Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Video Blog from Lancaster, CA

It is early Sunday morning and I am the flag man for the SKUSA "Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix" in Lancaster, CA. I catch a Red Eye back to St. Louis and will begin my 2013 "Building a Foundation of Hope" National Autism Awareness Tour. Here are my thoughts as we get ready to go racing.

My view of the course in Lancaster, CA.

Here's the most up to date list of presentations. There will be a couple presentations in the LA area as well which I haven't got the details for yet. Each of these presentations listed have pages dedicated to them so you can click and find out more information. If you aren't in any of these towns, but know someone who is, feel free to share with them the information.

October 1: Fort Wayne, IN

October 2nd: Chicago

October 4th: Mequon, WI

October 7th: St. Paul, MN

October 15th: Tomball TX (Houston area)

October 21: Phoenix

October 23rd: Las Vegas

October 28, 2013: Orange County, CA

October 29, 2013: Irvine, CA

November 5th: Saint Louis

 There are more dates and events. Check back for updates.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Dedication

I don’t want to write this. I want to go back in time, to 2010, when I began when everything I was doing was new and each week I was brought along to visit various doctor offices in the Saint Louis area. For long time readers of my blog you’ll remember that I used to mention Matt, TouchPoint’s Community Liaison, many times. His job was to go to doctors and give them material on autism and if they wanted more we would go to the office and have a “lunch and learn.”
These lunch and learns were adventures for me as I was new in my job and also new in presenting. I was rather timid at first but Matt was always good at bringing the conversation my way and engaging me. He was always good at that though as he was with me for my very first presentation at the 2009 MNEA conference, but with each time we visited a doctor he had no problem relinquishing control of the meeting and letting me take the reins and give the doctor all the knowledge I had about living life on the autism spectrum.

I always thought this had to be hard, in a way, for Matt because he made the contact, he set up the meeting, and then I became the star. In one of these meetings a doctor literally gave Matt a push out of the way so she could talk to me more. He always took this in stride though and often joked about it.
Matt left TouchPoint in 2011 and since then there isn’t a part of Saint Louis that doesn’t remind me of him as we visited doctors everywhere. Just a couple weeks ago I drove by the place that Dr. X is and thought back to how frustrated we were. We both felt as if we were kicked in the jaw after that one. There have been times when I’ve driven past an office that we visited and it almost hurts as I yearn to have one more visit. However, this isn’t possible now because Matt, earlier this week, passed away.

That’s why I don’t want to write this; I don’t want to say good-bye. The work we did was so fabulous and our teamwork was to the level that we knew what each other was thinking. Not only was our teamwork good but it was much more than that; he understood me. He knew when a situation was too much for me, and going back to the beginning he knew what to say to make me feel comfortable. I was so unsure of myself when I began, but through presentations and these lunch and learns I began to become more and more comfortable as the “Community Education Specialist.”

Grief is something I don’t handle well. I simply don’t. My emotions are in tatters. As with so many people in my life I know I never said “thank you” enough, if ever. I certainly have a high level of regret flowing through me right now and I’m sure that’s the last thing Matt would want me feeling. What he would want me to remember is that first time I met him when I was a consultant going through parent training, or us working at the Parents as Teachers conference in the TouchPoint booth, or maybe all the times we ate at Lion’s Choice in celebration of giving a doctor the right information on autism with us both knowing the impact that it is going to have.

Speaking of impact, that’s what I want you to remember about Matt. Our stories forever be told on  this blog, but that’s not the impact I am speaking about as this impact is almost immeasurable. We visited so many doctors and for some of these doctors we were giving them the first bit of information on autism they had ever received. Think about that, before us there was little to no chance of the doctor telling a parent that their child had autism, but after us there was the possibility as we educated the doctors. This impact can’t be measured because it’s going to be with the doctor for the rest of their career.

