Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Myth of Everyone Else

I was on a plane landing in New York City yesterday as I looked down all the hustle and bustle of the frantic pace that NYC runs at. I smiled as I thought about the life everyone was living, and how they had it all so perfect. "Perfect?" I questioned my internal talk and wondered why I jumped to that conclusion. It's amazing how a simple question of one's thoughts can lead to a deep, multifaceted understanding.

As the plane softly touched down, I wondered about how I view others and how I always jump to the conclusion that they have it all figured out. In my mind, everyone out there in the world knows exactly who they are, what they want, and never doubt the path they're on. It's one thing to question one's self on their potential lack of normality, but it's a completely different animal on seeing everyone else having it all outside of simply talking about a social aspect such as making friends.

What could lead to such a belief? How could I have this belief and never have realized it? Naturally, if one has this belief, they are always going to feel as if they are playing the game of life on the backfoot. If one is living in a world where everyone else has this magical life GPS that always keeps them on a heading, and a person doesn't have it, they are always going to feel as if they are lost amongst the throngs of those that move in direction with purpose.

As I continued to question my beliefs, I thought back in time to school and that this myth of everyone else knowing the directions on the roadmap of life was intact back then. I could describe it as everyone knowing the steps to a dance, or perhaps everyone was in on the inside joke in a language I could never understand. Would that environment lend itself to this belief? No one told me or described to me that each person is on their own journey. Each person is radically unique to his or herself. Of course, why would someone describe this to a second grader when this knowledge should come naturally to those who qualify for the myth of a diagnosis called normal, but for someone like myself on the autism spectrum, it didn't come naturally. 

In Finding Kansas, I wrote a chapter called "I vs. It" in which I described my perception that everyone else is this one entity. My thoughts yesterday made this clearer, my clarity on understanding this, and how I've always felt as if I'm playing the race of life starting the race two laps down. Even now, writing this and identifying this, I can't simply make individuals of everyone else. My brain defaults to the myth that everyone else has clear directions, knows what they want to be when they grow up, and has nary a problem because they are part of a collective that I am not a part of. 

I'm not sure if this was beat into my brain by making social error after social error, or perhaps this is a learned trait by being a different type of operating system to everyone else if the brain were a computer. Whatever the case may be, the obvious downside to this is a sensation that I'm lost even when I have direction. Those around me, right now as I write, may have direction, or may not. They may be wandering to their next thing, or wandering willfully wherever they may land. I'll forget this in mere minutes, but I understand that no one truly knows who they are and where they are going at all moments of life. I'm not unique in this feeling. We are all trying our best and deciphering the mysteries of our lives, and perhaps we will be trying to figure out why we are really here until our final breath. Yes, this is what being human is, there is no magical GPS, there is no cheat sheet or roadmap, and this myth I've lived with for so long as made me live life on the backfoot, but at least for the next few moments I'll understand that this isn't the way. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

1,000,000 Reasons to Smile

After my post last week, I went full hyper-Kansas on reaching the million-point total of Xbox Gamerscore. It became difficult to focus on anything else but the goal. I can't recall the last time I experienced a hyper-Kansas, but it felt exhilarating!

A state of hyper-Kansas is rare, but when it is experienced it may last for a day, a week, or sometimes a month or longer. During this event, it is almost impossible to achieve anything that doesn't relate directly to the goal at hand. Think of this way; the light at the end of the tunnel is the only thing that matters. Food may be forgotten, daily tasks may be skipped, and sleep schedules will most certainly be disrupted. At the same time this is goal achieving at its finest but also a major block of achieving anything else.

From my discussions with people at my presentations, those not on the spectrum can't fully experience the sheer bliss of this. Yes, obsessions can happen, or an interest that evoke strong emotions for a short time, but the event of something encompassing their entire being and the sensation of bliss that comes with it is something that I haven't heard those not on the spectrum explain like those on the spectrum can.

