“My Challenge” — A Conversation About Life as a High-Functioning Autistic Adult

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As a former special education teacher, my students ran the gamut from developmentally disabled to at-risk. “Simon” (name changed by request to protect his family’s anonymity) was considered intellectually “high-functioning” but challenged by severe behavioral disorders. He was a former high school student of mine, who requested this interview so others could better understand him and those similarly challenged. I agreed, but only if I could ask him anything to really grasp a sense of his mindset. He agreed.

His mother was with him during the interview, which was conducted in July of 2010, and I spoke to her as well. For her part, she discussed her perspective of “Simon’s” disability, and his issues with violence, which was something she said they were both “working on.” That chapter of this two-part endeavor will be published in the near-future.

The following is an unaltered transcript of my conversation with “Simon,” save for the name change. It was important to “Simon” for me to maintain his cadence, “disrupted thoughts,” and sentence structure in this transcript, as the best way to honestly reflect how his “brain works.”

“My Challenge”

Joel: Do I have your permission to publish this interview?

Simon: Yes, you have my permission.

Joel: Okay. I’ll give you some general questions. Why don’t you tell me about yourself. Where you were born, and what you were diagnosed with, and we’ll take it from there.

Simon: I was born in Los Angeles, California. I developed autism at a very young age. I had speech impairment, and my autism really developed when I became a teenager.

Joel: Now, can you tell me exactly what autism is? Remember, people may not understand.

Simon: It’s a disorder, neurological, that prohibits you from speaking freely or communicating your thoughts to a stranger. It’s very uncomfortable for an autistic person to proceed in the real world, and often needs assistance from family or a therapist.

Joel: Do you feel that you think like a person that’s not autistic?

Simon: Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I have a high-functioning autism, which means that I’m not a dumb guy — as some people would look and see autism, where they abuse themselves by hitting their head, bash out their frustration where they can instead take it out on another person because they would get in trouble for doing that, as well as communication impairment, and not being able to take care of themselves in a hygienic manner.

Joel: Why do you feel those kids, or those people that have autistic tendencies, why do they bang their head and things like that? You said out of frustration. So you’re saying that out of frustration — they’re trying to express themselves, and they cannot do that?

Simon: Partially, yes. You don’t have a way to communicate with others in a method that is deemed appropriate, and people like social workers, therapists, and just regular folks, it’s very frustrating for them to communicate in the manner like where other people communicate who really aren’t like themselves.

Joel: So someone like you that’s higher functioning, have you ever had some of those same frustrations and been self-abusive?

Simon: Um … yes. When I was younger, but now I’m kind of growing out of it. I don’t know if that’s a sign that my mental health is improving or not, but I still do bang occasionally for satisfaction. Some people with autism feel pleasure when they hit themselves against the wall or a door, or something that doesn’t make them bleed, but makes them feel better. Sometimes they can bleed, and that’s the more low-functioning type.

Joel: To clarify, you said earlier that your autism developed at an early age. So are you saying that you were not born with it?

Simon: I was born with it, but it progressed as I got to the age of thirteen, and at the age of thirteen, I began on this medication called Risperdal, which was an anti-psychotic, but that was basically for my frustrations with my family that I took out in a physical manner instead of hitting myself. And I would do both, a combination of both.

Joel: What does that mean, in a physical … So you were hitting your family?

Simon: Well, yes. I didn’t really know any better at the time, and I was transitioning schools, because I was being picked on for being smart and being different — because with autistic people, other people cannot seem to relate to you, you know, as far as that goes, and I’ve been bullied around — and I told my counselor over at Ralph Waldo Emerson Middle School that is in Westwood near where I was, about a ten-minute drive down a steep hill, that I wanted it to be changed, and my family supported it. But I wanted to be home schooled in a setting in which teachers come to your home, and you’re tutored by your parents.

Joel: How do people know you’re different?

Simon: By the way I communicate. When I was, early on in life, at school I was pretty much normal, but I was known to like study more and once I got picked on the grades began to drop because I felt isolated. I felt that no one was with me as far as what I wanted my educational goals to be when I was in middle school. I was mainstreamed to the fourth grade, and my mother told me that they had a budget shortfall, and before that I was in that school for speech improvement, and I graduated while I was at Emerson Middle School in seventh grade from my speech class.

