So there I was yesterday standing in front of 200+ kids at the USAC Battle at the Brickyard and I was given the task of giving the driver’s meetings. The kids ranged from 5 to 16 and it was my duty to tell them the start/restart procedures and go over various other racing related things that were important to know for this weekend and I must say I stood up there without fear or any hesitancy. Fear? Hesitancy? Yes! It’s easy for me to present to student bodies about the autism spectrum but I hadn’t given a true driver’s meeting in seven years but times change, progress is made, and it’s this progress that is the topic of today’s blog.
I wish you could’ve seen it. Many of you have seen me present, or saw my Asperger Insights series (season two is scheduled to be filmed the 19th!) and I am more than able to speak to a group or a camera, but I wish you could’ve seen my first driver’s meeting because it was a train wreck wrapped up in abject failure wrapped up in a flaming heap of rubble. The only redeeming thing about it was that I flagged so well after it people forgot my timid nature, my indecisiveness, and my clear lack of public speaking skills. That was in 2006 and yes times do change. Thankfully no one said anything snide or rude and at the next race I was a bit more able then a bit more and by my second season I sounded like a seasoned pro. That’s the thing and this is the essence of my story and that is things don’t happen instantly. What you see now, and what you’re reading now, didn’t just happen overnight. This is important because for growth there’s a great deal of hard work that needs to be put in, but at the same time if it’s done properly things may work better than not.
Better than not? This brings us to the last bit of my title and that is the expansion of Kansas. I’ve said this story many times but it fits so well in so many scenarios. I hated school as I was bored and uninterested in most topics unless it had to do with the weather or auto racing. Not too many subjects in 2nd grade include those but my 2nd grade teacher found a way. I used to go on and on about the previous week’s races and as the week progressed I’d talk about what was coming up and I could recite drivers and locations but the things with locations were that they meant nothing to me outside of the fact that it was a track someplace somewhere. Then, near the end of the school year, my teacher asked where F1 was racing and I said, “Silverstone” to which she promptly followed up with, “Where is Silverstone?” I had to think about it as I never had considered it was an actual place somewhere other than just a plot of land with twists and turns made of pavement. I thought about it and responded with, “England” and she immediately said, “Where is England?” and in that moment my love of learning about places, culture, and the world in general was born. Thinking about this today I realized The Aspie Traveler never would’ve happened without her question and I doubt I’d ever have become a writer because it was in her question my curious nature about things began. In essence, she took Kansas and exponentially slammed the borders outward to which to this day they continue to expand.
This should be the goal; we on the autism spectrum can get stuck in our Kansas but if utilized properly it may turn out to be a good thing. I must reiterate that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” because some individual’s Kansas may be rather difficult to expand, but if something is relatively broad in nature, such as auto racing, there are many paths one may take in expanding the borders of Kansas.
I think back to that day in 2nd grade and wish my teacher could know the impact she had. That’s the one thing that saddens me greatly when I speak to teachers and that is that they can have the most tremendous of impacts and never get to see the finished product. This weekend I’m flagging on the most hallowed grounds in motorsports and the largest USAC .25 race in history and looking back, as I said, this didn’t just happen overnight. I’m learning more and more about progression, patience, and how things in the past may take a long time before they show just what type of impact they’ll have. Take that driver’s meeting in 2006; had that not occurred I wouldn’t have known I could speak in front of a group and my ability to present to all the audiences I have wouldn’t have happened. It can be frustrating wanting everything to become better and to become perfect all at once, but things take time and if that time is spent within Kansas and those borders get pushed outward then perhaps the rate of growth may just pick up. It’s awesome that my 2nd grade teacher asked about racing because my entire life has been shaped on the concept of a race. Sure, I’ll be flying the colors of racing tomorrow but my race also includes, well, you’re reading it right now. Every ounce of info and insight may prove vital to one or more of you out there. Each bit of insight can lead to an, “ah ha!” moment and I feel there is nothing but hope for us out there ONLY if there is understanding and I’m still learning about myself and more about the spectrum so whereas most races have a predetermined distance to the finish my race doesn’t have that but wherever and whenever the finish I can assure you I’ll be full throttle on my way there because every day is sooner than tomorrow and even the smallest of questions, such as a track in England, can have a life-long impact.