As much as I didn’t want to write this I don’t want to finish it. To finish this, in a way, is my final goodbye and how do I say it? How do I say goodbye to the person who helped hone my craft? I might have burned out, flamed out, or became frustrated with myself and may never have gotten to the point where I am now. I mean, I’m about to start my 2nd national tour and when I started out in 2010 that wasn’t even something that was even imaginable. So how do I say goodbye knowing I never really thanked him? Perhaps I can’t as nothing would be fitting so instead of me coming up with a way to finish this dedication I’ll let his words finish it. He sent this to me right before my national tour last year and he hadn’t worked at TouchPoint for almost a year, but autism was still on his mind. Here’s what he sent me,

I know you haven’t heard from me since I left TouchPoint but I heard something good and I thought you could use it. A week ago or so a parent of a young man told me, ‘Folks with autism will change the world because the world can’t change them.’”

Goodbye Matt, thank you for helping me become who I am. In every presentation I give I’ll remember that I wouldn’t be who I am without you.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

National Autism Awareness Tour 2013

Here's the most up to date list of presentations. There will be a couple presentations in the LA area as well which I haven't got the details for yet. Each of these presentations listed have pages dedicated to them so you can click and find out more information. If you aren't in any of these towns, but know someone who is, feel free to share with them the information.

October 1: Fort Wayne, IN

October 2nd: Chicago

October 4th: Mequon, WI

October 7th: St. Paul, MN

October 15th: Tomball TX (Houston area)

October 21: Phoenix

October 23rd: Las Vegas

October 28, 2013: Orange County, CA

October 29, 2013: Irvine, CA

November 5th: Saint Louis

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Taking Center Court

Yesterday was an amazing day! I was in Nevada, Missouri (NOTE: should you ever go there it isn't pronounced as the state, but rather Ne-vay-da) and got the chance to speak at the high school, middle school, and to the 3rd through 5th grade. The first presentation, in the morning, was to the high school and I was thrilled as the students filled both sides of the gym.

It's a good thing I now have no fear of public speaking because, as this picture shows, I was truly surrounded:

I could make this blog all about me and proclaim what an accomplishment it was to deliver my presentation to them, but that's not the story at all. For me, the story is the response in the questions. While I'm giving my school presentation, which is just about 20-25 minutes, and I'm so far away from everyone else at center court, I have no idea if the words I am saying are having any impact at all, or if they're even listening to me at all.

After 20 minutes I opened it up for questions and this, for a speaker, is a scary time because if no hands go up the speaker is sort of stranded with no where really to go (or hide.) Thankfully, there were hands and the first question was, "What's your favorite color?" That may seem like an odd question to ask, but this let me know this student had heard what I had said because I tell the students that, "When I was younger I could talk about facts all day long, but if you asked anything subjective, such as favorite color or song, I would lock up." I gave my answer in jest saying, "You know, I've been told it's fun to watch me squirm so, well, my favorite color is... ... ... I'm going to cheat and say it's the color of my shirt today which means tomorrow my favorite color will be different."

From that a multitude of hands came up and the next question was, "Does Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory have Asperger's?" My answer was, "I get that question a lot and I did some research and pretty much the entire world agrees that he does; that is except the writers of the show who simply call it Sheldonism, but the only people who believe that are the writers themselves."

I then got questions on the causes of autism, and the rates of autism, and then I got a streak of questions looking at the positive of it. This was new for me as this is something that typically parents ask, but this one girl straight up asked, "Okay, you spoke of the difficulties, but what are some of the strengths?" I was caught off guard as I was so amazed at this question. I gave an answer that had a lot of words but I don't know if I answered it with the purity and without the clutter that I gave. I said something along the lines of, "Yes, there are many strengths. I know my conviction to always stick to my beliefs, ethics, and morals are a big strength. Some may see that as a weakness as I critique every rule break, but I'm bound to do the right thing. Also, my writing ability, I fully believe, comes from having it as I have no formal training to be a writer. And even more so, my ability to present. You may find this odd, but this is the easiest thing I do, this speaking to you today." I continued on trying to find the perfect way to describe it, and maybe I did, but I don't feel I gave that question justice.

