Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Start of Year Six

I missed it yesterday! Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of me starting full-time at Easter Seals Midwest. I'm sorry I missed it as I would've made a big blog post, but I wasn't in the best of places yesterday so instead I'll make that blog post today. And to be perfectly honest today is a perfect day to make such a post.

I remember March 2nd, 2010 like it was just five minutes ago; the nerves, the tension, and the apprehension. I was signed on to be the "Community Education Specialist" which I had no idea, exactly, what that would entail. I don't know if anyone really knew what my role would be down the road, and on that first day I was nervous wondering what I would be doing day in and day out. Thankfully, on that first day, I had a presentation that afternoon to give at the police academy. I had been on part time giving sporadic presentations at the police academy and this would continue into when I was full time.

The next day I was given some more assignments but it was then I was told that, "Aaron, you should start a blog." Now this was from Ron, the CEO and the person whom had hired me so saying no wasn't the easiest of options. And I tried, oh how I tried as I wondered, "a blog, seriously? Would people ever read what I have to say?" I pondered this for a while and when I thought of, "Life on the other side of the wall" I shook my head in frustration because everything I do when it comes to writing starts with a title and I work from there and on March 5th 2010 I wrote my first blog post.

Why is it fitting that today I write that I start year six? From being my former job title to now being the "Autism Ambassador" for Easter Seals Midwest the scope of my presentations has grown. The number of presentations, the number at my presentations, and the quality of them has improved greatly since the first year, but today I'm returning to where I began with a presentation at the police academy.

Each time I present at the Saint Louis County Police Academy I walk in remembering my first presentation and while it was rated decently it was awful, or at least that's what my take on it was, but I was asked back and six years later I'm still at it. There's another thought as I leave the station and that is, "where are we headed?" I mean this in a broader scope than simply my life, or how many officers I've presented to, but what has changed since the last time I presented? Today I'll be more reflective on that as I leave.

So where, exactly, are we headed? What has changed since I began? When I began the autism spectrum was a mystery, and it still is. There's still misunderstandings, still tragic stories we hear on the news and see on social media, and with each of these, I feel, there's no need or reason for them. I once had a blog post that my dream was the day that my job position was no longer needed because that would mean we would be at 100% awareness and understanding. Call me a perfectionist but anything short of this is not good enough. With all the elements in play for us on the autism spectrum whether it is self-esteem issues, not fitting in, or our constant battle with the fail-set mindset I fear that each time there is one of those awful bullying stories or the like that, for that person on the autism spectrum, they may give up on life.

I was at that point. I wasn't bullied but I had given up. If you go back seven years ago I am not the person I am today. Hope? Ha! I was the messenger of no hope. Somehow, someway, I broke through, but what if I had been bullied? What if more evidence proved to me that I would never amount to anything therefore why should I ever try? And on top of this all I'm sure for every story that is reported on the news or social media there are countless more, maybe more than we would hate to ever consider, that occur on a daily basis. When this happens human potential is lost, wasted, thrown away. The devastating impact of these events is not felt just on the day it occurs but can last a lifetime. The physical wounds may heal, but the emotional scars may never do.

So again, I ask, where are we heading? Media outlets are reporting more and more of these stories so are we backtracking, or is it just that media outlets like a story and they're reporting on these more? I hope we aren't backtracking. I'd like to think we are moving forward and if you could witness one of my school presentations where 6th graders are quoting in-depth research papers regarding the autism spectrum, or a sophomore is asking me why their sibling with autism is intrigued by things that spin, well, if you could only see it you'd too believe there's hope in moving forward. We have to! It isn't an option to standby idly and accept these tragedies. I know I'm not and these rash of stories has instilled in me a greater fire to present better, to write better, and to get to more places because we aren't talking about the difference between two small items. No, the stakes here are much, much higher. The difference could be one of a prosperous life or one where an individual feels there's no hope and has given up on life.

Writing that last paragraph brought me to tears. I don't often feel what I do; I do it because it needs to be done, but whatever I have achieved in my first five years, well, look out for the next five because my inner fire is raging and we've got to do nothing short than to change status quo and change the world. Lofty goal? You bet it is, but we've got to try.

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