My fiancé yesterday asked me, "What are you going to do with all your free time now?" which the question isn't that far off as, since about the start of the pandemic, the quest for Gamerscore has been a real thing. There have been so many amazing games released in the past four years that deserve to be played, but I've been playing other titles such as "Horatio Goes Snowboarding" and "Butterfly". So, not only will I have time for the quality titles that aren't shovelware, but I'm also going to be saving tens of dollars by not getting all these $1.99 titles for the sole purpose of Gamerscore.

There is a strong sense of freedom today. My 400+ day streak of getting at least one achievement may or may not get extended, and I'm okay with that. I can start a quality title. I can experience games, once more, of not having to look at what side quests I should or shouldn't do as one may offer an achievement, and the other one may not. My life will no longer be dictated by upping a point total that no one else cares about. The race to a million took since December 2005, but now freedom from the most destructive thing to hinder the way games are played are past me. It's time to be free. It's time to move on, and I can't fully explain how happy I am that the next hyper Kansas won't be related to increasing the Gamerscore total.

Friday, February 24, 2023

The notes of angst

I’m always looking for a new way to attempt to relate to you how the autism spectrum feels. While I doubt there will ever be a clear 100% “this is the way” example, I do hope they get close and today’s example, for me, is extremely close. 

A couple nights ago I heard a song being played. The musician was playing slow and the song was unfamiliar which created this apprehension in my brain. What note was next? What tempo was this? As the mystery of the next note raged, my body had an all too familiar feeling; that of the feeling of being in a difficult social situation. 

This feeling is felt in all the limbs and is akin to falling. It creates a large sense of discomfort and the feeling within the music created the same sensation. Does this mean the feeling is all tied to processing? Frustration? I wish I knew. I’ve looked up some connections between music and anxiety and there are some, but not in the way I’m describing. If you have any info, please share it on my Facebook page. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Final Achievement

I'm almost there. It's been a journey since December 2005, but sometime this year the journey will be over. What journey? The long road to one million Gamerscore.

Gamerscore are points awarded for achieving various things within each game that the developer of the game put forth. When Gamerscore began, it was difficult to get a full 1000 points from a game. On Call of Duty 2, this required beating the game on the hardest difficulty and there were so many levels with tanks that seemed to know where you were at all times. 

Gamerscore has evolved though. Some games have gotten tougher and require an almost monk-like dedication to the task. And then, there's the opposite. The opposite is what sucked me in.

I'm a Gamerscore addict. The website, trueachievements.com, tracks a gamer's Gamerscore. I know these points mean nothing, and they're more irrelevant than ever with games that you can amass 4 or 5 thousand Gamerscore in this 10 minutes. And some of the games that'll be a quick 1,000? I'm ashamed to have played them because they are so bad. 

I always liked the sound of Microsoft's "beep-boop" of an achievement being unlocked, but since the start of the pandemic I've been dedicated to increasing the point total no matter what. Bad game? Don't care. New game that's got a complex story and everyone is talking? Nope, don't care. Give me the achievos. This became too much so I'm changing this.

1,000,000 is a big number and I still want it. After I get there, though, I'm retiring from anything related to Gamerscore. Completions, ratios, achievement percentages... I won't care. There are so many worlds that developers have made that deserve to be explored, and so many bad games that don't deserve to be seen by anyone. At the rate of devolving, and Gamerscore inflation, I'm awaiting a game that simply awards a 1,000 point, full completion, for simply pressing start. 

The past week I've been on a marathon of clearing out the easy achievements in my gaming library and also searching out quick completions. I may have complained about it, but this is something that must happen to get to a million. It's been working, I've gained almost 60,000 points which, I looked it up, it took me five years to get that from when Microsoft made Gamerscore. It's a sprint now, there's still about 75,000 to go, but I'm driving of the moment, that the game makes the achievement unlocked noise, and I'm free of this irrelevant system and I can move on.

Monday, February 20, 2023

To tell a joke


At a school presentation recently I was asked a question I could not answer. This is odd because I’ve wiggled myself out of some tough spots when questions have been a little off base, but this one? This one had me stumped.

