CELEBRATING THE 51st: My Annual Birthday Post

While my birthday plans do not include going here, being that I’m about to become this age I thought this would be a cool pic to put on this post. Photo courtesy of komando.com

 

THOUGH MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY IS NOT FOR FIVE MORE DAYS (as of this writing), I’M GOING AHEAD AND  POSTING MY THOUGHTS ABOUT IT NOW

 

Fifty-one is not fifty.

I’m fully aware of that and the fact that I’m not celebrating a milestone birthday like I did last year.

But that’s OK, because I reckon when one reaches their forties and fifties – and as the years advance, actually – one feels more and more grateful that another year has passed and they are still on this planet.

I certainly feel that way as my 51st birthday approaches this coming Monday; as always, I’m making it an extra special point to give thanks to God for allowing me to see 51 years on this Earth as an African-American male on the Autism Spectrum Disorder as soon as I wake up that morning.

Especially considering the times we are living in right now, with the leader of the free world who-must-not-be-named – remember, I vowed to never write the name of this country’s president on this blog when he was elected – and his “Make America Great Again” cap-wearing worshipers, I mean followers, intentionally trying to induce misery upon anyone who’s not exactly like them (Read: white, male, straight, wealthy, conservative, Christian, or any combination of those six attributes).

All right, enough about you-know-who!

The biggest thought about this upcoming birthday of mine is that on that day in 1978,

Exactly forty years ago to the day,

I undertook something significant that was a big event of my childhood and served as an influence on my life…

I went to Dodger Stadium for the very first time.

Yep, I spent the day I turned eleven watching my very first Major League Baseball game in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals).

However, if you want details about that noteworthy day, sorry. I won’t share those details right here and now.

 

 

A poster detailing all the stuff that happened fifty-one years ago. Image courtesy of flickback.com

 

 

A complete description about spending my 11th birthday at that flagship baseball park will appear on this blog on Monday, my actual birthday, which I think is only appropriate to do.

In other words, I promise to tell all in five days.

For the time being, as far as birthday plans…

I’m definitely NOT planning any kind of big party; last year’s soiree, while enjoyable, was a one-time milestone thing that I have no plans of doing again until I turn 70 or 75 (God Willing).

To be honest, outside of writing about my first Dodger Stadium experience in the morning on this blog and SoCal Sports Annals, my sports fan blog (Here’s the link to that: http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com ),

And eating Mexican food from a place where I have eaten since the mid-1970s along with birthday cake, I am not 100% sure what I’m going to do as of this moment.

But I do plan to enjoy the day, as anyone in that age group and beyond needs to do.

Ii will feel good to be above to celebrate another year living as a black man in America with Asperger’s, as it gives me a feeling of gratitude and survival.

While I’m definitely not trying to tell anyone what to do, anyone in their forties and up who’s on the autism spectrum in particular should feel glad  and thankful every time their birthday approaches.

Why? Because despite any struggles, social or otherwise, that someone on the spectrum may have suffered through, the fact that they’re still here is something to be quite thankful for.

I know I’ll be sure to mention that to God in my prayers.

I also guess that the only thing left to say here is…

Happy Birthday To Me (five days early).

I hope it’s a good one.

And it goes without saying that I hope and pray to have many more birthdays before I’m through.

 

 

I don’t think I’m a limited edition, but I do like this picture. Image courtesy of teepublic.com

 

 

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Another Particular Thought Regarding My Being Of Middle Age

The prefect quote concerning this issue. Image courtesy of plusquoter.com

 

 

There’s a song from 2003 by a guy named Joe Jackson, a true musician – unlike so many people in pop music today who wouldn’t dream of playing their own instruments and can’t perform without twenty backup dancers and a state of the art system that lets them lip sync to their voice on stage – I’ve been a fan of for decades, called “Awkward Age”.

He’s talking to a teenager in the song, trying to cheer him up for the typical awkwardness that’s common to adolescents, but it’s the second part of the tune that describes me very well now that I’m in my fifties.

Here are those lyrics…

 

You look at me like I know what’s going on

I’m looking back and I wonder what went wrong

I really thought by now a few things might just clarify

I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days

And a body that sometimes disobeys

I get into the parties but I hate them because I’m shy

Oh my,

I’m still at an awkward age

 

Although I make it a pronounced point to exercise every week, doing cardio and weightlifting as well as play pick-up softball on the weekends, and eat healthier than I did in the past (I officially gave up red meat last December), I’m not sure if any other verse of lyrics better describes me and my growing state more.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p51Fgm1m6V0

Joe Jackson’s song, “Awkward Age”, from the 2003 album Volume 4. Courtesy of YouTube (click on the link).

