A Sunday for the Record Books

First things first, a big, hearty congratulations to Simon Pagenaud, champion of the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. He qualified pole and brought it home in a very exciting fashion. He earned it heartily and I tip my hat to him.

Second, wow, what a Sunday. Laina and her best friend since grade school graced us with their presence for a totally gluten-free cookout and an outdoor viewing of the greatest race on earth. We had fun, a ton of fun, great food (it’s amazing at how great GF food can be!), hard cider. It was a total blast – it’s always fun watching racing with her; virtually is fun but in person is so much more fun.

Anyway, as much fun as that was, I did have one major ulterior motive for bringing her out here, one which she gladly obliged. As an owner of multiple small businesses in the past, I really wanted her here when I had “the talk” with my family so she could offer her perspective on my next major life transition. I had a feeling they’d listen to her better than they would me. Whereas I’d been dropping not-so-subtle hints and references all day, the time came after the race and after dinner to have the talk.

We excused ourselves to my bedroom for some “private conversation” in which we discussed how I should approach the topic (and maybe a few other things). We emerged from my bedroom, sat down side-by-side, holding hands, and I started the comversation.

I can honestly say my parents saw it coming. They could see it in me months ago. They knew what was I was about to say as though I had already said it, but much to my surprise they seem very supportive since 1) I have a plan of action in the works and 2) I’m not going into this blind. They know this is something I *WANT* to do. This time, I won’t be moving because I have to, but because I want to. There’s a totally different vibe to that when one’s heart is actually in it. Cranes aren’t my passion. My passions lie elsewhere.

Of course Laina offered her perspective from having done this herself, to help put out some of the fires that I knew would start during this conversation. This is why I wanted her with me when I had this talk so she could help me put these out, which she was a very effective firefighter through it all.

Being a “corporate slave” (my mom balked at the term but that’s what it feels like to me) is a toxic environment for those of us on the autism spectrum. It just is. If I keep doing what I’m doing now for the next 10+ years I’m going to go insane. That’s just a fact. I’m too “different” and free-spirited to do be just a slave surveillance (insert loud, raucous “throat monster” here) I mean social security number drawing a paycheck for doing mind-numbing tasks day in and day out with people I absolutely despise.

Needless to say I feel better – much better – now that everything is out in the open and I have my family’s blessing in this endeavor. I’m sure they’ll miss me, as well as my Abilene friends when I do take that step to “go home” and start putting my plan into action, but I’m sure they’d rather see me happy, even if someone else, than cooped up in hillbilly hell (which is exactly what Abilene is) doing corporate work for the rest of my life.

All in all, a great day. One of the best in recent memory for me. I can sleep more easily at night now with everything out in the open and knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a very real future for me in which I can not only survive, but thrive. It’s a totally different feeling for sure, and a total relief.

Thanks again, Laina. Couldn’t have done it without you. Really. I am in your debt.

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I’ll Spread My Wings and I’ll Learn How to Fly…

In the final post of this series (and likely also the shortest), this refernce is another one you practically had to be living under a rock to miss the reference. Well, maybe not as blatantly as you would have had to with “Complicated” but maybe it’s obvious to me because this last one was almost our high school class song (it lost out to some stupid-ass country song called “Young” – I was disappointed).

So I’ve decided to embrace my quirks and so-called “flaws,” decided to un-complicate things and decided to live life I never have. So what do I have to in order to do that?

That’s an easy one: I need to spread my wings and learn how to fly. I need to do what it takes to touch the sky. I need to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and breakway from this prison that I call Crapilene. When I moved to DFWTF, I thought my heart was calling me back to Abilene and maybe it was in the interim, but that was just a safety net. I realize I was just falling victim to Stockholm syndrome, aggravated by the excessive misery heaped upon me by the toxic culture of “The Met” (and anyone who has lived there knows DFWTF will absolutely suck your soul).

