Thursday, December 30, 2010

Memories of 2010

I was lying in bed and came to the conclusion that I could not end my blog for the year with numbers. This year was too great and too special for me so I have to have a fitting end.

A year ago I was in a sad state. There was partial optimism because I just found out I would be giving 36 presentations to police officers, but other than that I had nothing to look forward to. I had my book, but my Amazon numbers were never anything to get excited about. My passion was auto racing and the dream of driving kept slipping further and further away. In all reality I didn't really know who I was or what I was meant to do.

On the day my first police presentation happened I was actually annoyed, in a way, that I had to get up before 1PM. You see, I had no job and was tired during the day and awake at night so I naturally was a night owl.

After my first presentation my mood changed. The first police presentation was only my 3rd bit of presenting ever and the reviews from the officers were actually good. I spoke, they listened and I wasn't arrested (I was actually afraid of this) so it was a good experience.

In January I had nine or so of those and February came and I felt more and more confident in front of a group. Other than police presentations at 1PM I still had no need to do anything else. Then it happened. I was doing the presentations at the police academy through TouchPoint working part-time and then I was offered the position of, "Community Education Specialist". I jumped at the chance, but only if I could start after my trip to Vancouver.

If there was ever a trip that was a great send off to a person's second half of life (that being a person with no direction to a person with a mission) my trip to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver was a perfect one. It was so good that it was the subject of my 2nd blog post.

I got some amazing photos while I was up there and also was very thankful that my friend Rob gave me the event ticket to go. What I was also thankful for was that Rob wants to be early at events like myself and we got on the first bus to the mountain and we got in the front row. If you were looking at the Woman's Aerials Finals for me, and you had no reason to do so because I still was invisible to this world, you would have seen me.

My trip to Vancouver wasn't just major for me because I lived out the dream of attending the Olympics, but rather a surprise presentation I gave at a Rotary club in Vancouver. I am smiling in this photo, because I truly was amazed that people listened to my message. I had just presented to officers and now I had spoke to people that weren't in a specific field or possibly had no dealing with the spectrum.

When I returned to Saint Louis I was not returning as a person with no direction, but rather a person who had found his calling. I may have had a calling though but I had no idea what I was going to do or how to do it. One of the first suggestions from the CEO of TouchPoint was for me to start a blog.

A person years ago had told my dad that I needed to start a blog if I wanted my book to ever get noticed. Because I knew nothing about a blog or how to write in it format I never tried, and now when the CEO asked me to I felt cornered.

I didn't want to do it. It was new, it was unknown, and I didn't know what to name it. I yelled, "Dang it!" when I came up with the name life on the other side of the wall because I then knew I had to do it. All my writings have, and probably always will, start with a title and since I had the title I was locked in.

As March came and went and my blog slowly picked up followers (let me tell you, when I picked up my first follower that I didn't know I did a major happy dance in my office.) I too slowly picked up momentum in my position. I started out presenting in a passive manor unsure of myself, but after touring the state and meeting people from all over the state I not only knew what my passion was, but I could feel it.

Near the end of March my publisher informed me that I should try and write an article for another blog to kick off Autism Awareness Month. I decided to write the story of how I got to the position where I was and it aired on my blog, Autism Learning Felt and then the biggest place of all.

One day on the first week in April I noticed an odd trend. My followers were going up and I had no idea why. I also had comments from people I never had seen and even still more people were following. I called my dad, somewhat in shock, and asked him what was going on. I thought maybe it was some sort of scam or perhaps someone hijacked my blog. Surely people weren't joining because they liked what I had to say? And surely not that many people would discover my blog at the same time? Both of those questions were answered to my favor when I went to Facebook and saw my picture on my wall, but it was posted by Autism Speaks. Someone told me I should remember that moment because, in their opinion, that was when I "made it".

May was a major month for me as I was asked to write an episode review of The Celebrity Apprentice for Autism Speaks. Watching the episode I did I watched with an awe and fear that I can't explain. It's one thing to write for myself, but when asked to write something for a specific purpose is something I had yet to do. I think I did a halfway decent job as they posted it on their blog.