 

 

As for the parties, last year’s 50th birthday shindig notwithstanding as that was a once-in-a-lifetime necessary exception (until perhaps and God Willing my 70th or 75th birthday – we’ll see), I completely concur with Joe in that while I don’t exactly hate them, I have a certain level of discomfort with them due to the feeling of having to walk on eggshells, stemming from my being on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum – Asperger’s Syndrome to be precise.

If there’s any fifty-something that’s still at an awkward age, it’s definitely me.

I reckon that I’m not alone in this sentiment, as it would be quite selfish of me to see things that way.

I’d like to hear from others who feel like they’re still at an “awkward age” so many years after their adolescent days.

If you fit into that description, don’t keep it a secret!

Feel free to comment below…

 

REGARDING THE ABOVE QUOTE: This happens to me all the time. Image courtesy of theodysseyonline.com

 

 

 

 

A Few New Thoughts of Having Asperger’s In Middle Age

Photo courtesy of sidebysidecoaching.co.uk

 

VARIOUS MUSINGS REGARDING BEING AN ASPIE IN MY FIFTIES

These days, regarding people who are on the autism spectrum, particularly of the high-functioning kind and namely those with Asperger’s Syndrome,

There are an embarrassment of riches as far as services, programs and support for Aspies who are children and young adults in the form of:

  • Non-public schools geared toward that population – I know, I used to work at one
  • Various services such as counseling and support groups, and…
  • Programs that aim toward those aspies and others on the spectrum after the age of 22 (when Special Education and services & programs for those ages 3-22 end) gain independence in the form of jobs and “leaving the nest”, as in moving away from parents and getting an apartment

The other day a thought came to me…

What about those on the spectrum who are middle-aged and happen to be high functioning, like me?

Last year saw my fiftieth birthday, and as I am officially, by American standards, considered to be of middle age,

With me having high functioning Asperger’s, outside of meet-up groups I haven’t seen any support stuff geared toward aspies in my age group.

Besides those meet-up groups, the only thing I’ve seen among the developmentally disabled where the people are anywhere near my age is programs for lower-functioning groups; I’ve seen them from time to time when I take trips to the library, going online and reading books and magazines.

As for those meet-up groups – I know what quite a few of you are probably saying right now…

“Why don’t you check those groups out? Give them a chance?”

As much as I regret saying this, when I did sign up online for one of those groups in the Los Angeles, CA area, where I live,

Not only did their meet-up days and times not mesh with my schedule, I (to be brutally honest) simply didn’t feel comfortable enough to make any kind of commitments.

The reason for that discomfort?

One word: MAINSTREAMING.

 

This reminds me of myself when I’m out and about, only no backwards cap and the fact that I’m much bigger. Photo courtesy of wypr.org

 

 

After spending kindergarten in a special ed program – called a “Special Day Class”  in those days – due to my sometimes animal-like behavior stemming from my aspieness at that young age – the powers that be determined that I had progressed enough to the point where I could be mainstreamed into a regular class for first grade.

Especially when they found that I could do the academic work fairly easily, as though my behavior needed modifying my reading (I began to read at age two-and-a half), writing, and math skills were considered to be very good, par for the course for many aspies.

To make a long story short, from age six all the way to high school graduation, I never set foot in a special education class, even finding myself in gifted classes a few of those years.

Which unfortunately left myself feeling uncomfortable with those who were in the special ed classes, and – as much as I hate to say it – even when I taught physical education at a non-public, special ed school roughly fifteen years ago as in one particular instance, a co-worker who was clearly on the syndrome, while nice enough, tried too hard to be my friend, unexpectedly calling me during the evening on one occasion.

Which, though it wasn’t his fault as he didn’t know this, was not a good thing as evenings are my time to decompress, my attitude being “I don’t bother anyone, so I don’t want anybody to bother me”.

I reckon folks are wondering what my point is to all of this – here it is:

As good as mainstreaming was for me; I’m sure I would have never achieved what I achieved – a college degree, a work ethic of (at least) some kind, social skills, having my own sports blog which is growing, called SoCal Sports Annals.com ( Here’s the link: http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com ) – if it were not for that,

I’m convinced that I would be more comfortable among aspies today if I were among them more during my formative years, rather than be completely separated from them.