The difference between autism and another disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome is basically according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, and actually Third Edition, or DSM, which is a common tool used by social workers, is that the autistic people are different and stuff like that.

Joel: The autistic people are, quote, “different and stuff like that?” That’s the difference between an autistic person and an Asperger’s person?

Simon: Well, an Asperger’s person typically has a speech delay after five, but before I was five, I had speech problems, and I learned to walk at a late age, and that concerned my family, especially my mother.

Joel: So you, you said you learned to speak at a late age, did you feel that you understood things and you just weren’t able to communicate or receive the communication?

Simon: Well, I was able to indicate that my lips were moving when I was making sounds of consonants and vowels, because before I had a retainer when I was young, but even before that I had speech problems relating to the autism.

Joel: When you were my student, I considered you a deep thinker who loved studying. Do you study a lot to get away from the real world, or do you study a lot because you’re seriously interested in studying, or both?

Simon: A combination of both, I would say. I like going on my computer. I really enjoyed that when I was young, beginning when I was six I had my first computer, an Apple Macintosh Performa, which was state of the art at the time but now obsolete. I like reading news and I got a little older and just before the September 11 terrorist attacks, I knew it was important, I knew kids that were my age were actually more interested in dating and skateboarding and stuff to get thrills from. But I got my thrills from news, basically, and I’m keeping up with stuff because I knew it was important and that it would help me in the future if I were to have a conversation with people or just for my own amusement.

Joel: Well, let me ask you about that. Is this a situation where you are interested in dating but you’re just incredibly shy?

Simon: Um, yes.

Joel: Or scared or unsafe or all of the above?

Simon: Um … all of the above.

Joel: Okay, so if I were to ask you, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you dated someone, what would you tell me?

Simon: That they would reject me, or actually I wouldn’t mind if they rejected me, because I don’t even want to have a long-term relationship or anything like that. I mean, I want to be settled down more and help my family until they can achieve financial freedom, meaning that they’re able to pay their bills or able to, so now we can move into a new residence and know that everything is okay.

On the dating side, it would interfere with that, and plus I wouldn’t have the funds to go to like a movie theater with my date or even, and I don’t feel comfortable with that either.

Joel: How old are you now?

Simon: Twenty-two.

Joel: Okay. And you’ve had sex education in school.

Simon: Yes.

Joel: How do you feel about that kind of stuff?

Simon: I think it’s very valuable, especially for teenagers and young adults. I would say maybe between the ages of thirteen to thirty-five, but that’s important for them to know sex education as long as their parents talk to them about it, too. Parents should not shun away from that.

Joel: Now, how do you feel about the concept of sex?

Simon: Well, I mean, it’s something that you should do only when you’re married and when you’re certain that you’re ready for it and if you want your girlfriend or wife to have kids after that, then you should reproduce when you’re older, I think, when you’re thirty-five or older and you’re mature. Even people that are mature beyond their age, who are in their twenties, have no idea what they’re getting themselves into once they have a child.

Joel: Do you want to have a family one day?

Simon: Probably, yes, but not for maybe another fifteen years. I’m still young, and I want to go to college and obtain my goals and be stable.

Joel: So you do see yourself having a family and a wife in fifteen year?

Simon: Well, I want to try to have someone that matches my intelligence or something. I hope I have a child that doesn’t have the disorder like Downs Syndrome or something, and which are severely or somewhat disabled. I would want someone that’s healthy and that has the mindset to retain the goals that I want them to, and that’s his need or my wants.

Joel: And you presently go to college?

Simon: Yes, on and off. I’m taking fall and spring classes. I’m going to be taking a class beginning on September 6. It might be sometime during the week or September 6 all the way to September 9, and one of those and maybe another computer course. My aunt especially wants me to take an English class, because I need to get some type of classes under my belt for transferring to university once I get the full fifty credits, I believe I need to obtain my first college degree, a two-year degree.

