How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Archive for the ‘The Scholar: My Education in School & Life’ Category

Remembering My Purpose

I've remembered my purpose again!

I’ve remembered my purpose again!

Hard to believe that nearly four years ago I started this blog. A lot has changed since then. It has been a long time since anything new was written here, but now I’ve found a renewed sense of purpose and a new way of sharing my story with the world. Over the past several months, I had lost some of my consistency with posting regularly. Now, with a new sense of purpose, I reflect on what brought me to the world of blogging in the first place.

When I graduated from college in 2011, I had achieved something that very few people on the Autism Spectrum accomplish. That’s another story, of course. The truth is, I was still unsure of what I was going to do after the ceremony was over and I was done with the parties that my friends and family threw for me.

After talking it out with Mom, I realized that my story needed to be told to serve as an example of someone with Autism.  I had merely toyed with the idea of starting a blog, but after giving it some serious thought, I knew I needed a purpose after my graduation. So, after some research and examination of other blogs and hosting sites, I found a place to start and the tools to set it up.  With clarity and a sense of purpose, Lesson Plan for Life was born on June 26th, 2011.

A lot has changed in my life since then, and for the past several months, the recent changes in my life have caused me to lose my consistency in posting. But, I do not regret the time lost, and I’m happy to have found a new vibration and energy to bring life to the purpose of this blog: to be a voice and a living example of what’s possible for someone born on the Autism Spectrum.

Looking back on my first post, I remember where I’ve come from, where I’ve been, and how much further I’m going with everything I’m learning. Check the link here to read my full purpose statement from nearly four years ago.  As always, I am grateful to everyone who visits and comments on my writing. I look forward to maintaining my writing and my lessons in this amazing state of being called Life! Last, but not least, I share with you my phrase of purpose that I wish for you all: “Be happy, be proud, be you”!

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Random Bliss

DSC05792

Sometimes, you find random bliss in the most unlikely places. That recently happened when I was on DeviantArt and read the latest journal entry of an artist I follow. This woman who calls herself PixelKitties is known among some artists and pop culture geeks for being skilled with drawing and crafts, and possessing a very witty sense of humor. What was different about this journal entry was the candor, honesty, and thought-provoking words that left me speechless.

I don’t have time, inclination or the patience to tell other people what to do or how to live their lives. Policing my own self is a full time job. I don’t want to be anyone else’s moral gendarme. All I want is to be a good person and treat others with the same respect, understanding and kindness that I want to be treated with.

I don’t deal in stereotypes or broad generalizations or beating people over the head with the cudgel of my own personal beliefs. I have faced pain and suffering and discrimination and hurt and heartache in my life-just the same as anyone. I’ve done good things and bad, brave and cowardly, honorable and self-serving. I have been there, just the same as you. And because of that, more than anything else in this world, I believe in empathy and understanding, never condemnation. My past mistakes- and they are multitude- is today’s lesson and tomorrow’s regret. I dare not judge or begrudge others for their missteps along the way.” (May 22, 2014)

Reading these words was like reading my innermost feelings. I felt a sense of grace, as if God and the Universe were showing me that I wasn’t the only one who was felt this way in their core; a reminder that I’m not alone in believing in the best of humanity. I remembered to stand in the truth of my own flaws and mistakes, and remembered that even when I was bullied, I chose to rise above the role of victim. This is important for anyone, not just someone on the Autism Spectrum. I feel like we all need to be reminded that we are not alone in our hopes and dreams. Even on days when we feel secure, a friendly and unexpected reminder can bring us extra joy and contentment. Even the simplest of words can become a gift of unexpected grace and random bliss.

Read the short, but sweet journal entry here at DeviantArt: PixelKitties’ Journal Entry

Today’s musical inspiration is favorite of mine and it’s how I feel right now: Live High by Jason Mraz

Hiking Meditation: A Poem

What will your story be?

What will your story be?