One thing that I would check out would be a singles group consisting of those on the spectrum who are high functioning, where the opposite sexes can meet, form friendships and have an opportunity to date.

In other words, I would be interested in going to a mixer featuring high functioning women and seeing if anything clicks.

I know that the reason why I haven’t found anything like that is the fact that male autistics out number their female counterparts by an average of five to one.

But meeting a woman who’s a high functioning aspie, minimum age 35 but preferably in her early forties and up,  who shares the same interests as me, where we could provide companionship with each other,

Wouldn’t be something that I would be completely against.

Especially since I’m a fifty-something and don’t exactly have forever.

If there’s anyone out there who knows of any groups or programs like that in the Los Angeles area, please feel free to let me know!

There’s a chance I’ll check them out, but whether or not I choose to do so, I’ll feel glad knowing groups like that are out there.

 

 

Thank goodness I don’t feel as isolated as I used to, but that feeling is still there ever so often. Photo courtesy of bestpracticeautism.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

TIME IS GOING TOO FAST: It’s Overwhelming Sometimes (Does Anyone Else Feel This Way?)!

Image courtesy of jadaratint.com

 

HAS ANYONE ELSE EXPERIENCED THIS?

I found this to be the case as I’ve grown older, and now – in my fifties – more than ever:

I would wake up and start my day at around 9:00 am or so,

And two minutes later, it’s 2:00 pm!

When I would get ready to go out somewhere, whether it’s for errands or whatever,

I would start getting ready – shaving, getting dressed – at around a half-hour before its time to depart.

And a minute later, it’s past my time! I’m late!

When I’m winding down in bed at night, I’d be either reading or looking at various things on my Kindle Fire at around 10 o’clock or so.

And a couple of minutes later, it’s one in the morning!

Here is the kicker to all of that…

THIS IS THE CASE WHEN I MANAGE MY TIME WELL, AS I’M USUALLY GOOD AT DOING SO!

 

 

If you notice the time on this clock – it sometimes feels like I have to get a millions things done by 12:00, and that’s how much time I have. Photo courtesy of se.123rf.com

 

 

All right, here’s my point to all of this; I’m sure that’s what you’re asking right about now…

Much of the time, particularly in the past, I would feel overwhelmed whenever I found myself running late or in a real hurry to do something or get something done before a certain time.

I was especially difficult to deal with during my 20s, due to (I believe) my having Asperger’s Syndrome, being on the Autism Spectrum, as there were a couple of times where I completely shut down due to that overwhelming feeling.

I KNOW, I KNOW – this type of stress in common in neurotypicals, too. I’m fully aware that folks who don’t have any mental/emotional/social disabilities get pressed for time and stressed out on a regular basis due to that.

But I strongly feel that people on the spectrum are affected by this time stress in a more pronounced way; the wiring in their brains makes dealing with such stress more difficult to deal with effectively than someone who’s not on the spectrum.

At least, that’s my opinion.

Does anyone else feel like that?

 

What we all aspire to permanently get into, most of all me. Photo courtesy of chioficcialwebsite.com

 

 

One more area where I feel that time is going WAY too fast…

Yes, I know that this is the case for neurotypicals too, but I can only speak for myself;

I vividly recall turning twenty-five and thirty years old; 30 in particular as some friends of mine threw a party for me on the beach in Santa Monica – the last time I ever set foot in that sand (or any beach sand, for that matter), incidentally, as that beach has gotten far too crowded and touristy.

(Seemingly) two days later, I’ve had my fiftieth birthday and am on the cusp of turning fifty-one in a few weeks.

And I reckon in another couple of minutes, my sixtieth birthday will be approaching.

Then – God willing – my 70th and 80th.

That’s not an easy thing to ponder for someone who remembers with fondness his early, single-digit childhood with his grandparents in Riverside.

As I’ve already asked, does anyone else feel like this?

I know that there’s nothing I can do about time seemingly going faster than the Road Runner; it’s not like I can ask God to slow time down or push a button to slow the speed of time in half.

