Archive for October, 2012

(nothing says failure more than this picture.)

We are taught to fear failure, hate failure. It is instilled into us at a very early age that there is nothing worse than failing. That we need to avoid it at all costs. This, however, is not the case. Failure can be a friend and an ally.

From a very early age I aspired to be a teacher, I dreamt of being a teacher there was nothing more noble or worthwhile of a profession. What can make more of a contribution than to shape the future minds of the world. The people who make the largest contribution in our lives from a young age other than our parents are our teachers. In fact, we often spend more time with our teachers at a young age than we spend with our own parents. A good teacher can stick with us for the rest of our lives. I have multiple teachers who will forever have a warm place in my heart such as Mr. Oberman, my 8th grade english teacher, Dinne Hallis, my kindergarten teacher, Mr. Dempsey, my math teacher. Therefore, I went into the  teaching program at the local university straight out of high school. However, once I got into the actual classroom, I was vastly unfit for teaching. The students would not listen to what I said. They would constantly be talking in the back and as soon as I dealt with one fire, there was another one that would rise up. On top of that there was a little girl who was in the front of the room playing with my overhead. Apparently I had not made the writing on the overhead slide big enough or clear enough. Still I thought, if I simply work harder than I will master classroom management. I was already working harder than any other student-teacher out there and getting less positive results to show for my hardwork. I would have continued down this path and hated every single day, if my evaluator and the program had not sat me down and told me that I was a failure as a teacher and that the profession was simply not right for me.

After getting kicked out of the profession I felt like the biggest failure. I went into a state of depression, where all I could think about was how I had failed and what I could have done differently. I had dreams at night where I was still in the classroom and was a success only to realize that it was a dream. I also had dreams where I had the students walk all over me like a welcome mat and no matter what I tried to do it turned out wrong. If I had simply accepted the signs earlier, maybe, I could have got out before things turned into such a mess.

In addition another time where failure helped me is when I thought I could be a professional actor. I went to a few acting classes and really enjoyed it. I thought if I simply worked hard enough that I could become an actor. I, however, had no conception of body language, I couldn’t do accents for the life of me, and when I did lines with another person I was not actually really listening to them or in the scene but was focusing for the cues when my next line was. It was the most awkward thing ever. Yet I persevered at this for almost a year. I was enthused by the possibility of learning and one day being able to shadow people in different professions and help them get the attention and gratification they deserved. After a year, however,  I was able to accept failure which saved me from a life of endless struggle.

I had the same attitude towards comedy and thought that if I worked hard enough at it I would get to go on all the line-ups. I also failed at this and thus far have only been successful at getting spots on open mics but seeing what I have learnt about failure this is probably for the best. It means that I can enjoy doing it for the sake of doing it and not worry about being the best. Since there will always be someone better. Instead I can focus on comedy as a hobby instead of a potential career like many of the other comedians I perform with.

Don’t get me wrong all of these failures including the current one are disheartening but if you look at them through the right light and think positively you can see that they are all for the best. That failure is not something that I should fear or hate but it is actually simply trying to help me find the path for me and is like a signal that lights up when I go off the right path only to help guide me down the road that I am supposed to go down. In addition, maybe none of these experiences have been in vain but they have helped shape me and tell me where I am supposed to be.

Advertisements

People say that others with Aspergers have no imagination. I don’t know who these people are or why they are talking about other people behind their backs but for the most part it is true in some things I truly have little to no imagination. A good example of this is halloween costumes. The last few years I just wore a funny hat a tall green fluffy hat with a decent brim on it and called that my halloween costume.

 Even my dog’s costume is better.

This year I was completely stuck when it came to what I should dress up for, for halloween. I could do the typical zombie, vampire or cowboy outfits, except for the fact that all of these costumes would take either lots of money or lots of time.

   This year, however, I came up with a costume which is either hilarious or extremely lame. I am going as a man “with binders full of women.” That’s right I am making a halloween costume out of Romney’s ridiculous answer to Sarah Fenton’s great question. Sarah Fenton asked about what Mitt Romney was going to do about women earning 71 cents compared to men earning a dollar for doing the same work. Romney answered with some ridiculous nonsense, the conservative world became mad at Fenton for asking a challenging question and so on. I mean Sarah Fenton should be a national hero instead of being attacked for bringing to light Romney’s ridiculousness. In addition, she should clearly be a democrat at this point and give up on a ridiculous candidate even if her family and her have voted for the Republicans in the past. Just because you made mistakes in the past does not mean you have to continue repeating them.