I love presenting to student bodies as it is the most dynamic and intimidating audience to present to. To be an effective presenter at this level one has to have absolutely no shame in self-deprecating humor and to have a confidence which doesn’t appear to be confidence. It’s hard to explain, but this, whatever it is, allows for a dialogue to happen in the questions and the final question of this presentation was the one that had me stumped.

It had been going great as of the nearly 500 students I had more than several dozen hands up wanting to ask a question. The principal gave me the notice that it was final question time and this 8th grader asked, “Yeah Aaron, you seem to be a hilarious guy and I was wondering if you could tell us a joke?” I froze, I stumbled, and I stared at him expressionless because I had no idea what to say and my brain was scrambling trying to tie a question a teacher had asked earlier.

Earlier in the presentation a question was asked about humor and if it’s possible that either A. a person on the autism can be funny or/and B. a person on the autism spectrum can understand or can give sarcasm? I gave a long answer to this essentially saying that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” but I also mentioned that more and more actors are stating they are on the autism spectrum. I finished by saying humor often is a one-way street meaning I can state something and know that I meant it in a joking way but if someone I don’t know that well were to try the same thing it may not have the same effect. Bottom line is that expressive can be more than not better than receptive.

Okay, thinking about that wasn’t helping me answer this 8th grader’s question. The question at hand was to tell a joke. How hard could it be? I mean, I do tell plenty of jokes during my presentation but here’s another thing about being a good presenter; if one is scripted one must make seem as if it isn’t scripted. I think I do a great job at this (a script is going to form naturally when one has presented as many times as I have) but all my witty lines are in response to a story. I can have the proper voice inflection to stress a funny moment, or to make something go from funny to hilarious, but to just tell a joke? Where does one begin?

It was the final question which usually means I need to give an answer quickly but I remained there, silent, staring at the crowd. Dead air isn’t a good thing but I had nothing and then I realized that nothing was the answer. I finally had my answer and I thanked him for thinking that I was hilarious, but I then pointed out that all my witty comments had been story based because those things actually happened. Now, when it comes to a traditional joke, it’s abstract to me. I can tell a story that has a potentially funny outcome depending on how one looks at it but when it comes to chickens crossing a road or any other joke setup line I don’t know any nor do I think I could learn that skill set. And besides that, as I finished that answer, I don’t find traditional jokes to be funny at all but then I once again mentioned that the next person on the autism spectrum may be an excellent joke teller but as for me, well, my humor will remain in the realm of dry wit and reality.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

“Have a Good Life”

I received several hundred letters from the students of a school I presented at last month. One kid finished his letter with words that stopped me in my tracks and took me back several years. At this moment, I’m not sure if there’s anything more haunting than, “have a good life” so here’s the first time I blogged about that phrase…

There are moments in life that stand out over others. I know that's an obvious statement, but it seems, for me, that these moments are not the same as what others would have. 

Yesterday was a long day for me. I got home at 1AM Monday morning and just five hours later my dad and I were headed to the Washington D.C. Metro area to go to my aunt's for Thanksgiving. The weather of the drive was not good and once we hit central Kentucky it was rain all the way (I followed the system that gave the Supernats so much rain.)

All along I had it in my mind to stop at the Roy Rogers in Cumberland, MD. I ate there with the USAC staff on the way back from the race in Hagerstown and wanted to do so again. My dad had mentioned his first roast beef sandwich had actually been from a Roy Rogers. Anyway, we get there and before we ordered my dad struck up a conversation with someone that was eating. This person, I guess, was from the area (I came into the conversation a bit late) and was talking about the excess of accidents that were happening due to the poor weather. 

We ordered and sat down and the conversation continued on. The fact that there was this conversation was odd for me because I don't talk to people I don't know in a setting like this. And yet, watching it, created a flood of emotions. Who was this person? What was his story? I don't know if empathy is the right word, but I had so much wonder that it was overwhelming.

