How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Upon Reflection

Hello and Happy New Year everyone!

I trust your holiday season was capped by a great New Year’s Day.  My feelings are positive for this new portion of my life, and I have a feeling that this is only the beginning.

I’ll start my inquiry and reflection like so: What does a new chapter in life mean to you?  How easy is it to improve yourself versus falling into the similar patterns of your past?  What are you looking forward to this year?  Well, for me, I’m looking forward to a new business opportunity that’s coming up really soon.  I’m also taking stock of my achievements for the past 12 months.

This year was a life-changer; one of the most important events for me happened in May.  After 3 years, I earned my Literature and Writing degree from Cal State San Marcos and graduated with most of my family watching me achieve that success.  For me, it was the validation I needed to prove to myself that I could pull off what I set my mind to doing.  I was able to prove that someone on the spectrum can graduate from college when they have the tools and support, as well as friends and family who believe in them.

For the first couple of months, I was unsure of what to do with myself.  However, I asked the right people how to establish a blog, and after some careful research, I was able to create what you see here.  It’s been a work in progress so far, but I can improve the format, quality, and appearance so that it becomes an even better version of what I set out to create.  You know, for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling what it’s like to be committed to something that has the potential to be great.

I’ve also admitted that I still needed help in maintaining my well-being.  I’m glad that I was able to find a counselor who would listen to my concerns and help me stay on an even keel when I feel under pressure from life. Not many aspies can have a third-party perspective for a continuing period of time; I’m glad that I can lean on this.

There was also a different sort of therapy that I found.  I flexed my muscles and found new methods of exercise that helped me to release the stress and pressure of everyday things.  For a while, I went to a place called Barry’s Boot Camp to shake up my exercise routine.  After a while, I found a boxing/M.M.A. gym called Alliance; it’s closer to home and has similar workouts for less money.

What drew me to these places was the accelerated pace and combination of strength, cardio, and endurance training that mixes up what parts of the body get worked out.  All I need to do is keep going to these places and I’ll feel great.  I’ve lost a lot of weight over the years and improved my health considerably; therefore, it’s all about maintenance.  I am now looking for more challenges to elevate my fitness level.  Back in 2009, I ran my first marathon; it was an amazing personal accomplishment that I had almost forgotten about, but I am ready to do it again.  I heard about a local half-marathon in March, and I’m going to be doing some additional training to be prepared.

This past year was also a time where I reached out to people and began to embrace my personal freedom.  After I established my blog, I asked for help in designing a new business card that would allow me to relay my pertinent information in a professional way.  This gives me a chance to let people know I’m serious about representing myself, as well as those on the Spectrum.  As it turns out, having a business card made is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had and acted upon.  I must say, the timing was perfect, for several reasons.

First of all, before I left to travel on my California road trip back in July, I carried a small stack of my new cards with me on the off-chance that I would meet people who would be interested in learning more about me.  Of course, if you’ve read my journalistic entries about my road trip, there is more than one occasion where I was able to present my card to possible readers.

Secondly, with the Comic-Con so near after my road trip, I decided to muster up the courage and confidence to put myself out there when the time came around.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find more than a few people who were interested in finding out more about autism, and what I had to say from experience.  Not only did I find several people who opened up when I talked about who I was, I found more than a few to keep in contact with.

I learned that it was worth it to be authentic and up front with people.  Because I have been able to use my Asperger’s Syndrome as a badge of honor, or at least a plain and honest fact instead of being ashamed of the label, I was able to relax and build a rapport with people by simply being my true self.  It has taken a lot of years and a lot of heartache to finally be brave enough to stand in my own truth, but the rewards are greater than I ever anticipated.

Besides traveling to places and events by myself, I also had lots of experiences with family and friends; on the whole, they were some of the best I’ve had yet.  I won’t give details ad nauseam, but there were many family events that I just relaxed at and enjoyed.  There were several birthday parties I went to; I was especially jazzed for my parents’ birthdays because I love them both very much.

There were also many cousins and aunts and uncles who had birthdays that I was happy to celebrate with.  Trust me when I say that I have a large family, and a get-together can be a big deal for us.  Of course, I had several family members attend my graduation, but the best part was the party they threw for me afterwards.  The attention didn’t matter as much as sharing my happiness with those I love most.

Other momentous events that occurred were the family wedding in September, and our traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.  I even had a small, intimate dinner with a half-dozen relatives on New Year’s Eve.  Truth be told, certain holidays can be a time of extra stress on aspies.

Some of you know all too well about the added stress of family parties and work-related functions.  Can you imagine what it’s like for a person on the spectrum who becomes stressed with small changes to be thrown into a gauntlet of noise, lights, and emotion?  It can be so difficult with aspies and their immediate family members.  Fortunately for me, my autism is high-functioning, and after a few years of becoming acclimated to a holiday atmosphere, I could take it all in stride and enjoy it to the fullest.

After this first week of the New Year, I am looking forward to many things.  After talking it over carefully, my mother and I have decided to start a home business involving scanning and digitizing photos and creating custom DVDs.  I’ll be posting about it in the near future, and other updates can be found on my Facebook page.  I have also found an autism support group called GRASP; it has a chapter that meets once a month, and it’s attended by a half-dozen young and older adults on the spectrum.  I’ve attended their meetings for four months now and I’m looking forward to continuing to reach out and reciprocate the support and encouragement they have so graciously shown me.

To bring it home, I wish to say this: I am not listing my resolutions in a cliché manner just so I can say that I’m hoping they happen.  For me, I prefer to concentrate on what I did well last year so that I can continue acting on positive patterns.  Whatever I feel could have been done better will simply be done in a different way, or not done anymore to avoid needless discomfort.

Through it all, I’m looking forward to bringing new changes into my life.  I know that for me, my personal growth comes in daily stages and in small events.  For someone on the spectrum, learning how to live in an ever-changing world is done one day at a time.  By taking each day as it comes, I know that I’ll be doing more than just achieving resolutions; I’ll be proving that I am somebody; and somebody who is proud to be on the Autism Spectrum.

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Comments on: "Upon Reflection" (4)

  1. Excellent post. Thanks for being the authentic you Anthony. I look forward to more posts in 2012.

    • You are welcome, Matt.

      It has been too long since we’ve seen each other, perhaps we can get together some time and catch up on life. Thanks for being a good friend.

      Anthony

  2. So… Happy New Year to you too. Congratulations on all your 2011 achievements and milestones. I look forward to be a part of all your 2012 plans, achievements and milestones you allow me to share with you.

    Proudly, Dad

    • Dear Dad,

      I look forward to progressing on a better slant towards stronger interaction. May this New Year be another upwardly mobile swing in our relationship.

      Sincerely, Tony

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