Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New York: 4 Years Later

After events outside of my control I'm now in the New York City area and the timing couldn't have been better. My story of who I am began here just four years ago. I must say that the timing couldn't have been better because the past two weeks I've doubted my strengths, skills, and impacts but it was here, in New York, that I found my voice.

Four years ago I had a singular aim but was otherwise aimless. As my story goes, I wanted to be a race car driver and so many times I nearly reached that goal. Sure, I had written a book but it was self-published and had a very limited impact. This was frustrating and nonetheless I still had dreams of making big in racing.

On May 31st, 2009 my aunt and I attended the Autism Speaks 400 (that link goes to my aunt's blog about the race. She didn't have the best of times and has a humorous look at NASCAR, Delaware, and the day in general) and I thought during the entire race that I should have been out there on that race track. Why was I in the stands? Why wasn't I living my dream? Why was everything I wanted out of reach?

A couple days later I headed up here to New York City to meet a very influential person. If you've followed my blog a long time you might remember this video blog from last year that I did with her to thank her. What made her so influential was this; back when I first started putting my thoughts and feelings on paper my dad sent her my works and she said that it had merit. My dad informed me of this and every time I felt overwhelmed and wanted to give up I fought the urge and took my angst to my computer and let me emotions flow in the form of words and metaphors. Well, a few days after the race I did indeed meet her at Autism Speaks and the simple fact that I had a meeting in New York City gave me a feeling of something along the lines that maybe all this work I did to write was worth something.

Leading up to this meeting I had had several book signings and I heard the same story over and over. Parent after parent told me stories of doctors saying, "don't worry, you're child will outgrow it" and schools saying, "oh yeah, it's just a delay, and even if it is Asperger's, which it isn't, every child outgrows it by the age of 16." Did those stories mean anything when I first heard them? Nope, not at all. I was just impressed that someone might just buy my book. However, during my meeting, I was asked an amazing question. And what makes it so amazing was that I didn't take it literally. This doctor at Autism Speaks asked me, "Aaron, now that you have a book out do you still want to race?"

Did I still want to race? You bet I did! I was just a few days removed from the NASCAR race in Dover and just over a week removed from the Indy 500. My dream from the age of three was to race in either of those series. It was all that mattered in my life. However, when asked that question four years ago, I gave the most passionate answer I have ever stated up to that point in my life as I proclaimed that, "yes, I still want to race, but it's a new race now. The race is spread as much awareness and understanding as possible because there is so much hope out there only if the world understands us."

That was then and while in a way that seems like a lifetime ago I still remember the whole experience as if it happened two minutes ago. What started on that day was something I could never have imagined. Sure, I proclaimed my new race but I had no idea about how to do anything about it. I was one of the shyest, quietest, most reserved individual in the world and had no public speaking experience. None! slowly things developed and TouchPoint Autism Services offered me a job as a "Community Education Specialist." I don't think they, or I knew what this meant, exactly, but I honed my skills presenting to police officers and parents and since that day back four years ago I have given 390 presentations to 24,642 people.

I don't think anyone could have imagined the events of the past four years happening. I don't believe it myself. I still don't understand what I do or how I do it and unless I am in the midst of presenting I can't imagine myself being able to do it. Yet somehow this shy, meek, and overly humble person who was unable to give any sort of presentation while in school can now win over student bodies, doctors, and police officers with an ease that shouldn't be possible.

I began this post by saying the timing couldn't have been better as I was starting to doubt what I was doing. Then, as I blogged last week, I read a profound review of my book. That was vital because at last week's Indy 500 I, for the first time in a long time, yearned for that career of a race car driver. I feel bad, but I had the thought of, "what am I accomplishing?" I don't know what created this, whether it was exhaustion, or the fact that it was the most amazing race I've ever witnessed it, but whatever the case was I thought it. But now, I'm back to where my current life began. Between the multiple profound reviews that popped up on Amazon this past week, and returning to the genesis of my life as a speaker, I feel my passion returning with an untamed vigor. Instead of wondering "What am I accomplishing" I am now thinking, "How can I accomplish more? How can I reach more people? How can I help the world understand us more? How can I help those who need understanding the most?"

It's a wonderful feeling! The simple fact of being back here in New York City has rekindled that passion I first experienced four years ago. I don't know where I'll be in another four years, but if it's a repeat of the past four years I think I can honestly say that it truly is unimaginable.


  1. Aaron,
    I have your book and I saw you speak in Springfield, MO. I am a huge fan and supporter. Please, please continue to do what you do. It is very important to a lot of people.
    I don't know if you will be able to respond to this question but if you can I will be eternally grateful. My grandson is 7 1/2 years. He will be moving with his family from Springfield, MO to Odessa, TX in a few weeks. I know that this move will be especially difficult for him as he is leaving everything that he knows. Can you, from your experiences, comment on some ways to minimize some of the anxiety that he will feel? How can we best help him?

  2. Moving is more than just moving. One might think that it's just the environment of the house, but for me it was more. It was the zip code change, the different tv channels, and even the name of the grocery stores were on my mind. One thing, if it is possible, is to visit the new place before the moving event. I'm sure there are other people out there that have said more on this than I have, but understanding that it's more than just one singular thing.