A Light at the End of the Tunnel

For the first time in a long time things are going in the right direction. I can finally start saving money again. The stress is gone.

This last year has extremely difficult. I was homeless for three months and spent the last month of homelessness out on the street. I spent most of my money on my surgery last year, moving to New York and then after having been kicked out by my roommate, I spent money applying for other rentals and on lodging at hotels and hotels which was more than three to four times more expensive than the rent I was paying then and the rent I am paying now.

I wasn’t sleeping well. My health was deteriorating and I was getting extremely depressed.

But I am renting a room now in a good neighborhood. I am finally back on a steady financial footing. I can start putting money back into my savings instead of constantly taking it out.

Things are looking up. Oh and my birthday is coming up next month on Halloween. I am turning 40 this year so I have a lot to look forward to. Hopefully the worst is over and the best is yet to come.

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A Divided America

There are more white nationalist rallies scheduled for this weekend and next. I fear that this will not end soon and will escalate.

The same forces of hate and fear that drove Brexit are now stirring the pot in America. America has all the ingredients ready.

America’s Original Sin was failing to deal with slavery when the US was formed. The land of the free was created on the backs of slaves.

America’s second sin was failing to deal with the Confederates. They were not rebels. They were traitors.

By rebelling against the US, the Confederates committed treason. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson…etc were traitors.

The Nazis were put on trial at Nuremberg and executive. The same should have happened to the leaders of the Confederacy. The punishment for treason is death.

Instead, after Reconstruction, former Confederate traitors were allowed to go into politics and enacted Jim Crow laws.

Instead of watching Confederate traitors swing from the gallows in the public square, we built statues commentating them as heroes.

Fighting to defend slavery does make Confederate traitors heroes. It makes them evil like the Nazis.

So by demanding that statues be removed we are demanding that monuments to the defenders of hate, injustice and evil be removed.

In my view there is no greater evil than the belief that you have the right to treat human beings as property.

And as I watch these rallies take place I fear the rebirth of the Confederacy and what comes next: a divided America at war with itself.

Thoughts from an old man on journalism

Old man to me at Starbucks: “Are you drowning?” I look up from my phone confused.
The old man had curly white hair that was in need of a comb and a multicolored ascot scarf over a black coat. His hands were clutching a book tightly. Moments before he spoke to me I had witnessed him staring at a group of older women sitting at the end of the long table at which we were all sitting. It looked as if he was drawing in his book.
The old man sat across from me at table.
“You young people are so obsessed with that stuff,” he said motioning to my phone “So what do you for a living?”
I reply I am a journalist.
I say that knowing I have not called myself that in a long time but I felt at that moment it was true. I was still surprised I said it.
“So what do you write?”
I told him I freelance.
“No I mean what do you write for fun?”
I paused to answer the question was as heavily loaded as a Hollenbeck burrito from my favorite Mexican restaurant in LA. He seemed to be asking if writing for journalism was fun or was it work. Maybe he hates journalists I thought. Then I decided to evade his question with an answer that was also true.
“I write poetry,” I said rather sheepishly. For some reason I thought he’d assume I was not credible as a writer if I had said blogger.
Then he mentioned the name of a writer he likes and asked me looking down his long nose at me if I knew who he was. I did not, but I lied and said I did.
“Well I know him and he loves my poetry, ” he said cradling a book in his arms as if to say he wrote it.
I sat in silence for a bit and then finished my drink not knowing what to make of the conversation I had just had and then bid him good evening and left.

If I had a son….

If I had a son, he would most likely have Asperger’s Syndrome like me. This is what I would tell him when he asks how to live in a non-autistic world:

“Living with Asperger’s Syndrome is difficult. It can be frustrating not knowing if people like you because they use body language to convey their thoughts instead of just saying what they feel. This also makes it worse when people lie. It comes easily to non-autistics to lie and cheat and take advantage of autistics and non-autistics alike. Most people who are not autistic are cowards. They chastise and mock anyone who dares to be different. It is hard for them to accept you because they can’t accept themselves. The ones that do dare to be your friends are special because they are brave. They are brave enough to be different. They are brave enough to accept your differences despite what people will say. I say to you ignore the nay sayers and the doubters. You are capable of achieving your goals. It may take you longer but you will get there. Why rush? Life is wonderful. Enjoy it. Let people hate you. They are just jealous of what you can do. They are just jealous of the way you look at the world. If people think you are incapable of being useful and productive. Don’t let them deter you. People with Asperger’s have to adjust to a world that refuses to adjust to you. It is how you deal with this selfish injustice that defines who you are. I would rather have Asperger’s than not have it. Be proud of who you are.”

