Having goals and dreams is what makes life worth living. The relentless pursuit of those goals or dreams is fueled by a fire that perhaps is only understood by one who has that same drive. But the reality is that some people reach their dreams and some cannot ever hope to, no matter their efforts. The hard thing is knowing which of those you might be…
Dreams are funny things – I don’t know that we choose them so much as they choose us. One does not so much decide that something is what fuels their fire, as discover it. Some dreams are more achievable, like choosing a career path, which simply requires going to school and studying diligently, and with that choice the dream falls in line. Others are more challenging, like being an Olympian, requiring years of dedication, hard work, and targeted training and technique. Still, not everyone willing to put in that effort will succeed at achieving the goal. Some clearly do not have the dedication required, but others will fall short despite their sincere best efforts. Such is the way of life.
So, in that, I recognize that an autistic who has goals that require skills in areas directly in conflict with what is seen as my handicap may well put me in the category of one who cannot hope to achieve them. Especially where – unlike a runner, or a musician – the goals that I wish to achieve have no formal training available, no identifiable (at least by me) skills that I can look to master, no specific work to identify that I can accomplish to achieve them, no exercises, no sprints, no scales.
The art of socializing successfully – in either basic definition of the word: 1) mix socially with others or 2) make (someone) behave in a way that is acceptable to their society – is one that even many without such handicaps as autism may well often find challenging. To accomplish such things as I dream can be seen as lofty goals for anyone. And moreover to have not one, but two dreams, in the realm of “socializing” most certainly compromises that potential even more. But I am driven. Persistence – in those areas that matter to me – has never been something I am lacking. It can’t be.
So, what are my lofty goals? The first, the one I consider my “life goal”, is to know that the things that I do contribute to the betterment of society. Not one person can do everything. And while my goals may be lofty, I must be realistic (she laughingly says… or at least somewhat realistic) about my limitations. I cannot be Mother Teresa, Dian Fossey, John James Audubon, John Muir and others all rolled up into just me… as much as I might wish to. I will never have the resources to be an Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates. I may never be a noted poet or author, never considered a major philosopher or theorist. I may not have training in religion or spiritualism, I may not be a sage, a guru or even particularly wise. I may never have millions of followers or even thousands. But all I know is that I feel compelled to share love in any way I can. To try, in my humble way, to bring light to others, to inspire and motivate, to help them find their own happiness, the way I have recently finally begun finding my own. That hope that others can be spared the darkness I have experienced, the lonely emptiness I have felt, the despair I once believed to be my only destiny is what drives me.
I have always felt that wish to change the world, and admittedly for close to 60 years just sat in defeat, “knowing” that it was a futile effort. But the realization that the only sure method to fail is not to try, coupled with finding my own metamorphosis – long after having given up on it – made me realize that however humble my efforts may be, they were still better than no efforts at all. I still live in fear. Fear, lack of confidence, insecurity, may well be part of my forever. But I have to push past that, as I can, when I can, where I can – to do whatever it is that I can do.
But the second goal, my “personal goal” is the one perhaps even more in question. I have always held friendship as a treasure. I have wanted, more than anything in the world, to have friends. Not dozens, as I am in so many ways ill-equipped to deal with that. Socializing is always going to be daunting and drains me. Being around crowds of people overwhelming, often ending with nights in tears. But with such a deep love of humanity, and such an appreciation for people, I have wished for those select few people in my life who I could really consider my friends. Those people who I most treasure, and who would – somehow – treasure me as well.
Within that goal I have specifically wished for finding friendship with that one person whose friendship to me seemed the greatest treasure of those that friendship offers. One I revered and saw as being an extraordinary honor. To have that person call me friend would melt my heart and dissolve all fears of being unable to attain friendships. To be able to understand how to accomplish a friendship that perhaps seems so unlikely is possibly my greatest dream.
But back to the beginning of this writing – how do you work toward a dream so elusive? Having little understanding of what steps to take, what to learn, what to do, what in me to refine… How to move “forward”, with no understanding of how to get from where I am to being someone who might be in a position allowing me to achieve that dream is something I don’t even really comprehend. All I know is for a lifetime, I have held as my greatest moment, that moment when the person whose friendship I most wish for and would treasure would say to me, “I am so glad you are my friend”. It would be to me like crossing the finish line first in an Olympic Marathon. It would be like planting a flag on the top of Mt Everest. It would be like standing on a stage bowing in front of thousands of cheering people. It would be the culmination of my lifetime dream, just those few simple words to know that my friendship could be a treasure too.