Inspired by my previous post: “Let’s Keep Moving!“, I wrote a poem about how I feel when I hike. I hope I inspire you to find your own unique meditation.

It can be anywhere: the trail you take
If you think about it, the difficulty doesn’t matter
The only constant thing is the anticipation: the feeling of silent preparation you’ve had before
The way your limbs and muscles tense and release when you breathe deeply and your lungs expand,
And then…you feel ready
You see the different sights around you, you have more breathing space
Concentrating on the movement of your legs
Carefully feeling as each step connects to the ground and your feet are gently grounded
The focus is only on the present moment
This is you, in the midst of one piece of Creation
When all is said and done, this is a moment
When you are connected perfectly with Spirit
Nothing can take that away from you
You are always blessed
May every step you take be better than your last
Happy Trails!

Let’s Keep Moving!

"I've Got to Keep on Moving!"-Matthew Wilder

“I’ve Got to Keep on Moving!”-Matthew Wilder

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how being active has alleviated the worst parts of my Asperger’s Syndrome and helped me eliminate the need for prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. I’m very happy to say that I’m not only maintaining this lifestyle, but I’ve found new ways to keep myself healthy and vital. It’s a gradual process because I still need to take small steps to change my established routines, but I have a variety of activities that don’t feel like chores at all.

I believe it all starts with perspective. Some people still don’t realize how Aspies can be very sensitive to disruptions in routine. Generally, the lower functioning the person, the more likely they will act out in nonverbal, hard-to-understand ways. Even though I have High-Functioning Autism, I’ve still had my moments of vocal protest.

Can you imagine being so sensitive to disruptions in your surroundings that you become gripped by paralyzing fear and heart-pounding stress? Think of a high-stress, no-relief day with no end in sight and no way to communicate how you feel! This is what can happen to someone living with Autism on a daily basis!

Fortunately, with years of counseling, specialized therapy, and a strong support system, I developed coping skills like using different activities that not only boost my physical health, but also improve my mental health and well-being. I feel like physical fitness starts with improving the body and evolves into strengthening the mind and soul. Everyone including those on the Spectrum can benefit from variety, it just takes time to find out what works best.

Some activities I learned to enjoy with time, and others I took an instant liking to. I’ve written about the different exercise tapes and DVDs that got me started on my fitness journey. Since then, I’ve also utilized my membership at a local gym. One of my favorite activities is playing the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game and the different dancing games for Xbox 360 and Kinect. They give me a fun workout and an adrenaline rush that lifts my spirits to new heights! I’ve talked about this extensively in a previous post entitled “You Should Be Dancing

In the past two years I’ve developed an interest in hiking, which used to be out of character for me, I didn’t really consider myself an outdoor person. There is such a centering, affirming quality to hiking. Looking for different trails and walking a path in the midst of nature is a great way to clear my mind. When I focus on where I plant my feet, I’m reminded of the spiritual strength that comes from walking meditation. I regain a clear perspective on life, and that’s worth feeling tired at the end.

At the gym, I take advantage of the special classes that are offered. I’ve found the most energy, excitement, and sweat equity in cycling and kickboxing. Doing the early classes helps my day to start off in a positive way, and that’s something, considering that I never used to be a morning person!

I participate in several runs for charity each year: perfect opportunities to test my fitness level in the real world. I’ve also discovered farmer’s markets, museums, parks, and outdoor festivals are great not only for walking, but for socializing as well. It may not seem like much, but I enjoy living in the moment.

I’ve come a long way from the boy who was afraid of P.E. and ate junk food to hide his insecurities. I’m more alive and youthful than I was in high school! Now, what kind of activities keep you in motion? How long have you enjoyed them, and do they lift your spirits? Everyone’s at a different place in their journeys, and I’m just glad to be in the place I am today with the ability to keep moving!

Today’s musical inspiration is a fun little ditty from the 1980s by Matthew Wilder: “Break My Stride

The Rest is Still Unwritten

What will your story be?

What will your story be?