From there I took another question and this student stood up, and announced he had Asperger's, and asked what might be the most profound question I've been asked, "There's lots of talk about what Asperger's is; is it a syndrome, a condition, a disease, or is it, like I believe, a difference so I'd like to get your opinion on it." This was a hard question to answer; not because I had to find an answer, but because I was so moved by it. I know, as I started my answer, I was smiling greatly as it was an honor to be able to answer that and I said something along the lines of, "If you ask each person on the spectrum this I'm sure you'll get a different answer. In fact, myself, a little less than 10 years ago I would have told you it was a disease, this awful thing, but now I firmly believe it is simply a difference. But here's the thing; everyone is different but our difference just has a name with it. But yes, everyone is different and I used to chase normal but here's the thing about normal; I don't believe it exists and if it does, and we find that one normal person in the world, congratulations as we have found the most boring human in the universe." I continued on about the accomplishments of those figures in history who some thing might have had Asperger's and I built upon the "What are the strengths?" question and said that we on the autism spectrum often times will think outside the box and see things different and this may lead to progression, or invention.

The thing about these presentations, no matter how much time I have be it 30 minutes to two hours, is that they're over way too fast. When time was up I still had dozens of hands up and after the presentation students did walk up to shake my hand, to say thank you, and to ask a question they didn't get a chance to ask. While, as I said, a speaker in center court like I was has a hard time knowing if the audience is listening I knew, afterwards, that there was no mistaking the fact that my message was heard, received, and it was obvious a new level of understanding was reached. I started by saying I could've made this post about myself, and proclaimed how much bravery and skill it takes to take center court, but the real story here is the thirst for knowledge. Time and time again I am impressed beyond words the compassion and purity of the questions from students and yesterday, driving home, I was moved to tears thinking about all who I spoke to, and the unwavering desire to know more by those students.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Driving Home on a Raceday

In just one week my national autism awareness tour will be beginning, but right now it's hard to focus on that with what happened over the weekend.

I was working a race in Ohio and just as with the week prior to my 2012 tour the flagstand I was in was struck by a car. This happened on Saturday and the impact knocked me off my feet and the stand got knocked off its posts and I fell straight down and landed on my radio. Thankfully, unlike 2012, no bones were broken but I got a rather nasty bruise on my tailbone and hip.

This accident occurred near the end of the day so someone else took over for the remaining hour and as I got back to the hotel I was hoping that I'd be ready to go for the following day. I took a hot bath and mobility and the ability to flex didn't seem all that difficult. Then I woke up the next day.

As with any time I've been in any crash, whether it was as a driver or flagging, the morning after is not a pleasant experience. So too this time was the same and all the other accidents occurred on the final day, but this one occurred on the 1st of two days of racing. I was hopeful the night prior that I would be ready to go because, after all, I live for race days and flagging is something I'd drop everything to do. When I woke up, however, I knew there was no way I'd be able to do so and when I took my first steps of the morning it the pain brought me to tears.

The tears were from two sources. One, obviously, was pain but the second was knowing that I was going to be unable to fulfill my duty as flagman. I've never missed a race day I was scheduled to flag in all my 18 years of doing it. I knew I could probably try, but I'd have been a hindrance as I wouldn't have been as quick as I needed to be and when safety is important a flagman who can't rotate and turn without cringing is a severe hazard.

I sat in my car debating what to do as I still wanted to go to the track but I knew that wouldn't end well. Another official saw me in my car and could see the discomfort I was in and she quite simply told me to, "go home. You have too much going on this week and next. We can handle it; you take care of yourself!"

It took some time to hear those words and know that they were true. Knowing it, and accepting it are two different things though and I yearned that this wasn't the case, but I knew I couldn't flag to the best of my ability on that day, so I did start my car up, pull out of the hotel, and came to the stoplight. This moment at the stoplight will haunt me for a long time to come as Eldora, the race track, was a right hand turn and to turn left would start the journey home. It took more force than you'd realize to get in the left turn lane to start driving home as it all felt wrong.

The entire drive back to Saint Louis was the worst drive I've ever had. Every second it felt as if I were cheating, or doing a misdeed as I knew I should have been at the race track with flags in hand, but here I was driving home and all felt wrong with the world.

Getting home felt wrong as well, but it was the right thing to do. I spent the rest of the afternoon resting and today I am getting back to being 100%; I'm still tender in spots, but I'm sure if I'd have pushed myself yesterday things would be different. As for today I am now in Springfield and am speaking to three schools tomorrow in a town about an hour away. I'm very excited about that and also, don't forget, my national tour starts next Monday but between now and then I have another race to do in California so this next week is going to be super busy!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pure Magic at Middle School and What is Normal?