I basically wrote this to ask my fellow Aspies out there if they have experienced these feelings of stress and overwhelming due to it being 9:00 a.m. one minute and 9:00 p.m. the next.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to do here – thanks for reading…

 

Change the gender (of course), and this is how I’ve felt much of the time throughout my adulthood, and now more than ever. Image courtesy of metro.co.uk

 

 

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpts from Chapter Ten of My Book Describing Having Asperger’s

Anyplace like this – open spaces, rolling meadows covered in bright green grass with mountains in the distance – is my happy place. Image courtesy of pngtree.com

 

Here are a few passages from my soon-to-be self-published book on my life having Asperger’s in the mainstream, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”.

These excerpts describe my experiences as a forty-something, approaching-middle-age adult on the high-functioning autism spectrum;

The chapter is called “Frustrations In My Forties, With A Helping Of Hope” – which I believe explains it all…

 

I would be anywhere – in my house, or out and about – doing my thing, when all of a sudden a flashback of something socially stupid that I did or said, or a memory of someone like Marlon* putting me through hell, even though it had happened decades before those horrible reminisces would suddenly pop into my head with such clarity, they might as well have occurred that day.

The trauma resulting from these flashbacks would be to the point where I would scream “NO!!” inside my head in order to try to get them out, Sometimes I’d scream “NO!!!” out loud because the flashback and trauma would be so overwhelming.

This PTSD, combined with the faux-pas I committed that was a part of trying to live, be accepted, and liked in the neurotypical world on my terms, all led to a level of frustration that was so pronounced that it got to a point of, well…

Remember the 1995 movie Leaving Las Vegas?

That’s the movie where Nicholas Cage won the Oscar for Best Actor playing a raging alcoholic who, when he loses his job and everything else due to his dependency on booze, moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death and ultimately succeeds in that goal, but not before meeting and falling for the proverbial “Hooker with a Heart of Gold”, played by Elizabeth Shue (who got a Best Actress nomination for her efforts).

Well, for a long time that’s how I felt, dating back to when I quit my last job as an after school teacher in Inglewood.

Did I start hitting the Jack Daniels or hook up with a working girl of the evening?

Of course not, but whenever I saw Nicholas’ character imbibing on the Vegas Strip and the surrounding streets, I couldn’t help thinking that I could relate to how he felt; how he saw absolutely no way out.

What triggered these urges in me were the acute feelings of oppression; being yelled at (in my mind), told what to do or what not to do in a way that (again, in my mind) made me feel like the one doing the yelling and ordering about saw me as an inferior less-than-human being, as that seemed to be the only time he or she ever communicated with me in any way when all I was doing was something that society has always said one should do:

Be Myself.

For practically my entire life, the messages I had received time and time again was that the world would universally respect, accept, and embrace me if I was myself and didn’t try to emulate anyone else.

Incident after incident, not just during my forties but seemingly my whole life, told me in no uncertain terms that the notion of “be myself and I would get respect” was nothing but a boldface lie – at least as far as I was concerned as I would never intend to speak for anyone else.

How does my being on the autism spectrum tie into all of this, you may be asking.

While I have described different episodes that highlighted my anger and frustration over being rejected, condescended to and bullied for the crime of just being me and – very important – not conforming to what was considered “normal” and “acceptable” in whatever group or endeavor I was involved in,

By the time I approached my late thirties and it became clear that nothing ha changed, my frustrations over seemingly failing to be liked, accepted, and successful in the neurotypical world got to be so overwhelming that I began to voice the suicidal thoughts that – judging from that time I went to jump off the top of SMC’s football stadium after I punched that girl when she told me to shut up – had been inside me since my late teens.

A decent example of this was at one of the places where I had worked. I had mentioned it earlier, about how I was told by the supervisor that I was no longer welcome in that place of employment due to the way I interacted with my co-workers and others.

“Well, there’s nothing left to do but kill myself,” I remarked, the reality of losing yet another job sinking in.

“You don’t need to kill yourself,” my just-became former employer replied.

“Yes I do,” I thought, as the spirit of Nicholas Cage’s character in Leaving Las Vegas nestled inside me.

There were quite a few gnarly incidents like that over the next several years, when anytime somebody said something in a certain way that would make me feel picked on, put down, or like they didn’t see me as an equal human being those negative (in my mind) words would bring out the suicidal feelings; although I knew I shouldn’t take things like that personally – and was told such many times – I didn’t know how to take it any other way.

And, I must admit, still have a difficult time doing.