Let me ask you this: do you believe that each of us has the ability to write our own stories?  Does everyone deserve a chance to tell that story?  Well, based on my observations, some people have forgotten about this ability, or have never seen it in themselves.  Because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I was so unsure about who I was or what my purpose was that I used to believe that what other people said about me was my entire story.  It took quite a while for me to learn that I was wrong.  The only person in control of my story is me; to believe that other people have it is to give my power away.

There’s a song that helped me remember this fact. It’s called “Unwritten”, sung by Natasha Bedingfield. I used to like it simply for its uplifting lyrics and melody, but the more I listened to it, the more I could hear a special message about the power of words. The chorus really drives home the meaning for me. “Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in. No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips. Drench yourself in words unspoken, live your life with arms wide open! Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten“.

I never realized how much these words meant to me before. Let me put is this way: I have my own sensory interpretations of the outside world, and they’ve been affected in different ways by my Autism. It took me a long time to accept how sensitive I really am, but because of these abilities, I’ve learned to be more aware of the world around me and I’ve gained more control of my reactions to it. By gaining more awareness and control, I could develop the vocabulary I needed to create the story that only I knew how to write.

I’m learning to embrace the experiences that are positive, negative, and everything in between; whatever words that can be used to describe them will always come at lightning speed. I alone have the power to select the best words to go on the pages of my life story. Every day is a new chance to write a portion of that story; whatever will happen tomorrow, is unwritten. Until then, all I have is this one present moment.

I feel like we all have the power to determine what sort of destiny we’re aiming for in our stories. I am blessed to feel this way because I discovered that Autism is not a destiny, it’s a way of life that has been waiting to be written by someone with both talent and responsibility. I am quite grateful to have developed my talents in regular school, college, and in life, itself; this means that I have a responsibility to use them in a way that brings light to the Autism Community.

So, what kind of story do you want your life to be? Are you just learning to write it down, or is it second nature to you? You know, it doesn’t matter if you’re penmanship is the best (and believe me, as an Aspie, my penmanship leaves a lot to be desired); as long as you’ve got something to write about, you’ll find a way to make it real. All you can write about is now, the future is still unwritten.

Today’s musical inspiration is, of course, Natasha Bedingfield with “Unwritten”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7k0a5hYnSI

Very Well Met: What I Learned From Gail Carriger

Gail CarrigerMy Costume

When you click on an intellectual level with someone you admire and respect, its priceless. That’s what happened when I met author Gail Carriger who was the Guest of Honor at a Sci-Fi and Fantasy convention in San Diego. Gail Carriger is the author of several novels, including the five-volume Parasol Protectorate series and the Young Adult fiction series entitled the Finishing School.

I enjoy the smaller conventions because of the panels about different writing styles and subjects, socializing and networking, and feeling like I’m in college again. Learning something new every day gives me a feeling of pride and self-respect that I feel is very important for Aspies. Most of us need that encouragement every day to feel like we’re being seen and heard. Then again, doesn’t everyone need that feeling, deep inside?

I read the entire Parasol Protectorate series long before the convention, and was blessed to have them all autographed by Miss Carriger, herself. As if this wasn’t enough, she granted my request for a short interview. What was most enlightening was the last two minutes of the conversation when I asked her about the possibility of some of her fictional characters showing traits of people on the Autism Spectrum.

Me: “As far as the angle goes of people that have lived their lives on the Autism Spectrum…this is the real kicker for me. How much of that seeped into your creation of the characters and in retrospect, how many or how few of them display traits of someone on the Autism Spectrum?”

Gail Carriger: “Well…we had a little bit of a discussion about this earlier, but for me, you’re not the first person to have pointed that out. It wasn’t intentional in my books, but I do model a lot of my characters off of my friends and the people around me, and I did grow up in fandom and I grew up around people who were Autistic or had some of the qualities of being on the Spectrum, whether they ever got diagnosed or not. So I’m not surprised that it leaks into my books, but it wasn’t ever my intention. That said, I’m kind of excited by the fact that people are spotting it in my characters. I think it’s…I think it’s kind of a privilege!”

