Monday, May 24, 2010

The New Journey Begins

Last night the television show Lost ended. I covered this somewhat on Friday on how I was sad about it and now it is over.

Today I embark on a 20 day journey. I will be headed to Fort Leonard Wood to do a presentation followed by two presentations in Springfield over the next two days. With each day I feel more vigor, more passion, and more dedication to share my experience of being on the autism spectrum and to raise awareness any way I can.

As I said on Friday, my first experience with Lost was a commercial during the 2004 Indy 500. What I left out was what happened during that 2004 Indy 500. The record books will show that Buddy Rice won in a rain shortened event. What I will remember most is that I survived it. The rains that came in the end weren't a drizzle, but a severe storm that was producing tornadoes. Over the loud speaker, Dave Calabro, the track PA announcer shouted, "Get to cover NOW! There is a tornado on the ground!" The skies were ominous and while the majority of people in attendance were rushing to their cars, my dad and I headed to the basement of the museum. Before that, I made a phone call.

My goal in my presentations is to raise awareness. I want people to know what people on the spectrum feel and sometimes we just don't know how to express it. I gave two presentations last Friday and with each presentation I feel stronger and more sure of myself.

After my presentations in Springfield I will be headed to Indianapolis to attend my 14th straight Indy 500. Each time I return to the Speedway since 2004 I look at the exact spot I made that phone call during the incoming storm. I honestly thought I was about to die, so I called Emily. If you saw the clouds you too would think that the worst was about to hit. The clouds were moving in and swirling downward and the intense lightning storm coming in from the West was something that I had never seen and haven't seen since.

My trip to Indy this time is my first since I wrote the last chapter of my 2nd book. Last year I went to the 500 alone for the first time. I then drove to Washington D.C., to Dover for the Autism Speaks 400, and then to Autism Speaks' home office in New York City. It was there that my life clicked. It was there that this passion exploded, to tell my story and my concepts to let families possibly understand why we do what we do.

I had tried to call Emily several times that month and got no answer. It had been five months since I broke up with her on Christmas via text message, but we still ate at Fortel's every Monday and bowled in the same league. To be honest, not much changed. After bowling concluded the first week in May the change occurred. No more did we eat each Monday and no more would we bowl together. On this Sunday, with the seemingly doomsday like storm moving in, she answered the phone.

This year a friend I have raced with over Xbox Live is joining me in Indy. We plan on playing golf on Thursday, going to Terre Haute for a Sprintcar race that night, going to Carb Day at the Speedway on Friday as well as the Silver Crown race at the fairgrounds that night, then the Night Before the 500 midget race at ORP, then the 500 on Sunday. On top of that, I start training with USAC and will be listening in on the radio at the sprintcar, silver crown, and midget race to start my way towards flagging for USAC. It's going to be a memorable weekend!

My seats this year for the 500 will be almost right across from where I was when Emily answered the phone and very inquisitively answered, "hello?" Her voice was different, and I wasted no time in asking if she had watched the race, which she hadn't, and then I said there was a nasty storm coming in and it did not look good. She seemed somewhat concerned, although I don't know if she was or if she was just humoring me, but regardless I said "I love you" to her for what would be the last time.

Once this upcoming weekend is over I head right back down to the Southwest part of the state to continue giving presentations. I will have about 10 hours at home on Memorial Day, but Tuesday morning it's right back down I-44 and my elation on my schedule can't be stated enough.

My relationship started with Emily reached a point of no return once I had my diagnosis and it was partly due to me. I didn't know how to handle it, and further more I thought I was alone. I thought there was no hope and I wish I knew what I knew now. What I know now is what drives me and what fuels my ability to give my presentations with such a clarity.

It is fitting that Lost ended last night because my first encounter with it was the same day that Emily was lost for good. She didn't return the "I love you" and I knew it was over. The depression that was already setting in was in at full force. Then, halfway through Lost's first season, I started to write.

I feel as if this multi-city tour and this Indy 500 is a turning point in my life. I want to be out there; I want to spread my experiences. For those who have young ones I can say early intervention is beyond valuable, and for those who possibly know older ones, it is much easier to deal with life when the hardships of life have a name and isn't due to lack of skill or lack of being able to be liked.

That fateful day in 2004 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been something I have not thought of in a long while. It still hurt up until Lost concluded. I still felt the pain in the lack of a return to "I love you," and I hated that, but today I embrace it. I realized that all the events in my life were set in motion by radical events, and today I go out more dedicated than ever to do anything and everything I can to tell the world what it is like. Lost was an amazing television series in terms of telling a story, but now it is over. For me though, my story is just beginning, and the next chapter begins today.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on what you said about early intervention. That said, being diagnosed late in life doesn't mean end of the world (I was diagnosed later than you in terms of age). The trick is to know the system and navigate it. Also, you have to build a strong support system (ironically social skills do come into play here).

    The fact that you work in TouchPoint is a GREAT advantage... as you may have access to professionals across disciplines. That access will allow you to ask questions regarding the professional supports you may need. Even if they don't know, they may know someone who does.

    In an ideal world, I really believe individuals with autism (particularly teens and adults) should have two sets of friends aside from people they know in their communities. One is other people who have autism and/or their caregivers. The other is helping professionals. With Twitter, this is easier than ages ago. I personally benefitted from having a lot of occupational therapy practitioners as my friend (the fact that I am in the field does make things easier). I had the comfort knowing that there can be informal support at my finger tips... even though I never really use them aside from my social mishaps or I am unsure of something in my field.