I'm in tears, I truly am. This morning was my first time speaking to students in four months and the nerves leading up to it were immense. I haven't been this nervous for a presentation in quite some time, but once I began I felt at ease. Due to the size of the 6th grade I gave two presentations, but while I could talk about my presentation and what I said that isn't the relevant factor here as it's what the students ask that gives me chills and faith in the future.

When I present to students I give a brief 20-25 minute presentation. Afterwards comes questions and one of them stuck out when asked, "When was autism and Asperger's first truly being diagnosed because you said you got diagnosed at the age of 20?" This is a question I have never been asked before and was more than glad to answer. Another question asked, by a student in the front row of about 200 kids, asked, "Is is true people on the autism spectrum dislike change?" to which I gave him my motto, "Change is bad" which led into a story.

What also is neat about my presentations is that, if one student tries to talk to another about something that I think is unrelated (I come to that conclusion by the result) the other students sort of nudges the other and points my direction with a look of direct attention.

I am given so much hope by these students. Being a public speaker, especially in the field I am in, leads to a big sense of pressure. I feel as if each time I speak I have the chance to change the world for at least one person. Maybe I'm overselling my position and what I do, I don't know, but it feels that way. Even more so when one of the last questions asked, "Have you ever been bullied?"

The bully factor is high for those on the autism spectrum and in the past I gave this story from 2011. However, when asked this earlier today I recounted the story of my terror on the 10th tee box and while I was telling this story the room was as still as if no one were in there. In that two minute story there was no sound or movement outside myself. And I expressed my feelings of feeling small, meaningless, and irrelevant there were tears from some of the students as well as from some of the teachers.

I firmly believe that presentations to students in the most vital aspect of my job. It could be argued that speaking to parents, or perhaps police officers are, but I feel if we want to change the future and make it a brighter place for those on the spectrum the focus should be in schools and students and this was reinforced with the response from my stories, and the tears from my terror on the 10th tee box.

As I concluded one student came up to me and said, "Excuse me, may I ask you a question?" to which I responded with, "certainly" and he asked, "Yeah, but after listening to you I'm wondering if you've ever thought this; have you ever thought that maybe you're the normal one and those not on the spectrum are the odd ones?" It was asked with such innocence and purity that I had a hard time answering it and a teacher beside was obviously blown away by it.

I should be used to this by now, but each time I enter the realm of a school, and present, I always left with a sense of awe and faith in the future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More on my 2013 National Autism Awareness Tour

As October is inching ever closer I am getting more and more overwhelemed. There is so much to do and so much to prepare for. I'm thankful that after a presentation on Thursday I head to Eldora to work a race over the weekend. It's been over a month since I flagged so that'll be a much needed relief from my brain which is currently over-clocked on thinking about October.

Anyway, I wanted to share this link which has a little story about the grant that made my October tour possible and the angle of not only doing presentations open to the public but also speaking to students across the country. Speaking of open to the public, as those dates get confirmed I will be creating a Facebook event page for each presentation. Right now for my presentation in Chicago on October 2nd you can visit this page and for Saint Louis on November 5th you can visit this page.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Seeing the Past (again)

I don't normally rerun a post, but yesterday my girlfriend and I went fishing in Saint Louis County very near where this track was so we were a bit early and drove by the place that I first raced and flagged. The state of the property saddened me deeply as the weeds were at eye level and there is no sign that there was even a race track there except one telephone pole that served the score tower. It's a real shame that a place that gave so many people like myself a place to grow up at, is gone and lost. That being said I felt it right to share with you this blog from 2011. 

Last week I talked about reliving the past, but after what I discovered this week a person can do more than just that. Anyway, Google Earth added a new function that allows, if the photos are available, you to see what it looked like in the past.

The second I discovered this I went to a County Park in Saint Louis County. Widman park to be precise and this is the current shot:

This picture may seem obscure as I'm sure you are trying to look closely to see why this photo has any relevance. Try as you might what you are looking for, well, it isn't what's there but what's no longer there. Here's the next photo taken from 1992:

The track that is in the photo is the same track that my story in my book called, "The Best Day" takes place. I learned to race at that track and also that is where I first flagged a race. To me, that ground is sacred, but on the rare occasion that I drive by it today it is just an empty field with just the ghosts of summer Sundays in its memories.

