Monday, May 15, 2023

The Rock Revisited

It’s the day before practice begins for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 and early this morning I had to run to the north side of Indy. I grew up there, so I thought it a good time to make my annual visit to the flagging rock. 

If you didn’t know, this was my first flag stand. After school, I’d stand on that rock and wait in anticipation for each car that came by and practice my flag waving abilities by waving a the priceless flag which was given to me by then starter of the Indianapolis 500, Duane Sweeney. The only other people that had a flag like that were winners of the 500, and there I was, standing on a rock, letting it fly in the air for Dodge’s, Pontiacs, Mercury’s, bicycles, runners, or whatever crossed my imaginary finish line. 

While this was a great way for me to practice my style , it was much more critical that I was doing something I enjoyed. For those on myself on the autism spectrum, motivation can be a struggle, and the daily grind of school was much like a ten-ton anvil being dropped on a balloon. Sadness, depression, and confusion reigned supreme for me on a daily basis, and one of the few things that I enjoyed and made sense to me was standing on that rock. 

One of the attributes for people on the spectrum is a, “sustained unusual repetitive action.” Perhaps most would consider a ten-year old standing on a rock flagging cars like they were winning the grandest of races, but for myself I loved the movement of the flag in the air, the sensory sensation of the snap of the fabric, the movement of my muscles, and the timing of the action with the car coming across the imaginary line. Yes, it may sound a bit unusual, but it rejuvenated me after attempting the near impossible day of surviving the choppy social waters of school. 

Each person may have his or her own repetitive action like I did and it may not be easy to understand the why as to why that action is happening, or perhaps how something so unusual could bring so much joy. I know, back when I was on that rock, I couldn’t put into words that the motions I did on the rock paid benefits the next day in school. Of course, I’d much rather have been on that rock than attempting to learn when and when not to reverse numbers in fractions, but the day was made just a bit more possible with the joy that was brought on the rock. 

Of course, my story isn’t complete without you knowing that I went from that flag stand to the stand I dreamed of as I made to the NTT INDYCAR Series and the Indianapolis 500. Not every person’s unusual action will lead to a dream job, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen either. As I said, motivation can be hard for us on the spectrum to find, and I found mine, kept with it in life, and to this day the movement of the flags, the sensation in my muscles, and timing of the cars underneath, now going 230mph at Indy, being the same amount of joy as it did when I was just ten-years old dreaming of the day of flagging at a real track. 

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