Of course the fact is I’m not dead (at least as of this writing as no one can predict the future and tomorrow’s never guaranteed to anyone), which along with never hitting the bottle or meeting and falling in love with a prostitute are the big differences between me and Ben Sanderson – Nicholas Cage’s Leaving Las Vegas character – as I couldn’t go through with the actual deed of taking my own life.

By blurting out my desires to take my life and not going through with it, I reckon there were a few people who saw me as the proverbial “Boy Who Cried Wolf”; it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case.

The truth was, like every other person who has ever considered ending it all, I was in roughly forty years worth of mental and emotional pain as my blurting out my desire to end my life was akin to coffee spilling from a cup.

 

 

A VERY interesting photo of an Asperger’s brain compared with a neurotypical brain…

 

 

This next excerpt illustrates two personal traits of my Asperger’s – CONFUSION and ARRESTED MATURITY & EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT…

I was at the Culver City Library and had just finished with my online work on the public computers when this lady passed by me and suddenly, with this “Eureka!” look on her face, exclaimed “Derek!” like I was an old BFF.

I was thinking “Who the hell is this girl?” as I asked, “Do I know you?”

I won’t say her name in order to protect her privacy, but rest assured when she told me who she was – and old elementary school classmate who was in my 4th and 5th grade classes,  the memories came back.

And they were not good ones as she was, while not as bad as Marlon, was one of those who had bullied me, calling me an ape and a gorilla and not only picking a fight with me when I dared to stand up for myself, but punching me on the shoulder while I was trying to do the right thing and walk away.

The confusing part of all of this was that this girl didn’t always bully me. There were times when she treated me okay and I would think, “She’s my friend”, then for seemingly no reason she would turn on me, call me some nasty name, and I would get upset to the point of sometimes crying.

It was all a lifelong part of only being able to see things in black and white as in this case – and by my estimate several hundred other cases regarding my interactions with people – it was simply too hard for my brain to not see people as either a friend or an enemy, with no in between.

As far as I’m concerned, people either liked or hated me.

And I still struggle with that at times, because those shades of gray are too complicated for me to completely understand.

Fast forward roughly 35 years…

There we were in that library, me and my old classmate, and as the memories of her bullying me returned to my gray matter, rather than rejoicing over seeing her after all those years, my emotions were mixed as I voiced what she had done to me.

To her tremendous credit, her reaction was expressed by two words:

“I’m sorry.”

Even though I did forgive her, and even though we ended up having a nice little reunion that day, my mind still couldn’t avoid bursts of PTSD that stemmed from her bullying all those decades ago.

 

ARRESTED MATURITY AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

This was and is the other personal aspect of having Asperger’s Syndrome that over time I realized was a part of the disorder that really had a grip on me – and in some ways still has.

Starting in high school, and for a long time afterward, it became quite clear that I was emotionally behind the other kids in my grade as even though they, like me, were born in 1967, it seemed like they were older than me somehow.

They had signed up for driver’s education and had gotten their permits and licenses and cars the moment they were able to while I had not only waited until senior year to take driver’s ed, ending up with a bunch of sophomores, well…if you’ve been reading this book you know how trying to get my license turned out for me.

Many if not most of them were going to wild parties and getting smashed, while with the reputation I had even the slightest thought of inviting me to those soirees was pooh-poohed.

I always found myself interacting with younger kids not only in those days, as among other things I hung around my old junior high school a bit too much during my first year at Samohi and ran back to hang out at Samo at least one a week for the first couple of years I was at college; I was even told by a couple of well-meaning guys one night at a football game that I shouldn’t “make a habit” of visiting too much.

I wasn’t that clueless; I knew deep down that my choices in who I hung with were unusual. I knew deep down that the lack of interactions with my fellow members of the class of 1985 and my preference of befriending members of latter classes was, for lack of a better term, “socially (so-called) retarded”.

Even during the class reunions I attended, although I had a nice time and interacted pretty well with my classmates, I still felt like they were somehow older than me despite the fact that we were the same age.

The thing was, not only was I not driving and not partying, which seemed to me was what roughly 90% of my peers were doing back in the day, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that stuff even if I was welcomed to those shindigs.

I specifically remember during the fall of 1983 – my junior year – the Samohi marching band getting into HUGE trouble to the point of being pulled from all of our scheduled competition tournaments save one, because of the extreme partying that the majority of the band would do after games on Friday nights, some of them showing up to rehearsals the next morning hung over, and feeling left out and like I was seen as a loser because I had no knowledge of those parties, which meant I wasn’t invited.

