Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 13: Either All or Nothing

Today was a long day, again. It may have been long, but flagging is much better than yesterday as today I was flagging day one of three of the SKUSA Super Nationals. As the photo to the left shows I have a flag stand at this track so this time there will be no stories of me jumping over karts.

My goal today was to get a book to Jamie McMurray. During the day my attention was on the track and keeping track of the time. Thinking about the challenge of getting him a book was not in my mind as I had a track to watch.

Today is a great example of the "all on or all off" trait of the autism spectrum. During the day my flag waving was pristine (it was difficult too with the winds. Was there a tropical storm nearby?) and attention to the time of each session was spot on. Flagging takes 110% of one's attention span, and I do it without issues.

Once the on-track activities were over SKUSA held a bratwurst party. I was tired and wind burned (I swear to everyone I DID apply sunscreen today, there is no defense against wind) but I thought about getting that book to McMurray.

Flagging is a lonely job. Rarely will I interact for more than 20 seconds on a typical race day, and I like it like that. All communications are done over the radio and things move fast. At the end of the day the rules change and people like to talk. I never have been good at this and even the sunglasses didn't help me as the "alias" went away. (Alias is a concept I set forth in my book. I'd explain it here but am too tired and it would take too long.)

Slowly the entire population of the track was near the food and I began to panic. I moved from a picnic table to standing inside the registration building. And then there he was, Jamie McMurray standing right outside the door. I was no less than 3 feet away. He was in line though and was talking to other people. Who am I to interrupt?

Who am I? This question plagued me. I have a hard time understanding that people garner hope and understanding from what I say and write. Every presentation I fear I will be laughed at or mocked by what I say simply because I am what I am and that's the way it is, why is there any relevancy to it? I know I have dozens of comments that counter my thought and sometimes I allow myself to believe I am making a difference, but it is a struggle because what I say is simply who I am and is 100% pure and without outside influence.

The line crept by and I was within 3 feet of McMurray for almost ten minutes, but in the end I was powerless. The line moved on by and I went back to the hotel with the feeling of failure.

Today, if someone were to ask me, "What's the #1 thing you would want someone to understand about the autism spectrum?" I would answer with this example. I am blessed with being the head flagger of a series like the SKUSA Pro Tour. I got the position because I have always worked hard at the race track and can pull the job off with ease. It's a tough job, but it suits me. However, as difficult as flagging may be, once the race day is over it's like I am a different person.

Living this dual life is beyond difficult. To be able to fly one minute and be grounded the next is something that is quite sad. It's hard enough, and why I want people to understand this is that I don't want someone adding to the already burning fire. I want to socialize, but when there's that many people I tend to think it is impossible. If you know someone who does something like this please don't overly push or make an obvious statement. If someone would ask that, "Wow, Aaron, why aren't you talking?" Or, "Aaron, why don't you go and talk to some more people?" the end result would not be good. I know I have this challenge.

It's difficult to be able to do certain things without effort, like writing. I don't have to think or try to write, it just happens. Yet, other things such as talking in an open ended environment among many is something that is impossible.
I have two more days to figure out how to give McMurray a book. I do not want to fail on this, but I'm afraid. I know I can keep track of many racers on the track and flag to the best of anyone's ability, but off the track I a shaky. My skills are all on nothing and I must get that book to him. I must.


  1. Aaron, if you know where he is staying, would it give you any satisfaction to leave a signed copy of your book at the front desk of his hotel?

  2. I don't know where he is staying, but I know where he is pitted and worst case I will drop it off and ask them to give it to him.

  3. I have a double life myself in OT. On one end, I am pretty quiet and reserved at school (aside from participating in class) and work (though depending on the mix of people in the workplace). On the other end, at OT conferences, I have been treated as if I were a big name in the field. Sure, I would love to have more conversations when I am in school. But if it doesn't happen, I never make a great deal out of it. How I try to remedy the situation, though, is this- if I see someone familiar walking just ahead of me or behind me, I would either catch up, slow down, or stop and initiate a conversation with that person(s).

    The parking lot example I gave the other day was an example. Sometimes these things may sound so simple. But, it can be hard for individuals with autism to execute if they are not confident socially for whatever reason(s).