Joel: Now, you once told me something I never forgot. You said, “The reason why I prefer speaking with adults is because I just don’t feel like kids my age are on my level.” Do you remember saying that?

Simon: Yes, I do.

Joel: Do you still believe that?

Simon: I guess to a fair amount, but there is an intricate study I heard on one of the cable news shows. I believe it was a cable news network or CNN, and he said that people are becoming more wired. When they just have a television in their room they’re less intelligent, but once they have the computer involved, they’re actually smarter.

And parents that are younger than thirty-five are more likely to use a computer for document proofing or for certain Internet Webs or instant messaging or e-mailing each other.

Joel: Because again, many of our readers aren’t going to be really familiar, I’m sure they’ve heard of autism but are not really familiar with what it’s like. Can you take me through a day in the life of an autistic male going through puberty and then on to college years as far as mentally? Thoughts and frustrations and obstacles you have to overcome, things like that, keeping in the context of the book.

Simon: Well, I really think that on a day-to-day as it is, some things I did myself, I was also watching wrestling and performing wrestling moves for myself —

Joel: How do you perform —

Simon: But that’s more about the obsessive side of me.

Joel: So you’re obsessive-compulsive?

Simon: Um, yes. And that really takes a lot of time out of my day. I do have to complete this other task that I have, but I might have to write it down, because there are so many thoughts in my mind due to my obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD, vulnerability.

Joel: Can you explain what that is?

Simon: Yeah, like organizing stuff, cleaning up, a lot of throwing away items. Watching wrestling and rewinding and making sure I know the moves. All this is my challenge. My mother doesn’t really help me out much, because my mother has a medical condition called fibromyalgia, and the thing is that it’s very frustrating for me to have a family that, you know, doesn’t seem to help me as far as cleaning up, and my aunt really has her own issues. She likes to keep things, and things like that, and keepsakes. Hoarding, they say.

Joel: Does your family understand you?

Simon: Somewhat yes and somewhat no. I think mostly no, I would say, because they don’t have the disorder. I don’t really expect them to know, because it’s hard to communicate what I have in my mind. I sometimes even forget, because I have so many thoughts.

Joel: On a day-to-day basis, what is the biggest obstacle that you have to overcome?

Simon: Basically getting up and performing tasks. And some of them really aren’t that important, either, like going on my computer, voting in online polls or reading e-mail or forwarding news to people that I find interesting. But I like doing tasks that also help my family out financially, and that’s a struggle.

Joel: Why?

Simon: Well, because my family, my mother, was going to get evicted in five days, although she forked over four hundred dollars to a lawyer that helps with people are being evicted after they don’t pay for X number of months, and I really can’t do much about it, since I don’t have any money, I rely more on allowance.

But, you know, I just try to remind my family of bills that need to be paid or things that need to be accomplished that aren’t being accomplished and are hindering the overall success and future of the family as a whole.

Joel: It sounds like you not only had a disability to deal with, but you also assume roles as the head male of your family.

Simon: Yes. My grandfather was before, but my mother and father, my father divorced from my mother, and it was really my mother’s decision to do that when I was three.

Joel: Is your father still alive?

Simon: Oh, yeah. He turned seventy, I believe, this past month. And he worked at the sheriff’s department being a dispatcher, and he was making okay money, but he decided to retire because sixty-five is the retirement age, but he needed extra money. He used to be working at computers still, but he really is not accustomed to a new age technology.

And he even had a violent past, killing a person, was like that, was life or something like that, as I recall, and he served some jail time and then he got out. But he said it was under self-defense.

Joel: Thank you for sharing. That could not have been easy.

Simon: It’s fine. You can ask me tough questions. You can ask me one now.

Joel: Thank you. Okay. What would you consider the most difficult moment of your life?

Simon: When I was first hospitalized over at Gateway Hospital in Echo Park, California.

Joel: How long ago?

