Thursday, July 28, 2022

Opening Moves

In my book, Finding Kansas, I mention that I see conversations as a chess match. A person opens, then there’s a response, and a response to the response and so on and so forth. Keeping the theme of chess active, if I were to state what my weakest part of my game is, it most certainly is in the opening move.

I don’t know how people do it. Yesterday at the track, a coworker waved at a person as we drove by in a golf cart. I looked at my coworker as I didn’t recognize who he waved to and I said, “do you know him?” My coworker smiled, shook his head, and said “no”. 

How? I was so confused. How does a person wave or initiate a conversation with someone they don’t know. There aren’t many things that make me shudder in fear, but being the opener to a conversation is one and my coworker navigates the openings as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. 

In many situations I probably come off as snobbish or stand-offish. I’m aware of this and yet it isn’t something I can just do. The difficult thing to understand about the autism spectrum is that, the next person with my same diagnosis, may have no problems making the opening move, but perhaps the timing is off or they can’t “read the room” so to speak and talk to people that may otherwise be engaged in another conversation.

I’ve tried to overcome this, but it isn’t something that I can do. I try not to think of the list opportunities, the potential friendships, and all the chances lost due to the fact that, if the conversation chess game is left to me to open, the chess board will remain unplayed with two sets of perfectly set up pieces waiting until the end of time for that first move. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The finish line

Monday’s blog meant a lot to me. I wish you knew how much strength it takes to get through the day. There is little I can do or say to relay to you how exhausting it truly is. However, attempting to is the motivation because it is the ultimate goal; the finish line. 

Having to attempt to fit into a box, so to speak, of what society expects is a challenge. This has to be done because we aren’t at a level of 100% autism awareness, but more importantly, 100% autism understanding.

When we get to that place, that place of a fully accepting society, the level of exhaustion and frustration will be less. It’s a possibility, I know it, that we can reach it. It’s a hope I have, and one I hope I can continue to do my part on this pathway to the finish line. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Don't Let Them See the Autism in Me

Earlier this year, I learned about autism burnout. Well, I knew it was a thing within myself, but I didn't know it was an actual thing shared by many. One of the things that leads to this state in the constant struggle to not let the world see the way autism affects me.

First off... I know it's okay to be on the autism spectrum. It is! If you're reading this, please understand this. However, growing up when autism awareness wasn't a thing, I learned that I had to be a chameleon to avoid being noticed. This required, and requires, a constant thought process denying what my body needs to meet sensory or calmness needs.

When things get too loud, especially with drums or bass, every ounce of my being is telling me to, "run! escape! flee! I'm not safe here!" In public, this may get a strange look. If I expressed my level of discomfort on the outside, I'd get comments from others and I'd be noticed. To be noticed will start the conversations of, "are you okay?" and then I've got an equally painful conversation that is equal to the pain of the sensory bombardment.

When I get excited, it's a wonderful feeling, but the emotions are too much. I have to vent the excitement, or it'll feel as if it's going to consume me. The way I dispel this is by a stim, or as I like to call it, "the dance of the fingers". You may have heard of finger flapping, but I much prefer the dance. When I must dance, it's because there are exciting thoughts racing through my brain that are very much like a locomotive going downhill at full steam with no brakes. I need a break from such euphoria and by dancing my fingers, I'm able to dispel that rush of excitement. If I don't dance, my insides feel as if they're going to burst out of me in a fury of excitement. See the problem here? If I dance the fingers in public, people look. They always look. Those that know me well, I have no problem with them seeing me as exactly who I am. For those that don't know me well, well, I can't let them see which allows that train to rush down the hill with unabated speed.

When meeting someone new, my body tells me to avoid looking at them at all costs. There's too much info yet it's like trying to play chess without being able to see your opponent's pieces. It's awful, it's tiring, and if I look at the person, I may not hear what they have to say, but if I look away, I am being rude. In certain situation, I must add, there are no issues. On Saturday, Olympic gold medalist, Shawn Johnson East, was the honorary starter for the Indycar race in Iowa, and I had no issues greeting her in the flagstand and prepping her for the start of the race. This is because, when in that position, I'm under my concept of Alias, which is the best chameleon experience possible. It's actually easy for me there because I'm playing the part of starter of the NTT INDYCAR Series. It's outside of an official title I struggle, that I will flee any new encounter, because I can't let them see my avoidance of eye contact and my level of uneasiness.