I'm thankful the picture from 1992 shows all the cars and trailers there. The picture was taken on a race day and when I started racing I looked forward to each and every raceday. Of course, the Saint Louis Karting Association always was on flood watch and there would be times we would practice on Saturday and then the river would rise and Sunday races would be cancelled. Oh, such good times!

The history that can be seen on Google Earth is astounding. To be able to see what the track looks like now, and to see it back when it was the spot to be at, well, in my life at least, on the weekends. To be honest I had to hold back my emotions the first time I saw that because of all the wonderful memories I have there.

I must hold back though. This ability to see the past is a slippery slope because how much can I see? They say time heals all wounds but my memory is overly good and now I can add visible pictures to the mix?! It's almost like we are getting to a time, much like my memory, that every second of the past is now. How soon will it be that we will be able to see Google Earth photos from every day of the year?

In any case, the memories of my weekends growing up are preserved. The last time I drove by Widman County Park I could almost make out the turns of the track and you can too in the "now" photo I posted. I knew what I was looking for though; anyone else who drives by will just see a field. An empty field; no signs, no plaques, no indication of the people and competition those grounds once saw. It's a shame, a pity, and downright sad, but for those that remember it, it truly is more. I grew up there at that track, won my first race, flagged my first race, and lived my passion as a child. True, it is just a field now and, such as life, what is will always fade away, but in my memory it will always be like that photo in 1992.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"This is Dirty, Stephen!"

In several of my recent presentations there's been a theme in the questioning about fear. Fear, and anxiety, are both things those on the spectrum face and for those not on the spectrum it can be hard to understand what causes fear and what it feels like. I had an unique situation happen a couple days ago at breakfast that is a perfect illustration of just how fast a normal situation can become tense.

I was at a restaurant and I had just ordered so I went onto my phone to check e-mails and Facebook. Another reason I always do this when dining alone is to try and minimize my world. It doesn't work the way I'd like, but I do have to do something to tune out the world because I am hearing everything. While I was trying to minimize hearing everything I heard something from behind the counter in a very tense voice, "Dang it! This is dirty, Stephen!" and after that the sound of a slamming plate. What wasn't picked up by most people, or if it was it went unnoticed, sent my body into a severe state of defense.

It seems that a lot of us on the autism spectrum are barometers to our environment. It's odd because, often times, we don't pick up on social cues but if there is any hint of tension in the air we feel it and at this breakfast I was feeling it. What did it feel like? There were several layers to it and the first was just a sense of panic. From this panic breathing became difficult as I felt as if my body were trying to hide; to be smaller and smaller to avoid the ensuing chaos my body was sure that was going to happen. And that brings up a good point, from that tension my body was preparing for the worst. What's the worst? From that minor verbal spat my body was preparing for an all out brawl or firefight.

As with many things, my brain has no middle ground; it's either all is good or the end of the world and when there is a verbal altercation like the one I heard my body goes into red alert mode. Perhaps the reason why is to compensate for the fact that I have a hard time knowing the emotions of others so for protection my body has to overreact to the world around me to protect itself. I'm not sure but a few seconds after the clattering of the plates I finally looked up and it was a surreal feeling for me. Here I was, practically shaking, and the world around me was going on unchanged. I was dealing with an immense fear and ready for the worst and in front of me an elderly couple was enjoying their coffee, the family to my right was having a fun time trying to feed a baby, and a waitress was taking an order from a young couple. It was a normal scene, on a normal day, in a normal place but what I was feeling was anything but normal.

My food came out and I finished the food in record time as I wanted out of there. I became exhausted after the event as my body slowly, and I stress slowly, came back to a state or normality. Several hours later, and even now actually, as I think about it I'm amazed at that scene described at the end of that last paragraph. I wish it was something that those not on the spectrum could experience because it was a fear that was isolated. I don't know if anyone else even heard the person getting yelled at much less to have a reaction to it.