Simon: That was when I was thirteen, so that was like nine years ago. And the problem was, was that they really, you know, there were articles in the Los Angeles Times recently, the California section, I don’t know if you heard about this, but apparently these mental hospitals like Napa Valley or, I forget the others because I haven’t been in a state mental hospital, fortunately, but there are instances of people smuggling drugs into there, having sexual relations with other patients. I didn’t experience any of that over in Echo Park, but what I did experience was unnecessary restraint, and I knew how to be well behaved to not have that problem.

Most of my hospital stay I wasn’t even violent, and they prescribed me medication. After the first couple of mental hospitalizations, mainly at UCLA in my neck of the woods in Westwood before we moved a couple years back, you know, that was hard, but I got through that.

Joel: It’s hard because you were prescribed medication or hard because you were there?

Simon: Yeah, I was there for like maybe three weeks, and another hard thing was recently, when I was placed in the court order to go to a lockdown facility, mental health facility, not a state hospital. Well, you naturally visit your family on weekends, which was good, but for most of the time you were bored with your activities. They weren’t as advanced, because the other patients had a lower mental ability, while some were bright as well.

But just being there twice and for a duration for more than one year with my second visit, it was very long and they took awhile to get me into a place where I felt comfortable in.

Joel: And didn’t somebody beat you, because he thought that you murdered his family or something?

Simon: Yeah, there was some delusional paranoid-type whose medication wasn’t working, and it’s kind of like a pseudo-science in a way anyway, but, you know, it’s, it does need to be studied more, and I hope medical advances will help people like the guy who attacked me and busted me in my jaw, basically. I had to have, I think, maybe seven or eight stitches, and I had to be rushed to a hospital, and they sewed me back up. And healed maybe in three weeks time.

Joel: What is a pseudo-science in your opinion? Psychiatry?

Simon: Well, in a way. Like Tom Cruise, yeah.

Joel: I was just going to say it sounded like Tom Cruise.

Simon: But the thing is that, I don’t call it pseudo-science. I just call them, you know, the psychiatrists seem to be incompetent in a way. They don’t know what you’re really feeling inside. They just judge from your exterior, not the interior, so they determine that, I think they’re trying to, which is more accurate, and detecting mental disorders and neurology and like MRI scans, magnetic resonance imaging, things like that.

Joel: What do you feel that you need in your life in order to thrive?

Simon: I need things technology-wise to improve my life. Textbooks, money as well, to improve my overall situation. The combination of those factors, when I’m in college in the coming years, what my life experiences are in the coming years, stuff like that.

Joel: Do you fell that psychiatry has made you better or worse?

Simon: I would say that it’s made me better, although when I first took Risperdal, my first medication that I was talking about taking earlier, the problem I had was the side effects were extreme drowsiness and shaking of the legs. It’s not a perfect science, and it was frustrating until they switched me to a better medication that made me less tired. The medication, I think, has helped.

Joel: But even though it’s a pseudo-science, it’s helped you.

Simon: I didn’t call it a complete pseudo-science, because there is real scientific evidence that people have problems with their frontal lobes and serotonin reuptake inhibitors and things like that.

Joel: What is the one thing standing between you and greatness?

Simon: Probably being advertised. If I was so smart, I could probably go on a TV show and start a talk show that runs in syndication.

Joel: I don’t understand. You mention a talk show, but yet you have a major social phobia.

Simon: That’s correct. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable doing that and being funny to the audience or anything like that. I know to achieve greatness, I think you have to be somewhat known or published.

Joel: But outside of that, in your own, okay, first of all, you have some choices for your future. You may work computers or you may try writing, is that correct?

Simon: Probably not writing, but computers or mathematics and things like that.

Joel: Computers, mathematics, okay. Do you think you want to write a biography or anything?

Simon: Under the tutelage of you and your editors, I think I can accomplish it in six months’ time.

Joel: Sorry for laughing, but I enjoyed that response.

Simon: Thank you. You said I had a good sense of humor once. I tried to make you laugh.

Joel: Do you think your life would be easier if you were able to be more social?

Simon: Yes.

Joel: Do you want to be more social?

Simon: Yes.

Joel: Are you working on it?