Later in May I went to Indianapolis and met my friend Ryan from the Boston area. This was a multi-dimensional trip for me though as not only was I meeting a person I had raced on Xbox and Grand Prix Legends for years, but also I was going to do my first bit of working with USAC.

My first event in a flagstand outside of kart racing is a thing I will never forget. I state exactly how I felt about it in my blog post entitled The Best Experience Ever.

June proved to be my busiest month as I all but lived in hotels. It was an amazing month and a month that tested my endurance. I toured much of the Southwest and Southeast parts of Missouri and it was a month that I proved to myself that I could do this. What I mean by this is that it's one thing to stay in Saint Louis and write from my office and give presentations in the Saint Louis area, but now I was driving all about and was always on the go. Previously I don't know if I could have done this, except maybe for racing of course, but this was something new and I loved it.

Not only was I traveling and giving presentations, but I could feel the impact I was having. Up to this point I still was unsure of my impact. Yes people came, and people clapped at the end of my presentations, but now I was getting e-mails of thanks and I was in shock.

In July I started my Great Sunglasses Experiment and my blog took off. During this time I also had two major events in the racing realm. The first event was my first event as the sole flagman of a USAC event. The event was the Battle at the Brickyard and was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The cars racing were quarter-midgets, but nonetheless any event on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a major deal and I felt so much pride and fulfillment from stepping foot on the grounds as a flagman.

The week after this event I was off to Shawano, Wisconsin for the SKUSA Summer Nationals. Not only was this event a race I was flagging, but also I had a personal mission to get one of my books to Jamie McMurray. Even to this day I still can't believe how big of a drama this was for me. I had people texting me, others e-mailing me, and all around I thought I was in the midst of a Nike ad campaign because everyone was telling me to "just do it". It took a bit of help from's Rob Howden, but it got done and was a great example that sometimes people on the spectrum will need just a little bit (or in this case a lot) of help.

August was actually a rough month for me. Not because I was overly busy, but rather because my month was rather empty. I was coming off of two months of nothing but go go go and now it was a building month. Truly I felt sad and I grew tired and bitter because I simply had no place to go and no place to speak to.

The end of August got busy as Rob, the friend from Vancouver, came down and we went to the IZOD Indycar race in Chicago and then the go-kart race at Rock Island. It was a great bridge for me and it allowed me to forget about the emptiness I felt.

Once Rob left it was like starting my job anew. A funny thing happened though quickly after my return and it seemed I was the only one that didn't know it was going to happen.

It came in an e-mail about the USAAA conference. I knew I was going to be a panelist on a panel, but didn't know what that was or what it entailed. In the e-mail however I quickly learned that this panel wasn't just a panel, it was the panel as Temple Grandin was going to be on it.

Time crawled for me and even though it was almost three months ago, I still remember and can feel all the anxiety and tension from the anticipation.

Eventually the day came and I survived. I don't know what I said on the panel and even though I have a DVD of the panel I don't think I will ever be able to watch it.

I went back on the road in October and November and had my first television interview while I was in Hannibal. After that I had the SKUSA Super Nationals in Las Vegas which proved to have some rather wacky and non-typical Las Vegas weather.

All the time and all the travels I have done this year I have taken you with me. There have been highs, and there have been lows, but through it all it has been a great ride. I didn't know if this blog would last one month, but now I over 400 followers. Instead of being fearful of this world of blogging I now get excited each day something happens in my life that I will be able to write about the next day.

2010 was an amazing year for me. I think where I was a year ago and I laugh. A year ago I believed change would take years to happen. A full time job was something that I couldn't even imagine because I didn't think I would have the energy for it or would there ever be a job that would fit me. I also wondered if I would ever be able to make an impact, and of course I though this would take years to happen, but in just one year I have spoken to over 4,000 people. 4,000! I don't know what you consider a lot of people, but 4,000 to me is a huge success.

I sit here writing this and I am afraid. A year ago the only thing I looked forward to was the times I could play NHL 10 over Xbox Live. I am afraid to even begin to think how much of a difference can happen in a year. I mean, what will I be writing on December 30, 2011? It is a scary thought but I can't wait to bring you along with me as I continue my mission and passion, working for TouchPoint, and raising as much awareness and understanding as possible.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic review of 2010! To be able to say so much with so few words is a true gift from God. Great job, Aaron.