Looking back, it would have been a Catch-22 if I had gone to them because all the drinking, drugging, and other madness would have been completely alien to me, like I was visiting from another planet with older folks as I still had that kid mentality of “Oooh, they’re drinking and smoking and having sex!”

They were going through the adolescent growing-up process and the wiring in my brain wasn’t allowing me to, which was frustrating, being mainstreamed into that neurotypical world, the level of frustration growing over the years to the point where suicidal feelings would manifest in me from time to time, for roughly thirty years after that.

Although I still sometimes continue to think that no one really needs me, that if I died people, at best, would mourn me for a bit and then move on as if I had never existed, their attitudes bordering on the “Good Riddance” variety, these desires to end my life eventually ended due to something that happened to me – and I’m still going through – back in 2012.

The root of all my social struggles stems from this:

HAVING ASPERGER’S SYNDROME IN A NEUROTYPICAL WORLD.

Allow me to make something crystal clear, however…

I am NOT, in any way, shape, or form whatsoever, speaking for everyone in the Asperger’s community. I know full well that there are plenty of people with this condition, including some big names like Dan Ackroyd, who are thriving in the NT community and have done so for many years with independence, lucrative careers, and the like.

I am strictly speaking for myself, for THIS aspie.

 

(* = Not his real name)

 

 

A good illustration of me during my formative years, I think.

 

 

 

MORE FAILURES IN THE WORKFORCE: Excerpts From Chapter Nine of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”

Take away the business attire, and this was me in the workforce much of the time, especially my last six years there. Photo courtesy of iamexpat.nl

 

ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM MY SOON-TO-BE-(SELF)-PUBLISHED BOOK DETAILING MY LIFE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM IN A NON-AUTISTIC WORLD

My pronounced lack of success in the workforce – specifically working for someone else – was so large and varied that I had to write two chapters in my upcoming book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, in order to properly describe all the incidents.

These following excerpts cover the failures I had as an employee from 1999 to 2008, when I quit my last job and left the workforce for good after having what (I think) was my third nervous breakdown.

Here’s the first excerpt:

The autism spectrum part of all this was that due to my need to do my own thing and my not being able to humble myself and see bosses as just that – rather than equal partners – every one of the six jobs that I subsequently had over the next six years would end the same way that it did at Farragut, with me either being fired or forced to resign.

This especially manifested itself in the next major job I was hired for, a place called Westside Bay School*, located just a few miles from my house that ended up really affecting me negatively as I became more disillusioned from my experiences there than any job before or since, for one particular reason:

It was a non-public, special education school geared toward children with Asperger’s and other parts of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In other words, Westside Bay School was geared toward kids who behaved similarly to me as a young-un.

This led me to having a big sense of optimism upon getting hired as a PE instructor (technically an aide, like at Farragut)  there in August of 2003, because this was a place where I cold be a real role model, where I felt I could have a positive impact on the students.

I had no way of knowing that my ten months at Westside Bay School would be almost nothing but a nightmare.

And I also had no way of knowing that it would end up being the overwhelming reason I would not be comfortable around autistic people or other Aspies for a while after my time at that school; I grew SO bitter with that place that as I walked through the front doors on my last day, June 11, 2004 (I remember the exact date!), before I hit the sidewalk I turned around, faced the school building, and stuck my middle finger high in the air.

It wasn’t the most mature or professional thing to do, and of course I regret making that obscene gesture, but I hope you understand why I couldn’t help it after describing my experiences there, the feeling that led to me flipping Westside Bay off.

 

 

 

 

This next excerpt details the trauma I suffered while working at this particular school:

 

If I’m going to describe everything that went down between me and (my supervisor), I’d better not refer to him by his real name as despite everything that happened, I have enough respect for him to not do so.

I’ll call him Gary*.

I vividly remember the first time that I saw that Gary’s and my relationship was far from what I assumed – it was after classes one afternoon.

Gary came into the little office that we shared and said, “I need to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“High school PE,” he replied.

At that point I knew something bad was going to be said because my ninth and tenth grade PE classes were going terribly, the 9th grade class, consisting around fifteen boys, in particular.

But in my warped mind, I expected Gary to commiserate with me.

Offer sympathy.

Say “Hang in there,” or something like that, like I would do if the situation were reversed.

But instead, he pulled out a piece of paper and read what seemed to be an endless list of “suggestions” to make things better in those two PE classes.