With starting a new business comes a huge risk. Oh it’s a risk. I’ve done some scary shit in the past, but that’s probably the scariest thing anyone could ever do. Alas, with big risk also comes the potential for big reward. My business model will never make me rich, and I mean never. If I were to be honest with myself I’d be making considerably less money than I am now, even being in a city that’s all but ideal for my business concept (which SA is while Abilene is not in any way). A high end cigar & spirits bar is a labor of love all the way.

Alas, there is one thing I’ve come to realize: getting rich is life’s biggest booby prize. Living where I do (not actually in Abilene, but in a farming community just outside) I’m actually considered high income for my area even though I don’t bank. Alas I have next-to-no living expenses in my current arrangement. I’m living almost like someone who really makes half again what I make in my salaried 7-4 job. I used to think all I needed was money and I’d be happy (particularly when I went through a long stretch of unemployment), but now that I have some money in the bank and am still as miserable as ever, I realize how wrong that notion was. Of course, it’d be nice to be both happy and rich but I think every person on this fucking planet would pick happiness over riches if they were forced to pick between one or the other. You’d have to be a real idiot not to (or maybe a masochist).

Of course, the added benefit of being in SA would be to be close to my beloved neuro-sister. While it might be the icing on the cake, it’s a very, very thick layer of icing – maybe even thicker than the cake itself. Someone who I see as potential partner in this business endeavor (but who would also be the toughest one to convince to come with me) actually seems to sympathize and suggested we might be twin souls. Maybe that explains the pain I’m feeling as I write this – maybe it’s like a magnet that’s pulling on my body so hard that it’s creating pain beause my body can’t move with the pull.

Of course, that’s not to downplay saying goodbye to the ones here. Of course I love my parents, and while they would be sad to see me go, they’re even sadder that I feel so bad. I’ve not yet divulged to them why I feel this bad, but they know. They just know, and I’m sure they’d be 100% supportive of me when this comes to fruition. I’ll be back to visit of course. Abilene to SA is only about 250 miles after all, and after I’ve gotten this far in my tattoo journey almost exclusively as one artist’s canvas (and soon to be just one artist’s when I have her re-work the one done by someone else that healed like complete shit) so I’ll have to come back to add to my tattoo collection, unless she decides to break away herself and open a shop in SA that is. 😉

And yes, you read that right – it’s not “if,” it’s “when” – it’s in the stars – not only am I a tropical (false) Pisces I’m also a sidereal (true) Pisces and self-employment is in my DNA according to the true system and after exploring sidereal astrology with Laina I am a firm believer in it – hence my calling this whole thing a spiritual awakening. I’m not saying I make my every move based on it, but it’s amazingly and bizarrely accurate.

My purpose isn’t to sit in an office all day. My purpose is to do cool shit with cool people. While cranes are cool machines, the career/industry surrounding it is anything but. It’s just as soul-sucking as any other corporate job. Nah, I have to transcend. I have no choice. If I don’t, well then I might as well just commit suicide because by not I’ll be doing nothing but prolonging needless suffering and I absolutely refuse to subject the ones I love to the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. I just can’t do it. Why do you think I’m so glad my attempt four years ago failed, against all odds.

Breaking away is the final step in my personal transformation, which has been a process and now it’s entering its final stages. Of course, the process started on January 2nd, 2016 when that seemingly small blue mark was permanently etched into the dermis of my posterior inner right wrist reminding me that my story wasn’t over yet. Who knew something so small, so profound would have such life-changing consequences? What are the odds.

It’s not coincidence. It’s destiny.

Well, so much for being the shortest post of the series. It turned out to be the longest. Oops. I guess the words just flow sometimes. But that’s OK. I’ll say what needs to be said regardless of word count. Hope you enjoyed the song if anything else.