As we were almost done eating this man and his wife got up and started to leave. They talked about grabbing food for their "girls" at home and he started to say goodbye to my dad when my dad replied, "have a good life" and with that one singular line I lost it.

When the man and his wife left my dad turned back towards me and said, "Aaron, is something wrong? You look as if you're about to cry." and he was right; I was. There was so much stuff going through my mind that I couldn't control my emotions. This was such a difficult time because with that line the realization that this moment was lost to time and that this man who shared road conditions and showed a true caring on our well-being was gone. Will I see this person again? I knew the answer, statistically, was a resounding "no." 

I tried to refocus my mind but it wasn't possible. There were other moments in my life like this and the biggest one that comes to mind was when I was perhaps eight years old and so and we were driving back from my grandma's in Nebraska to home in Indianapolis and my dad was talking to this trucker on the CB radio. This conversation lasted for many, many miles and eventually one of us took a exit and goodbyes were said and I knew the finality of this moment and I didn't take it well.

Is this empathy? I truly wondered who this man was that was wishing us the best. Why couldn't I breathe? Was it too much emotions, or feelings? I had to do everything I could not to just break down and this was odd because 15 minutes prior I didn't even knew this man existed and now he was gone. Is this another reason I try to keep my world small? Because, if it is, then moments like this won't happen and moments like that are to the brink of being overwhelming. 

As for now, and today, the Thanksgiving traditions of the past 13 years will take place but my mind is still back in Cumberland at that Roy Rogers in the pouring rain with a bone piercing chilly wind. Who was that person? What type of life had he lived? So many questions but the answers will never be told.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

To the person that said “Aaron, you can’t have a bad day”

A long time ago, someone told me, that as a presenter and blogger, that I could not have a bad day. I, unfortunately, took this to heart. 

Here’s the thing, going back to the 40 things I wish I knew, it’s okay to have a bad day. To have anything less would be to not be human. Everyone has a bad day, everyone goes through slumps, and everyone will get scared at some point in time. When you add the autism spectrum on top of that, it makes it even more of a reality. 

The news of the past week leads a lot to the imagination without being able to make sense of what, exactly, is going on. Balloons, ufos… it’s all so… Hollywood. 

The past couple days I’ve struggled with this notion that I’m not allowed to be worried. It’s not a pleasant feeling both ways; to be worried AND think I’m not allowed to be. 

So, to the person that told me that, I hope you haven’t told anyone else this. I hope you haven’t disregarded another person’s emotions and made them question whether or not what they feel is valid or not. Those on the spectrum may already feel as if their emotions are invalid, but when someone blatantly says they should not feel that way.

Whatever the case may be now, with the mysterious things above, or whatever the worry in the future may be, no one should be told that they shouldn’t feel as that anxiety can be worse than the anxiety itself. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

40 Things I wish I knew...


Last week I turned 40 and on that day I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if I could tell my 10-year old self all the info I know now?” That led to thinking it would make a great blog so here we go, here are the 40 things I’d tell my younger self…


40. Don’t bite off more than you can chew: It’s easy to think that you can be Superman but committing to large things before thinking it through can lead to difficult projects. For example, coming up with 40 things right now.

39. It’s okay to be good at something: It can be difficult to be good, or exceptional, at something. It can truly be discouraging to feel isolated because something comes easily. However, you must understand that it’s okay to be good, and whatever topic, subject, or activity is something that you enjoy, and are good at, should be something to investigate if it could lead to a career.

38. It’s okay to be bad at something: If can be difficult to be painfully bad at something. You mustn’t allow this to become your identity though. As much as you’ll want, you won’t make a good hockey goalie and you won’t be the next gold medalist at the alpine downhill. Sports dreams aside, it can be bewildering that some things may come easily, and yet other things that come naturally to others will be a challenge.

37. Those normal people? They don’t have it all: You’re going to chase normal in the future. You’re even going to understand it, but you’re still going to do it. You’re going to chase what you perceive others have, but no one has it all. When you chase the myth of normal, you’re going to forget who you are and what makes you special, but as painful as these moments are, you will make it out the other side.