I just wish my parents had said this to me.

Understood

Too often people confuse personality with disability. I’m a person. I am not a disability. Autism is as much a part of me as my love of writing. I can do things much like everyone else. It’s sad that I have to say those things to people. It’s not enough to be aware of Autism. You must understand it. You must understand it affects all of those who are autistic differently. To be understood is something that every person on the planet wants. I want to be understood.  I for one enjoy being around other people.  Other autistics prefer to work in solitude. We are all different as the colors of the rainbow. We are not like Xeroxes where we all look alike or think alike. Humans are all different. And human is what we are.

 

I am me.

Being honest and telling people that you are autistic is a lot like coming out of the closet. Its not an easy thing to do. People don’t always know what to make of it. It’s funny how when you do tell people some of them who you thought you were there friends shun you out of ignorance. Then there are the people who treat you as if you have a disease and claim they want to cure you. They don’t accept you for who you are. 
I have to choose how and when and if I tell a person that I am autistic merely out of self-preservation than by a desire to be understood. The truth is telling people is never easy and I never know how they’re going to react. Sometimes I get the oh my friend/child/neighbor has it response. When that happens I feel a lot more comfortable. Even those people may not understand Autism. I don’t expect them to understand it. I expect them to understand me. We are all different. I am not like your friend/son/neighbor who is autistic. I am me.

The Advocate – Love and loneliness

The column for which I won second place for best personal experience story from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2007.  A fact I am proud of.  The Advocate was the first weekly column in a campus newspaper, The Daily Titan, describing life with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Love is perhaps the most commonly discussed, pondered and philosophized subject in the world. For those involved with
the treatment of Asperger’s, as well as those who have it, love is still a topic for discussion and thought.
The city on a hill is the perfect metaphor to describe the Daily Titan newsroom. With its location on the sixth floor of College
Park, it is like that city ona hill where students, through hard work, can enjoy the fruits of their labor and all the academic and personal
successes. Yet it can definitely be lonely at the top. Success, in my estimation, is meaningless when there’s no one to appreciate it.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, love is on the minds of everyone.With Asperger’s, the discussion is less philosophical in nature. The conversation is more about “can we love?” as opposed to the very nature of love itself.

The question is irrelevant.

Can you breathe?

We are capable of love like any other human being. The ability to love by both Aspie, (adiminutive name for someone with Asperger’s) and non-autistic alike is what makes us human. Aspies such as myself choose to express love in a way that does not fit the ordinary definitions of love. Even those who are not autistic differ in the ways they express love and show affection, but it does not make the feelings less real or less wonderful and beautiful. Love created the universe, which is reflected in the eyes of those we love. Being a male student on a campus that is 64 percent female does have its advantages – to which the remaining 36 percent can attest – but on the other hand it has its disadvantages.

Let’s face it, most autistics are men and most men never really understand women, least of all autistics. I choose to express myself through words and actions, and I have found saying “I love you” is much more powerful than giving out candied hearts on Valentine’s. Words are more powerful than any gesture. Yet love is something that anyone wants and deserves. People assume that whenever a disabled person mentions the things they deserve, they often mistakenly assume that we deserve those things because we are disabled.

In contrast, it is not because we are disabled but because we are human.
As I spend my time in this city on a hill, the world seems that much bigger and just that much more isolated. Perhaps being such an extreme man has had a part in that. But that discussion will have to wait.

Aspirations

I have a dream for myself. I will not give up on achieving my dreams. Everything I do is to achieve that dream.
Film school is a dream of mine and I will accomplish that dream no matter what it takes. I’ve already completed one dream now on to another.
If I get accepted to film school, I will complete the program for the MFA in documentary filmmaking while continuing to work at ABC News.
Once I am done I am going to apply for jobs with ABC News in New York and make documentaries about autism and LA history. It will happen!

Attitude

I have been thinking a lot about attitude. Attitude is a fickle thing. It can basically make or break your life, your relationships and your career. It may seem like a trivial thing but it can have a lasting effect on the things that I just mentioned. Having a good attitude is important as eating and drinking. We all used to make fun of Stuart Smalley the character from Saturday Night Live who was part of the skit Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley. While we all mocked him for standing up in front of the mirror and saying “Because I am good enough, I am smart enough and dog gone it….people like me.”