That concludes this series. I know I’ll have my haters, but you need not comment. I have no time for that. If you dare to hate on any of these posts by the time this one goes up (note: the series were pre-written on the same day and set to post in succeeding days) you will be automatically blacklisted. I don’t need anyone raining on my parade. You’re either with me or you’re not and if you’re not fuck off and unfollow me. Thank you.

What Am I Gonna Do? What Am I Gonna Do To Feel Like Freedom’s Mine?

This third installment in a series of four posts might have a little more crypitc lyric reference title so I might as well just tell you where it comes from. Those of you who follow Indie Rock might know of a guy named Dustin Burnett, who goes by the stage name Zayde Wolf. The title is the first pre-chorus in his brilliant song “Live Life” and don’t worry, if you haven’t ever heard it (a lot of my followers have because I’ve featured it on SLS twice when that was still a thing), I of course will share the video at the end of this post.

So where did I first encounter this song? It was in 2016 on Season 23 of Dancing with the Stars when NTT (then Verizon) IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe (#5 SPM Honda) did a foxtrot routine to this song with his professional partner Sharna Burgess  on premiere night. It was a truly fitting song for him too – the year prior he had an accident that would have killed any of the rest of us but he was in such great shape he survived an accident no random Joe Blow would have survied.

Alas, sometimes it does take something tragic to realize how much we take this life for granted. We also don’t realize with our everyday mundane boring jobs just how quickly our lives are passing us by, and we don’t realize how much of our precious time we are just absolutely wasting bending over backwards for people who couldn’t give two ducking ducks (ahem, I mean fucking fucks – damn you Autocorrect!) about us (here’s looking at our bosses) and wouldn’t shed a tear if we suddenly dropped dead. Don’t lie to yourself – you know they couldn’t give a shit about you as a person. All they care about is what you do to line their pocket books while paying you a disproportionately small salary in exchange for the amount of revenue you’re bringing in.

Alas, that’s what corporatism/crony capitalism in the US has boiled us all down to. Again, we’re being forced to sacrifice our own happiness and utility to fit the mold. It’s painful for all people, neurotypical or otherwise, but even more painful for us neurodivergents because these environments are completely and totally toxic to our well-being. That masking I talked about yesterday? Yeah, we HAVE to do it to retain our jobs most of the time, and if we don’t it’s a case of see ya later. Well that certainly explains our much-higher-than-average unemployment rate right?

At the end of the day, very few, if any, of us are truly made to sit in offices all day. We were made to do cool shit with cool people. So what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do to feel like freedom is ours? Well, it’s time to break the mold and live life like we never have and live life through the good and bad! Not only do we need to be ourselves and quit masking, there’s no better time than now to take that chance, do something that the spiritually dead would call crazy (I use the term as this almost feels like a spiritual awakening).

Is it really crazy though? I don’t think so. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. Maybe those of us who get out there and live life like we never have aren’t the crazy ones. Maybe we’re the sane ones after all. Again, down with society’s arbitrary social norms and expectations. Their bullshit expectations are why so many people are on fucking antidepressants and shit these days (I truly believe this – again thanks to corporatism/crony capitalism).

Alas, I think I know what I have to do now, and that will be the topic of the fourth and final post in this series to come tomorrow. As for today, I’ll leave you with this bold and powerful song. Hope you enjoy.

I Left My Heart in San Antonio…

It’s been about an hour and a half since I arrived back at my humble abode on the outskirts of good old Crapilene (yeah, I’ll tell you how I really feel!).

I’ve always felt a little bit of sadness after parting ways with a friend when I’m visiting them, but this time it was something much more deep and profound – it was almost a grief-like sadness. I barely held it together while Laina and I said our goodbyes and I pulled out of her driveway, but the four-hour trek back to Abilene was filled with several crying spells (one so intense I almost had to pull over to collect myself as it could have compromised my driving safety).  When I arrived home and walked in, I didn’t feel a “good to be home” feeling. All I felt was a sense of emptiness, a void as it were.

