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

 

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STRUGGLES IN THE WORKFORCE: Excerpts From Chapter Eight of “Walking On Eggshells”

This seems like a decent image of the hard times I had while in the mainstream workforce. Photo courtesy of yourstory.com

 

 

A brief update on the progress of my book, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”:

It’s getting closer to being done!

All ten chapters have been edited for the third (or fourth, I’m not sure) time and been printed.

I just have to go back to one chapter and possibly replace the name of a place where I used to work with a pseudonym, in case such place takes offense at its mention, the way I described my experiences there.

The next step? Getting my manuscript into a sort-of book form at the local UPS store and (finally!) sending it to Lulu.com for self-publication.

As I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page, if “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is not in your hands by December 31st of this year, then I will consider myself as having failed at this endeavor.

 

As For Now…

I thought I’d give another excerpt of the struggles I had as an adult in the workforce due to what I know now stemmed from having Asperger’s.

My (mostly) bad times during those years toiling for a paycheck were so many, like my high school days I divided them into two chapters.

These excerpts are from the chapter I call “Failures In The Workforce, 1991-1998”:

 

As I obviously needed a job and it was, as Mom put it, “desperation time”, I went in, asked for an application, filled it out at home, brought it back, and a few days later I got a phone call from them saying I was hired. I remember promising Mom that  I would “work hard and do whatever they say”, feeling a sense of relief that I was gainfully employed again and was able to find something relatively quickly after such a monumentally terrible experience at Grant School.

That feeling of relief evaporated like water in Saudi Arabia in the middle of summer as my job as a salesman fast became what I call to this day “The Eight and a Half-Month Prison Sentence”, realizing quite rapidly that working in retail was even MORE of a wrong profession for me than education was.

I hated the concept in retail of “There’s always something to do”, even when no customers were in the store and all the luggage and counters were clean, polished, and stacked neatly.

I especially hated it when, just before the 10:00 p.m. closing time, which was the shift I was always given, what seemed to be a load of customers would come into the store and I would be forced to stay after having been there for eight full hours, gritting my teeth on the bus home and doing everything I could not to scram in anguish over slaving away at that plantation; for the record, it was the only full-time job I would ever have.

And I REALLY hated it when, on a scheduled day off which gave me a most blessed sensation throughout my being the phone would ring and it would be the store ordering me to come in and work because someone had called in sick, whom I would think would be faking so I would be tortured at that personal hell hole; there I’d be, so looking forward to a relaxing day at home watching TV and what not, and I’d be forced back into the salt mines.

And on top of everything else, in the tradition of pouring salt on what in my heart was a painfully gaping wound, there was one other thing that made tat place of retail a maximum security prison hell: A certain co-worker who, like Marlon roughly 15 years before, was a flat-out bully and a word-that-rhymes-with-witch.

I’ll call her Gina*.

(Gina) was short in stature – not quite like Snooki, but in that Jersey Shore girl’s league – with pale, pasty skin and long, wavy brown hair. She had an ever-present stench due to her being a heavy smoker, reeking of tobacco as a prominent image of mine regarding her was standing outside of the store with a pack of Marlboros in hand, dirtying her lungs, other people’s lungs, and the air with those wretchedly foul cancer sticks.

I’ll never forget one particular day when she pushed me too far and I snapped, going into one of those meltdowns which are common to at least some folks with Asperger’s…

Gina and I were standing behind the counter next to the cash register. I wish I could tell you what Gina said, but like so many other incidents before and since, I’ve blocked it out of my mind due to the extreme post-traumatic stress that it would cause to my psyche.

One thing was for certain: I was feeling low and depressed and Gina must have called me some bad name or made some bad gesture that pushed me over the edge. I do remember her putting her hands in her ears like Bullwinkle and making a taunting noise after I had told her to leave me alone.

 

 

A more accurate illustration of how I felt during my years working for someone else in the workforce. Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

 

 

The next thing I knew, I was throwing some balled-up piece of paper at her and she reciprocated by spitting her Marlboro-laden saliva at me. No, I didn’t make any move to hit her – however much a word-that-rhymes-with-witch that Gina was, at least I had enough presence of mind and respect for females to not let it come to that – but it was another albatross around my hellish luggage store neck.