After thanking Miss Carriger for her time and insight, I came away from the interview feeling more enlightened and inspired. It’s one thing to be a literature major and to earn validation from a well-established author. It’s another thing to learn about their experience and awareness of the Autism Spectrum! Just to hear about her viewpoints and the fact that I’m not the only person to bring up Autism, it shows just how much awareness is out in the world today. I never imagined that one of my core issues would be touched upon by a woman of such talent; it means so much to me!

I feel so special and so blessed to have been given such unexpected hope and enthusiasm that was worth every moment of the entire convention weekend! Who in your life has given you an unexpected boost in self-esteem? What extra lessons have you learned that made you feel alive and inspired? I hope you have other stories of inspired learning to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step; each one has the potential to be a lesson plan for life!

Learn more about Gail Carriger here at her website: http://www.gailcarriger.com/

Today’s musical inspiration is an American standard done by Michael Buble. It’s called “Feeling Good” and I feel so damn good about life!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edwsf-8F3sI

If Life Were Like College…

This is what fuels creativity.

This is what fuels creativity.

If life were like college…sounds like wishful thinking, doesn’t it? Well, for me it’s a vision born from a deep internal need I have for structure and purpose. I realized long ago that the part of me with Asperger’s Syndrome was craving a schedule to live by. Not just busy work or a job that was just that: a job. What I craved most was purpose. Why? Because I lived for years with no clear answers as to what purpose I had in this world. Even when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, the doors to new possiblities were opened, but I still had many questions that needed answering.

Everything I learned from secondhand sources left me feeling informed but, dissatisfied. I had a great time in college, but I’m in the real world now. I wondered how I could take the best elements of college and apply them to my post-graduation life. Well, I believe there’s a way for me to have the best of both worlds.

Real life can be like college. Everything can be a learning experience and there’s always a chance for lessons to be learned. Of course, if your priorities are out of balance or you’re not really enjoying life, then your experiences probably won’t be very pleasant. I’ve found that it takes a certain amount of childlike wonder combined with a grain of salt, a willingness to learn, and good old-fashioned hope to really make the most of this life.

I’ve felt this way ever since I learned about the difficult odds facing people with Autism. According to http://www.autismnow.org, only 32.5% of young adults with autism spectrum disorders currently work for pay. Gainful employment and purpose are hard to come by for Aspies, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to be after graduation. I took a leap of faith when I started this blog, and it turns out that my faith was justified.

My primary purpose turned out to be that of an educator with a unique background, qualified to show the world one person’s experience of living on the Autism Spectrum, a Lesson Plan for Life. Not universal by any means, but offering a unique insight into how someone born on the Spectrum can rise above preconceived notions and live a full and engaged life. Just like college classes, it hasn’t been easy, and some days are better than others. However, just like all of my student experiences, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Instead of meeting at the campus quad, I can meet at my favorite coffee house, or even in someone’s living room! A classroom can be found anywhere there’s a meeting of the minds. Conventions and seminars are a perfect opportunity to meet other potential like-minded students of life. Brainstorming solutions for problems in the world can be a great life project that can be rewarding if drive and passion are present. There are different possibilities to what can be accomplished; each one is different, based on the different dreams, goals, and visions of people.

My vision of a world where people on the Autism Spectrum are welcomed with respect and tolerance is becoming a reality, thanks to discoveries and lessons I’ve learned. I feel like I’m showing the world an example of what Aspies can contribute to this world. Now, I wonder…do you believe that there are exciting new ways to learn about the world that will make you feel like you’re back in college? Are you curious as to how you can teach the world something from your heart that makes you feel alive with passion and purpose? If you had the chance to share something you learned, what would be your Lesson Plan for Life?

Today’s musical inspiration is one of my favorite Rock and Roll anthems: an electrifying standard by Queen: “Don’t Stop Me Now”- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgzGwKwLmgM