Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Day That Changed My Police Presentations

Six years ago I did a police ride along. The post below was my story of that day and before that ride along I had no idea what an officer deals with and after that experience I was much better at relating my information so law enforcement understands it because I understand what they may experience. Of everything I've done on the job the day's account within this post, originally ran April 1, 2010, was and is the most important event in shaping how I deliver my information...

A Tale of the Force
April 1, 2010

My life took an odd turn this year when I began to do an hour block at the police academy for the P.O.S.T. in-service training. Why was this odd? To be 100% truthfully honest I must say I was scared of police officers. The fear was an unknown fear much like a phobia of something that isn't rational. I've never had anything personally happen, but maybe it was due to the fact that may dad liked to drive fast on the interstate and seeing a police officer was always a stressful experience. Whatever the case I started doing these presentations in January and am currently halfway through as there are a total of 35 sessions between then and May 4th.

From those presentations I also give a presentation to officers in CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training. While I may know much more than others on autism, I didn't have any idea what it is, exactly, that officers do. My only experience has been the "uh oh" my dad would exclaim when he saw an officer shooting radar his way. The solution to this was to do a police ride along and yesterday I experienced a day with the police force.

My morning started early and if you saw the time on yesterday's post I got that up nice and really early (4:55AM I believe). I got to the police office at 6 and walked in having no idea what to expect. The officer behind the counter was a bit confused and asked if I had my paperwork filled out. Paperwork? I simply got an e-mail that said be there on this day and at that time. I was lost as to what to do so I wondered back to the bench with absolutely no idea what to do. I was indeed lost, but just as I was in the pinnacle of my panic the officer I would be riding along with walked in.

The paperwork was filled out in a matter of seconds and it was simply the same type of form I sign at the racetrack informing me the potential risks that could happen. Just as I do at the track I signed the papers without really thinking about the risks. What could possibly happen?

I wanted to see what the roll call was like and made sure I was there early. The officers in this district all assembled upstairs and the officer (I don 't know what rank he was, he was higher but how high I am unsure) went over what calls the midnight shift had. Traffic had been bad over the weekend and then the somber news that the officer that was killed, David Haynes, on the 24th would have his funeral and burial that day and the procession would be coming through on Interstate 55.

The only thing I've seen about cops have been on television shows. I don't know how serious they are, how nice they are, or if they have a sense of humor. I do know they care about what they do and each other because the officer that was leading the roll call meeting ended with, "Take care of the people out they, but also take care of yourself today. Be careful out there" Chilling.

We left the station and went driving around. I started out rather quiet, but quickly started to ask questions. He made his way through some areas that sometimes have car break ins throughout the night, but none were found on this morning.

With the sun in view over the horizon we returned to the station and the officer went inside to get what every motorist fears (cue creepy music), a radar gun! We went to his favorite place to catch unsuspecting speeders and we sat. We sat, and we sat, and we sat. This morning the drivers were behaving themselves and I theorized that people are in no hurry to get to work when the weather was so nice. Just as I finished that a car was going plenty over the speed limit, up a hill, so the officer started his way to catch up.

Much like a vulture that swoops down to catch its prey, we essentially showed up out of nowhere and was on this driver's bumper. The plates were ran before the stop and they were clean so the stop was made. The officer sat for a moment and then got out. As he proceeded past the trunk the officer reached with his entire hand and touched the trunk. I thought nothing of this and watched as the driver waived his hands about in obvious disgust that he was stopped. The officer came back, wrote the ticket, and returned to the irate driver. Again, before the ticket was handed, the officer reached for the trunk.

I was going to ask the officer why he did this, but forgot as he mentioned just how angry the driver was. We turned around and went back to the trap to catch another driver.

It didn't take long as this van was going WAY over the limit. Since the driver was going fast that meant we had to go faster. I drive down this road all the time and didn't realize how slow the limit is as we flew down the hill to catch up. I instantly wanted to take the squad car out on a race track!

The officer got out and again touched the vehicle's rear with the utmost care. Much like a person pets a small pet with care, the officer gently touches the vehicle.

This driver was an older person late to teach kindergarten. The officer came back and began the routine of checking license, plates, and ownership. Just as the officer was finished the van pulled away and did a 180 and was facing us. The officer went from a calm conversational mood to ready for anything that could happen. The tension was obvious and I began to realize just how dangerous of a job an officer has. He had no idea what the intentions of this driver were. Would they plow into us? Were they armed? I wasn't at the time because I was simply puzzled as to why anyone in their right mind would pull away.