You would think that my experiences at that store would improve by leaps and bounds after Gina was finally fired for her evilness a few weeks later, the owner of the store dramatically pointing at the door and telling her those two words that I so wanted to her for the longest time, but nothing could have been further from the truth as my miseries went beyond that little Lady Voldemort.

That’s why it was a foregone conclusion that I would be relieved of my duties right before Labor Day, though in all honesty they beat me to it because I was planning on marching into the owner’s office right after that holiday and tell my oppressor, I mean employer, those two little words that I had desperately desired to tell him for so long:

“I QUIT!!”

I’m quite positive that many of you are thinking this right about now…

“You should have been glad to have had that job! You were just an ungrateful, spoiled little baby who need to suck it up and grow up!”

I can certainly understand that sentiment, and despite what it seems it’s not my intention to use my Asperger’s syndrome as an excuse for my fucking up at that store – and nearly every other job I had before and afterwards. I know that many Aspies have been successful in retail-type gigs and other professions where service with a smile is required,.

However, I’m about as far as those Aspians as one could get as not only is any gig of that persuasion isn’t any place for me, I knew even before that horrible experience that I was 1,000 times more successful in situations where I was allowed to do my own thing at whatever work I was involved in.

It’s like if I had a little plot of roses growing in this huge garden, and it was my responsibility to take care of those roses in that plot, keeping those American Beauties watered and the ground insect-free.

When an overseer, I mean employer, would criticize me on how I’m doing or micromanage me, he/she is – figuratively speaking – stepping on those roses of mine for what I see in my mind as no reason other than to be a mean bully.

That’s how I felt and, to be brutally honest, still feel. Even though I understand that employees need supervising and constructive criticism in order to achieve maximum performance, I couldn’t, and still can’t help from seeing that as bullying.

That was why I HATED evaluations…at least in my mind, evaluations were always a way for bullies, I mean bosses, to remind me that I was a lesser being in their eyes, which essentially and eventually ruined me as a person with ability to sustain gainful employment as far as working for someone else.

 

No, this wasn’t where I had such a horrible time but as it’s a place that serves the public, it’s in the same league as that luggage store where I toiled. Photo courtesy of themountaineer.com

 

 

 

 

MY ONE BIG PLAN FOR 2018

An illustration of what I’ve been working on for the past few years now. Photo courtesy of thebalance.com

 

I’ll make this as brief and straight forward as possible…

For the past few years – I like to say five – I’ve been working on a book that tells my story about my social struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome in a mainstream world.

The one plan I have in this brand new 2018 year is a simple one:

 

FINISH “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” AND HAVE IT (SELF) PUBLISHED ONCE AND FOR ALL.

 

I’m fully aware that I’ve been saying that I was going to have this book of mine finished for a couple of years, but life got in the way; that, and the fact that with all the editing it’s taken longer than expected (which shouldn’t be surprising, I know).

Which is the only explanation I have for the delay.

This time I’m determined to have it done by spring or summer – the end of this year at the utmost latest.

Especially since I’ve got only one more chapter to edit, plus another chapter in which I’m considering changing an important detail in the form of renaming a place that was important to me.

If “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is not in your hands being read by December 31st of this new year, I will consider myself as having failed at this venture.

In fact, I’m going to start my final editing and printing of chapter ten, which I call “Frustrations In My Forties, With a Glimmer Of Hope”, as soon as I finish this post today.

Then after I do that other chapter, plus a little more additional cleaning up and editing so the book will be as clear and concise as I can make it,

It should be ready to be taken to the self-publishing site http://Lulu.com.

It’s a site that an old friend told me about; after I checked it out – and saw that it was free – I was convinced.

I have no illusions of this tome, I do not expect it to make any best seller lists.

Heck, if “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” sells any copies at all, I’ll be gladly surprised.

Particularly since my purpose is not necessarily to become like J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins (she wrote the Hunger Games trilogy) in any way, shape or form, but to simply tell my story.

And perhaps give other people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder who may read it an avenue of “Gee, I went through this too, I can relate.”

Later this month on this blog I plan to write and post another excerpt, most likely from the first of two chapters detailing my failures in the workforce – which is what the chapter is called, by the way.

I hope you take the time to read it.

In the meantime, hold good thoughts for me as I go on this once-and-for-all home stretch.