It's tiring. I know it's okay to be me. I know that I am not weak because of these challenges, yet I'm afraid to let others see it. It only takes one time for something to be pointed out to leave a scar that lasts a lifetime. When we overcompensate and something gets pointed out, this time opposite of the first, we are now scarred on both sides. We neither can nor cannot whatever the thing may be. This very well could be the essence of autism burnout because we have to exert so much level to not let them see while attempting to disregard and override every signal our brains are telling us to do. It's tiring, sometimes degrading, and it's extremely frustrating to know that I should be 100% comfortable with who I am, yet I'll attempt to bear the noise, I'll delay the dance, and I'll flub social greetings all because I'm attempting to hide from the world who I am.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Evidence of Growth

Traveling yesterday was, well, it was exhausting. Nothing seemed to go right and our flight from Indy to Chicago to get to Des Moines was delayed. The delays persisted and after an hour it was said that we were delayed due to the pilots being locked out of an app that allows them to view the plane’s manual. Frustrating indeed. 

We had a scheduled three hour layover in Chicago, but if we missed that flight we couldn’t get into Des Moines at 11PM and we needed every possible minute at Iowa Speedway during the day. 

The clock was ticking and the three hour lay over went to two, one, and then it was going to be an extremely tight connection. During the delays I was looking up alternatives which this is where the growth was seen. 

I thought back to all the travels I did with karting and USAC in the early 2010’s and I would not budge on what the itinerary would be. What was was going to be. No exceptions. However, I was looking up flight times, drive times, and when we got our flight pushed back on last time we requested our bags be offloaded and we made the drive to Iowa. 

It was unbelievable for me to do this. My anxiety used to be so bad with delays, but now I view it simply as it is what it is and can’t be helped. This proves to me growth is always possible. The more life is experienced, the more the ability to accept things that aren’t in my control truly are not. 

The biggest sign I had made huge progression was when we were somewhere in illinois and I looked at the dashboard. The gas light… it was on. Greg, who I used to work with in 2006, always ran the pickup truck to the point the gas light was on. My panic would swell each time as I feared the end of the world. That’s what my anxiety level was as I equated running out of gas to the end of everything. Yesterday though? I was in a conversation, looked forward and saw the light on and said, “hey, the light is on” and went right back to the conversation. It makes me smile writing this. Growth is good. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


Dennis Tyger with the golf cart photo assist 
To understand why the story in this post is so relevant, you should check out yesterday's blog about a race I worked in Rock Island in 2010.

It was a glorious morning in Toronto! It allowed for many great photos to be taken, including the one on this post. This put me in a great mood, but I had no idea that the day was going to get better.

As we got up in the flag stand, there were local starters already up there. If you watch any road course race of the NTT INDYCAR Series, you'll see Bryan and I at each race, but there will also be a local starter that assists. They are listening to a different radio than what Bryan and I are on so they can give us information that we may not be aware of yet, and as we introduced ourselves, there was already a sense of friendliness among the locals.

Over the day, between sessions, conversations were had and laughs were plenty, but something came up that involved talking about sensory issues. Perhaps it was my loathing of lotion sunscreen, or maybe something about sounds, but whatever it was it opened up the door to me opening up about being on the autism spectrum.

Being an author on the subject, and having this blog, it's hard to hide the fact that I am. All it takes is one Google search of my name and a person will know. However, going back to that blog in 2010, there's always a bit of hesitation in opening up simply because I have no clue how people will take it. Being told, "I'm sorry..." as I was in 2010 hurts. It hurts a lot. Even though I'm happy with who I am a majority of the time, a distinct response that makes me question if I'm on everyone else's level can quickly make me wonder if everyone sees me in that light.

As I opened up on my being on the autism spectrum the response was... it was awesome. I got the initial response of, "I had no idea" which I will say some individuals on the autism spectrum don't like to hear, but for myself, in this environment, I love it because I can quickly explain my concept of Kansas and that, yes, if you see me in a flag stand you'll probably have no idea, but see me on the sidewalk or somewhere else out in public and it will be rather apparent.

The two starters that were up there, Gloria and Michelle, both started mentioning other individuals they knew on the spectrum, and they both were extremely proud of a local racer who is on the spectrum who is now racing in the Radical series in the US. From there, the conversation went to the nuances of life on the autism spectrum and the joys, challenges, and everything between.