The van lurched towards us and then slowed down and the old lady pulled alongside. He rolled down her window and said, "I'm really late, could you hurry up?" The officer handed the lady her ticket and then informed me if that was anyone but an older lady the end result would not have been pretty. There is nothing worse that pulling away from a stop, let alone asking an officer to "hurry up".

As we pulled away the officer informed me the question I was thinking as he asked, "Do you know why I touch the car?" I stated I had no idea and he said, "For one I am making sure the trunk is closed, but more importantly I am getting my prints on the car so should the driver shoot me as I approach there will be evidence that I was there". The realization hit me then and there that being an officer is dangerous. I knew it was, but never actually thought it through. Every stop, every person met could be the last action they perform. I've raced for years and if I thought it through each time what hitting a wall head on would feel like I don't know if I'd be able to drive. For officers though they know, they prepare, and must be ready each time for anything. Today it was simply an older lady having a lapse of good judgment. But what about next time? Or the time after that?

Blogger's note: I wasn't originally going to put on about the hands to the trunk as I didn't know if it is an inside secret, but after doing a search the info is readily out there so I don't feel as if I am letting a cat out of the bag. Also, because I don't know the protocol, I have intentionally left out where we were or who I was with.

Time went by and over the radio the dispatchers gave updates as to when the funeral procession would be leaving. At this time there was another speeder that needed attention so we caught up to the speeder and while he was running the plates the dispatcher informed him that there was a person with a health issue that needed attention. Lucky for the speeder because we broke off and headed to just one block from where the trap was.

Because this wasn't a violent situation he asked if I wanted to come into the house. I did and what I saw was something I've never witnessed before as this person was coming off of a drug high and was in need of medical attention. I never witnessed what drugs do to a person, but was utterly shocked with what I saw.

For an officer this is probably a common occurrence. I never saw anything like it and thought that stuff of that sort was simply made for television. To witness a person who was unable to know where he was, who he was, or why he felt weird is something that can't be explained in words. I'm good at describing emotions, but this was something else; perhaps it was a realization of what really happens in the world. I don't know how a person could handle events like this daily.

Some more time went by and it was time for the procession to start. We were a good bit aways from the start, but we headed to the vicinity around I-55. We spotted another officer and drove by to talk with him. Even though a very somber moment was about to happen the officers still had a sense of humor. As a police helicopter flew by one of the officers stated that the pilots must be anti-social types because they never pull up next to another officer to talk like they were. The other then stated that, with the rocks and dirt that would be blown around by a helicopter landing, they wouldn't have much of a paint job left on the vehicle.

Interstate 55 was closed in the Southbound direction and I wondered why this was. I thought of a small funeral procession that is commonly seen. Slowly the first set of lights flashing became visible. A small crowd assembled on the overpass in silence as the procession neared. Cars going North pulled over and even though there were people about it was eerily quiet. The lead cars went and then the motorcycle division roared by, but even through the sound of the motors and tires on the road there was silence. This silence was weird to experience, it was very much a mutual understanding of all those around what had happened and what could happen.

We were on the off ramp and as the hearse came into view the two officers stood at attention and saluted. This image will always stay in my mind. The brotherhood between officers is one that may only be rivaled by firefighters. The perfection in their salute as the hearse drove by almost put me in tears. These officers didn't know David Haynes, but yet he was one of them.

The words of, "Be careful out there" rung through my mind as on any day this could be them. The dangers of the road, or by criminal, can be seen or unseen. The tenacity to do their job is something I can't grasp.

Five minutes after the hearse drove by squad car after squad car was still passing us. The procession was as far as we could see, but I had to get back to the station to drive to the academy to give my presentation on autism.

My presentation yesterday may have been the best I've ever given. I now understand the dangers of their job. I think we all do to a degree, but understanding and seeing it first hand are two different things. I gave the presentations my all before, but now I've found a new found vigor because the more information the officers have going into a situation the more they can do. If they don't understand a situation, or the elements in play, the end result could be bad. My hour may just be an hour and just a snippet, a very small snippet, in their overall training, so I have to do anything ad everything to get my message across.

After my presentation I came to the office for a while and was invited to a meeting. I drove to the meeting and afterwards I drove home. As chance would have it I drove by the intersection where Officer Haynes was killed. There was a make shift memorial on the corner and I pulled over and looked at it and soaked the day in.