 

I like this picture; not only does it show what I’ve been doing for the past decade, but the glasses make a nice touch, as I’m in need of them whenever I’m writing – or online at all, for that matter. Photo courtesy of bendelanoy.com

Another Excerpt From “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”

 

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(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / mandygodbehear

 

I wanted to show another illustration of what it was like for me being a high school kid with Asperger’s while going to a regular high school and interacting with neurotypicals.

This is a blatant illustration of how bad things were for me, as these pair of excerpts describe my trips to Disneyland with my high school’s marching band during my junior and senior years and a particular incident that happened on both occasions.

These pair of excerpts are from Chapter 5 of my book, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, the chapter being called “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART ONE”.

Yes, I know I have posted excerpts from this chapter on this blog already, but seeing as these incidents were particularly traumatic and happened during the holiday season – thirty-something years ago this month – I thought it would be a good idea to write this.

OH, BY THE WAY:

I’m in the home stretch of my final editing and print-outs of the chapters to “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”; I have just three chapters to go before I can have it self-published.

In other words, this odyssey of mine is starting to get close to being done.

OK, here are more excerpts to “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART ONE”…

 

The performance went well enough, but in the grand tradition of deja-vu it was what happened afterwards, when we were sorting out who would have the glorious times with whom, that once again induced the type of trauma that I remember to this day…

I had found myself with a bunch of guys from the trombone and tenor saxophone sections. On the surface, they seemed friendly enough, and I was looking forward to having a crew to run around with in Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom.

There we were, following the red line on the ground that led us from our buses to some back door that opened onto Adventureland when a couple of my so-called “crew” said to me, “Let’s check out Main Street! We need you to do a man test!”

So off we went, landing at an arcade that was reminiscent of those penny arcades that were all the rage around 1900. We came upon this Zoltar-type machine with these two metal handles, which was essentially the “man test” as the object was to grab those poles and see how long you could stand the electric shocks that ran through them.

“Go ahead Derek, you go first,” the guys were saying, goading me in that “Come and join the big boys and be part of the group” way, which of course I was more than willing to do because what average teenager doesn’t want to be part of something?

Most unfortunately, however, what ended up happening was something that was eerily similar to that bird poop sandwich episode that was put upon me in the 5th grade six years before, showing  that with the naiveté that characterizes much of the young Asperger’s population, things often stay the same as far as the way non-aspie youngsters take advantage of them.

At least such was the case with this Aspie.

To get to the point, I was badly duped, dumped, and taken advantage of in a very cruel fashion by those fellow band members I was with.

I know this is so because as I was grabbing onto those handles, I saw out of the corner of my eye those so-called “friends” sprinting away, desperately hoping to ditch me and leave me to my dorky self, which I’m sure they thought of me as because if they didn’t think of me that way, they wouldn’t have ditched me the way they did.

I gave chase like some little kid being teased on the playground – deja-vu there, too – before I gave up and found myself standing there all by my lonesome, feeling the same way I felt the year before at that very same park when that alto sax player and bass clarinet player told me (not in so many words, but you know what I mean) to sod off, me sobbing inwardly at the reminder that I wasn’t liked too much.

Looking back, I understand that being someone with a high-functioning form of autism, I was too weirdly different for my peers to tolerate and be around with any more than they had to. They were forced to interact with me at school and in the band but when it came to the Happiest Place On Earth I’m sure that they saw being there as a sort of vacation from me and how I was, which due to the difference in how my brain was/is wired I simply could not help.

That was no excuse for those guys doing what they did to me, however; I don’t care how dorky someone seems to be, no one deserves to be treated the way I was at Disneyland – or anywhere else for that matter.

Ever.

For ANY reason.

 

 

Main Street in Disneyland, including the very arcade where I was ditched, dumped, and humiliated by some of my high school band mates two years running on the right. Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com

 

 

 

FAST FORWARDING A FEW PAGES TO ANOTHER EXCERPT, WHICH DESCRIBES WHAT HAPPENED TO ME AT DISNEYLAND A YEAR LATER…

It was after our performance, when we changed back into our band shirts and jeans on the buses and headed back into the park, when the ultimate deja-vu came to pass and the proof of at least this aspie – I can’t speak for others with Asperger’s – having a tendency to be gullible showing itself in what happened.