I think the signs are very, very clear – Abilene is not my home. My home is in San Antonio, where I can be close to my neuro-sister (love the term, by the way!) all the time. A place where I can launch Leaf & Barrel (that I’ve talked about before) with my gang and that would be a prime city for it (Abilene would NOT support such a concept).

The past few days were surreal. Some of the best of my life. It was so nice to be able to hang out with someone who does understand me and why I am the way I am. Someone who loves to be hugged and cuddled – even in just a “LYLAB/S” way and nothing romantic or sexual at all. someone who I can cry to for any time and any reason judgment-free. Someone who I can jam with and sing karaoke with in a judgment-free environment. Someone who doesn’t bat an eye at my warped sense of fashion. Someone who I can laugh at weird shit with and get into belching and throat-clearing contests with because we are both easily entertained by such silliness. Someone who is now as passionate about IndyCar racing as I am and who I can actually talk about that with.

I think it’s safe to say a move to San Antonio is definitely in my future. Just when I don’t know, but it’s there. I think this feeling that has overcome me is the universe telling me it’s time for a change, and a big one at that. My life isn’t about being stuck in a 7-4 job, doing dull, mundane tasks with dull, mundane coworkers under the thumb of an asshole of a boss. My life is about doing cool shit with cool people (her words, not mine).

This is of course not an overnight thing. This is going to be at least a months-long process. I have my crew here who I need to get on board with me to make this a reality. We’ve talked about opening a bar together in passing but I think for all of our sakes we need to make this a reality. All of us are not the type of people for Abilene. One of them has a strange attachment to Abilene that is going to be the one I might really have to work over, but the other two might not be so hard (they nearly moved to what Laina and I so (un)affectionately call “DFWTF” due to fatigue of this podunk backwoods hillbilly redneck town).

Now, if after several attempts they don’t come with me, being able to close to them might be a sacrifice I have to make. Sure, I love them to bits, but I’m tired of being held back. If it comes to a point of either you’re with me or you’re not, and they’re not, I might have to leave them behind. I will not stand to be held hostage by anyone, not even my best friends, especially when it’s resulting in me settling for a miserable job and being away from the person who understands me the most. Of course my parents would be somewhat sad to see me go but they’re equally saddened by how miserable I am right now and would rather see me move away and be happy. Same with my tattoo artist, but I’ve become her canvas so I can come back any time to see her and get a new tattoo and see my family in the process. San Antonio to Abilene is only about 250 miles after all.

Well, as the saying goes, “here goes nothing” I guess. Wish me luck as I try to make this a reality. It might be tough, and starting a business is scary as fuck, but it’s clear to me now that it’s a risk I have to take for my own sake. The time has come. And to think none of this would have been possible (meeting someone who feels like a long-lost sibling, placing two kittens in the right home, finding my racing buddy, cuddle buddy, music partner, etc.) without one medical report that led to the start of her blog and nothing more than a small blue mark on my inner right wrist that led to the start of this blog. We’d have never known of each other if not for this wonderful blogging community.

Just goes to show how life-changing one small decision can be, can’t it?

Work From Home Week 1 Debriefing

So I’ve completed my first full week of working from home (at least mostly). I was in the office Monday and then half a day today and just worked away at home the rest of the time (it’s still good to check in with the office a couple of times per week). I can already tell this is going to be so much better.

I’m so much less stressed out. It’s quieter, distraction-free and on nice days I can actually take my work outside while enjoying a nice strong cup of coffee and a cigar. No “getting ready” for work either – been loafing around in just a hoodie and meggings all week (it’s been a bit cold here, yes it even gets cold in Texas!) and just in my element. No office gossip, no landlines ringing off the hook, no nothing – just do my thing in peace.

This week was a fairly intense week so it was a really good one to gauge working from home. Yes, I’ll need some improvements to my home work environment but it will be a work in progress (hopefully the government shutdown will end soon and I can get my tax return in a timely manner to put toward that).