Haynes was my age and had been on the force for just a year. I'm sure all officers know the risk and I share that element of danger in what they do when I race. The difference is though that racing only serves the purpose of entertaining the one doing it. Police officers put themselves on the line to serve and protect society. I don't know how they do it and don't understand how they cope with the stresses of their job. I have a hard enough time making eye contact, but eye contact won't get me injured.

If you can't tell by the repeated lines of appreciation, I am at a lost for just what they do. As I pulled away from the memorial I understood why that line was said with such a solemn tone, "be careful out there".

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Weekend That Changed it All

In the midst of this thick tempest I've been enduring I almost forgot that I had a blog post I wanted to run on this day. Actually, I've had this day on my mind going all the way back to the changing of the year almost four months ago because this weekend was one of a major milestone as the person I am today and the ability to present began a decade ago this weekend at a small track outside Quincy, Illinois.

2006 wasn't exactly a year where I was flying around doing things. Actually, I hadn't had a job in over three years outside of the 10 local kart events I worked and sure, I was in the midst of writing Finding Kansas but that was just potential energy that would turn into kinetic, but for the most part I was idle. Then, after the race director of the Saint Louis Karting Association stepped down I was put on the ballot to become race director. Sure, I had 11 seasons under my belt as flagging but in terms of making the final calls on anything I had no say and yet here I was, 23 years of age, being thrust into the possibility of that position. Before the election, though, a new regional series was formed and I was asked if I wanted to be the race director and flagman. I said yes having no idea if I had the skill or even the ability to fake being a race director because I'd have to give the driver's meeting and I hadn't spoken in front of a crowd since... since... a 7th grade book report!

It was early on March 25th, 2006, that I drove to the series promoter's house, Greg whom I've written about several times, where he and Gary, to who I dedicated a post to last year when he passed away from cancer, were waiting to make the two hour drive north to the track. Getting to the house I was nervous and unsure of myself because I knew Gary from the track and I knew nothing about Greg. New situations are difficult for me and they're amplified when I'm going to be in charge when I've had no experience in such things. I was fearing the worst the entire drive up and I think Greg and Gary sensed this as they tried to put my qualms at ease.

My tradition at the time was to always have a Red Bull on any day that I was flagging so as we neared Hannibal I came up with a reason why we needed to stop at a gas station. Thankfully, Greg needed gas as the gas light would come on at the same time. The Red Bull may have added fuel to my anxiety by giving me a sugar overload but there was familiarity as for the past five years that drink was only saved for race day and I may now be in charge but nonetheless it was race day.

Trial by fire is an interesting thing to go through and that first day was trying. To begin I had to give the driver's meeting where I had to convey confidence and make in no uncertain terms that I was in charge, I knew what I was doing, and that the driver's best not misbehave on the racetrack. Did I deliver in the delivery? Well, um, to put it simply no no NO! Had I broken out in random song midsentence during this meeting it would've gone better as there were more "uhs" and "ums" then there were words. There's been times in my life I've been nervous but this was something I was just not prepared for. I had rehearsed in my head what I would say, I even made notes, but the delivery was stumbled upon. It was awful but what I had going for me was I was the race director, after all, and no one wants to be on the bad side of the RD so nary a word was spoken and practice began. My confidence was shaken but once practice started I made up for the lack of public speaking skills by showing off my flagging skills.

As lunch approached I had a new problem. I had to announce that there would be a 30 minute lunch break but how would I do this? The track had a microphone and a PA system but I dared not use that as I'd hear the sound of my own voice! This was downright dreadful and there was no way I'd allow everyone to hear my voice. Yes, things certainly do change but on that crisp day just the other side of river from Quincy I was petrified of using such a device to amplify my voice so I always came up with an excuse to have someone else make the announcements.

After lunch it was time to qualify and the trial by fire was about to go to Mach 5. There's been two instances in my life at a track where I have said, "yeah, qualifying" the first time I said practice, "is rather boring and nothing ever happens." If you're a rookie working at a track never utter those words because something will always happen and the two times I've done so it turned into a major incident and on this Saturday as I just finished that a kid kart, which is a kart for the youngest of racers 5-7 using a small 50cc engine, biked over. What I mean by biking over is this; the kart was going around the sweeping infield right hander and it quite literally flipped over all by itself by having the right side tires lift off the ground and the momentum carried it all the way over. The driver stayed within a kart and unlike the karts you may envision at an indoor track or at a mini golf course there are no seat belts or roll cages so flipping over isn't good.

