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Live Your Dreams Autistically

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This was originally published on Geek Club Books in Zoom Magazine.
Tonight, I find myself in awe. This happens on the odd occasion that I step out of the routine that helps me create an illusion of “responsible” adulthood. It’s a weeknight, a Wednesday to be exact, and I am at a concert. That’s right. Smack dab in the middle of the week and I am living the dream of my sixteen-year-old self; a rock concert with no curfew. It is glorious, and I am giddy with excitement to see this band live. I sit back and take in the crowd. It makes me feel tiny and yet part of something bigger. Before I get too lost in my waxing philosophical, the lights begin to go down and the opening band takes the stage. My attention is quickly redirected, and I am reminded I am here to let go and enjoy.

Being at a concert as an autistic with sensory sensitivities is always a monster risk. I go armed with my ear plugs, sunglasses, and a bunch of fidgets. Concerts mean crowds too. Something I usually avoid like the plague. And for the most part, the reward for that risk pays off as the music and the lights take me away for a few hours. When live music is balanced properly in the sound system, there is no better sound in the world to me. My sensitive hearing relaxes, and goosebumps of pleasure run down my arms. When the bass doesn’t take over and the treble isn’t tinny, my brain settles, and I am free. That is why I am here, on a Wednesday. In search of that freedom.

It is why, as the opening band begins to play, the first thing I notice is how perfectly in tune the sound is. It sounds almost as clean as a studio recording. The balance between the vocals and the instruments is perfect. On cue, the goosebumps arrive. I glance down and notice that right below where I sit is the sound and light board; working its buttons and switches is a singular, concentrated, dark figure. The awe returns. Does this person know what an amazing job they are doing? Does anyone else even notice? I contemplate giving into my autistic desire to run down to the soundboard and compliment the sound person. Guessing it’s likely socially questionable, I decide against it and, instead, hope he is on the spectrum and is fully enjoying being in his zone, living his dream.

My thoughts wander now as I settle in to listen and watch the magic. I think of John Elder Robison and his years with the band KISS. He was living his dream and following his strengths when he was creating their signature special effects guitars. I look at the band and think they are too. Here it is twenty-five years later, and they are still rockin’ a large crowd in a major city. Still playing live to a crowd singing back the lyrics they wrote so many years ago. A band since they were thirteen-year-old kids dreaming about being rock stars, and here they are decades later selling out a huge venue in the middle of the week. Talk about living your dream.

I wonder how many people find themselves living their dream. How many people in this crowd are doing what they dream of with their time on this planet? It makes me think about how many gave up living their dream because someone else told them it was foolish. I was one of those people for many years. It was disheartening to have a dream life I could not figure out how to create. It made me feel lost and sad. It led to years of depression. I followed the dreams others had for me for most of my life. It was miserable. I was miserable.

These days, I am one of the lucky ones. I wake up every day and live the life of my dreams. I found love. I made a home. I have a pack. I live in my dream location with someone who loves animals as much as I do. I have a career I love. Strike that. I have a career. And most days, I am unstoppably happy. I’ve run through my bucket list and am now writing an un-bucket list. I wake up almost every day grateful to be awake and alive; a dream for sure.

Here is what I find funny about my dream life. It is very simple. There are no grand vacations, expensive purchases, or oversized homes. It’s just me and my pack happy to wake up every day and be in each other’s lives for whatever adventure life has in store for us. Thankful to have our basic needs met, we are a simple, happy crew. Some people overcomplicate their dream lives, imagining huge salaries and an overabundance of “stuff”. Worse, many never even stop to think about what their dream life would be. Fear keeping them trapped in apathy. Simply no longer believing in dream lives at all.

The music picks up and I can tell the opening band is ready for their last song. I get more goosebumps in anticipation of hearing this excited crowd, who no longer remembers it’s Wednesday, sing in unison to a song we have all be singing for more than 20 years. I wonder if this crowd knows they are part of someone else’s dream life. I wonder if they care. Maybe the energy felt in this arena comes from us all sharing the same dream life for a little while. The lights explode and the music crescendos as we put our collective worries aside and sing, sharing this dream life together for a night.

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