    To go as a guy with a binder full of women all you need to do is get a binder. On the first page on the inside you have to glue a picture of a woman. The woman can be in a bikini or not this point does not really matter as long as there is a picture.

  This morning I woke up and there was a pimple the size of a small city on my face. At first I thought my eyes must simply be blurry, or that I had food on my face, nothing to really get worked up about. When I took a closer look, however, it was still there staring back and mocking me. Being like “I am going to mess up your day, and there is nothing you can do about it.” Shut up stupid zit your not the boss of me. I don’t care if I have to wash my face a million times before you are gone you are not sticking around. The zit simply replied, what’s on tv?”
It was absolutely terrible I thought I was done with acne when I reached the 20’s mark and that it was only something that people between the ages of 13-18 had to deal with. That it was a right of passage that you learnt how to drive, you gained your independence but you also had to deal with acne. Therefore, I was extremely suprised when my body decided to become repulsive on me. While I have always been terrible at talking to women I have always thought that at least I had my good looks to get me through the door if not the bedroom. Now, however, as I age and I have to worry more and more about my looks I am caught up in a terrible cycle emotionally. On one hand, I think what is the point of taking care of my looks because girls will continue to reject me even if I am as good looking as Brad Pitt because of my Aspergers. Now that I am beginning to lose my looks, to things like an onset of adult acne, my chances of getting a girl interested become even slimmer. My chances with girls right now make Tyra Banks look obese.  There is absolutely nothing worse than adult acne. When you’re young and you get acne its natural its just a consequence of your teenage hormones being out of control, something you will grow out of.  That is understandable and as a society we can accept it. We, however, can’t accept adult acne because it suggests moral weakness. It’s usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle or stress. In my case, however, I don’t have much or I didn’t have much to stress about until I started getting it. Also, in terms of lifestyle I eat a balanced diet, I go to the gym regularly but it is all for naught.
  As a result, every time I go down the street I think everyone is looking at my big pimple and judging me. Always staring and judging and always making negative assumptions about my character. When you don’t have a winning personality but have good looks you are fine and vice versa, however, when you don’t have either you are royally screwed.
This zit will be the rue of me just you watch and see.

 

 

 

I was complaining the other day that not as many people visit the library as I would like to a friend and she replied that “yeah, maybe libaries are going to go extinct.” Lots of people think that they don’t need libraries anymore because you can get lots of the information that you used to have to turn to books for off of the internet. Some of the old folks including part of myself want to question the accountability of lots of the information posted on the internet I mean anyone can post, therefore how reliable can the information really be? However, with so much information out there and so many people viewing these websites everyday it is relatively easy finding good reliable websites which have actual information. How does a person, however, learn to discern between what is factual and what is incorrect information? That is a role that the library can help fill by having classes on information searching. The school day is full enough to expect everything is going to be taught in a 8 hour school day. 

     In addition, with movie rental places like Blockbusters and Rogers Video going under the library becomes the only alternative where you can still go in and browse. Yes you can search for videos online but there is something fun about the browsing process and finding a video that you did not come in expecting. There is also something nice about having the physical object in your hands.

Furthermore many people who do not have a computer at home come into the library to use ours. Until we live in a world were every single person has a computer the library will have a role helping lessen the spread of the digital divide. Even homeless people have a need to access a computer and let the outside world know that they are still alive. This feeling of being connected to what is going on around them and not being socially isolated is almost as important as having food and water and a warm place to sleep.

 The library also acts like a hub in the community educating many elderly people on how to use a computer. We also have all sorts of programs that would appeal to a wide variety of people. In addition to having posters to provide people with information of upcoming events in their community. Sure this last one is not so important of you go into Stella’s or the like where there is a community bulletin, but, how often do you think people without alot of money eat out? Restaurants are not exactly excited about the possibility of having people come in and sit around for hours without ordering anything. This is particularly dreadful on wet rainy days like today. Therefore, the library will always exist and will always have an important role to play in any society.

Plus I find reading a paper book way more enjoyable than reading on a computer. This may be a generational thing , however, and may not be as important of a reason in the future. Only time will tell.