36. It’s okay to ask for help: Maybe I should tell my current self this as this is a challenge. However, wouldn’t it be better to ask for help now, than to make a mistake and have to fix it later?

35. Others may not know you need help: Why is it hard to ask for help? You don’t understand this now, but others don’t know what you need by pure chance. This leads us to #34.

34. You will understand the difficulty of “I think therefore you should know”: Later in life, you’ll say this is one of the five most important topics the world has to understand about autism, but for you it won’t come naturally. Just because you think something or know something doesn’t mean everyone else does. If something is bothering you and you don’t say something, the other person won’t know it even if you think they do.

33. It isn’t if you win or lose the game, it’s that you’re playing the game: Games are amazing, and at the age of 10, you’ll think winning is everything. You’re going to love the cutthroat ways of Monopoly and Risk, and there will be an extreme frustration when victory isn’t achieved, but eventually you’ll realize that the joy wasn’t in the victory, it was sharing a game and thought with other people.

32. It’s okay to be late: You’re going to struggle with this. You’re going to show up 30 minutes early to everything, but this may not be how others live, and that’s okay. You’re going to have two choices; worry about the timing of others and check the clock every 30 seconds, or accept that the world doesn’t have the fear of being late as you do and live with it. When smartphones are made, this will become easier.

31. Even when you’re right, you can be wrong: This is as involuntary of a reflex as breathing, but people will get annoyed when you correct them or facts they mess up. You may not be able to stop, but they too may not be able to stop with getting mad.

30. Real friends are blessing so stay in touch: If someone, “gets you” it’ll be good to stay in touch. It sucks to think, “whatever happened to…” 10 years after talking to them last.

29: Yes, people will get you: You’re going to spend many years wondering this, and at the darkest bits of night when you think this you’re going to think that it’s impossible. This is when #37 will come into play, and you’ll dream and chase normal, but as you get on the other side of this you’ll learn the importance of the next point.

28: Whatever is now is forever: This is joy, and it is pain. When things are good, they will feel as if they’ve always been, but when they are bad it will be inconceivable that they can ever be good again. Pro tip: things can always get better.

27: Whatever happens first always has to happen: You don’t fully understand it, but you’re going to live for routines. This statement, which will be a top 5 statement you’ll say everyone will need to know, is important for you to understand because if something that bothers you happens, and happens again, you may become mired to an unwanted routine. Know this, understand it, and when need be fight it.

26: You can’t please everyone: Others will think you’ll want to please everyone for the sake of it, but your true motive is that, if everyone is happy, you can avoid unwanted social situations. Those situations will arise, but you’ll survive.

25: People will know when you take shortcuts: In the future, when you make a list of 40 things, if you come up with, say, filler, people will notice, as they’re noticing right now.

24: Hide the phone on Christmas: Your intentions will be in the right place, but you’re going to be the only one who understands why you broke up with your girlfriend on Christmas via text message. Look, if they liked you before the text, they’re not after such a stunt is pulled.

23: A broken heart sucks: There’s no sugar coating this one, it hurts. You’re going to feel as if you’re the only one who has felt such pain, but you’re experiencing the same thing all “normal” people go through. It may feel like a dark tunnel that you’ll never escape, but I promise you there’s light at the end, and it may just be more glorious than you can imagine.

22: Others in the workplace may not have your best intention in their hearts: You’re going to be overly trusting, but the workplace can be akin to CBS’s Survivor game show. You won’t be able to comprehend why right isn’t right, and why others may do all they can to seemingly destroy what you have. One of the things that so many others life yourself have is a natural, naïve sense about them, and when others tear you down, you may never understand why they did it.

21: Forgive: It will be difficult, if not seemingly impossible to forgive others. With “whatever happens first” and “whatever is now is forever” will make any transgression against you feel like a world-shattering moment. Here’s the thing, after a couple years the other person may have totally forgotten what event it is that you’ve been carrying in your heart all this time.