While Smalley may have been an overly pretentious man, as portrayed by Al Franken, there is still some truth to the satirical nature of the SNL skit, The hardest thing anyone can do is look themselves in the mirror and state how prepared and confident they are for whatever lies ahead for them during the day. Just saying positive self-affirming things can have a psychological effect. Words have power to uplift and and power to destroy. Even William Shakespeare understood the power of words as was evidenced by his statement that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

Still its not enough to say self-affirming words, sometimes you do need to carry a sword in the form of a smile. Never let them see you sweat is an old adage that still rings true.
There are various ways to change your attitude. I have found that the most effective way to change your attitude is through exercise. The most upbeat people I have met also work out regularly. Exercise releases endorphines which are basically stimulants into your system. After a good workout you feel very good. It also can boost your confidence levels which also affect your mood and your overall attitude. I started training to do my first 5K in August and the workouts have left me exhausted at times, but I still felt confident enough to take on the world.

Autistic blogger writes from the heart The Orange County Register

This appeared in The Orange County Register today on A1.

Autistic blogger writes from the heart

By ROBERT MORAN / FOR THE REGISTER

We are not all the same.

The belief that all autistics are the same is still one of the biggest misconceptions that autistics have to deal with.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control has determined that the diagnosis rate of some level of autism is 1 in 88 people, the numbers may seem startling, but it just means that there are more accurate methods of diagnosing autism. Better and more accurate methods, in this case, are important because no two autistics exhibit the disorder in the same way.

The new diagnosis rate has indirectly shown the world that autistics are all different.

I am not Rain Man. I can’t count cards like that. Sometimes I wish I could do that though. But my only prodigal ability has been to put pen to paper, which I have been doing since I was 9 years old.

I am writing my blog, Welcome to Aspie Land, not for myself. I am doing this because I believe the perspective of an autistic adult is as just as important as the perspective of a parent of an autistic child.

Too often the discussion is one sided and autistics are often not included in it. I am writing this because I want to demonstrate the diversity community. We all come from various backgrounds. I am a Roman Catholic. I have some autistic friends who are atheists. I am of French, Irish and Mexican descent. I know a few autistics who are Asian and some who are African American. We are as diverse as humanity.

Yet some people still operate under the assumption that we are all the same.

I recently graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in broadcast journalism. I work as desk assistant at ABC News at their LA bureau. I am one of the only people that I know of who is autistic and pursuing a career in journalism.

I am writing this blog to not only promote an understanding of the diversity of autism by promoting awareness, I am promoting acceptance.

Acceptance is what every human being looks for and autistics are no different in that end. I also want to inform people about autism, but not from the perspective of a parent or a psychologist or social worker, but from the perspective of a person who has it. The voices of the autism community should be as diverse as the community itself. I don’t pretend to be an expert but you can’t really understand autism unless you actually have it.

I often hear people asking why I am not like their son. Autism is a spectrum disorder. I am as different from Temple Grandin as she is from Vernon L. Smith who won the Nobel Prize for economics. For starters, I haven’t written any books like Grandin and I am not all that great with math like Smith, but I am comfortable with it. Many autistics are non-verbal. Others simply don’t know when to stop talking. Many are also blind. While others have synesthesia, which in some cases causes people to see letter and numbers as colors.

I should make it clear that I do not have synesthesia.

Not all autistics are men. Many are women. In fact, more and more women are being diagnosed with autism than ever before. Also, not all of us were diagnosed as children. I know a few who were diagnosed as adults. I was diagnosed as a teenager. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

Aspies, as some of us like to refer to ourselves, often have difficulty interpreting social interactions. The degree to which this occurs varies from Aspie to Aspie. I remember, several years ago an Aspie friend, who shall remain nameless, came to visit me and my family after we had all gone out. He continued talking to us and sitting in the living room despite some of my families intimating that they were tired and going to bed. He even continued chatting with us from the living room after we had all gone to change to our pajamas. It was not until my mom told him we were going to bed and he needed to leave did he get the clue and leave.

I on the other hand am usually the first one to want to leave a friend’s house when it gets late.

Aspies can be clueless when it comes to social interactions, but we are also refreshingly honest. It’s not in our nature to act with guile or deception.