Finally, libraries are important because they provide me a job. I have a hard time making a sale when it comes to getting women to give me a chance. I have a realistic idea of how horrible and unemployed I would be if the library did not exist and we only had private enterprises only interested in making a quick buck.

 

“A wise person once said that writing and performing comedy is the easy part the hard part is the off-stage part.”

I completely agree with this sentiment. Every time I get on stage I do well enough. Heck lately I have been making serious progress in my stage performance and have been having the best sets of my career, thus far, but it doesn’t make a difference I still have not been offered any more stage time.  Since being a talented comedian is not enough when it comes to all of the off-stage drama. A person can work their tail off and put in many hours working on their jokes but if this work does not get acknowledged by people who have comedy rooms it is all for naught. That is one big difference between writing a blog and stand-up comedy. I can work as hard as I want on my blog and my fate does not rest in the hands of a few people but getting acknowledgment from anyone is equally valid. Also there is only so much work you can do on your stand-up comedy without a stage to stand-up on. 

   In the battle of off-stage drama I feel I am poorly equipped as I am not the most charismatic person as a result of my Aspergers.

Therefore, this is a frightening trend and I am worried at this point of time.

  Everyone has one movie that really truly speaks to their existence and their life. That movie for me is Gattaca. I, however, was introduced to it in such a funny weird way. A movie starring Jude Law, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, pre-Batman days, should be  popular enough that all the young people are talking about it. I guess it was before any of them became the big stars that they eventually became. I was introduced to it in a Jewish ethics class in high school. Most of the movies that they get you to watch at school are absolutely drek or are ruined by the fact that you are watching them at school with a bunch of your classmates who can’t take anything serious but just want to waste time. When we watched 12 Angry Men we watched the same part in class at least six times.   

 

    However, Gattica really spoke to my experience of growing up with Aspergers. The story is about a guy named Vincent who was naturally born or “human born” in a future where everyone else is born out of artificial wombs so that parents can have the designer baby. A baby exactly the way they want it free from any potential disease or imperfection. Therefore, almost every door to his future is closed to him. Forunately, he is able to take on the identity of a second man played by Jude Law. Jude Law’s character, Jerome, was born to be perfect, however, due to an accident he is left in a wheelchair. Luckily not many other people know about the incident, therefore, he is able to rent his identity to Vincent so that Vincent can get a job at NASA or the equivalent in the movie. Using Antonn’s blood and urine samples he is able to fool all of the tests and get into the system. Which begins a game of cat and mouse between Vincent and the people who try to maintain status quo including his brother who was a designer baby. Vincent is ultimately successful in fooling the system and getting what he wants.

Well my own relationship with my family has been great and they have never been anything but supportive caring and with my best interests at heart the way they see them I too have always felt like an imposter. In my case, however, it has always been a case between neuropyschologically “normal” people and people with Aspergers. I have always struggled to fit in and thought I did it quite well. I played on the local sports teams, got invites to many of the parties, didn’t date the right girls, or any girls in my case, but wasn’t really looked down upon for it.

    However, I always felt like  that at any moment I could be found out and, therefore, ostracized for being different. I never felt comfortable always trying to figure out what the right thing to do or say was. I couldn’t simply be myself. I still often feel that way for example, last night I went to Rumor’s comedy club by myself and had to sit with a table of strangers because the rest of the club was packed. I was so worried that I would laugh at the wrong time or that people would notice I was there. I mean I still had a great time but these thoughts ran through my head.

  Only by acknowledging my Aspergers and accepting that  I did not fit in but was my own unique fit have I started learning to feel more comfortable with myself and my “unique personality” with its own strengths and weaknesses. As well as the limitations of my body which in the end don’t matter. Who cares if you are never the greatest basketball player if you are not in the NBA as long as you are having fun it is okay to be medicore. This is kind of ironic, only by admitting defeat that I was in fact different, was I able to achieve a more meaningful success. Totally, unlike, Vincent in Gattica.

   People are constantly suggesting that I see a movie called Adam or another movie where the main character has Aspergers thinking that I will relate to it. I might, but for the meantime I have found the movie that speaks to me and my experience.

