It’s been something of a lack of motivation to write over the last several days. The inspiration has been lacking even though there have been some important events taking place. Autism Speaks have made a start in appointing a couple of Autistic people to their board. There has been quite some anger over the Australian AEIOU foundation in their handling of allegations of children being abused in their centres. Perhaps it’s been a bit of a mini shutdown, not having the motivation and energy and inspiration to rise up and write about these things. I have been very tired, and seemingly unable to muster the energy to get my head and heart into the actual task of writing.
During this time I have been thinking a little about special interests. Often they’re called obsession. I rankle with such a description, it makes me cringe, and somewhat annoyed. To my thinking an obsession is more than what a special interest is. It’s something you can’t help. Where as a special interest is something you can help but you are intensely interested in it.
So an obsession is continually forcing its way into consciousness, whereas, in my opinion, special interest is so often in the consciousness because it is wanted there. The person involved is actually interested intensely not forced to consider it. I think this is a significant difference not just a playing with words.
I’ve had a few special interests over the years of my life. Some have been persistent and some short-lived. They are really wonderful and have taken me to wonderful achievements, or great learning.
As a thirteen year old I became interested in computers. This was quite some years ago, in the days before Macintosh’s existed and I think before Windows was even a thing. Home Computers were not a common thing, but if they were they tended to carry names on them like Apple ][ Europlus, Microbee, RadioShack TRS80, Texas Instruments TI…, Commodore Vic20 and Commodore 64. It was the time of BASIC and terrible games. Colour was something of a luxury oftentimes.
In the Christmas of 1983 I received a Commodore 64 for Christmas. It had no hard drive and 64KB of RAM. Programs were loaded on a tape drive and the display was an old Rank Arena 32cm Portable TV. Load Error was a common cause of much frustration. I spent a lot of time teaching myself the ins and outs of the BASIC Computer Language. At the time a feature of the Commodore was the introduction of Spirtes- Floating graphic images that could be sent bouncing around the screen. An achievement for me was spending hours with pen and graph paper and writing a program that created a new font or character set. For memory each character required the coding of 8 lines of data each 8 bits long. I was very pleased with myself when I created the full character set. Saved of course, to cassette tape via the cassette drive. In order to use the font of course it had to be loaded by tape into memory once the system was booted.
Those were certainly the days.
A persistent special interest for me has been distance running. I discovered this interest as a primary school student when I did well in the compulsory school cross-country. This led me to begin Little Athletics for a season in Grade 6, where I did quite well in the 400, 800 and 1500 metre events. This led me to take up running more with some others in High School, where I would run with some other students and a few interested teachers after school. We would run somewhere between 8 and 12 km each afternoon. It was at the time one of the very few activities at School that did not involve being bullied.
I lost interest in running for quite some time, until I was in my mid 30’s in fact. But in the 10 years since it became a renewed special interest I have achieved some wonderful things. I have run 5k in less than 20 minutes, 10k in less than 43 minutes, completed a number of Marathons and Ultra Marathons. And, more importantly made some great friends. At times family and friends would consider me obsessed, at one point I had run 130 odd consecutive days without a break. But the thing is it wasn’t that I had to run, it was that I wanted to run. So a special interest not an obsession.
Recently this interest has been in a hiatus, in fact I have allowed myself to lose all that fitness. It is not of course a discarded interest, it’s something I think of fondly most days and think seriously of re-igniting that interest and aim at some new wonderful achievements.
My Computer interest has been one that has also ebbed and flowed over the years. In my 20’s in the early to mid 90’s in the early days of the world wide web I taught myself html so I could make myself a webpage. I sat down with the bare bones guide to HTML and got myself going. Since that time this interest has mostly flowed rather than ebb, I have successfully built some sites, made some blogs for people. I have built and repaired not a few PC’s for myself and friends. It’s certainly been enjoyable, and educational. It has not been a compulsion but a desire.
Special interests are an Autistic Strength not a problem. They are to be celebrated for the achievements they bring rather than bemoaned by family and friends for the high level focus that is involved in them.
That’s right I have special interests, and they are wonderful things.