What a difference a dozen years make! On Sunday, between sessions, the conversation shifted to the alarming high rate of unemployment for those with Asperger's, and if everyone were as understanding, and had the frame of reference the two people in the stand had, I strongly feel that number would be lower. 12 years ago, I felt less of a person when someone apologized to me for my diagnosis, but having the response be so open, warm, and accepting made my heart soar. 

Each day I wonder if I'm going to have to have that conversation... the one that I explain I'm on the autism spectrum to someone that has no idea what it is or means. It can be awkward, demeaning, and leave a scar that makes me want to stay quiet all the time. Then there's days like this weekend, where there is understanding. My motto when I present is, "understanding is the foundation for hope" and I firmly believe this as I experienced firsthand this weekend. With the experience I had it adds a layer of fearlessness in opening up because there are those that understand. There are those that care, and I hope we get to a place where this is the majority and examples such as the race twelve years ago becomes a distant memory.

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Flashback from 2010

For what I want to write to make sense, you've got to understand where we were to understand where we are now. The progression has to be measured so here's a post from an experience I had from 2010.v 

Over the past weekend I was the assistant race director at the Rock Island Grand Prix kart race, the largest street race in America, and had a most unique, and sad experience.

Several months ago, I posted an article titled, "I'm sorry..." in which I describe some of the social issues I know I have and still have issues with. This, sadly, is not a sequel to that article. This time I was not the one apologizing.

The Rock Island Grand Prix is one of my favorite race weekends because of how close the audience is. I am not sure at the actual numbers, but the numbers are in the multiple thousands. Why so many? As my photo I took in 2006 illustrates, the RIGP is a street race ran on public streets.

I am stationed in turn three and after one of the early races a spectator called me over to ask what my blue flag with orange stripe meant. I explained it and then she asked me if displaying the blue flag at street races was my day job.

This woman was in her mid 30's, give or take 13 years as I am awful at ages, and I figured this was going to be a "typical" conversation people have. How fast a conversation can change.

I told this woman that I am a Community Education Specialist for a non-profit in the autism field in Saint Louis. She asked what that meant, and I told her. She asked what makes me qualified to be in such a position and I told her that I am an author and that I am on the autism spectrum.

Her response? "I'm sorry."

I'm sorry? For what? I was taken aback by that comment, and I was unable to respond. I don't know if I was offended or saddened. Whatever I was, I was frozen because no one has ever apologized or expressed sympathy to me for being on the autism spectrum, and they shouldn't.

Is there that big of a fear of the word "autism?" I had my sunglasses on and was making partial eye contact and the look on her face was one of true pity; like I was a disappointment or a defect.

Words eluded me. I just stood there oblivious as to what to say next. I now realize that was the prime opportunity to be a Community Education Specialist. But how does one react when one apologizes for who I am? I reacted by simply returning to my post some 10 feet away and waiting for the next race to start.

I now know what to say and that's why I am writing today. There is nothing to be sorry about! I am going to be honest and say that, yes, there are challenges, but other things come easy. Most of the time I am happy as can be and have a wonderful time lost in thought. There are times where the only word that can describe my perception of social situations would be "confused" but I have grown to accept this and am always challenging myself to become a little bit more adept at the art.

It is because of my Asperger's Syndrome that allows me to write. I have one semester of community college to my credit and there is no obvious reason as to why I am able to write at the quality and quantity that I do.

It is because of my Asperger's Syndrome that I have all the race official positions I have. My reflexes and ability to hyper-focus allows me to excel at these positions.

I am who I am and a part of me has Asperger's Syndrome. I see it as a strength, most of the time, so please tell me why you are sorry. It isn't that bad, and I would not trade it in to be normal even if I were offered an insane amount of money.

If this perception of autism, this need for this woman to apologize, is prevalent then my job just become more important. I never once had any event like this happen, and now it has. Next time someone apologizes to me I will be ready, and I will simply ask, "Why? I am happy as myself. Do you think I am wrong for being me?"


Friday, July 15, 2022

An Impromptu Concert on Lake Shore

Yesterday was a long day of setting up for the Honda Indy Toronto race. As the sun began to get lower in the western sky, we were on the back stretch which is Lake Shore Dr. There’s an amphitheater towards the water back there and there was a concert that was going to take place. The music played there was outside of ear range but the story of this post is the people headed to the concert. 

