Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own education or lack thereof. I’ve always been secretly jealous of those who could make academics look easy. Most of us struggle. Yet it is in that struggle where we reach common ground and attain transcendence, because after all, if we are willing to invest in the effort, we will realize the possibilities.
Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be doing this again. You see, I’m on the thousands upon thousands who fell through the cracks in the “system”. Back when this nightmare first began, I knew I couldn’t continue making decisions based on emotional reactions. So very early, I set sights on education and outreach. They imprisoned the body… not the mind.
When we get locked up, something happens with our memories. Instead of forgetting them, they go into hyperdrive, permeating our thoughts at will. It’s as if someone else has grabbed the remote. The screen inside our head changes and all we can do is smile in sweet surrender as we bask in the splendor of days gone by.
I was working at a foundry before I got arrested. It was hot, hard, dangerous work. I loved every second of it. When molten metal is pounded from the crucible into the mold, it looks like hot lava flowing from a volcano. I’m immediately shot back through space and time to that inquisitive five year old sitting on the floor flipping through pages of National Geographic.
Dad walks in and I point to the caption “Etna is Grandnana’s name!”. He smiles and says, “Close enough. Maybe Etna is how they spell Edna in Italy.” I keep turning pages and don’t even look up to speak. “Itlee is where they make peetsa and skettee.”
Autistics are visual learners. I wouldn’t even find out I was on the spectrum until much later in life. Everybody always told me I was a smart boy. I was a good boy. All I knew was that the other kids picked on me. I was a little weirdo and they hated me. I didn’t dare tell the grown-ups what was really going on in my brain. Those were the days when kids were expected to be seen and not heard. To deviate from the norm would let everybody down.
Our public school system was considered top notch. Nowadays, kids can’t imagine a time without computers. I simply loved those old books. The weight of them. The smell of them. Beautiful illustrations and brilliant photography. Before I could even spell worlds like biology, architecture and geography, I’d already been absorbing them subconsciously. Those sneaky teachers had duped me into study-time. All the while, I thought I was doing my own thing.
The streets would bring a different kind of training. Navigating social awkwardness and shrewd business negotiations. Staying aware of one’s surroundings. Reading faces and body language. Skepticism means survival when so many people are trying to swindle you. Don’t even let anyone tell you that you are just being paranoid. Follow your instincts. Trust your intuition.
I entered the work force early in life. Mentally ill does not mean mentally deficient. Compensation is a poor measure of intelligence. I’ve worked for some complete imbeciles. All I could do was watch silently in horror while they ran perfectly good businesses into the ground. I had the willingness to work hard, I just lacked the confidence to speak up.
Moving from job to job broadened my skillset. Regardless of the task, I always struggled with concentration and attention span. My body could perform like a human robot, while my brain would detach itself to daydream; working out pressing problems on projects that really interested me.
I’ve done almost every job there is to do in this place. I’m at the age now where they don’t make me work if I don’t want to. However, I can still work circles around these youngsters. Our 50s really are the new 30s. Somehow, I still feel like a teenager in my head, I’m the oldest student in both of my college courses. I’m even older than one of my professors.
We’re currently locked down at the moment. While everybody is trying to figure out how to get their contraband through shakedown, I am preocccupied with when we are going to attend class again. This is the first time in roughly two years that our renowned professor has been allowed to come and give lectures in person. I truly enjoy his energy, focus, and enthusiasm.
Out of all the things they could have confiscated, I’ll miss those magazine subscriptions the most. For whatever reason, our captors seem to have such a perverse disdain for knowledge that it borders on fear and loathing. When I noticed the cart for the library, I asked the sergeant, “Can you please donate those to the education department?” Our art, history and literature must be preserved at all costs.
Although this relentless foolishness still makes me angry, I’m learning to channel that energy into fuel. It becomes the catalyst for change. Who knows? Maybe another renaissance will explode out of the kinetic forces locked inside of our own potential.
Brian Fuller 2046619
125 PR 4303
Hondo, Texas 78861