The session was brought to an immediate halt and I made my way to the scene of the track where the crash had happened which was my first time going to a scene. Being the flagman as I had been I never got close to an incident scene, but now I had to assess the situation. We had an EMT that day and the kid was complaining of neck pain so the EMT ordered up a call of 911 and an ambulance fearing severe neck injuries. I'd seen this dozens of times but it just so happened on this day that the county I was in and the ambulance services of Quincy, Illinois weren't playing nice in the sandbox. Typically, Quincy would respond to the kart track in Missouri to transport to the hospital in Illinois just across the river but on this day Quincy was already responding to something and told the county of Missouri to deal with it whilst the county in Missouri were busy with a call themselves and didn't convey that Quincy so at the track we waited, and waited, and waited.

After an hour, yes I said an hour, I was being asked all sorts of questions about, "why wasn't there an ambulance on site?" to which I didn't have an answer. One was scheduled for race day but even if you rent an ambulance they often aren't allowed to actually transport so we'd have been in the same position regardless. The poor kid that crashed was about the most annoyed of everyone as he was being told not to move and the pain wasn't as bad as it was after he flipped but at a race track if you so mention "neck" and "pain" it's a one-way ticket to the hospital.

As I waited I was sure I would be one and done as race director. This wasn't my fault but I was the face of the officiating side of the series and I was supposed to be this authoritative figure that feared nothing but how could this be when I couldn't even look the drivers in the eye?

The ambulance, 90 minutes after the crash, mercifully showed up and the kid was transported and all was fine, and I believe he raced the next day, but my confidence was shaken and I made it a point to speed the rest of the program as fast as I could so I could get off the property as fast as I could because I was sure I was done.

Greg, Gary, and their buddies went out to eat but I remained at the hotel and I ordered a pizza. I wasn't in the mood to socialize which at that point in my life I wouldn't have been even if the day had gone perfect, and I awaited the disaster that I was sure to come the following day.

As turbulent as Saturday had been Sunday was the opposite. My driver's meeting wasn't a cataclysmic disaster. Was it good? Not at all, but a small bit of confidence was starting to bloom, albeit just a little, and the race day went off without a single red flag or any situation that required me to impose a penalty. It was exactly what a rookie needed to boost their confidence and when the final checkered flag flew I actually felt as if I knew what I was doing which of course I did, I just didn't know that I was capable of being in such a positon.

On the drive back to Saint Louis Greg asked me if I'd write the race report for ekartingnews as he knew I was in the midst of writing a book and I agreed to do so and found that writing a recap came naturally and in a way that writing style was the style I still use to this day when I blog about a sequence of events and the racers gave the report a rave review so the fears I had the previous day were put somewhat to rest.

What made that weekend so important? I can assure you I WOULD NOT BE presenting today to the audiences I do if not for the experience I had race directing. The season of 2006 turned into 2007 turned into 2008 and my confidence kept increasing. My fear of using a microphone would vanish as proven by this picture from 2008 in Delmar, Iowa. I traveled all over the Midwest and with each race I felt more at ease not just with myself but I was also having more conversations with Greg and the competitors and with the race reports my confidence in writing increased.

Now what would've happened had I not been prepared for that first race? My story would've been much different. Remember that I had been flagging for 11 years so I knew the rules and I knew what was expected. Was I great to begin with? No and I'll gladly admit that, but by 2009 I could handle any on track situation because I had established the alias of race director and when I was at the track I ran it like a captain runs a ship. To the racers that I told that I had Asperger's they often wouldn't believe me unless they saw me after the event when I would shut off the world. Of course, that observation and all the observations on my blog posts for the past six years and the 730 presentations I have given never would've taken place had the series not taken a chance on a 23 year old rookie. I assure you the entire sequence of my life would be different for the worse if not for the events that took place decade ago.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Now is Forever

It has taken a few more days than I would've liked to get this blog post out but my emotions have created a bottleneck the likes which I haven't experienced and expressing much of anything hasn't been easy.

This does build on the previous post about understanding the invisible part that post was about society understanding and not about myself understanding. What does that mean? Take the title of this post. So often movies and songs have the title of, "Now and Forever" but that title doesn't quite fit the way I view time. Here's the thing; change is something that is impossible for me to comprehend which means now truly is forever. Whatever I am doing, or feeling, will be which means if I'm down or something is stressing me I'll remain in that state, perhaps self-imposed, because the ability to understand that tomorrow is a new day with infinite possibilities isn't there.