The lines of people kept flowing out from a tap that seemed to be infinite. Truly, it was a perpetual passing of people that neither grew or decreased. One section of this never ending parade of people started humming a song and then all of a sudden a singing of  “I Want it that Way” took place. 

Why is a random song relevant? As the song bounced around and different parts of the infinite line of people sang, I once again understood that what I was witnessing was something I never have, or will be a part of. 

I got sad. I don’t understand how people can just let go and be completely free with no regard to harmony, pitch, and simply exists without thought. I watched with a great level of envy as this line of people that, in my eyes, had everything kept walking by. 

It took a while but I realized I was falling into the trap of forgetting who I was. That’s such an easy trap for us on the autism spectrum to fall into. In this moment of watching the others, I put the perfection label on them. They were perfect, and I was not. This is a gigantic fallacy, but when viewing others in an envious eye, it is easy to fall into the trap. 

As we drove away from the back stretch I started to wonder how those people looking my way thought. I’ve never thought of this before, but if they knew the places I get to work, the people I get to work with, and the extreme joy I get working my gig as the starter/flagman for the NTT INDYCAR Series, I think they too might have had a hint of envy looking towards the track. A concert may be fun, and I may not let myself go socially and be completely free, but for me there’s no other place I’d rather be than my home at the track. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Devastating Evidence of the Work at Hand

I was thinking about what today’s post was going to be yesterday while sitting on an Air Canada plane while we were stuck in Indianapolis. It was annoying and allowed for me to spend too much time on social media. As I was scrolling I came across a lawyer’s page trying to drum up clients for a class-action suit regarding the autism spectrum. There were 12 comments so I decided what possibly could’ve been said, and that’s when I saw it. 

A self-advocate was questioning the imagery portrayed stating that some people on the spectrum find it offensive. In response, a person commented that they shouldn’t have an opinion due to their diagnosis. The self-advocate responded stating they, along with everyone, should have an a voice and an opinion and that’s when it went off the rails.

To counter the advocate, the commenter, who seemed to have a legitimate account and not a dedicated troll account, stated that they should only have a voice if they have a job and pay taxes. I share this with you because I was deeply troubled, and still am, by that notion. The commenter further said that if a person is any sort of drain they should have no say in anything. 

I cried when I read this. Thankfully I was in the front of the plane so no one could see, but how could anyone cast such a viewpoint publicly? Maybe I’ve been too sheltered in my social media usage to not see such extreme statements, but I shuddered to think what those on the spectrum would think if they saw that. 

If I saw that in 2009, it would’ve reinforced my belief that I was nothing but a drain and that I had no prospect of bettering myself or the ability to achieve anything in life. I proved that wrong though! I’ve given over a thousand presentation, have reached hundreds of thousands of people, and have even made it to the flagstand of the NTT INDYCAR Series. 

What would’ve happened though, had I read that type of comment in 2009? Would any of my life played out the way it had? I’m unsure, and that troubles me that I say that because I know I was susceptible to such negative talk. 

We still have a lot of work. Never for a moment forget that. We still have so much work to show the world the entire spectrum that exists within autism. We must strive forward because to become complacent will mean that those voices that say we won’t achieve a thing will become louder than ours. There is so much growth, potential, and life in all of us on the spectrum and we must strive for a world where we can grow, meet our potential, and not have to worry about outsiders questioning if we deserve a voice in life. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

It Starts with a Rumor

 Hopelessness... It starts with a rumor,

Hey, did you know that people with Asperger's won't be able to hold a job?

With a rumor comes misunderstandings,

Hey, did you know that people with Asperger's won't be happy because they can't have friends?

With a rumor comes fear,

Hey, haven't you heard, people with Asperger's are angry all the time and may lash out or become violent?

With too many rumors people become afraid of what they are hearing,

Hey, did you know that person over there has Asperger's? No? Well, let me tell you what I've heard about it and why you should be scared...

That's how it begins. It doesn't take much and it can all start with a rumor; just one little rumor. What may seem like one small irrelevant generalization may lead to a road of more misunderstandings which will, in the end, result in a person becoming isolated because of one little rumor.

With a rumor comes a stated difference. We are all different, but with the wrong rumor the difference will strike fear, and this fear is on both sides of the fence. As damaging as it is for someone who knows nothing about Asperger's to hear the rumors above so too is it for the person with Asperger's.