There are moments I love my hyper-sensitivity to my environment, but at the same time there are moments, like this, that it's a supreme challenge. Speaking of challenge, I want to challenge you this weekend. When you're out this weekend, if you go out to a park, or a place to eat, or anywhere for that matter, just listen to the world around you. Try and become sensitive to your surroundings and if you hear a conversation across the way getting tense, just imagine that a person on the spectrum, if they heard that, might just be going into a state I experienced at breakfast the other day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2013 Building a Foundation For Hope Tour

The schedule for the October tour is coming together nicely. Sometime next week I'll be able to give you exact addresses, but today here are the dates and cities I will be in for the month of October. Please realize, though, that this schedule is subject to change. I doubt it will, but until it's 100% set in stone I won't share the exact addresses:

Tuesday, October 1: Fort Wayne, IN
Thursday, October 3: River Forest, IL
Saturday, October 5: Milwaukee, WI
Monday, October 7: St. Paul, MN
Tuesday, October 10, Lincoln, NE
Sunday, October 13, Austin, TX
Tuesday, October 15, Tomball, TX
Thursday, October 17, San Antonio, TX
Monday, October 21, Phoenix, AZ
Wednesday, October 23, Las Vegas, NV
Sunday, October 27, Irvine, CA

There is much more to this tour than just these presentations and next week I will share with you the addresses and times for these presentations but also the scope, and my hope, of this tour.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Master of My Surroundings

Over the weekend I went to two new places with my girlfriend. Where they were are irrelevant except that they were new to me and also I met friends of hers. Up to this point, well, over the past year my blog has not had experiences of where I was in a new environment and having issues. When I first started blogging, and you can go back and read some of my 2010 entries, there were a lot of blogs about eye contact at supermarkets, awkward pauses ordering food, and run ins with mean golfers (okay, the golfer topic seems to be a mainstay.)

Yesterday morning was one of those new experiences and it's been a long time since I felt that small. Friends of my girlfriend were saying hello to her and I was being introduced and I didn't really know what I was saying, and one person tapped me on the shoulder (long time readers know that's a big issue) just furthering the episode.

It's weird to say this but I forget how these feelings feel. It's like trying to imagine what hitting your funny bone feels like a year after the last time it's happened, or trying to imagine what it's like having the wind knocked out of you five years since it last happened. Yeah, you know it hurts and feel awful but there's no way to fully understand the feeling unless it is happening. So too is this sensation, in my mind, with social paralysis.

As I was trying my best to not look like I was that uncomfortable yesterday I realized something; I have become a master of my environment. What does this mean? This means that I have become rather adept at putting myself in situations where these episodes won't happen. I know how to better navigate society to stay invisible. Yes, I'm sure my interactions have gotten better as well, but I'm better at skating through society unnoticed.

This is a big part of my presentation, and in my book with the chapter "The 4th Wall" where I say that I simply want to be an invisible person in the audience as if the world were a play. That's my goal and I think this is something I continue to get more skilled at simply by measuring the amount of episodes that used to occur compared to today.

Becoming the master of my environment took a long time to do. As we were driving later in the afternoon I apologized to my girlfriend for the way my mind and body reacted to the situation earlier in the morning but I said, "Seven years ago, what you saw this morning, was how I was all the time. Truly, every social encounter used to give me that response." and I am so dearly grateful that she understands that there are going to be times that I am just going to become closed off. I will try my best not to look too uncomfortable, but at the same time there isn't simply a switch that says comfortable to an on position.

This is one of the reasons why I get so tired at the end of the day when I am outside. To become the master of my surroundings I have to be on guard the entire time. I have to be constantly analyzing what the best tactic is to minimize an awkward situation. It's something my brain can't turn off as well. I know, at least for me, the good news is that I know I can manage my surroundings and minimize those moments in time that I am socially paralyzed. It's also good to have that reminder as I did this weekend because it is something that is forgotten. But after yesterday morning there once again is no mistaken the high degree of difficulty in navigating the social aspect of life but I'm glad I have slowly learned the ways to become master of my surroundings and truly excel in the art of keeping the 4th wall intact.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tour Update

Things are moving ahead with my October tour. I really wanted to blog about something else but at the moment the only thing my brain is thinking about is "tour... tour... tour..." However, as I said, things are moving along and I'm hoping by mid-week next week to be able and give you a run down of when and where I will be with addresses and the like.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

All At Once

Obviously I'm excited for my October tour coming up but at the same time there is a high level of, well, fear in a way. Perhaps fear isn't the right word but rather a feeling as if you're standing at the foot of the Empire State Building with the intentions of climbing it on the exterior and then going down the other side.