As I write this over a decade later, I completely recognize that Gary was only trying to do his duty as a supervisor.

But back then, here’s what my mind was telling me as he was saying what he was saying:

“This guy’s viciously insulting your intelligence AND your experience!”

“This dude thinks you suck as a teacher and are an inferior human being – why else would he interact with you like this?”

“Who in the hell does this jerk think he is, talking to me that way?!”

All of which led to feelings of sheer humiliation, which in turn led me to see him as an oppressor and an enemy, especially after I mentioned that I had Asperger’s and should be cut some slack and left alone with the mindset of “Oh, he has Asperger’s so anything he does we ought to overlook (which was wrong, I know now), and he answered in what in my mind was quite the condescending tone,

“Well, regardless…” which I interpreted to mean that he didn’t give a fuck about me as a human being.

I felt he was blatantly disrespecting those twelve years of experience, that because I was a “veteran” who had been through the wars I had more than earned the right to be left alone to run my classes my way and to be seen as a completely equal partner in every possible way.

Which I now understand was wrong to think as I failed to see that teaching special education students is not the same as teaching neurotypical students.

 

 

 

 

This last excerpt is kind of graphic, as it describes having suicidal thoughts:

 

It was also one of those times where staff would get those “State of how’re you doing” evaluations, which in my view was nothing but a way for the supervisor to tell you how you sucked or, as they put it, “needed to improve” in certain areas.

Which although I have to be fair and say that he did start by listing my good points – was exactly what Gary was doing that afternoon after all the obligatory BS meetings were done, as we sat in the new workout room which doubled as our new office.

I wish I could tell you the precise things that Gary was telling me, but what happened that mid-winter day was so traumatic that my mind has blocked it out.

Except for when, as my brain was screaming how vicious he was in his criticisms, how it was so insulting on an epic scale he may as well have been calling me a “dumb n-word”, he was emotionally hurting me that much; after I said “I’ll try”, in an attempt to placate Gary and concede defeat, he replied in what I felt was the most viciously condescending, drill-like sergeant-like tone that anyone had ever took with me in my entire work life:

“Don’t try, do it!”

I don’t remember what exactly happened immediately after that exchange, but I do remember what I did for what I believe was the rest of that week: stay home and lie in my bed in a deep depression, wanting to commit suicide.

I know this is such because I saw the school’s principal and Diane*, who I had mentioned as one of the leaders, in the principal’s office upon my return a few days layer and either told them I wanted to kill myself, or had blurted it out to Gary during our confrontation and he told them. Diane even asked me how I would go about “hurting myself”, and I answered,

“You know that bridge over Overland Ave., crossing Ballona Creek? I’d jump off of that.”

Apparently I had given this a little thought as I can recall thinking how I wouldn’t shoot myself because it would be too messy.

The overwhelmingly predominant reason those suicidal thoughts were prevalent in my mind was because I was feeling so hurt, humiliated, and oppressed with a dash of condescension by Gary over what had been five months to that point, that I really felt I needed to hurt someone.

I couldn’t hurt Gary, nor did I want to, because I had no desire to end up in prison as part of the proverbial black male statistic, so that narrowed things down to one person…

Me.

* = Pseudonyms, not their real names

 

A decent illustration of how I was feeling for much of my time in the workforce. Photo courtesy of sg.theasianparent.com

 

 

 

TEN YEARS AGO TODAY: Commemorating The Day I Changed My Life And Decided To Pursue Writing

Photo courtesy of droidtvnews.com

 

RELIVING THE DAY I DECIDED TO CHANGE MY LIFE ONCE AND FOR ALL

I remember it well;

On this day in 2008, I was in pretty bad shape emotionally.

In fact, I was in pretty bad shape for the past few years, as I was pathetically trying to hold onto my life working with young people in education and sports.

For the previous five years, I was miserably failing at being gainfully employed, either quitting or being fired from every one of the six jobs that I had, ranging from being a tutor in East Los Angeles to being on the coaching staff for a high school softball team, to being a playground aide – a job where I lasted only a few weeks – to my last gig as an after school teacher.

Looking back, it was evident that I was depressed on a fairly pronounced scale, even threatening suicide at one of those jobs when my supervisor was, at least in my warped mind,  picking on me for something.

It all came to a head during that last after school job when my supervisor – a young lady who was half my age – lectured me due to something I did.

