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GoingSolo: The Day I Listened

“I hate you,” I growled, my thin, frail frame trembling with poorly contained rage. I saw a profound sadness in the boy's eyes, but in those several seconds of shivering silence, I didn't care. I spat at him and watched as the glob flew at and stuck on the glass barrier between us, causing him to gasp in surprise. It took me a moment to realize that the sad, startled face gazing back at me through tear-glazed eyes was my own.

Fast forward ten years. One successful business and a number of writing awards later, I still fought to reacquaint myself with the notion that I was worth something. It was as if time had taken a baseball bat and whacked me back into the whirling shitstorm that was my teenage experience. I felt like I'd reverted back to the inconsolable boy I'd been at sixteen. Then it all changed. Then I learned to listen.

Hayden Then

I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when I was seven. My doctor's antiquated medical knowledge infuriated my parents, both of whom fiercely objected to the idea that I'd need to be institutionalized for the rest of my life. They set about getting me help, finding appropriate resources, and loving me with all that they were. They were scared, but I wasn't. I didn't need to be scared. Not yet.

I co-founded an informational media publishing company when I was twenty. Together with a fantastically fearless, unbelievably selfless business partner, I became a resource for parents of people with Asperger's and Autism. I became the help that I admittedly still needed. The world responded with enthusiasm. Within three years of starting the business, my business partner and I were making six figures, living in flats in the heart of downtown Seattle, and enjoying the luxuries we'd earned.

Even as these wonderful things were happening, I felt a dull ache in my gut. Something was wrong, and I knew it. Something had been wrong since the day the business became a thing. But I refused to heed the many warnings that were popping up before me like the stop signs I'd California-blown through since I got my driver's license. I was too happy being miserable to truly realize that changes needed to be made.

Hayden Now

One sunny October day, I approached my business partner with the possibility of a buyout. I felt like I'd betrayed and hindered him by involving myself in a business I didn't love, and I knew that the only way to feel better was to leave. I was living his dream, not mine. I didn't know it then, but that was the advent of a newer, happier Hayden. I'd finally learned how to listen to myself. To me, to listen is to love in the most earnest, most powerful way. I need nurturing, but I was looking for someone else to nurture me. That doesn't work. Real, lasting change comes only when you realize that love for and trust in yourself is inherent, not earned. We all come pre-equipped with the ability to trust and love ourselves. The problem is that we often forfeit that ability so that we can fit a mold that's as debilitating as it is destructive. We let the world shape us in its image instead of accepting and loving our image.

The rest is.....well, history. My business partner bought me out, I moved to Denver and started a new life, and I experienced my own autonomy for the first time ever. I now write for a number of reputable entertainment publications and have never felt safer in my own skin.

I had been waiting for an epiphany that would never come. I was the epiphany. I was the change. I was everything I needed. I just needed to listen. And I did.

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