  

 

   I know I talk about my disability alot on stage in stand-up comedy and that I have a blog devoted to me discussing what it is like to have Aspergers but there is more to me than just the disability. Last sunday night I was introduced to Zack Bogosian, of the Winnipeg Jets, as a funny guy who has Aspergers. Zack, however, never asked about my disability or any shortcomings I have, nor did he ask about my strengths. Therefore, I was offended that I would be introduced this way. It’s not like I go up to people and am like “hi I am Adam Schwartz and I have a masters degree.” It is up to me to decide who and when I share this information and not for anyone else, except maybe my doctor. Also, there is more to me than just my condition, for example, there’s the fact that I prefer science fiction books or that I prefer chocolate to gummy candy. That I am a devoted son and loving brother.  Instead of a person I am reduced to some kind of victim.

    Another thing that bothers me is when people tell me I don’t look like I have Aspergers. When they usually say that I respond with thank-you because no one wants to “look Austistic”. Which in lies the problem people don’t associate Aspergers and Autism as a spectrum but rather they associate it with the people who are on the extreme of being so internal that they have a hard time looking after themselves. This mental association makes it much harder for people to own their condition and unite instead they want to deny their condition because they don’t want to be seen as the same as the people on the extreme end. At least that’s a major reason why I denied having Aspergers for so long. People who have Aspergers each have their own personality and can vary as much as much as those considered neuropsychologically normal. Therefore there really is no “autistic” or “asperger” look. Also as a secondary concern is the fact that when you tell someone you have Aspergers you are sharing an important fact about yourself and therefore open yourself to being vulnerable and when people deny what you are telling them it is like they are calling you a liar.

 
 
A person whose blog I follow and respect tremendously addressed the question if there was a magical pill that could take autism/Aspergers away would she give it to her child. At first I was very insistent saying that I would take it in a second without giving it a second thought. There are many holes in my life which I blame my Aspergers for. For example, I don’t have the best social life, I am 27 and have never had a girlfriend or got intimate with a girl and I still live at home. On the outset who would argue with my decision from the outside it looks like a terrible life. However, if you take a bigger view of my life I have an incredible family, friends who care about me a great job and things that I am passionate about. If I were able to take away my Aspergers at this point in my life not much would change because I have grown into patterns and if there is going to be any serious intervention in someone’s life it has to happen when they are young. It is not something simple like avoiding alcohol for an alcoholic but it means changing the most basic way I interact with people and that kind of change is much harder.
 
   So if I was a child again would I take it? I don’t really know is the truth.  I am not going to say that having Aspergers is a blessing but I am not as convinced as I once was that it is a curse.They say that a butterfly flapping its wings can create natural disasters on the other side of the world and that you can’t know the immense effects on your life if you went back in time and made small adjustments. Getting rid of my Aspergers would be a major adjustment.
  Therefore, I may be better at sports and be less socially awkward but I would also likely not have the same incredible relationship with my family. Part of the reason why I am so close with my family is probably because I did not have as many friends and therefore relied on them more than usual and my life would not be as rich without these relationships. I have an incredibly strong relationship with my siblings and parents who I love dearly. If I did not have Aspergers maybe I would not have appreciated as much having tea every night with my parents. Or have a private book club with my mom where we sit together and read our books. Through this I have been exposed to so many incredible books and have been as rich as a king by having these books at my fingertips and it makes me as happy as a bug in a rug.
        If I was not so disorganized, my sister may not have  had to develop as maternal instincts and alot of people would be poorer for it. My sister is great whenever someone new moves into their co-op housing she goes out of her way in order to befriend them and make their lives better. Would she have had this same level of compassion if she did not think of how cruel the world can be and saw how much I struggled? It’s most likely as she’s a really nice person, but you never know. It’s the same with my brother who has raised almost half a million dollars for women affected by aids in South Africa. 
     If I did not have Aspergers then I would not have this chance to try and be a spokesperson for the cause and try and make life better for other people with the same disability by raising awareness through my stand-up comedy and my blog. I also would not have as much material for my stand-up career. Not having enough material or even stand-up comedy alone is not a good enough reason to justify having Aspergers but I am happy about the spokesperon part. 
 Having had to work for everything has also helped me accomplish great things like achieving my masters degree instead of being lazy and slacking off. Lots of people who are neurologically normal, even from middle-class homes, end up drinking all the time and may never achieve anything worthwhile. I, however, enjoy drinking with my friends but also know the value of hard-work.  
   In the end I don’t know if my life would be the same if you took away my Aspergers or if it would be unrecognizable, and ultimately, the good in my life outweighs the bad. 