20: Do what makes you happy: Job burnout will be a challenge. The thought of a 40-hour work week will be intimidating and will feel like it’s something you’ll never be able to endure, but when you end up working with the NTT INDYCAR Series, a 90-hour work week will be something you look forward to. Honest!

19: Embrace Kansas: You’ll someday write a book called Finding Kansas and you’ll describe Kansas as, “that one place where I feel normal.” That place will be a topic, or activity, that is what your brain thinks of at all hours of the day. Few people will ever experience the joy that you’ll experience when immersed in learning everything there is to know about a topic, or why you like something that may seem repetitive to them, but embrace it, love it, and cherish the times something kicks into a hyperKansas.

18: Cherish animals: You don’t fully understand it yet, but you and animals are going to have a special thing. You get them, they get you, and you will have a knack for “stealing” other people’s pets. Oh, and don’t let the time a German shepherd jumps over a fence and takes a few bites of your knees ruin that bond for too long.

17: You’re living life unfiltered, and it’s exhausting: You have no idea how others in school aren’t as exhausted as you at the end of the school day. They seem to have an infinite power source in their hearts whereas you are going to want to decompress at the end of the day. The reason this is, is that you’re processing everything around you and don’t know it. It takes more effort to pay attention to what you need to pay attention to.

16: There’s nothing more heart stopping than the words, “we need to talk…”: No matter how many times it’s proven that the end of the world doesn’t happen after this sentence, you will still fear it each and every time.

15: Don’t let the diagnosis define you, help define it: The worst day of your life will be when you’re diagnosed on the autism spectrum. It isn’t because of the stigma society may have, but rather you are going to read, “people on the autism spectrum will never have friends, will never have a job, and will never be happy.” So, some advice, don’t look up medical info on the internet in 2003. Oh, and you will have friends, some amazing friends, you will have jobs, perhaps one of the coolest jobs on the planet, and you most certainly capable of happiness and pure joy.

14: Beware the sensory episodes: Not everyone on the spectrum will have the reaction you do, but when the wrong sensory element is experienced by your brain, it will feel like hell. The first couple times you’re going to hide it from everyone, and this is just going to make it worse.

13: Learn how to live with operating under the system of being logical in an emotional world: Others may question if you even have emotions, but you do. Oh, how you do! But, amid events you may take a logical position and ask seemingly cold and callous questions. This system will lead to the Christmas cellphone incident, and try as you might, others just won’t understand.

12: Don’t be afraid of the world: There will be an incident at the bowling alley that will inspire you to write, “people are mean, people are awful, and they aren’t worth knowing.” Understand that others may be emotional in your logical world. As much as you try to be alone, some of your grandest moments will be because of the interactions with others.

11: Thank people: You’re going to come across others that open doors you never thought possible and see things in you that you never would’ve seen. Thank these people in the ways that you can because, after all, odds are you’re going to avoid the social interaction of saying it in persona and you may, right as you turn age 40, come up with a list and say you need to thank others and that “they know who they are.”

10: Learn from others: It will be in 2005 or 2006 that you’ll see Temple Grandin speak. This will change your life as you realize that you can be anything. Before that day, no matter who it was suggesting you read other people’s works and stories, you won’t because your heart is still dark from the belief that your life is predestined and not being happy is the only outcome. Try and learn from others and know that failure isn’t guaranteed even if you say it is.

9: Try and express yourself before your aged 22: One your blackest night, you will sit down at a computer and write. No one suggested it, no one asked for it, but you’re going to write your life story and explain yourself emotionally. Before that time, your family may have only thought that you experienced frustration, so try and show them the true scale of emotions before then, even if talking about emotions was, and still is, something you’ll try and avoid.

8: Learn how to cook: Eventually, there will be this amazing thing called DoorDash and you won’t have to do anything except click some buttons and food shows up at your door. However, it’s expensive and had I only learned how to cook and understand directions earlier, perhaps a whole lot of dollars could be saved.

