I can imagine I wasn’t the only freshman who was nervous starting high school. I could see they were also scared. I saw they were lost trying to find their way around, and lots of them were shorter than the older kids. Just like them I was nervous and had a hard time in school. I hope I am not sounding whiny when I say I can’t cover up my feelings in the same way most people do.
This week I watched the blind athlete, Erik Weihenmayer, compete on the adventure race TV program, Expedition Impossible. I wrote how his race was harder because he did it blind. His teammate, Ike, had a serious injury. His race was harder too. They came in second in spite of it. I never saw them stop in self pity or expect the race to be made easier for them. The victory was that they did so well. I would love to meet them. I think it is a triumph because Erik is showing people that being disabled doesn’t mean not living fully.
He is a lucky man because he met Jeff. Jeff is his climbing partner; his eyes in a way. I would love to have a guide like Jeff to help me in my challenges too. He is optimistic and positive and calm so everyone else stays optimistic, positive and calm- and motivated. I have had the pleasure of some terrific support in school. The reason I can accomplish the goals I have set is thanks to people like Cathy, Katie, and others. I see how their relaxed demeanor helps me. It’s important because I am nervous in school.
This year I had a nervous aide for five miserable days. She was not a relaxed woman at all. I saw how everything got her tense. I saw how small things became big things because she over-reacted to them. I saw how she made my mom worried and me panicky.
I think Erik needs calm, thinking Jeff to achieve his great accomplishments, like climbing Mt. Everest. Someone who leads with tension really hurts morale. I see it blocks thought too. It becomes about how they feel, not about working things through. I am sensitive to people’s state of mind. I think nervous energy is transferred one to the other. In autism we are all easily flustered, so a person working with autistic people needs to be a calm type.
Besides being a calm type, Jeff was also a leader because he got his team to work hard. No Limits was a sort of ambitious group. No one wanted to let his teammates down. So, I meander in my flow of thoughts and I reach this conclusion: Ike and Jeff respected and believed in Erik. They believed he could do it even though he was blind. They went on the adventure for joy, and the experience, not just to win. By their support of Erik, he was able to achieve amazing things. It didn’t seem to be a bother to Jeff. He did it in stride. He would advise, “Duck here”, “Rock on the right”, and so on. So Erik was calm and secure to the extent he could be.
As I said earlier, in high school all freshmen are anxious. The school is so big and intimidating. In autism we all have anxiety issues when it’s good, so when we are scared it is so much worse. If we are also being monitored by people with notepads, it is even more anxiety provoking. And if our support is not a relaxed person, guess what happens?
Helen Keller had a calm Annie Sullivan to support her endeavors. The people who assist the disabled must be a special type of person. I have mostly been lucky. I am eager to begin the next phase of my high school experience with a friend at my side helping me. Life’s journey is always filled with new lessons.