 

 

Let me come out and say it all types of bullying is horrible. Bullying is a hot issue in the news right now because it caused a girl to feel so hopeless that she felt that she had no choice but to commit suicide. Teens can be wonderful and amazing and an inspiration to all mankind with their idealism. For example, Hannah Taylor and her work with the homeless and the Lady Bug foundation is increidble. I know I know, some people may not know who she is, since it’s not only people in Winnipeg who read my blog, so I will take a second to recount her story. Hannah Taylor was a young girl who was able to raise awareness and attention to the homeless and part of her fundraising efforts were to sell merchandise with a lady bug on it. There are also many other examples, teenagers can also be ridiculously cruel. Teenagers even at their cruelest, however, are simply confused teenagers and the people who I am most disappointed with are the adults who this bullying continue or worse. In the newspaper it talks about how a girl was verbally abused in the classroom and the teacher did absolutely nothing, Which is ridculous. These teachers deserve to be laid off or at least suffer extreme reprimands. They are supposed to be the adults and when they do nothing they condone the bullying to continue. Even more disgusting is when the teachers are the bullies themselves because this encourages this horrible behaviour in their students. If adults bully then children will see that their is nothing wrong in picking on people who are weaker than they are or are different. If there were more teachers like this we may as well give up on society as lost. I was bullied in elementary school by two of my teachers, one in grade 4 and the other in grade 5. I thought these teachers were my friends and looked up to them, therefore, I was crushed when these teachers humiliated me in front of the whole class. One of the teachers thought it was acceptable to call me out on being clumsy and that people got hurt when they were around me because I had poor-hand-eye coordination. At recess me and some of the other kids were roughhousing and I had stolen someone’s shoe and had thrown it in the air randomly and it had hit a girl in the face. When we got back from recess the teacher went on what felt like a 10 minute rant about how people got hurt around me. This is completely irresponsible of the teacher and I felt extremely shamed. The shame of this incident has never left me and it was bad enough the bullying I got from my peers because of my being socially awkward but to get it from the teacher was unforgiveable. Having a person in authority and a position of power give me a hard time in front of the whole class was a complete abuse of this power. As much as I admired this teacher before the incident I had no respect for them afterwards and they should have been canned or at least been made to appologize if they did not have the good sense to do it on their own.   

 

The image is from a great site called kidz4mation.

In many ways having a brother with Aspergers must be a real pain. Sometimes I have said really horrible things that must have made my brother and sister ashamed. One time when my brother’s then girlfriend was over for supper I told her “don’t worry my mother only poisons people she doesn’t like…  you better watch out.” There are other times that I embarassed them that I clearly do not remember that they might or might not remember. I am sure it’s been an extra responsibility on them to make sure nothing bad happens to me, which has probably helped them become the fine upstanding people that they have become, and  they have probably heard me kvetching and whining more than if they had other siblings. They never burden me with their problems and yet I don’t feel the same constraints and will complain to them about my problems.
At the same time I am sure that having a brother with Aspergers must be rewarding in many ways. They never had to worry about being the most awkward person at a party. That would be me. Also there is the sheer good feeling they must get seeing me overcome obstacles in my way. All three of us used to coach Special Olympics for several years with my sister as the head-coach. During that time I was able to experience the joy of seeing these athletes score a basket in basketball. Scoring a basket may not be a huge difficulty to many people when there is no defense, and you are three feet away from the hoop, nevertheless, some of these athletes struggled. Yet they never gave up and after shooting 10 shots they would get one in. The look of triumph on their faces and the incredible feeling of watching these athletes struggle and persevere and overcome instead of getting upset with themselves and quitting was an amazing gift and always made me feel so special to be there in their moment of triumph. Like these athletes I have had many of my own struggles and yet have overcome them through pure perseverance and being there in my moment of triumph must be extremely uplifting for my family to watch. At one point one of my teachers was very worried about me and confided in my parents that they thought I would never be able to read at grade level and yet despite that, I have gone on to graduate with a masters degree in Library and Information Science program from the University of Pittsburgh. I struggled with the most simpliest hand-eye-coordination and yet I went on to being one of the starters of my high school basketball team. Granted it was for a small Jewish high school where everyone made the team, but nevertheless, I started for that team.