7: Interact with people who have your same Kansas: You’re going to learn how to have a conversation in the oddest of places as in 2004, ToCA Race Drive 2 is going to be released for the Xbox, and you’re going to try and avoid talking, but you’ll learn that others playing a racing game enjoy racing as much as you. These skills will be gigantic later on.

6: You can’t change people: Other people have opinions, and you may think they are wrong, but it’s fruitless to go on a long, drawn out endeavor trying to change their minds.

5: Things won’t go how you’ve planned them: Right now, you have this idea of how life will work out, but it isn’t going to work out any way you thought it. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, so be prepared for that. We can end up where we need to be and be put on a pathway to get there without any knowledge that we were on that path all along.

4: Act like you already have the job you want: You wanted to win the Indianapolis 500, but you also want to flag the Indianapolis 500. From the first time you’re racing on a track, or flagging, be dedicated as if you’re already there. Don’t save your effort and await to give it your all at the Indy 500, instead give the effort as if you are already there. You may not think it, but passion and dedication are something other people pick up on quickly.

3: Don’t succumb to peer pressure: You may never figure out as to why others will try and change you, and there is something to be said about sound advice, but some will try and change you just for giggles. They may come off as your friends, but they may be anything but.

2: Joy to the world: When people have talked about me, I’m amazed at how much of a part I’ve played in other’s lives when I thought I was invisible. Just as you have a hard time expressing yourself, others too may not let you know just how much of a joy you are.

1: If you’ve met one person with autism… Your story is going to be unique. No one is going to have the same path or ride in life as you, but so too you won’t have others. Some are going to excel in art, and you are still carrying around the badge of shame of achieving an F in kindergarten art. Never think that another person on the spectrum should be you, or that you should be them. Drums will be the worst sensory thing you feel, and yet you’ll meet a mom that has three daughters and they are all drummers. It will be confusing, and after seeing Temple Grandin you won’t have heard of the sentence that, if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism, but this will be the most important thing you’ll ever hear and it will help you carve out your own story, and your own destiny.






Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Names of the Past

Jet lag has hit, and it’s hit hard. Getting up at 2AM and being unable to go back to sleep is the cost of international travel, and as I’ve been unable to sleep I’ve been going through my friend’s list on the Xbox and that spurred me on to look up people that weren’t on my friend’s list but I remember. 

It’s a rabbit hole, isn’t it? The people of the past, for me, creates a sense of dizziness that is simply overwhelming. What happened to them? This is a question I ask about someone that I remember racing on ToCA Race Driver 3 but haven’t talked to since 2005. It’s… it’s unique. 

I laugh when I think of the misnomer, “people with Asperger’s don’t care about others.” I do care. The amount of emotions this trek down memory lane has conjured up tells me I do. Would I say something vocal to someone? Oh, most certainly not, but the almost mourning I’ve done for people I’ve never met and were just a screename to me is, well, it’s emotional. 

Perhaps this is just the jet lag talking. I’d like to say so, but I know otherwise. I wish I would’ve done better at keeping track of the people I used to race with. The people that could be anyone and anywhere now. Maybe I have met some and didn’t know it, but it’s the infinite questions that spawn more questions that leaves a tired person wondering. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Thoughts at 40

It’s 10:49 at night. I look out of the hotel window and reflect on the 12 hours of travel today. I’m in Paris for the night on my return trip home, and I turned 40 today. 

I have feared this day since I turned 30. It didn’t help that, a few days after turning 30, I presented at a school in Doniphan, Missouri and a sixth grader asked how old I was, and after I mentioned that I had just turned 30, she said, 30?! EWWWWW!” I wonder how she would’ve reacted to 40…

But yes, I have feared this number for ten years and its scope grew to something much larger than what it should’ve been. In my 20’s, my age was a reminder of everything I hadn’t done, and probably never would. That’s how I saw life. I didn’t see it as a life full of potential, but rather a constantly ticking time bomb to the next let down, the next tragedy, and the next opportunity unfulfilled. 