As I said, I am excited but this sense of, whatever word you want to call it, has consumed me. From that I'm seeing the whole journey as one. What this means is that I don't see it in segments and the ability to break down the journey from point A, B, C and so on isn't there. This same mindset was one of my biggest hindrances when I was in school and it affected me in two ways.

The hardest day of the year for me was the first day of school; one was, obviously, the change in schedule, but the second one was I was seeing the entire school year at once. Going into the 8th grade I spent all summer worrying about every potential writing assignment that could be done. It really was a non-linear thought process because there wasn't progression but everything, in my mind, was in the now. Secondly, when I would miss school and a pile of homework would be sent my way, I would have the hardest of times handling this situation because I, in my mind, could not understand the fact that completion was a possibility because all was now. There was one time my parents broke it up into smaller chunks instead of letting me see the entire mass of papers and that worked out much better.

I've had a very hands off approach to this tour coming up and I don't think anyone has understood why. One person said, "But Aaron, it's your life, you should be involved." and while that is a 100% valid and great point I really can't because of what my mind will do to me.

Two nights ago it finally hit me that this tour is going to happen. I sort of had it blocked off in my mind, but two nights ago I realized that it's a reality and the end result was a bout of insomnia and I went to sleep just moments before the sun was scheduled to crack the horizon. On that night I began to think of each moment of the journey, and all the potential issues that could come up, I thought of my presentations I'd give, and I even started planning out the fuel stops across Texas. It was a never ending process of thought that wasn't even broken as I slept as even in my dreams I thought about the tour.

In 2012 I had an entire month of races to flag before my tour and that broke up my ability to obsess on what was coming (and breaking a few ribs at a race in Nashville helped too) and as I look at my calendar I am thankful that once next week comes I become rather busy with presentations in Saint Louis, and then Hannibal and Union next week then the following week will have me back speaking to students, then to a major Saint Louis company and then it's off to a race, then back just in time to drive to southwest Missouri to speak to the majority of students in a town down there (SUPER EXCITED!!!) and then off to Lancaster, California to flag a karting street race and then... well then it's time to hit the road and start the tour.

While the proverbial stakes are higher than when I was in school and worrying about writing assignments the feeling is the same as every moment is dedicated to thinking about it. There are moments of respite, however, and those moments are so great. I always try and make what I'm experiencing into something useful and here I'm going to say that, when something pops up like I'm feeling right now there isn't an off switch and this constant processing and thinking on a subject isn't by choice. It's as if there's a giant magnet in my brain that is drawn to whatever it is that I'm thinking about and it's hard to break the attraction.

Anyway, that's where I am now and while I'm talking about my tour I am hoping that by next week I can give you the finalized scheduled. Once October comes I'll be fine, but the lead up is going to be one filled with a level of anticipation that will be on par with, well, it'll be in a league in it's own because I have never been this excited for something in my life.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

National Tour 2013

Ever since the final moment of my 2012 nationwide tour I have been dreaming of the chance to do it again and come October I will! So here, today, I am announcing that indeed there will be a national tour next month and here are the locations that I will be. One thing to note about this is that these locations are tentative at this point in time which is why I am offering no specific dates, times, or addresses. Hopefully within a week I will be able to do so, but as of today I'll only be mentioning the towns:

Fort Wayne, IN
Chicago, IL
Milwaukee, WI
St. Paul, MN
Lincoln, NE
Austin, TX
Houston, TX
San Antonio, TX
Phoenix, AZ
Las Vegas, NV
Orange, CA
Irvine, CA
Saint Louis, MO

As things become solid I will share the dates and the goals of this tour as this is more than just presentations open to the public which is an aspect I am quite enthusiastic for.

Looking at the list of towns I am somewhat in awe because all this will be done in just one month! Also, there will be multiple presentations in a single day so this is shaping up to be my busiest month ever! Because of the hectic nature of a nationwide tour, once again, my friend Rob from Vancouver will be coming down to join me on this journey across the land.

Once again, this is a tentative schedule and is by no means set in stone. A town could possibly be added, or a town might be taken off, but hopefully soon I can give you the finalized schedule.