How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘John Lennon’

Starting Over

o-BOOK-SCULPTURE-570“Starting Over”: that simple two-word phrase that’s just loaded with meanings and connotations.  The first thing that may come to mind is when a person suffers a tragic event in their life and has to “start life all over again”.  One does not have to go through a big terrible event or even rebuild their entire life from scratch.  You may wonder “isn’t that what always happens to someone when they have a mid-life crisis?”  Hardly!  You don’t have to let half your life pass by before feeling like you need to change.  Hell, you don’t even need to live a quarter of your life to make readjustments!  I believe there’s a cycle to life and that we each have the power to determine our quality of that life.  It isn’t completely dictated by chronological age, it comes in chapters during different ages and many of them happen at the same time.

With the help of this blog, I’ve made my life an open book.  I’ve started many new chapters and ended many others; sometimes the changes are sudden, sometimes they’re gradual.  I recognize the moment when a certain chapter of my life has closed and a new one has begun.  I wonder if being aware of these transitions is just an Aspie thing or a part of human nature.

As a little boy I was told that I could sing, but I didn’t know what it meant until third grade when I was persuaded to join the elementary school choir.  From that point on, music was always present in my life.  I knew that singing and performing on stage was a great source of joy that rested at the core of my being.  This is a part of me that will never be done until I’m ready to leave this world.  Music is so important to me that I can’t imagine living my life without it.

When I graduated from one school and entered a new one, that was one chapter ending and a new one beginning.  For a while I didn’t know what the next chapter would be after I graduated college but after talking it over with Mom and Dad, I believed that I could make a difference with my words, and soon this blog was born as my next chapter of growth and learning.  I feel like humans should never stop growing and learning when they’re out of school; if you stop wanting to, you’ll miss out on some great experiences.

When I was in community college, I realized that music was not a viable option to make a living.  The pivotal moment came when I was preparing to transfer to a nearby university.  One day, I met a woman at an Autism conference who told me about a university that was farther away, but with smaller class sizes and a youthful dynamic well-suited for someone like me on the Autism Spectrum.  I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for that meeting, I never would have considered moving out, renting my own apartment, and changing my major from Music to Literature.  Funny how a chance meeting can close one chapter and open another at the same time!

By far, one of the most important moments of my life happened when I was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I received the formal diagnosis when I was fifteen, less than one year into high school.  From that moment on, my hazy feeling of living unaware began to disappear.  I took that first step into the larger world of life on the Autism Spectrum by first coming to terms with what it meant.  Gradually, I learned to speak up as I acquired the knowledge and language with which to explain myself.  Today I advocate for myself, but look forward to the day when I begin to advocate for other “Aspies” on a larger scale.

My chapters about love are…complex to say the least.  In my family, I used to look at my relatives as special and they could do no wrong.  As I got older I began to notice how some their words and actions didn’t feel right to me.  Thanks to my network of supportive family and friends, I have come to terms with their flaws, frailties, and differences.  I have turned a page and learned to love them, but some of them I have to love from a distance to avoid being baited into drama and negativity.

I was with a special woman for two years; we were each other’s first real love.  When I realized that we were leading very different lives, I was forced to end our relationship.  For nearly a year I felt as though I was in limbo; the shock of the breakup was so much to deal with.  One year later, I received a letter of apology from her saying how much she regretted the way things ended and how it forced her to look at herself and own up to her mistakes.  That began the slow process of writing our last good-byes to each other and closing the door on the past with no hard feelings.  I don’t know exactly when my next chapter of romance will begin, but I have faith that it will be even better and more fulfilling because of how far I’ve come.

In my life I’ve started and ended many chapters before I even knew how to articulate them.  Some are over for good, others are ongoing, and others have yet to be written.  With the groundwork of a new family business underway, I’m looking forward to this new chapter.  Stay tuned for updates on this very special project.  In the meantime, I am blessed to close this chapter of my blog and open a new one.  I’m proud of the story I’ve written so far and thank all of my readers!

PS: Part of my inspiration came from a classic song by John Lennon: “(Just Like) Starting Over”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWWbu_RSh7Q

What Dreams Are Made Of

I’m sure that you’ve heard the word “dream” being used carelessly at times, I have as well.  I’ve heard it applied to many different situations, but something inside of me was always drawn back to my own meaning.  I now ask you this:  What does the word “dream” mean to you?  Has the definition changed throughout your life?  What dreams do you have now, versus when you were a kid?  Have you made them happen?

Well, for me the definition has evolved from when I was a little boy.  I still have dreams that were born in my early days of living unaware of my difference from “normal” people.  However as the saying goes: the only thing constant is change.  Much has changed in my life since I was little, but there are some dreams and desires that have withstood the test of time.

