How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

To Be Young At Heart

My grandmother holds me for the first time before Christmas ,1981

My grandmother holds me for the first time before Christmas, 1981

To be “young at heart”…what does it really mean? Being spry and able-bodied? Possessing an energetic spirit? Well, I feel like it’s the choice to continue growing and learning rather than becoming stagnant and slowly decaying. It’s a choice to give in to despair or to embrace hope. A choice to merely exist or to be fully living. It’s a state of being that took me some time to embrace completely, but I’m living so much better because I did so.

This is a feeling I’ve had for the past several years. It started after I made a conscious decision to eat healthy and commit to regular exercise. Doing that helped me to gain a new physical fitness that has greatly reduced my risk for disease and infirmity. The feeling continued as I discovered new music while revisiting all of my old favorites. There’s a great American standard that’s been done by several singers, but it always conveys the same message. It’s become more relevant to me as I’ve discovered my new lease on life. It’s the classic tune “Young at Heart”.

It starts out at different tempos, depending on who sings it, but the lyrics are always the same. “Fairy Tales can come true. It can happen to you, if you’re young at heart. For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind…if you’re young at heart.” Simply put, when someone’s mind is balanced in realism and not dwelling on empty fantasy or pessimism, they gain the drive to work for what really matters to them. Of course, the work has to be done; I’m doing the work to raise awareness about what it’s like living with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The second half of the first verse continues with “You can go to extremes with impossible schemes…you can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams! And life gets more exciting with each passing day, and love is either in your heart or on its way.” I feel that if someone still believes in impossible dreams, they will pave the way for more realistic dreams to become reality. Even if things don’t turn out the way they were planned, there’s still a lesson to be learned once the emotional sting has lessened. I’ve had my share of false starts and disappointments and it hurt when they occurred, but I didn’t lose my desire to make a difference in the world and show that I really mattered. I’ve embraced a new role: something I never could have imagined, but I’m excited that it’s becoming a reality. Now I know how to make a difference in the best way that I can.

The second verse is sung twice, bringing a special message to the listener when the song ends. “Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on Earth…to be young at heart. For as rich as you are, it’s much better, by far…to be young at heart. And if you should survive to 105…look at all you’ll derive out of being alive! And here is the best part: you’ll have a head start, if you are among the very young at heart.”

What this means is, there’s a difference between being rich and being wealthy. To be rich is to be secure in material possessions and money; to be wealthy is to have a sense of abundance in all areas of life, external and internal. Case in point: Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were very rich. But towards the end of their lives, they were not wealthy because they had lost sight of what it meant to live a life of abundance. All of their money and fame could not buy the fulfillment they so desperately needed.

I’ve learned that having a passion for wealth is not being greedy. It means craving a life that is full and overflowing with abundance that is emotional, physical, and spiritual as well as financial. Material wealth means nothing if doesn’t enhance the owner’s life and the lives of others. Knowing that I have the ability and resources to give something back to people and enrich their lives is my definition of wealth and success.

I’m looking forward to the success of our family business: San Diego Scan and Share. I don’t know what it will look like, but I’m filled with a feeling of purpose that has given me a zest for life even stronger than what I felt in high school. As such, I feel more alive and aware than I was when I was a teenager. My health is great, I have a new lease on life, and a purpose that gives me hope and energy. Now I wonder, what makes you feel young at heart?

Today’s musical inspiration is the American classic “Young at Heart” sung by living legend Tony Bennett & Bluegrass singer Shawn Colvin:


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