Honestly, I think for those of us on the autism spectrum, working from home is probably the next frontier in making our lives easier. It seems like many of us (myself included) don’t seem to do well in either an office environment or in the field. Sounds, smells, gossip, distractions, you name it. Uh, no. Maybe as “office work” moves more toward “homework” our lives will continue to improve. It’s early yet and I already feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. Honestly, though not my dream job cranes are kind of fascinating – figuring it out is almost like a puzzle in a way. I’ve always loved puzzles of all kinds after all.

Anyway, it seems as though 2019 is off to a great start – new tattoo in the works, better work environment, let’s go!

I’ve Been to the Edge, and I’ve Been to the Edge. Yes, I’ve Been to the Edge…

In pondering what to title this post, I just couldn’t think of what to call it. Alas, I guess merely quoting the most repetitive song ever (“The Edge” by Eiffel 65) seems appropriate because well, that’s what this post is all about.

To me, one of the most chilling scenes in any movie is Neil’s suicide scene in the movie Dead Poets Society. Inspired by his English teacher Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) to pursue his passion for acting, Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) auditions for and lands for the role of Puck in a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His father (who insists his son become a doctor instead) is outraged, withdraws him from Welton and the play and enrolls him in a military academy. Seeing no path forward, and with no support from his mother, Neil uses his father’s revolver to commit suicide.

Here is that chilling scene, for those who have never seen the movie:

As much as it makes the hair on the back of my own head stand up, it makes it even more so knowing just how close I personally came to having almost the exact same fate. On this day, the three-year anniversary of me getting my first tattoo (a semicolon tattoo on my right wrist), I feel I am finally ready to open up about just how close I came to being another statistic and just how close I was to putting my own family through the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

Having been rejected from my dream career (on account of my autism diagnosis and the FAA not accepting those with ASDs), forced into less-than-satisfying menial jobs and not being able to stick with one long-term, I saw no other option but to end my misery, and by god that’s what I was going to do come hell or high water. On a hot July 2015 night, drove my (then) piece of shit car to a remote location where nobody would be able to find me and brought along a semi-automatic pistol for the ride. Loaded with a single round of hollow-point (because who needs more than one shot?), I aimed to kill and pulled the trigger without hesitation.

A few seconds go by and I think to myself “I guess I’m dead?” In that split second I feared the worst – that there is in fact and afterlife and now I’m destined for hell. Alas, a few more seconds go by and I realize that I’m still alive. I check in the chamber only find out that the shot had not fired. Puzzled, I ejected the unspent round to examine it and much to my surprise there was the imprint of the firing pin on the primer. Of the 25 rounds in that box of ammo, I had picked the only one that was a dud. Hell, that might have been the only dud in that entire production run. What are the odds that the single dud would have wound up in that specific box AND it just so happens to be the one I randomly picked out of that box? Beating astronomically rare odds, I had cheated death, much to my dismay (at least in that instant).

As I sat there for a moment, angry, frustrated, I couldn’t help but think at how unlucky I was. Here I was, going to relieve myself from my own suffering because I finally had the chance, and that was foiled by some awful luck. Alas, it was in that moment I thought to myself “What the FUCK are you doing?!?!?” I drove home to sleep.

A few days later, I was changing the transmission fluid on my car when I got a call from a long-time friend of mine saying an opportunity had come open at my previous company (which he then also worked for). I interviewed the next day and within a couple of weeks I had a new career in the crane business.

A few months pass and I settle into my new career. Though less than satisfying, at least it meant I had a decent home life and wasn’t wondering where my next meal was going to come from. With the cloud looming over me that my reality shouldn’t be this, is when I started kicking around the unthinkable. Something I always sworn I would never do. I thought about getting a tattoo as an outward symbol of my internal battles.

I kicked the idea around for almost two months, until I decided I might as well just go for it. So, after finding a local artist, I walked into the shop on the cold, rainy evening on January 2nd, 2016 at 6:00 PM. I filled out the paperwork, trembling in fear as I did so.