A smart person once told me that, "we allow ourselves to be where we are" and I understand this but at the same time I can't see that change can happen. I can't see that my worries will ebb and that I will eventually have new worries and the worries of today will eventually be simply a memory.

This is, perhaps, black and white thinking at its finest (or worst) as emotions such as worry are all or nothing and when the concept, or lack thereof, of time it creates all the ingredients for a perfect storm that starts feeding upon itself and with each cycle the storm intensifies.

In my 2nd book called I Think Therefore You Should Know (hopefully being released Q4 of this year) I have a chapter entitled, "Past, Present, and Oblivion" which looks at this concept of time in depth. Depending on the week and the current struggle I am having I'll say something is the, "most frustrating part of Asperger's" but I may hold firm in the future that this struggle with time and that whatever is now is forever is the biggest struggle. Why? A decade ago I was rather idle in life and outside of bowling in two leagues I didn't do much of anything and I was convinced that the state of being I was in was the state of being I'd have forever. Did those fears come true? No and you'd think with each revolution I've experienced in life you'd think I'd learn that things do change, things do become easier, and things happen that I never could've dreamt of, but this isn't the case. Wherever I am is where I will be and however depressed, lonely, frustrated, or whatever emotion or state of being I'm in is what I'm going to have to endure for all the rest of my years.

Some of the ongoing issues I could handle and take care of if not for the fear of change. See the contradictory nature of this? Socially I could take actions to come to some resolutions but then that would evoke a change and since change is bad and whatever is now is forever I am stuck in the middle with both options being wrong. Is that frustrating to read? Or perhaps it didn't make sense? If that's the case imagine living with this day after day!

I have no idea what the future holds and half of my brain is trying to tell me things get better and things will happen that I never could've imagined but the other side is convinced that where I am is where I will be forever and my hands are tied on being able to make any changes. I mean, I have a lot of exciting projects on the table but how can I be excited about them when, since they aren't in the now, they will never be? That's the thing, closing this post by coming full circle, if it isn't in the now then how can it ever be because now is forever because the only guarantee is what is now and since my brain can't conceive of what is to come that means the emotions of today will be forever because things either are or aren't and things to come can't be counted on. It's black or white, all or nothing, exists or will never be and as I said with the Tuesday's post you may want to bookmark this because there may be a time where this post may give you understanding as to what's going on deep beyond the surface.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Struggle: Understanding the Invisible

The funk I was in that I described last week has continued and today it intensified. At the same time I have to mention that the annual "Autism Awareness Month" commences in just a few weeks and I can make a point in what is lacking in that title by the way I feel now.

When I talk to teachers I give many examples of Aspergish-like behavior and by the end of my presentation I'm accustomed to seeing tears as teachers put together the pieces and now understand a current or former student. There is one major thing working against a person like myself with Asperger's and this is there is no visible sign. Look at my pictures, look at my videos, and look at the videos of myself at a racetrack and does anything jump out and say, "autism spectrum"? Unless you were finely trained or knew I was beforehand I'd say most certainly not and therein lies the struggle.

What does autism awareness actually mean? There can be billboards, 30 PSA ads, and radio ads mentioning that autism exists. In my six years as an Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Midwest I can clearly avow that over 95% of people are aware that autism does, in fact, exist. Okay, that's fine, but to simply know it exists gives no depth to the meaning, the struggles, and what one can do to ease the feelings of a person that's on the spectrum in the midst of a major struggle. This is the dilemma we face; we can shout "awareness awareness awareness" but if we don't achieve understanding it will be all for naught.

You see, and I go back to how I look in pictures and the like, the problem here is the invisible struggle a person may go through. Take a sensory issue. A person that has no sensory issues, if told that a person may have sensory issues, will be about as lost as being in a foreign country with no GPS and no understanding of the language. The road signs are there but there mean nothing and if they mean nothing how can one have compassion, empathy, and be willing to help? Same thing goes with a person that may have issues with crowds. If a normal (remember, I don't really believe there is a normal) person has no issues in crowds how can they understand that the person with them, that looks normal, is going to have an issue?

