How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘Driving Lessons’

Journal of an Aspie: 7/25/2011-“Upon Reflection”

Looking back on the road trip I took, I think about what I learned.  On my last day of travel, I found myself drawn to one of the many beaches in Santa Barbara.  I knew in my heart that I would be able to find a special kind of solitude that would free me from the few disappointments that I had experienced.

I’ve always felt that people on the spectrum have a hard time staying in the present moment because their minds are overstimulated by a world that has contributed to their problems and yet, cannot find a solution to alleviate the stress.  It is my feeling that young children on the spectrum need to be taught a more spiritual, universal way to calm down and focus their inner beings.

What has worked for me personally was being taught how to meditate and focus on the conscious act of breathing.  I was taught to feel every inch of my body’s nerve endings from my crown to my fingers and toes.  I have also felt that it should not, in any way be connected to any external pressure such as culture, religion, or society, because those entities are often muddled with distracting ritual at times.

Because I was fortunate enough to learn from other people with a more enlightened and universal view of personal growth, I was able to find a way to center my mind and soul in a place of peace and tranquility.  I feel that in order to be taught this type of centering, a person should teach it consciously without an agenda in the wings.

Whether it’s personal, religious, or societal, an agenda is often ego-driven and therefore not coming from the center of being.  I believe that for an aspie to really learn to quiet their minds, they have to be taught to find that tranquility within them.  The teacher should guide them gently to that place of being, help them take away all external distractions, and show them how to go to that sacred space within themselves.

Case in point: when I found an empty bench on that day, I sat down and breathed deeply.  Before I knew it, I felt the need to close my eyes, straighten my back, and relax my muscles.

I sat there for some time in a deeply meditative place, letting all the stress ebb away and focusing solely on the world around me.  With my eyes closed I could feel everything, the gentle, cool breeze was like a sedative for the midsummer day.  Any oppressive heat was tempered by the wind off of the gently-moving ocean, as well as the soothing sounds of the waves that provided a refreshing calm.  The sky was cloudless and a vibrant shade of blue; I knew that I was privileged to be a part of the present moment in the middle of creation.

As I stirred, the din of people around me further stimulated my senses.  Even though it’s regarded as a very “busy” sound to most people, for me, it blended into the background and I felt no sense of hustle or rush.  To my ears, listening to the sound of people was just another way of being observant of my surroundings.  Have you ever felt like you were in the right place at the right time and it was meant to happen?  I felt the same way after I left the beach, and even more so after I came back home.

When I came back, I found out that I had overdrawn my bank account when I was traveling.  It was easy to fix online, but the sting of making such a grievous error just didn’t feel good at all.  Looking at it now, I know that in my Aspie brain, I’m sensitive to how I appear to others and I tend to be critical with myself for making mistakes.  This has led me to repeat certain screw-ups more than once out of fear, and being self-judgemental has often led me to miss the opportunity to learn from the experience, good, bad, or indifferent.

It took about a day to process the emotion after the fact, but I realized that there was a lesson in that mistake as well.  After all, isn’t it a human action to realize mistakes and then do something to correct them?  It turns out that I learned a valuable lesson from this financial flub.  Even when traveling on a trip that is meant for freedom and a change of pace, it requires responsibility for things like personal safety and finance.  If there is little control over finance and a sense of reckless disgregard for personal safety, a dream vacation could turn into a nightmare really quick.

I also realized that I’m not the only one who struggles with money.  I personally don’t know the track record of anyone on the Spectrum with regard to finances, therefore I really want to know.  I want to hear from people on the Spectrum or anyone who is close to them.  I need to find out if I am the only one who struggles in this subject, because my experience is by no means universal; I need to know exactly what drives others so that I may better understand myself.

I really believe that trouble with money is not an “Aspie” thing, but a human thing that many people are loathe to talk about.  Thank God that people like Suze Orman are around to help us break through the barriers of myth and false concepts that have held back people for far too long.

In all honesty, my disappointments happened because I didn’t look things up on my computer while I was traveling.  Sure, I wanted to capture the mystique of going where the wind takes me and finding great things along the way, but by having expectations and just a destination in mind, I almost missed out on the journey, which was the best part of my trip.

I’m reminded of “Inherit the Wind”.  I read the play and watched the 2 movie versions, and remembered that Henry Drummond, the defense attorney, was putting forth the arguement that no progress was made without sacrifice.  I believe what he meant was that change is difficult for people, and I didn’t want to look things up, because I wanted to be surprised.  Now, I know that there is nothing wrong with doing research, it is necessary to have knowledge beforehand so that plans can be easily changed without disappointment or bitterness.

All in all, I had fun on my road trip.  Even though it had it’s ups and downs, I realize now that I wouldn’t change a thing.  Events turned out the way they did because I made them happen that way.  Everything was a learning experience, and that is just part of the lessons that I continue to learn, and I know that I am not quitting until I’m ready to walk out of the classroom of life and start knocking on Heaven’s door.

Driving Lessons: Part Two

Hi, there.

I guess you’re wondering why I’m posting about driving again, right?  Well, after recent events and personal decisions, I am adding this as an addendum to the other, similar post.

A couple of months ago, I decided to take a road trip by myself on a whim.  Back then, I decided that it would take place around the middle of July, and would involve me traveling through Southern California for about a week.  It would just be a chance to stretch my legs and maybe find inspiration for writing and creating along the way.

At first, I felt like it would be a personal celebration of my recent graduation from college; a culmination of my hard work and accomplishment.  However, after talking it out with those people who are closest to me, I began to think that there was a different reason behind my motivations.

