Thursday, June 16, 2011

Living On The Air In Milwaukee

Yesterday I headed from Saint Louis to Milwaukee for the USAC .25 Midget race that is on the same grounds as Sunday's IZOD IndyCar race. Mapquest said to take I-55 to I-39 to avoid Chicago, but my GPS system didn't get the memo and I like to blindly follow the GPS so I got the honor of dealing with Chicago traffic.

As I crossed into Wisconsin I realized that it will be 9 years next week that I drove, by myself, to Wisconsin to visit with a Star Mazda team during the SCCA June Sprints at Road America. I was 19 in 2002 and was having issues socially and yet I was able to drive nearly 500 miles away. I was undiagnosed at this point in time, but my dad said he didn't think I would do such a thing and I did.

Back to yesterday, I got to the hotel and we checked in and about an hour later we went to a place near the track. I drove the group to the track and it felt odd to have passengers in my car. I'm used to being alone and to have company, well, it was just downright odd.

We got to the sports bar and we found others with the race in the back room. I don't recall how many people were there, but it was over ten and it was noisy. As talkative as I was before I shut down. Everyone else made it look so easy. What was easy? Conversing. The conversation was natural and the movements of the others was not forced. Myself? I don't think I said one thing except, "Coke" when asked what I wanted to drink. The "positional warfare" was in full swing and I was, at times, as stiff as a steel beam.

Conversations shifted, people came and people went, and then the rest of the group who supposedly got lost in Chicago showed up and the room got even busier.

As all this was going on I must admit I got aggravated at myself. "Why can't I just one time be like that?" is what I kept asking. "Just once?! Please?" That isn't me though and as the evening progressed I remembered that I am, indeed, on the autism spectrum. If I could be like that then I would, perhaps, not be on the spectrum. What I have isn't bad, it is just different. While at that location I felt like an outsider and alone, but as the time there was running down and I walked outside to open my trunk for a suit case to be put in it I looked up into the night sky and the drizzle that was falling and I was thankful. Why thankful? Without incidents like this I could very well forget why I do what I do. If I am ALWAYS in my comfort zone I would not be able to describe any of the challenges.

If you've followed for a while, or are new, I write about anything and everything because that is what the spectrum is. Having Asperger's doesn't just show up on weekends, or an appointment every six months, it is a full-time thing. It doesn't come and go and it doesn't have a season.

As I walked back into the bar/restaurant I had a smile on my face as I once again accepted what I have. The anger I had was gone and I was excited, elated, and once again inspired for everything that was and is to be. Odd sentence and odd thoughts, I know, but it is true. Challenges? I'll face them. Can I conquer them fully? Maybe not, but I know that if given the right environment I can show who I really am. This weekend I'll get to do that on the race track.

So know to explain the title of this blog. As we left the bar and headed back to the hotel, James, the director of the quarter midget series, gave a song request. Now I will say I have a lot of off-beat stuff, but never have I had a request like this. He didn't request the $250,000 song from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire nor did he suggest the Jeopardy Think Music. What did he request? He requested the theme song from WKRP in Cincinatti. And not only did he request it but we essentially had it on repeat. And not only was it repeat, but we had a bonafide sing-a-long going on. The bass was cranked up and I don't know what "rocking out" really is but I know if any one around our car could hear it, well, they probably would have been truly confused.

So that was my yesterday. It was up and down, but that's the way life in general is whether one is or isn't on the spectrum. If anything it was almost like one of those movies where one questions one's skill and then finds himself and perseveres. What a day, although "Baby, if you've ever wondered... I'm living on the air in Cincinatti..." keeps running through my head. I heard that song one too many times last night!

1 comment:

  1. Here's a thing my hand therapy clinical instructor said to me that I really like- "Don't let your autism diagnosis consume you."

    What she meant by that is- "Sure, the fact that you are an autism advocate is awesome and it is great that you have made this far. However, you can't let the identity of being someone with autism get to you in many aspects of life."

    That's why I go out of my way to try to socialize and have meaningful conversations with people whenever I can in OT conferences. If I need to "lean on" someone I know to introduce me to someone I don't know yet, so be it! In these situations, I will still say that I am an autism self-advocate. But, my identity as "autism expert" or "occupational therapist" will take over... NOT "individual with autism".

    To me, autism just means that I have to work on the nuances of social skills harder than our neurotypical counterparts. It doesn't mean it is an excuse in staying silent/looking clueless in social situations.