I don't believe there is one path to achieving understanding but it is imperative that we shift... no... it is imperative that we blitz the point home. I've spent many nights recently alone at home and it feels very much like the life I led in the 2000's. My ability to write and express myself was born within the way I feel now, but one of my reasons for writing was so that, "maybe the world won't hate me as much." Are those extreme words? Yes they are but that's the way I saw it. I tried and tried in life and things always went askew and I didn't know why. Well, not only did I not know why but those around me didn't either because of the cloak of invisibility Asperger's can hide behind.

I won't lie; the past month has been the hardest I've had in a decade but experiencing this has brought about a focus on the goal line and the purpose to it all. I think of all the police presentations and presentations to teachers and I can't think of an audience more important than those two because they will be dealing with the invisible and unless the canvas is described in a way that is understandable the beautiful artwork that is a person on the autism spectrum is going to appear to be just random lines and incoherent shapes. Of course, this isn't the case but without understanding awareness doesn't allow the canvas to be seen or understood and when this happens the struggle continues onward and no amount of simple awareness will progress us anywhere.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Where I Am

It's been eight days since my previous blog post and not much has changed. Actually, things just haven't felt right for me and with each passing day things seem to get more difficult.

I'm torn by so many conflicting feelings and that is, I think, the heart of the issue. I know without a doubt that I have grown on my trips but what does this mean when I get back to home? I get the exact same feeling now as I do after each year's SKUSA Supernats which is, when one experiences pure bliss, how can it possibly be followed up? On top of that, going back to the conflicting feelings, when I went to the end of the earth I willingly put myself into a state of isolation and that sensation eventually became liberating and yet the isolation I experience at home is all but paralyzing.

On top of all this I have this sense of guilt. Yes, guilt in that I have done some rather incredible things the past year, heck, the past six years to be honest and you may think I have this big ego about myself, or expect special things because I am who I am, but this isn't the case at all. I'm actually still the same shy, unassuming and always fearing the worst person I was six years ago when my blog began. Yes, my skills have grown and yes I'm capable of much more than I ever realized but at the same time the events I've done and places I've been hasn't changed the inner person of who I am which might just be the root of this pit I'm in. Which with all this so, is this the defining aspect of Asperger's in myself?

What do I mean by defining aspect? I don't mean it in the terms of defining who I am but rather defining the area it impacts me the most. Sure, my ability to read social cues isn't the best and I'm uneasy in most open ended social realms but so often the way it impacts a person internally is overlooked and in my case it creates this constant sensation that, "I'm not good enough nor will I ever be." Those may seem like tragic words and when I shared this at a presentation several years ago a parent told me, "I... this... I'm sad for you" but at the same time this is where the fuel to forge onward comes from. Odd, right, the exact thing that holds me back makes me excel? It's true, though. Every concept I've created has come from a time I've been in this dark pit of despair. Every idea I've had be it my hit series Asperger Insights or The Aspie Traveler came from this area and I've got two more ideas which could be bigger than those if things work out right and it all came from this dark place in my mind which tells me, "I'm never going to make it."

It's taken me eight days to work through these emotions to be able to express them and I hope you can see the almost duel state of being I experience; on one hand I know I'm excellent at what I do and know that I'm horrible at what I can't do but what I can do I don't do well enough and what I'm horrible at I should do better. Read and re-read that sentence because if you know a person with Asperger's they very well might go through the same thing and the ability to express such things isn't easy. Now, remember, not every person on the autism spectrum is the same and I won't say I speak for anyone but myself, but living with this constant battle of conflicting feelings isn't easy to do nor is it easy to express in a way that is understandable. Maybe this will be it, maybe tomorrow's blog will pry deeper into this. I'm not sure, but there is considerable depth to this post and is one, if you know of a person going through any sort of struggle like this, you may want to bookmark to reference back someday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

One month later

One month later 

It's been a little under a month since I returned from Réunion. I'm writing this on a plane headed home from working my first race of the year and being back in an airplane has brought back a rush of emotions of my trip last month. I'm also writing this to the music I wrote most of my words during my trip and I must admit I'm fighting back tears. 

I worked a SKUSA regional event over the weekend and those that follow me on Facebook had many questions about my trip, why I went, and even why I chose such a remote place like Réunion. These conversations always led to talking about the book I'm writing and the overt excitement to those I talked to about my journey, my observations, and just the vast amount of adventures I've had within the four trips that comprise The Aspie Traveler series thus far has me excited that my hopes for this book will come true. 

