfish. Should, in the early years of a child’s life, the parent teach that anyone unlike them is bad, part of the game will be to hate others. Should the parent only care about them and no one else, the game of life becomes a solitary game. Should the parent physically beat those around them to maintain their dominance, the child will learn that the game of life is to have complete power.

            So if the parent teaches what the criteria is, then when the child grows up, how will they know if they’ve won? The problem is they won’t. Physical abuse will become worse because there will be no bells, whistles, or confetti that says, “Congratulations, you have complete control and everyone hates you!”

            We are constantly shown graphics of how any event is going. Tune into CNBC and they’ll show you a thousand different charts of how any given financial thing is going. Tune into ESPN and they’ll show you a graph of how any given football team has done the past five years. With either of those two things, though, what is there beyond the graph? What happens after a team wins the Super Bowl? What is there left to do? And with the financial markets, how does one know when something has gone up enough? In other words, once you’ve won, why play on? What is there left to do?

            Is enjoyment of life the way to win? If so, when does one fully win? We are taught that everything has a beginning and an end, as games have rules with ends, and your favorite TV show probably ends at the top of the hour, but how does one win this game? Is death the final way to win? Is life like a timed game of “Monopoly,” and when the clock reaches zero, one is judged on the accumulated wealth?

            All of these questions are truly relevant, but imagine what my questions would be had my parents been full of hate and rage. The hate and rage would have been passed on, and perhaps the questions asked wouldn’t be so innocent. Life’s goals may truly be unclear, and a winner may never be announced, but in the end, perhaps, it’s not who wins the game, but how you play the game—even if you don’t know what game you’re playing or how to play.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September 30 Then and Now, Light and Dark

September 30, 2013: There I was! What a journey it had been from the SKUSA Streets of Lancaster and red-eye flights, and flight cancellations that saw me sleeping on the floor of the airport but it was a sleep of great slumber because what was to come was nothing short of the world.

September 30, 2015: The phone rang and it was a phone call I had been awaiting a long time for. I've been up many a sleepless night awaiting this call for it was the result of this call, whenever it came, that has been my measurement of accomplishment.

The journey home had been not what I expected but my co-pilot Rob and I were ready to travel across the country presenting to teachers, parents, and students. I didn't know what was to be expected as we embarked on this journey but this was going to be it... This was going to lead to the phone call...

The words came out of the phone slowly, methodically, and I awaited to hear the news. Maybe it was wrong to put so much stick in what was about to be said, but in my life I've always had a hard time having a barometer to measure just what it is that I do, but if the result of this call was positive then I would know I've achieved something.

The journey that started on September 30th was one which I could never have imagined. I'd end up speaking to over 7,500 in just one month! My confidence had never been higher and when I got home I yearned to be back on the road traveling here and there, enduring 1,000 mile drives, and speaking in front of thousands at a time.

I heard the words but they weren't what I was expecting. What was the news? I'm not going to say as I don't want the specifics known, but the news was devastating. I had been led on for years and all signs pointed to that I was good enough, I had done enough, and I had given more than enough to warrant the news I wasn't hearing. Instead, what I heard, was that I hadn't done any of that.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of the journey that started on September 30, 2013. It is the month which all other months are measured up to which might be unfair because no month will ever top that month. That's part of the challenge, though, to better the unbeatable.

There, I'm sure, won't be a day that the news from yesterday won't be relived. Over and over, and over again. To have such high hopes for so long and to have them quelled, squashed, and ran over with a freight train is, to say it in the least, deflating, but how will I use this news? I'm afraid of this answer because it can go one of two ways; it may fester in the forefront of my mind telling me I'm not good enough and never have been. Can I be so foolish though to let one bit of news like that have so much dominion over me? Can I let just one simple rejection counterfeit every other thing I've done? The problem with the all or nothing mindset is that I'm only as good as the most recent event. The way I should take this news is to use it as fuel; motivation towards proving them wrong. To show them I am worth it, always have been, and to become the biggest and brightest and someday be able to say, "see what you could've had? And you let it get away. Oh, don't you feel foolish now?" That's what I should see.

I didn't know it when the journey started but I was living the dream, truly a dream and maybe it was too good of a month because my outlook on life and myself had never been brighter.

I don't know what the future is going to hold but right now it feels like a nightmare and the night is long. Isn't there a saying though that it must get darker before it gets light. Is that where I am now?