As I sat down in the chair and the artist began preparing her equipment, she told me something I will never forget. “You know once you get this one you’re going to want more,” and she will tell you this is absolutely true – I looked her square in the eye and said “you’re so full of shit.” I was so scared but I had gotten this far, I figured I had to follow through at this point.

I did, and the sense of pride after I did was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I was high as a kite too. That was quite a rush, and I now had upon me a mark indicative of my battles. At this point I still swore I wouldn’t do that again, but we all know how long that lasted.

Three years and eight additional tattoos later plus adding some celtic knot to my first tattoo (to separate it from the very conservative Christian side of Project Semicolon), well, I guess I never saw myself here three years ago. It’s been a wild ride for sure.

So yes, I’ve been to the edge, and whatever god might exist, god does know if I’ve looked down (which I have). Do I still sometimes struggle with these thoughts? Absolutely. I think it will be a lifetime of struggle. I’m also not going to guarantee that life will never get bad enough for me to finally get pushed over that edge (Amy Bleuel herself later succumbed to suicide). Despite my own personal struggle, I maintain the political view that suicide is a right and the government has no right to try to stop someone from carrying it out. That said, it should not be undertaken without exhausting all other options and without consideration of the effects of those around them.

With that, I want to say thank you to all my friends and followers for reading. Thank you for allowing me to tell my story. Of course, that story is still in progress, because my story isn’t over yet. If you’re still here reading this, neither is yours. Thank you and good night.

Oh, and the referenced song, for those so curious:

Hurry Up, 2019!

The holidays are coming to a close and 2019 is on the way which will bring some significant changes to my life starting pretty quickly. I think these changes will help improve my quality of life overall and they will be a welcome change from the drudgery that was most of 2018.

First of all, my boss is going to let me work from home on a most-time basis. I can really do my job anywhere. I could be on Mars and still get the same results (as long as I had some sort of internet connection anyway). Being in the comfort of my own home will no doubt bring about less stress, free of office drama and I can work at my own pace. No more sititng around the office twirling a fidget spinner for hours on end on slow days and/or being limited by normal working hours on busy days. Of course I’ll have to check in at the office a couple of times per week to get updated on any crane moves or whatever. This 120 mile round trip commute 5 days a week, taking it down to just 1-2? I’m all for that. I always figured working from home would be the best fit for anyone on the autism spectrum for those reasons and more.

Working from home also frees me up to resume my funeral bagpipe services. I’m usually in and out in a hour tops so that would not take too much of my time. It’ll also free me up on slow days to focus on my writing project, which I eluded to in a previous post. When the weather gets better, this also puts me in a prime position to start building my dream grandfather clock. No matter how you turn it, this will no doubt increase my quality of life.

As far as other projects, I’ve got some ideas in addition to writing and bagpipe but we shall see if they pan out. I know you’re all still waiting on pics from my photoshoot that happened about a month ago and rest assured, as soon as I get them I’ll be posting. Alas, that’s almost a gateway – my friends who did the shoot swear I should think about doing some modeling on the side. Not many men have the guts to rock patterned leggings (sad, they’re so fun!) and there are still some parts of the world where men’s short shorts have a cult following so maybe I could look at modeling stuff like that too? I imagine it’s a niche market but if I’ve got the nerve to do it then it might be a way to make some extra cash.

Of course, 2019 will also bring on some more ink. You know I can’t go more than a few months without adding to my ink collection. As new ink drops, you’ll be sure to know that too.

Anyway, 2018 had its highlights and low points but I can say it was overall better than my 2017, so I’ll call 2018 an overall success. Hopefully this up-tick will continue because I’m ready to get back to life as I knew it going back to my college and grad school days. It seems once I closed that chapter I went into a downward spiral that lasted for years and 2018 was almost a return to normalcy. Maybe 2019 will be.

Only time will tell I guess.