I was the victim of such rumors. I've said it many times, this story of when I got diagnosed and looked it up on the internet and read, "people with Asperger's will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy." After reading that life was to a point that today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow didn't matter. And why should it? These rumors had told me that no matter who I was, or how hard I tried, failure was the only outcome.

For parents, these rumors may also have a highly damaging impact. Every parent wants the best for their child, but if these rumors are believed, and if those around them tell them these rumors, how is there a place for hope?

Hope is a critical aspect of life. Hope is, in my mind, the belief that tomorrow will be better than today and that growth is possible. Hope is the fuel that drives us. We all have hopes and beyond hopes are dreams of what the future may hold, but by just small rumors these hopes and dreams are squashed under a immovable weight.

Anytime there is a vast, misguided generalization about the autism spectrum a rumor has begun. A rumor is an odd thing because it may start out with some fact, but as the rumor travels down the line all fact is lost and it becomes like the rumors I started out with and if a person paints a box for a person that person will always appear to fit into that box. This isn't the way the autism spectrum is, but if society believes it to be because of rumors then that's all we will ever be to them and for us on the autism spectrum we will believe this box you have put us in and the cycle begins anew.

Of everything I've written I think this is the essence of my being. I spent fifteen months in that box, that box of hopelessness because of a rumor. Thinking back on those days, still to this day, brings me to tears; my soul had been sucked out and I felt as if I was just an irrelevant being with no purpose or direction. My mission, and everyone's mission should be to quell the rumors. It may seem irrelevant, it may seem small, but it paints that hideous box and if those around me believe those rumors then why should I believe otherwise. If you tell me I won't have friends then I won't. If you tell me I won't have a job then I won't. If you tell me I will never amount to anything because of Asperger's then the battle is already lost and human potential has gone wasted. It may seem small, but hopelessness starts with just a rumor, one small, seemingly irrelevant rumor.

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Curious Problem with Having Cake and Eating it

 It is widely known that those on the autism spectrum often have a hard time with figures of speech and the like. I personally don't have a horrible time at this, but there are a few saying out there that I have trouble with. However, when it comes to certain proverbs, I have a horrible time and there has been one that I've heard for a long time but never thought of until last Friday.

Watching a race yesterday, I heard the saying, "You can't have your cake and eat it too." This line makes no sense to me on a literal level because if you were to have the cake wouldn't that entail you eating the cake? I mean, what good is cake unless you are going to eat it? Of course, if it's an awful flavor one wouldn't want it at all.

So, you can't have the cake and eat it too. I struggled with this, and it was the only thing my mind could think of because I was trying to find the logic in it which my mind was convinced there was none. And the more I thought about it the more it made no sense.

Minutes went by and I thought for a second that this might mean that, once you eat the cake it is no longer there. But what happens if you only eat on piece of a whole cake? The problem with proverbs and figures of speech is that we can view them visually and literally; there may be a valid point that is brought up in a proverb but it's going to be lost. Speaking of lost, I'm always lost in regard to gift horses.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the flavor of the cake doesn't matter, how much cake doesn't matter, the only thing that matters if that you can't have your cake and eat it too. What this meant was I was right back to square one having no idea what it meant. So out came my phone and to the Internet I went to try and decipher the meaning of this cake.

The origin of this cake dates back to 1546! This was news to me because that was a long time ago and who knew they had cake back then? If you said that you did that's fine, but I had no idea. This little fact that meant nothing because cake now or cake then is irrelevant because why can't a person eat it and have it?

I finally read one line that made everything make sense and it wasn't that difficult. You see, the problem with cake is that it's complicated and can have multiple layers (Ha! That line just happened randomly. I swear.) whereas it would be so much easier to say what you mean and mean what you say because this line I read translated this cryptic saying by stating, "you can't have it both ways." Now was that overly difficult to explain? Why come up with some saying that can 1. make you hungry 2. makes no sense and 3. can be explained in a much simpler format? It makes no sense to me, and this is the essence of why there is now a serious problem with proverbial cakes.