I found myself with the same group of trombones and tenor saxes what duped and ditched me at that penny arcade and the previous year. They seemed to welcome me along as we went back to that same arcade on Main Street, asking me to take that same “Man Test” with the same electrical poles on that same Zoltar-like machine.

Like the naive kid on the autistic spectrum that I was, I took the boat and grabbed the poles.

Out of the same corner of my eye as approximately 365 days before, I saw those guys run away, taking a hard left onto a side street. After I gave chase for a few steps I gave up and stood there, once again dumped and duped, feeling al kinds of negative feelings, particularly at the thought that I was such an undesirable to too many of my band mates.

If I were a neurotypical, I would have told them to go fuck themselves and their “Man Test” and walked away.

But that was neither here nor there as at that moment I once again found myself all by my lonesome on that Disneyland thoroughfare; because I so wanted to be accepted as part of a “cool” group like roughly 90% of all teens, I ended up in the same sorry situation as twelve months before.

It was an innate gullibility that led me to be taken advantage of like I was at that penny arcade those two years as I didn’t want to face the fact that those group of guys thought of me as too much of a social undesirable to want to hang with me. For me to think that would have been yet another albatross among the many that I had built up inside of myself not only during my Samo days, but pretty much throughout my life up to that time and afterwards.

I know, those guys who ditched me for two years running at what to me in those days was Dismal-Land had no idea that I was on the Autism Spectrum, and I also know that we were all just immature, non thinking insensitive kids at that time, but even though I (of course) forgive them that doesn’t take away the pain of what I went through as if those incidents had happened ten years before, I would have been crying my eyes out over the hurt that was put upon me at Disneyland.

To be fair, the guys involved in that cruel deceit had no idea of how hurtful they were being, and I’ve only had contact with two of them (there were five) since graduation, so if they read this I’ll bet they would be surprised, if not shocked, at the amount of mental and emotional hurt that I suffered at their hands.

That’s why it’s only right to forgive them.

 

Flip the gender, add about ten years, and this was me in high school – at least that’s how I felt. Photo courtesy of myaspergerschild.com

 

 

“Work Is Not Supposed To Be Enjoyable”: AN EXTREME REBUTTAL

An illustration of someone who evidently enjoys her job. Photo courtesy of teflonline.teachaway.com

 

WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T ENJOY WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING?

I remember a few years ago reading something online about people who were stressed out, burned out, and generally unhappy in their jobs, the article offering suggestions on how to cope with that.

I also remember reading one particular comment in that section by someone who apparently was a miserable jerk because he wrote that those who were miserable in the workforce were nothing but whiny crybabies who need to understand…

A. That work isn’t supposed to be enjoyed, but is supposed to be difficult, which is why it’s called work, and,

B. People who feel otherwise are losers who need to get over it and feel lucky they’re earning a paycheck.

If I ever came face to face with this guy, I would tell him in no uncertain terms that he is nothing but a mean bully who a firm believer in misery loving company.

And who is just plain wrong.

Bluntly put, a career need not be eight hours of hell following orders from bosses who are essentially schoolyard bullies or supervisors with the mind of and who behave like slavery-era overseers.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that sometimes a person has to do whatever is necessary to survive, and to keep a roof overhead and the family clothed and fed if he or she has one.

I know this because like probably 98% of the world’s working age population, I worked at jobs l absolutely hated, ranging from telemarketing to working in retail, particularly at a luggage store in the early 1990s that felt much like a prison sentence, I hated it so much.

The minimum wage salary I made peddling luggage and handbags felt like blood money, as I felt that the only difference between me and a slave on a plantation was that I got a paycheck.

Those dark days were the product of me believing that making money however possible was the most important thing, and I eventually learned that nothing can be further from the truth – at least as far as I am concerned as I can’t speak for everyone else.

That luggage salesman gig taught me once and for all that you have to like what you do for work, else it’s just not worth it in the long run, and especially when you factor in mental health as I suffered from a couple of nervous breakdowns and some suicidal thoughts stemming from my unhappiness in some of the jobs I had.

There’s an old saying…

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

No statement can be more truer than that.

 

Here’s my point:

A person needs to have a passion for whatever job or career he or she may be involved in.

Happiness, enjoyment, and work satisfaction are essential or else bitterness and depression will set in; I know this because that’s what happened to me.