When I was little, I wanted to be different things when I grew up.  I loved watching the superhero and crime fighting cartoons on weekends, so I thought I could be a police officer.  I felt a love of transportation that I still have to this day.  From when I was eight until I turned fifteen, I wanted to be either a train engineer, the captain of a ship, or an airplane pilot.

As I entered middle school, I felt happy when I was singing in a choir.  Before I knew it, I was into the magic of music, and I had hoped to make a living by creating it.  I started taking the piano lessons that I had stopped taking when I was in first grade.  I felt like I was heading in a good direction, but things don’t always work out as planned.

I struggled for the first few years of community college.  My lack of focus, and my coming to terms with the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome forced me to reevaluate what direction I was going towards.  This is not to say that I was inactive at the time: this was when I was getting most of the counseling I needed to find out who I really was.

It was also this time that I was forming a dream around a girl that I knew.  We met online and declared our love to each other.  After nearly two years, I could see myself proposing to her.  But deep inside I knew that something was changing, and I was afraid to admit it.  On our final night, a conversation between us devolved into an emotional downward spiral and she attacked me personally.  It was then I realized that my dream of a life with her was over.  It was clear that we were leading very different lives and we weren’t being honest with each other.

I am glad that my dream for me and her ended, otherwise I would have continued living a lie because I was so desperate to be in love with someone.  I was afraid to give up this dream, but I knew I had to in order to let go of a wounded past.  Yet, I would eventually learn that dreams never really die, they are simply deferred.  I’ve learned that just because I broke up with someone, doesn’t mean I have to give up my dream.  On the contrary: this experience has taught me how to give all of myself to the woman who I was meant to be with.  It’ll take time for it to grow, but the romantic in me will always be hopeful.

During my transition to Cal State San Marcos, I began to refocus my direction into another method of creativity.  I discovered that the Literature & Writing department was well-renowned.  After much deliberation, I decided to pursue a degree in Literature with a writing emphasis.  I enrolled at San Marcos in 2008 and began my path to a writing career.  It was in May of 2011 that I finally earned my Bachelor of Arts degree.

So, one dream came true, and I needed to find a new one to fill the space left open.  It took a while for me to gain momentum, but now I have a clarity about what my purpose is, and what actions must be taken for me to fulfill it.  In my heart, I know that I just…”get it”.  I mean, I know the score about what life really can be when I apply my strengths.  I’ve felt that ever since this year began, I have been more focused and in tune with the world, and know what I have to do.

The truth is that all my life I’ve believed that I wasn’t meant to live with labels defining me.  I knew that I wanted to be an example of someone using their own strengths and weaknesses to defy the odds and conventional wisdom.  I truly felt that when I was doing what needed to be done with passion and commitment, I would be a success on my own terms.  So much so that everything I would achieve could never be taken away.  Yes, I was born with Asperger’s Syndrome and I knew that it explained a lot about me, but it didn’t tell my entire story.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my writing and voice are to be used as a force for positive change in this world.

Today, I’m writing more than just a blog.  I am branching out into writing a novel by using the skills I picked up in high school and college.  Ever since I looked into the Steampunk aesthetic, I found myself being drawn to the speculation of a steam-powered alternate history.  I discovered a few gaps in the market for novels and ideas, but I’ll save that topic for another post.

The point is that I am using my imagination and the thrill I get doing research into something that intrigues me.  I am currently looking into different sources to gather information about historical events so that I have a solid framework to speculate on and go from there.

So, what does this dream mean to me?  Well, it goes to the definition of what it means to me.  A dream is an inspired idea that is born in the mind and also touches the heart.  It is different from a goal, because a goal is the outcome of a plan, while a dream is the overall vision of the heart and mind blended into one.  My dream is to somehow be recognized for my natural talents.  My vision is to become a perfect example of someone on the Autism Spectrum who can show parents and children that the future can be alive with hope and possibility to alleviate the insecurity and worry that often comes with a Spectrum diagnosis.

I have learned to dream in stages, and have an action plan for making it a reality.  I’ve also learned that a vision can come to fruition no matter how long it takes.  After seeing my parents work for a majority of my life in jobs that were just stepping-stones to them, I learned that it’s never too late to follow your passions.  Today they work in careers they’re proud of, and I couldn’t be prouder or happier for them both.

Today, I am happy and proud to say that my dream is to keep growing this blog.  I also want to have my novel published and have it be the first of many more to come.  I believe that by continuing on this path, I will show the world that even for those with challenges, dreams do come true.  I know what needs to be done, and I’m enjoying the journey.