Friday, July 8, 2022

The Myth of Casper

What if I were to tell you that the grandest city in the world is Casper, Wyoming and that no city is like Casper. I'm sure residents of there would agree, but this is a metaphor so bear with me. Anyway, the roads are perfect, the restaurants all serve the most exquisite of foods, and the residents are the friendliest bunch of people you will ever meet. The art district has more museums than you could visit in a week and the shopping district has the hottest deals known to mankind. Sounds like a great place, right? Now what if I were to tell you that you will never be allowed to visit Casper, Wyoming? This is what happens when is told that they will never be capable of something.

My history from relationships to my introduction of Asperger's has created a Casper type place. I yearn for it, I pine for it, I'd give just about anything to experience it because I was told I could never experience it. That being so, no matter what is experienced, it just won't be good enough because it isn't the promised land of Casper.

Several things can initiate a Casper like situation and to be honest I had this before I was diagnosed as I'd look at groups of friends with awe wondering what it would be like. This blinded me to the friends I did have because it wasn't what I saw others have. After my diagnosis, and the ill-fated prognosis I read of, "never have a job/friends/be happy" Casper became this place in the distance that no matter how far I traveled and no matter how hard I fought I could never get there. Sometimes it would seem like I was getting close but like a mirage of an oasis in the desert it would vanish.

Casper is a dangerous place. Again, residents of the real Casper this is a metaphor so don't take this literal, because it doesn't exist! Again, residents, don't send me emails saying you do exist. But anyway, going back to my description of Casper no city can live up to perfection because when you're told you'll never experience it that, whatever it is, will become perfection and missing out on perfection, well, that's what hurts the most. This sort of is a play on what will be a major chapter from yet to be published second book, but is something that must be understood because, unless you've lived it, the concept of Casper may make no sense.

It may start out small; this little notion that a certain part of life, well, tough luck you won't get to experience. Okay. No biggie. But as days go on and life moves by, you'll start to notice things. What was a little notion is now a sliver of envy followed by this awful sense of self-loathing and by the end Casper has become this impossible place that even if you were to get to Casper you wouldn't accept it because it didn't fit this image of perfection that had been created.

One thing I want to state is that I'm not against the diagnosis because one could make a point of saying, "well Aaron, if  person didn't know they had it then how would they know what they could or couldn't do or what their potential shortcomings could be?" First, I knew something was different with me before the diagnosis, but secondly, with an earlier diagnosis, and more awareness/understanding, the myth of Casper may not be created.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Leveling Up

Facebook reminded over the weekend that my first Indycar race in the flagstand was two years ago. I also had an interview on Friday and one of the topics that came up was Asperger's and unemployment which led me to give an answer that, had I gotten the Indycar opportunity ten years ago I'm not sure if I'd have lasted or had the skills to make it. This reminded me of the concept from chess called Zugzwang.

 I understand not everyone knows or plays chess so the image to the right may not makes sense. In this example it is black's move but no matter where they move their position will be worse. The best option would be to not move if it were allowed but move, they must which will allow the white king to attack one of the sides getting position thus making black's hopes at a win almost nil.

How does this chess concept have any correlation with the workplace?  Over time, skills are learned that we don't even know we learned. From small tasks that we may need to know later, to the understanding of how to navigate the social waters of the workplace. I know for a fact that if Indycar had called me a decade ago I wouldn't have the wide array of skills needed. Could I have waved a flag? Most certainly, but everything else that is needed to maintain a job of that nature wasn't in my skill set.

So again, how does this chess concept relate? As new skills are learned imagine it this way; the various pieces on the chess board are upgraded and level up to stronger chess pieces. If either pawn on the left or right were knights, the white king would have to move to get out of check. The thing is though, one learning skills often doesn't even know they are picking up the skills to level up.

Unemployment for those with Asperger's is extremely high, and many of us may end up with our dream job with only having the skills to do the job itself and nothing else. This can lead to workplace friction with not understanding workplace politics and niceties, and a person can be put into a real version of Zugzwang where no option is good. The daily grind becomes so great at not understanding the social dynamic that the sheer thought of going in is stomach churning. And yet, this was the dream job! Every ounce of their being has been focused on getting the job so leaving/quitting isn't an option. No option is good and either burnout or termination may occur.