40 is a big year, but not in the way you think. This year will mark 20 years since I got diagnosed. This year will mark the passing of more years knowing that I’m on the spectrum than not. 

On the long flight today, I reflected on my life and just how fortunate I am. I’ve said this many times, but I wish you could go back and see me in 2005, right as I started my writing journey. I never thought I’d be capable of travel, and employment, and if you saw me then you might have thought the same. Somehow I made it through the pit of depression that happened at my diagnosis and somehow, others saw potential in me that I never thought possible. 

I no longer see 40 as a number to be feared. I’ve made it this far, I’ve been blessed with so many readers and attendees at presentations, and I have one of the coolest jobs on the planet as a starter for the NTT INDYCAR Series. The change from 30 to 40 has been immense and I’ve lived so many seemingly impossible dreams, so I can’t wait to see what I can achieve this next decade. I can’t wait to see what venues I present at, and what types of changes happen in society so that all on the spectrum can reach their full potential. And, most of all, that sixth grader from 10 years ago will be turning 30 in about eight years so I hope she thinks back to that February day in Missouri and, for a moment, says “EWWWWW!” as she thinks about her age. She too will realize, it ain’t so bad. 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Relocation Theory: a Thought

It was back in 2006 while flying towards Paris as I looked down at the lights of cities in Ireland. Like a sudden wave, I was flooded with this idea and wonderment on if I could “make it” down there. If I was transported down there, would I be able to navigate, communicate, and survive in a foreign land? As time went on and I evolved this thought I came to believe that the only real way I could expand my skill set was in this relocation example because I would need to delete all the existing routines I had to allow new ones, and new skills to develop. Today, though, I wondered if this was too shallow. 

Today, while being hit with waves in the Indian Ocean as I was snorkeling, I wondered why I had the ability to develop new skills in new areas. Was it simply the deletion of previous routines? As I say in my book, Finding Kansas, “firsts” are of the utmost importance and “whatever happens first must always happen.” This makes it quite crowded for new things to develop so, to supersede this, there must be a new environment. As I saw a school of Moorish Idol fish fight over a hiding spot in coral, I began to wonder if it isn’t the deletion of routine, but rather the deletion of fear. 

Yes, when I’m talking about firsts I so often talk about routine of day, or foods to order, but there’s also a menu of firsts on daily dangers. Has a certain pair of clothing shocked you repeatedly? Have you been burned by water that was too hot coming out of the tap? Have you ever fallen on black ice? If you said yes to any of these you check twice for ice, you barely touch the water before you commit to putting your hands on it, and in terms of static, well, hopefully it isn’t too shocking, but in all of these examples you have this fear that’s attempting to protect you. So too, does my body do this with social situations. 

In a foreign land I am unaware of the social barometer. I’ve always been a barometer of the room and if tensions were going up, say in school, the upping pressure would drag me down and I’d be fearful for whatever outburst was coming up next. It’s odd, isn’t it? The fact that I’m poor at reading facial expressions but the ability to be a barometer for the tension in the room. It’s true though, the dragging down impacts all of my body’s ability to process. Here, in Réunion, this doesn’t exist. However, as the sun beat down on my back and already sunburned legs today as I pondered the dangers of a stonefish, I wondered if this could last. 

If I were in any place long enough, wouldn’t logic dictate I’d eventually have an ice experience (maybe not here in a literal sense) or too hot of water? Eventually, I would learn some French words if I stayed here forever, and I’d learn the difference between French spoken in a conversational manner and French spoken in an angry tone. If this is accurate, then eventually every place would have the same fears. However, and I don’t have the answer to this, would the personal gains made when traveling somewhere new outlast the new fears that take over? Is it truly the relocation that creates the growth I’ve experienced, or is it a naivety to the same social stressors that exist anywhere but simply can’t be processed or understood due to language and cultural differences? It’s an interesting notion, one I hope to dwell on and come up with more answers down the road.