The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Conquering my condition

Stephen Ruderman is a 19-year-old City College student living with Asperger’s syndrome. Ruderman says while his condition creates in him feelings of loneliness and anger, Aspergers’s syndrome doesn’t stifle hope of realizing his dreams. Alina Castillo | Photo Editor | [email protected]

I am 19 years old, and I have Asperger’s syndrome.

I’ve learned that there are both positives and negatives to Asperger’s syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism that I was diagnosed with at a young age.

It has given me some negatives like a short temper, anxiety, wanting things to go my way, thinking in absolutes and an accelerated speech pattern, among other things.

At the same time, though, it has given me many more positives like the ability to announce baseball games and play the guitar extremely well.

It has given me weird quirks too, like counting the baseball seasons from 2003 on, despite the fact that modern day baseball started in 1901. If people want to just think of me as weird and odd, they can go ahead and think so, but in reality, I’m quite normal.

Nonetheless, I’ve heard, “You’re a creep” or “Quit being lazy and arrogant, and try harder” and many other criticisms. Those things stick with me and consistently bring me down. I just want to take the time to explain how Asperger’s has impacted my life, but why I am still like everyone else.

When it comes to music—one of my passions in life—I have looked up to musicians such as James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Art Garfunkel, but the musician I look up to the most, the person I consider a hero, is the legendary songwriter Paul Simon.

I have often felt that I share many characteristics with Simon. He always looks nervous when performing and seems to not have the best social skills.

Another hero I have is San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller. In 2010, he was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award—an award for the excellence of baseball broadcasting—that is presented at baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

I look up to Miller because I am an aspiring baseball announcer who would love to sit up in the broadcast booth and call the action at the park. In fact, I have spent the last 11 years announcing Giants games while watching them on TV, as well as announcing them in a mumbling voice at the park. Miller spent his childhood doing the same thing.

My life has been one obstacle after another. In March 2008, I auditioned to go the Natomas Charter School’s Performing and Fine Arts Academy. Two weeks later, when I found out I was accepted, I felt a huge feeling of accomplishment.

My freshman and sophomore years were great. I did very well until May 2010. About a month before finals, I became incredibly stressed out, to the point where I had to take a week off from school.

I really didn’t know, and I still don’t know, what happened to me. I was able to handle a long day at school for two straight years, then all of a sudden, I couldn’t handle even a half day.

I headed into the second semester with a positive outlook, something I didn’t have going into the first semester. In January 2011, I returned to a band class that I hadn’t been in since September of 2010, but I immediately ran into problems with the band teacher.

Problems with anxiety arose yet again, and they were so severe that at the end of February that I made the incredibly difficult and painful decision to quit band. The teacher thought I quit because he, like a lot of other teachers, perceived me as lazy, and that’s why he treated me so poorly.

It was a hard blow to take, but then on a Friday night, the band had another concert, and after hearing how great it was, I became severely depressed.

The next few weeks turned into a complete debacle. It was just as heartbreaking as having the girl of your dreams dump you, and I remained depressed all throughout the summer.
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Then in September, I was placed in a school I didn’t belong in. Fortunately, I only spent two months there.

As a result of my struggles that year, I decided to become open and admit that I had Asperger’s. Though I had very good friends throughout my first three years in high school, there were still people who perceived me as this abnormal creep.

I had realized that I was different from everyone else, and I was ready to accept it. Coming out and talking about it has made my life so much better.

Then things miraculously changed. In 2012, I went back to my original high school, and I instantly became the happiest I had ever been. The spring went great, and when school ended, and I was very satisfied with how I was doing; I was literally a new man.

However, one task remained: Getting my driver’s license.

I failed the test on back-to-back days due to anxiety, but on Aug. 1, just four days after I turned 18, I got my driver’s license. How did I celebrate? By going to a Giants game, and even though they lost 2-1 to the New York Mets, that night was truly memorable.

However, as quickly as my life changed, it changed again. On Feb. 2, 2013 I was at Pete’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, a place where I had always felt safe, and three armed robbers came in and held up the place.

The peculiar thing is that I knew nothing bad would happen, nothing did, and the ordeal lasted less than two minutes. Nevertheless, seeing three masked men with guns and having them scream for people to give them money has caused me to become very paranoid, scared and depressed.

It was heartbreaking that I became completely depressed and demoralized again, and I felt decrepit, because I let 105 seconds affect nine months of my life.

I began having nightmares about the robbery and other forms of gun violence. For five months, I spent almost every hour of every day perseverating on it.

I do realize that I accomplished a lot last year. I did six guitar gigs at Pete’s, the very place where the robbery transpired; I have established connections that could potentially help me break into baseball next season; I have maintained great friendships with people from high school, and I began writing for the Sac City Express.

I now look forward to next year. I really hope that I can talk to this girl whom I have had a crush on for over four-and-a-half years, and I really hope I can get an internship with the Giants organization and move to the Bay Area. I cannot even begin to explain how happy I would be if I got a job with the Giants; it would be a childhood dream come true.

Despite all my accomplishments, I am still incredibly tired of being misunderstood, and that is why my life has been difficult.

I cannot begin to explain the anger and frustration I feel when someone is ignorant and fails to understand me. I am proud to have Asperger’s, though because I am very highly intelligent and because I have a unique personality.

People may think I’m lucky because I get to go to a lot of Giants games and sit in the best section, or because I have a couple of really cool guitars, but to be honest, I really don’t.

I feel that I’ve had a big target on my back, and I’ve been misunderstood and ridiculed my whole life. All I want is to be accepted.

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