I thought about it deeply, and eventually, I understood that I was looking not only for inspiration, but for a fresh perspective on things I had seen as a kid.  I remembered places that I had been to on road trips with family when I was younger.  During those trips I would see different places and I felt a feeling of gratitude for being blessed to see them with my own eyes.  Today, I  feel that one of my strongest motivations is to see some of these places with different eyes that have evolved and grown with me as I have matured and gained experience in life and in the classroom.

I also realized that this small road trip was satisfying a feeling of admiration I had for two different kinds of people.  For the longest time, these two archetypes have fascinated me for their willingness to let go of certain norms in order to live by their own internal impulses.

The first is the wandering poet or artist.  This person is someone with strong artistic impulses in writing poetry, music, books, or in painting.  They travel in whatever way they can to wherever their creative inpulses take them to find inspiration in creating something beautiful.  I have a feeling that I’ll be able to write new essays that will become posts once they have been refined from the raw inspiration that I’ll draw from my road trip.

The second archetype that I admire is the wandering hero/rogue.  Whether they are in a movie, on TV, or in a book, this person is either forced or makes a choice to leave behind their home or town and travel across the land, searching for a new place to live or for new injustices to right.

Perhaps, it’s because I did so little in the way of dramatic life experiences growing up that these kinds of people have always inspired me.  In a way, going on this road trip will be satisfying to the wanderlust that was always deep down inside of me.

While I won’t be doing anything dramatic like leaving my whole life behind, I will be leaving town on Wednesday, July 13th and returning on Monday the 18th.  By then, I will have taken plenty of photos and written several ideas to post in the future.  Starting on Wednesday, I will be posting here daily for as long as I’m on the road.

This reminds me of when I used to attempt journal writing.  At first I couldn’t understand why I didn’t make it a recurring practice in my life, but I would start one journal, continue less frequently, and then I wouldn’t do it anymore.  Looking back on it now, I feel like I was lacking the motivation to do the work because to me, it was another job that I didn’t feel like doing, in addition to the schoolwork that was made more difficult by the fact that I was born with autism and didn’t see the homework in the same way that most “neuro-typical” children would.

However, with my establishment of this new blog, I realized that I could do my own online journal writing and give my audience a glimpse of what my eyes and mind perceive on any given day.  The inspiration, and motivation to put down my thoughts is now within me, and manifesting in this blog.  I feel now that my journal writing will have a purpose other than to be looked at years in the future by me and my future family.

To be clear, my journal posts will be clearly marked and the style will be more off the cuff and extemporaneous than other essays.  I wish to use this trip as a way to have just a taste of what the wandering hero or artist experiences on screen and in books.

Now that I think about it, this road trip is another excercise in the independence I have gained in learning to drive.  I know that I have been unwilling to use this gift or embrace it in the past because of personal fear that was perhaps left over from a childhood that was a bit sheltered at times, to be honest with you.  Today, I feel like I am coming full circle: reaching for a personal brass ring that I have waited so long to grab.  While it may not have much significance to the average person, this is a personal journey that means a lot to me.

What exactly will come of this I cannot even begin to see.  One thing I know for certain is that I will have satiated the small bit of wanderlust that is inside me, only now, I will use it as a method of inspiration that will propel my creativity and perhaps change a person’s life by the recording of my actions.

Driving Lessons

Hello again!

I was jotting down my thoughts on Thursday, the 22nd of April when I remembered the strangest thing: my driving lessons.  I thought to myself, “why is this so important now?”  Well, the truth is that when I started writing this blog and learning about what it takes to put one together, it felt like the 1st time I ever drove a car, which, believe it or not, wasn’t until I turned 21!

You see, I used to be petrified of driving.  I think the reason was that I was so afraid of losing control and becoming too much like my Dad (He tends to drive offensively!  Which is something that I agree to disagree with him on.)  Looking back on it now, I remember experiencing many close calls as a passenger in my dad’s car.

In my Aspie brain, those close calls were so jarring and unsettling that I was traumatized about going through the rite of passage of a teenager learning to drive and getting their first car.  What also made matters worse was my very obvious lack of coordination which is a common characteristic in aspies.  Children born on the spectrum can be expected to develop life skills at a slower rate than their neurotypical peers.  Unfortunately, the pressures of our image-conscious, often judgemental society attach a stigma to those children and their families, who might cave into that pressure with disastrous results!

However, I eventually realized that the need, as well as the motivation to learn such life skills, had to start inside of me.  It was not until I turned 21, after nearly three years of being at the mercy of unreliable public transit schedules, that I knew I had to stop being afraid of the learning process, and just gather up the courage to tell my parents I was ready to learn.

On day one, it was obvious the learning process wasn’t going to be easy, but then again, learning vital skills for living is also hard for neurotypical children as well; can you imagine what it’s like for someone born on the spectrum?  Initially, I was afraid to get on the freeways; driving at night seemed like a daunting challenge, and even rough weather would make me extremely nervous.

The point I’m making is that starting a blog feels a lot like driving lessons.  At 1st I was nervous about how to do the basics, but I realize that the more I practice, the more my writing will become 2nd nature, just like when I learned how to drive.  You know, not knowing is not an excuse to not try, and unfortunately, I’ve used it too many times in my life.  If I am ever to become comfortable with this line of communication, I need to trust the process as much as I did while learning to drive.

Learning to drive is something to be proud of, just like this blog.