It was wanting to enjoy my work – as well as being able to work without some bully or overseer, I mean boss or supervisor, micromanaging me and telling me how much I need to improve or flat-out suck, looking for faults and reasons to fire me – that is the reason why for almost ten years I’ve been an online writer with two blogs (including this one) and working on a book about my life and struggles as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome in mainstream society called WALKING ON EGGSHELLS.

Which is getting closer to being finished and ready for (self) publishing, by the way.

While it hasn’t been the most lucrative venture, I can safely say that I very much like what I do and am pursuing my passion.

My message for all you folks who are hating on their jobs is this…

Unless you would definitely be on the street if you quite your hated job today, you don’t have to suffer through misery, because life is too short.

Go paint or work with kids.

Write a book like I’m doing.

Or anything else that you have a passion for.

Find your happiness.

It may the thing that will restore your mental health and save your sanity.

 

It’s my hope that everyone can find this. Photo courtesy of idealistcareers.org

 

 

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpts From Chapter Six

I can certainly relate to scenes like this, because it happened to me many times throughout my school days. Photo courtesy of wisegeekhealth.com

 

My experiences as a high school kid with Asperger’s were so many, I had to divide them into two chapters.

These two excerpts of my (hopefully) soon to be self-published book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, is from the chapter I call “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART TWO”:

 

It was like there were so many areas of my life where I was behind seemingly everybody else: kids were partying up a storm complete with the obligatory drunkenness and debauchery with me never being invited to any of those shindigs. Kids were getting driver’s licenses and cars and God, seemingly, was telling me no to doing that same thing.

Not to mention kids, particularly in that moment in time, pairing up and hooking up like crazy…

In my mind at least, people were leaving me out of things because they generally didn’t see me as cool, which I fully admit I wasn’t, and that hurt. Every time I found out about some kegger bash which I was obviously not invited to, like this one huge blowout that the band had in my junior year in the Santa Monica Mountains, I felt humiliated, degraded, and like my peers regarded me as nothing but a waste of space.

But getting back to the prom:

There I was, without a date and feeling more than ever like a dorky loser.

Mom, who was dead set on my attending this rite of passage, made a call to one of my cousins who was not only a teacher, but the coach of her drill team at her high school.

The next thing I knew, I had a date to the Samohi prom.

Just in case you’re going “Yay, that’s wonderful!” right about now…

Don’t even bother.

This date was the classic nerd-getting-fixed-up kind, complete with a girl who, looking back, I suspect was compensated by my cousin either with money or in some other way; I sensed the why-did-I-agree-to-go-with-this-goofy-mark vibe when I talked to her on the phone a couple of days beforehand, and again when the big night arrived.

She wasn’t very outgoing or friendly; it was as if she was working a shift at McDonald’s, particularly as we rode in the town car on the freeway back to her house. As I tried to tell her what a good time I had and to hug her goodbye, she kind of pulled away from me, her body language saying “Yeah, whatever, just let me out you goofy-ass mark!”

At least, though she may deny it, that’s what I’m convinced that she wanted to say to me.

After that big soiree, I told everyone that I had a fun time, essentially lying to myself as I quickly saw the light of my situation and faced the reality of it all, which was this:

I should NOT have gone to the 1985 Santa Monica High School Prom.

 

 

Except for the gender, skin color, and hair texture, this was me in high school. Photo courtesy of  yourlittleprofessor.com

 

 

EXCERPT #2 FROM CHAPTER SIX: One Last Rejection and Humiliation

It was a couple of weeks before school ended, a gorgeous late spring morning…

That previous evening, the phone rang. Mom answered it, and a few minutes later she was in my doorway telling me that I was going to be “kidnapped”, along with all of the other band seniors, at around 6:00 a.m. and taken to breakfast, which was an apparent tradition, Mom telling me, “be sure you’re ready for when they come.”

As I went to sleep later that night, I thought, “This will be fun!”

So when I woke up at around 5:30 the next morning I made it a point to shower, shave, and put on some sweats and a t-shirt to look like I was in bed as it was supposed to be a surprise “kidnapping”.

As it turned out, the surprise was on me as 6:00 came, then 6:30, and no kidnappers; by 7:00 it was clear that they weren’t coming as I got dressed and walked to school as usual, feeling mighty low as one can imagine, this being the latest humiliating rejection in a series of humiliating rejections, three years’ worth to be precise.