I ended the interview saying that "I don't know if there's anything more tragic for a person professionally than getting their dream job and losing it." Patience isn't a strong suit for those on the spectrum and because this process of leveling up is invisible, it can make for a restless soul. However, where a person is now may not be where they want to be, but I hope this post reaches someone that may need to know that it's okay to wait if they're not ready now, learn the skills needed, and understand that Zugzwang isn't a good place to be so level up as many skill sets as possible.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Salt Equation


Several years ago I was in Gordon, Nebraska at a restaurant with my mom, sister, and nephew when an occurrence so seemingly benign happened and to most it would be a non-point but for myself it thrust me back in my seat as I had a “oh…my…goodness!” moment. What spawned such a reaction? To my chemistry savvy nephew it’s NaCl but to most of us it’s table salt.

“Table salt… Aaron, you’re blogging about table salt?” is a reaction I’m sure many of you are having but bear with me as it’s within the story I’m about to tell that is a great illustration of Aspergerish thinking and, I hope, a ginormous learning moment for me. Anyway, we ordered and my burger came out and it was, well, it wasn’t good and was as bland as bland gets. I gave a facial expression of frustration and my sister told me it could, “use a little salt” which I looked at the salt shaker with an expression that conveyed suspicion as to if it would work and then my sister said something I have never once considered, “you know, you could lightly salt one part to see if it works and then salt the rest if it was good.”

No big deal, right? Just a bit of culinary advice, right? Something everyone knows, right? Wrong! This concept was something I never considered. Before that statement I never conceived of the notion that I could do a small test to see if it was a good move to make a further move to salt the whole burger. Previously it was an all or nothing move; either salt the whole burger or don’t salt at all.

Many of the things I’ve learned in life have dealt with learning about exceptions because my brain yearns for absolutes meaning it what’s a yes or no, black or white, and a right or wrong state. What this means is that it truly is all or nothing; the ability to consider things in the middle, or things in a partial state don’t exist. Think about that for a second, think about going through your day thinking in pure absolutes. In many things I have learned to have leeway as I used to be firm on time schedules and there was no greater sin than that of being late. It took many, many years to learn that things happen and this is something that an absolute mindset causes much more grief than good, but in other things, such as something as simple as the option to salt or not to salt is something that took me 39 years to learn.

As simple as the ability to partially salt one’s food may happen to be it’s something that never even occurred to me. Living life in a fluid world with many changes, grey areas, and choices that can be made in portions when one is firm in absolutes is one of the challenges living life with Asperger’s. Today’s blog, as revealing as it was for myself, was about something as simple and as small as salt. I can only imagine what else I have to learn about this world if I’m still learning about ways to not be absolute; to learn that there is a middle ground, that things aren’t all or nothing, and that one shouldn’t settle for a bland burger.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Name Game

Working the Indycar weekend from Mid-Ohio a couple days ago led me to an interesting thought as I was conversing with my co-starter Bryan. Mid-Ohio is a unique track at the start of the race because the start line is different from the finish line so one of us had to travel to the other stand. Anyway, as I got over there for the start of the Indy Lights race, I got on my radio box which serves as an intercom and said, "Bryan, can you hear me?" Why is this relevant? It was then that I realized I used a name.

Names are personal... too personal. In someone's presence I will not use a name. To get someone's attention I'll typically raise one hand halfway as if I'm about to say something to get a person's attention. If I'm behind a person, I'll wait for them to turn around before speaking so as to not have to say a name.

I've always been this way dating back to school. Using names is something I've always been afraid of and when I did my sunglasses experiment in 2010, I theorized that it's akin to eye contact in that it's the essence of someone's being and to try to comprehend that is too much information for my brain to handle. How then is it so easy to ask Bryan by name if he can hear me when we are half a track apart?

I learned to have a conversation via Xbox Live and racing people from around the world. I had no problem calling people by their screennames and eventually their real names as I got to know them and met them outside the virtual world. There too, when I met them in real life the usage of real names went away. As I write this, I'm now convinced more than ever that, for me, eye contact and usage of name is one in the same that it's too much info. Of course, with eye contact the info is processing the physical appearance and all the nonverbal cues that come with it, but there's also the look into the soul which is also exactly what a name does.

There are many people on a race weekend I'll say by name over the radios. This is easy for me and is done without thought. Those same people in person won't have their name spoken by me and it's awesome to finally understand this and to be able to tie the usage of names with the same system in place that makes eye contact difficult.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Bee Video

Yesterday morning during practice at Mid-Ohio, a carpenter bee landed on my yellow flag and allowed me to take an incredible video. 

I never saw these creatures as anything but a threat, but seeing the movements much like my cat does… it made me smile to see .

Click here to bee amazed.