Friday, July 17, 2015

The Population Effect

I spent yesterday in thought, maybe too much thought but nonetheless it was a lot. I thought about what I wrote about the population of Kansas. I don't think I've ever described it the way I did yesterday, but I started thinking about what it all means. I mean, everyone has his or her own Kansas regardless of the autism spectrum, right? Everyone has a favorite topic or a topic that makes one feel safe when talking about. Everyone has that subject that makes them feel "normal," but what happens when that one thing creates a state of isolation? The answer that I came up with may explain a lot about who I am.

Despite the fact that I'm a public speaker and have 100% confidence in a presentation, I am not the most confident person you'll ever meet. Actually, I'm rather the contrary as I struggle in most places outside the stage or the flag stand. Just yesterday, when ordering lunch I had a gigantic struggle simply making eye to person contact (that is a step below eye contact in that my eyes weren't any where in the space the person was in) and my words did not come easy. For those that have seen me in a presentation, or command a race track from the stand, it may be hard to imagine this. But what causes it? Why do I feel defeated before I even start to order? It's very much like starting a race on lap four and accepting defeat before the race has even started. Why do I have this fail-set mindset?

The previous paragraph filled up most of my day yesterday. I thought about what I wrote regarding the population of Kansas and then I read a comment someone put on my author page about the post in that it describes how and where a person from autism comes from. I didn't really think of it like that until I read that comment and that got me thinking about where I came from. Think about it, if you lived in a state that few visited but wanted others to come visit and when they did and eventually left you will accept the fact that they would leave before they even got there.

This population effect, in my opinion, starts out subtlety but over time grows and grows. Right now I'm experiencing the full brunt of it as I've come off of two amazing trips this year and many racing events. It's odd to say this but in Japan I didn't feel alone. Yet here at home, where I understand the language, I do feel this crushing sense of isolation.

I've tried to keep my mind active and I've tried not to allow myself to feel, but it's been useless. The effects of many years of isolation within Kansas have created this mindset that A. I'll never be good enough, B. I'll never experience what I've done again, and C. I'm simply not interesting enough to be included in any other person's conversation and I just need to accept a life of solitude.

Yes, I know those words are absurd, but a feeling like this isn't something that I can simply think, "go away!" These thoughts are vicious and destructive of every aspect of confidence and esteem, but they're there. And why wouldn't they be? If we use my "film theory," which states that "whatever happens first always has to happen," and the initial history showed this lack of ability to connect with others, why should I be able to see the picture differently? If you were told the color red was green all your life and later you found out green was it's own thing and the correct word for red was red, you'd still initially think of the word green when seeing red. It's much like this as I do have evidence stating that I might be somewhat interesting because if I weren't would you be reading this? Would I be a presenter? Obviously not and yet unless I'm in the midst of a presentation the concept is all rather foreign to me.

I'm sure my fail-set beliefs go back to when I was in school and all I wanted was that ability to feel like I fit in. Sure, I had a friend or two but with anything that involved a group I was an outsider, confused by it all. And besides, why would I want to even be in a group considering that the normal consensus of what to talk about was never anywhere close to the intricate things I wanted to discuss?

I will still always speak highly and fondly of Kansas, but there is this downside. And maybe this funk I'm in is a perfect storm because this has been the most turbulent year of my life since 2005 which is amplified by this fail-set mindset from what I picked up on as a child. Whatever the case, I have to remain active and busy because to be alone in thought is to be isolated not within Kansas but another state. In the other state there may be people but I'm alone and on the outside, an alien if you will, because my homeland is Kansas and the ways of other states don't make sense. There are times when I don't want the isolation, but I'll be alone in a crowd. That's what I deal with. It's hard to describe, harder to live with, and probably hardest of all is to understand this without living it. Unfortunately, my proverbial state borders are shifting and I need to stay occupied to not allow myself to tell me that I'm not good enough.

1 comment:

  1. Aaron, I am 60 years old. When I first went out looking for a job, I had no experience, and due to the laws in the state I grew up in I was legally required to inform the prospective employer that I had well controlled epilepsy. You can imagine how many job offers I received. Did you guess none! Correct. Each time I didn't get a job I was told it was because I had no experience. By the way, it was illegal to not give a job to those with epilepsy simply because they had epilepsy. The catch was that if I didn't inform them and they hired me and found out, they were in the clear to fire me for lieing on my application. When I finally decided to break the law and leave off my epileptic status, I was hired immediately. After being there one hour, I told my boss and coworkers about having epilepsy and what they should not do in the unlikely event I had a seizure. I kept the job.

    Fast forward a few years to looking for more jobs, and I found I had internalized the feeling that I was unemployable because so many places had turned me down for jobs in the four years I had been looking and obeying the law. To this day, I am amazed that someone would hire me. It wasn't until I really thought about it that I realized I had internalized this feeling. Since I got the idea so young, I don't think I will ever get rid of it. What I learned early on is not an easy thing to wash out of my soul.

    When I was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 11, I ended up with no friends but for the one other girl who also had epilepsy. All my friends were told by their parents not to play with me anymore... I am amazed as an adult that anyone would like me. And it wasn't until my mid 40s that I realized where that attitude came from... When all my friends stopped playing with me as a child, I just assumed I was unlikeable. Again, washing something like this out of my soul is not going to happen either.

    I understand where you are coming from.