Which I deserved in retrospect, but my mind was so messed up over having to kowtow to someone who could have been one of my students or athletes that I felt humiliated, among other negative things.

I fell into SUCH a depression that I stayed home for the next three days, rarely getting out of bed.

Which brings me to that fateful day – this day – exactly a decade ago.

I had finally realized once and for all that the effects of my being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder – having Asperger’s Syndrome to be precise – was never going to be conducive to me working with other people on a daily basis.

Not only that, I had realized that I absolutely was sick and tired of working for and answering to someone else.

I hated having to impress and please people who I honestly felt saw me as an inferior, not an equal human being in my mind.

I realized that I desperately needed my freedom, my independence from being at the mercy of someone else; for that someone else to determine whether you were going to be able to eat, buy clothes, and pay the rent through their employment of you.

 

 

Considering all the work I’ve done these past ten years, I suppose it’s safe for me to say this. Photo courtesy of dreamstop.com

 

Which was causing a stress that was quite unhealthy.

And most of all, after remembering how people had told me over the years that they liked my writing and my essays in schools and such, I realized that my talents were in that field and that I needed to pursue that wholeheartedly.

Or forever wish I had.

In short, being an employee was virtually – and perhaps literally, being that I had threatened suicide more than once during my time in the workforce  –  killing me.

I began that February 6th by meeting the softball coach I was under the previous spring at a Carl’s Jr., telling him of my plans.

Then I journeyed to the school where I was working at to take my stand against those oppressors, I mean employers.

To formally quit not only my job, but the “Kid Business” in general, ending my life in working for young people.

To in layman’s terms, tell the overseers, I mean supervisors, at that after-school job to “Kiss my ass” (not literally of course; I had a little more class than that).

And to begin my life as a writer, which I did a few days later when I found a site called HubPages.com and began writing different articles about my experiences with having Asperger’s and other things, which I got paid in royalties for.

Which led me to joining another writing site that paid royalties, Triond.com

Which, being a sports person who liked to give opinions about such, led me to writing for Bleacher Report and Fansided, helping to start GoJoeBruin.com, a sports blog covering my alma mater UCLA, on that network.

Which eventually led me to starting two blogs of my own:

SoCalSportsAnnals.com, on this same WordPress network,

And this blog.

Which I will have had for three (for SoCal Sports Annals) and four years this July (for this blog) respectively.

Along with working on my book describing  my struggles with being on the autism spectrum in a non-autistic world, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I am on the verge of finishing as I have done a fourth draft and am going to do some final editing on one chapter in particular.

 

 

 

I thought it would be nice to include a picture of Charlie Brown’s dog doing his writing here, as I grew up on “Peanuts” and consider it the greatest comic strip of all time. Image courtesy of  jdspero.wordpress.com

 

 

In Case You Were Wondering:

No, I have NOT gotten rich from this now decade-long career – FAR from it.

But that’s perfectly OK as my mental well-being has improved in the past ten years since that day I walked away from the “Kid Business”

I don’t pretend that I have arrived as a writer; I’m definitely haven’t had any success on any best seller lists whatsoever.

But one thing is for sure…

By having these two blogs and this soon-to-be published book (by no later than the end of this year), I feel that I’m being more a contributor to society.

For lack of a better term, I feel that I’m more in my niche.

And that I will have left something worthwhile to be remembered by when my time in this world is over – if people care to remember me at all.

Which I think is a big part of living your life.

 

All Right, Here’s My Main Point:

It all began ten years ago today.

And it wouldn’t be right to not mark the occasion in these Hartland Chronicles of  mine.

Of course it’s my hope and prayer that my life in writing will continue to be fulfilling.

And if it becomes lucrative, great!

But to be honest, making a lot of money was not on my mind when I decided to do this.

It was to become happy in my life’s work – or at least happier.

Which I of course thank God for as I’m convinced He was leading me to this.

It’s been a pretty good ten years doing this writing thing.

I only pray that the next ten years are as good if not better.

Perhaps I’ll work on a young adult novel when “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is done and published; I have a few ideas swimming in my head.

I know I’m going to grow and evolve SoCal Sports Annals, as that’s my business for all intents and purposes.

I also know that I’m not where I want and need to be as a writer, and probably won’t be for a while.

But at least I’m not where I used to be those past few years working for someone else, especially mentally.

And that’s something that I certainly thank the Good Lord for.

 

Photo courtesy of writehacked.com