When I got to school, in fairness to the “kidnappers” I was told that there was no time to pick me up, which was why I was stood up, but I was told that in a matter-of-fact was like they felt that it was no big deal to do what they did. I don’t remember hearing an “I’m sorry”, and they definitely could have called me and told me to meet them at whatever restaurant they were at if they really wanted me to hang with them.

That was what hurt more than anything else.

It was like when they realized that there wouldn’t be time to pick up everyone, they saw me as the easy odd man out, a case of “Well, we don’t really like Derek anyway, so why should we do something for him or spend any more time with him than we have to?”

Not that I was the simple helpless victim as over the course of me and my band mates’ three years together, my aspieisms, verbal and otherwise, aggravated too many of them more than they would have liked and certainly turned too many of them off to me as far as friendship was concerned; I wanted to be fair in emphasizing that.

So to quite a few of my music mates, I was seemingly nothing but a geeky jerk that did and said inappropriate things, consequently not deserving to be given the time of day.

The worst part of it all was that thanks to my autistic tendencies, I often thought that people were being mean to me for no reason, just like at Will Rogers and John Adams, and just like it would be throughout college and beyond as whenever somebody reacted badly to something I did or said, my first reaction would almost always be,

“What did I do?”

I sometimes still react that way.

 

This was likewise me in high school; just change the color of the hair and the skin, add a few inches, and take away the glasses. Photo courtesy of mysaspergerschild.com

 

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: The Fifth Excerpt

A good illustration of what my times in high school was like…

 

UPDATING MY PROGRESS WITH MY BOOK, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”: 

I’m beginning to make the final edits and printouts of my descriptions of having Asperger’s in a non-Aspie world; I still hope to have it (self) published by the end of December.

For now, here’s another excerpt of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, this one from Chapter 5, which is a pretty significant chapter as it focuses on my MANY social struggles in high school;

It’s called “Rough Times At Samohi, Part One”…

 

My alma mater is impressive in many ways and for a kid who is properly motivated and whose social skills are on the ball, Samohi (the first two letters of Santa, Monica, and High) is an excellent place to go to school offering everything that a student could want; strong in academics, sports, the arts, and a great place to launch yourself in whatever passion you choose to pursue.

Most unfortunately, as much as I’d like to say that the high school I graduated from in 1985 was great to me and I had the kind of wonderful time that you see on TV sitcoms, I simply can’t say that, largely because of what was – at least at that time – the root of Samohi’s academic and social philosophy and culture:

SWIM OR DROWN

Let me elaborate…

At Samo during the time I was there, sophomores – it was a three-year school in those days –  were expected to quickly catch on to the rigors and expectations of high school from Day One.

Being an Aspie (without knowing it), I had no knowledge of that as my mindset going in was that high school would be a simple continuation of my elementary and junior high years, where I was really successful – at least in the classroom.

I do NOT blame Samohi for the bad times I had there, the way I was such a misfit as I eventually understood why my alma mater’s environment was the way it was. Samo’s attitude was “Swim or Drown” because the powers that be wanted to teach us students what it took to succeed in the real world, how to thrive and survive after the high school days were done.

All right, now that I’ve gotten all that out-of-the-way, It’s high time for me to begin my detailed description of the hell that my high school was for me, socially and otherwise, from late August of 1982 to June 21, 1985 – the day I received my diploma.

My primary extracurricular activity during my three years at Samohi was the Santa Monica High School Viking Marching Band. Band camp (preseason band practice) started two weeks before school did, hence my stating that my high school hell not only began two weeks before I set foot inside of my first high school class, it began that very first warm, sunny morning of band camp on the multipurpose baseball/soccer/football field on campus that late August of 1982.

Any chances of being thought as “cool” by the rest of the 10th graders, by and large, were dealt a HUGE blow when during a break in band camp rehearsal one day, I was introduced to some fellow sophomores in the band by an ex-junior high band mate who had joined the band with me as someone whose “…brain was absent most of the time.”

Another unpleasant memory that stood out for me that first band camp was the senior that played baritone sax along with me, someone who was, for all intents and purposes, my designated mentor who from my way of thinking was supposed to be a good friend and have my back.