I'm closing in on the one year anniversary of the first trip of the four and I had two weeks where no presentations were scheduled and I needed a challenge and something new to prevent myself from falling into a seemingly bottomless pit of despair and had no idea the series of self discoveries and adventures that would lay ahead. However, when I did the second trip, I started thinking this had book material and in the conversations I had my hopes that this concept would conjure up the imagination and get people excited about places heard and unheard of. I've written a book solely on Asperger's and that really has limited the audience, but this travel book is going to do exactly what I hoped it would and that is to expand the potential audience by expanding the material and I wish you could've seen the conversations I had and the excitement and all the while amidst all the adventure I was making points about the autism spectrum thus raising understanding within the confines of the stories. 

I'm excited, I'm actually beyond excited but at the same time, since I've gotten back, I haven't adjusted well to being back at home. It's been a rough go to be honest as the trip to Réunion was so over the top and such a challenge which led to the most prolific writing experience I've ever had in my life. It was beyond the experience I had when I first sat down and wrote the first chapters of Finding Kansas and was simply seamless to write. It's hard to explain unless you yourself are either an artist or a writer, but to have such a canvas to write on and to have words come in the thousands without effort is something that isn't comparable to any other experience I've had and being home, in a way, has taken away that canvas. 

This isn't to say that being home is bad, but I have so much passion in what I do and ever though I'm an author it is, at times, difficult to grind out blog posts without becoming repetitive. On top of that I have come such a long way from when I stated my blog six years ago. Back then I still lived with my dad and simple trips to Taco Bell or the grocery store made for edge of your seat blog posts but I've grown and those formerly chaotic and difficult experiences are now more tolerable and don't offer the same writing material. To live on the edge, though, in a foreign land provides me the material I used to have and from my experiences comes new thoughts, ideas, and concepts to better explain to others the nuances of the autism spectrum and better ways to describe why I do the things I do. 

I had travel envy at LAX before we took off as I saw signs on the departure gates for Sydney, Tokyo, and Bangkok and I yearned to have a ticket to one of those places. It's odd that a decade ago it took a major effort to leave home but now I feel restless at home. Why is this? For someone that likes structure and loathes change why is the constant of being home such a downer now?  The answer lies within change itself. You see, I've been beyond blessed and a bit spoiled in the jobs I have because just look at where I am now, well you can't actually look but I just flew over Las Vegas and I'm on the go and have been coast to coast several times with SKUSA and USAC flying the flags over race tracks. That's pretty awesome and I also have such an extremely awesome blessing of being the Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Midwest which has me on the road rather frequently. Why does this all mean? It means that, in my life, the structure I used to have in being home most days of the year has shifted in that travel and changes of scenery is now the new normal because, if there's more change that constant, then there really isn't change because constant change within itself is consistency and when I'm home I don't have the structure I have when I'm on the go. 

I never thought I'd say that, this concept that change is good, but I've adapted and being home without a goal has very much turned me, in a way, Sherlock Holmes without a puzzle to solve. I feel aimless and self doubt comes in like a 100 foot tsunami. I've had several people tell me that, after hearing my story of the past year, that I have, "lived many person's lifetime of experiences in just a single year." This may be true and I don't doubt that few will ever do what I've done. I don't mean this in a boasting manner but simply as a matter of fact but yet at the same time I, in these moments of self doubt and self loathing, yearn for what other people have and that is the phantom known as normal. 

This all goes to the duality of having Asperger's. Some of us can have exceptional gifts in a certain area and I was given the gift if self awareness and the ability to express it, but with that comes the knowledge of what I don't have. Maybe someday I'll get close to being able to experience it, but when I'm at home I feel like more of a foreigner at home than I do afar because what all of my experiences have shown is that I'm more comfortable knowing that I can't understand the language and social situations than being at home where those I encounter at a store, or a restaurant, expect that I can pick up on the social cues. 

So these are my rather scattered thoughts from the sky today. Despite the self doubt I've encountered the past month since I've returned I am just giddy about the audience that The Aspie Traveler book will reach. Those that have bought Finding Kansas bought it because in one way or another they had some affiliation with the autism spectrum already but this travel book and just the onslaught of oddities and misadventures will broaden the market and get those that don't have a concept of what Asperger's is at least a foundation to build upon and it is that which has me more excited about this than any other thing I've done. However, should the unfortunate fate of it never getting published happen I still have some amazing stories to tell and just like at the race track yesterday I'll be spreading autism understanding to those that typically wouldn't inquire about such a thing and in the end it's made the countless hours and investment in this project worth it beyond any measurable method.