He will go by the name of Boyd*

Unfortunately, as much as I understand now that Boyd was trying to help me and as much as his intentions were good, it was the way he went about mentoring me that gave me such trauma. Combine that with my then-unknown aspieness, my need of nurturing and friendly support, and the way my mind subsequently worked in inappropriate ways due to my high-functioning autistic tendencies, and you had a match made in – I’ll go ahead and say it – hell.

One really warm afternoon on that North Field, when during a marching exercise I made a mistake on some maneuver, Boyd said to me – and I remember his exact words all these years later…

“You’re stupid, Derek.”

Real sympathetic and supportive, don’t you think?

I must emphasize that my struggles in that band were not all due to Boyd and others who were giving me such hell.

I completely recognize that there was crap on my end as I – because of my autism spectrum trait of not doing well with change – was lazy and for a long time felt that ability alone was the difference between success and failure in anything. Due to my particular aspie trait of digging in to what I believe and sticking to my guns no matter what, it took a long, long time to understand the notion of needing to work hard to achieve anything, and that made my name mud among a lot of people in that Samohi band…

One instance of this social ineptitude due to my autistic tendencies comes to mind;

One gray, overcast afternoon I was hanging out in the back room of the music building. There were two other kids in there with me, one of them a girl who played french horn and had, at least in my eyes, the total 80s look going on, complete with her hair cut in a sort of junior grade Flock of Seagulls way. It was her hair that I was looking at when I said, in a friendly way that was not intended as anything negative or insensitive whatsoever, “You sure look trendy.”

I’ll never forget the dirty “How dare you speak to me like that!” look that that girl gave me as she responded to what in my Asperger’s mind was a compliment with a solid and sturdy “Fuck you!”, as she walked out of the room in a very pissed off fashion.

Being the high-functioning autistic teen that I was, I was flabbergasted in a what-did-I-say-that-was-so-terrible kind of way. I asked the other kid there, “Why is she so mad?” as in my mind I wasn’t trying to insult her at all. That other kid told me:

“You just called her a poseur. Trendy means the same thing.”

Which I didn’t know.

Not even in the minute slightest as among us kids at that time, being called a poseur was akin to somebody Black being called the “N” word.

 

 

Change the gender and add a few years, and this largely describes me in high school, or at least the way it seemed…

 

 

THIS LAST EXCERPT DESCRIBES A TRAUMATIC VISIT TO DISNEYLAND WITH MY HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND DURING MY SOPHOMORE YEAR:

I believe it was safe to say that no one wanted me along with them to play in the Promised Land that Mr. Disney built that day as seemingly none of the different “band buddy” cliques wanted me to hang with them; the only thing that saved me from being at that theme park all by my lonesome was a decree from the band director: “No one goes around the park alone.” When I brought it to the director’s attention that I didn’t have a group to go with, he went to some band mates who clearly (at least to me) wanted no part of me and ordered them to “take Derek along.”

So there I was, trailing along, seemingly three or four steps behind as I recall. The one place which I particularly remember going with this group to was the iconic Haunted Mansion.

We entered that Old South style house and walked along the hallways with the other patrons, hearing all about how there were 999 ghosts and how there was room for 1,000.

Near the end of the ride we all got into these big circular comfy-type chairs, which would take us around the rest of the house.

As we were passing through a mirror, the one which showed ghosts riding in the chairs with us, sitting in a chair all by lonesome of course – who wanted to sit next to a big dork? – I saw a reflection of myself, with a ghost putting his arm around me.

Let’s just say that I hated what I saw as what was looking back in the mirror at me was the most pathetically lonely African-American teen that I has ever seen in my life; I had never seen a teenager look that lonely since, it was so bad.

So much so that if I had a gun or a knife on me that day I probably would have come out of that ride as a dead 15-year old boy due to the fact that my depression and feelings of rejection in that nobody-likes-me way would have compelled me to off myself in that seat, blood pouring out of either my head or my chest with the ambulance and paramedics waiting for me at that ride’s exit to rush me to the nearest hospital, sirens blaring and no one knowing whether or not I would see the next day.

That’s the numero uno memory I have of that day at Disneyland; suffice it to say I did not have any fun in the very place where everyone else who visits it cannot help but have the biggest kind of fun.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH: An excerpt of Chapter Six, “Rough Times At Samohi, Part Two” as my mostly bad experiences of that place was so many, I was forced to split them into two chapters.

* = not his real name

 

 

 

How I saw myself much of the time during much of my mid-teens…