Simon: I won’t say I’m working on it that much, but I did meet a couple of friends when I was taking a computer class over at Los Angeles Valley College. They knew as much about computers as I did. I know in order to be more social, you know, I would have to go out more and do more activities, and I don’t really find time to do that, partly because of my medication, which makes me drowsy and I wake up in the afternoon or evening. It’s just not comfortable with it, and I’m trying to get it changed, but I am going to a private psychiatrist that accepts Medi-Cal, my insurance plan, but he didn’t decrease the medication until he gets back from a previous place that I think I talked about that I didn’t like called Landmark Medical Center in Pomona, California, that was a long-term lock-down mental health facility.

Joel: And why is it that there are some people, maybe adults, that you seem to be able to really want to become friends with. Like you said about me, as an example.

Simon: Because I knew you in the past, and you were social to me. I’m just responding back.

Joel: So you’re saying that anybody, anybody that’s social to you, you can be social back to.

Simon: I would say so more now than in previous times.

Joel: But you still have a lot to work on?

Simon: Yes.

Joel: And you said it’s like you’re somewhat scared of rejection, but that’s not the biggest issue.

Simon: Well, no, not really. I mean, I just don’t want to ask them questions or ask them favors unless I’ve known them for maybe, I’ve met them like a couple of times previous to the current meeting.

Joel: You remember the slang expression, “Save the drama for your mama?” that we used to hear in school? Do you believe in that term? Like you don’t want to ever deal with other people’s drama, you just want to kind of move forward in your life?

Simon: Yeah, actually, probably it’s more appropriate to say, “Save my mama.”

Joel: What does that mean? Explain that to me.

Simon: Well, what that means is that I think that my mother is having the most impact on my life due to the problems that she has encountered with not being able to pay the telephone bill, for example, the cable bill. Things that most people can achieve who have a steady job. My mother has a steady job, and she’s actually working more than one job and at times is making good money, because she has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California, or USC, but she still has trouble paying for the things, and I can’t quite understand why. Partly because I am not balancing, I’m investigating into matters further than I should, which my mother rejects.

Joel: Okay, so there’s obviously some dissension there a little bit.

Simon: Yes.

Joel: At the same time, do you give your mom any credit for sticking by you all these years?

Simon: Well, I didn’t on my first previous hospitalizations when I was thirteen and seventeen years of age. It really has been about five years and then at the age of seventeen, I was put at this place called Ultimate Care Health. It did not fit my life. That other place affected me, because of my violence, but at Ultimate Care, I did see them kind of physically taunting this man that was developmentally disabled, or DD, and I reported it to my local regional center, which was Westside Regional Center in Culver City, and they didn’t find anything wrong, because they covered it up. And they accused me of giving them misinformation. And I didn’t find that acceptable, and I had frequent altercations with the staff members, including this one guy. We did get along afterwards, but I wasn’t able to see my family or visit at the house much. They were about to sell, and when I went back to Landmark Medical Center, which I got out this past August, about one month ago, not one month ago, one year ago, it was very frustrating.

Joel: Very frustrating because you were back there?

Simon: Yes.

Joel: But do you give your mom any credit for sticking by you all these years?

Simon: Well, I do, but she did stay away for quite awhile, kind of like to reform me, but I didn’t find that to be the biggest problem. I felt like she had to reform herself, although her own mental disorders kind of prohibited her from it, like the depression and not being able to get things done. And the more they find out what she’s doing financially, or any other struggle she has, they have to usually refer to her sister, who is my aunt. And she does give me information and help with calling the lawyer for the eviction process and is helping my mother out and giving her money.

But other than that, you know, it’s, she’s experienced the same problems. She delivered packages for TV needs, shopping needs, just jewelry and fashion and cosmetics, and yet not be able to pay bills, and then I mention that to her she gets angry when I say that.

Joel: Do you love your mother, though?

Simon: I do, or else I wouldn’t be so involved with her life.

Joel: Why do you love her?

Simon: Well, because I believe you should stick around and help out, even though things done to you in the past. I mean, it’s part of myself feeling better and it’s satisfying my obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Joel: Why advice do you have for people who have a goal and they have a lot of hardships like you have had? What advice do you have for those people, if they have a goal, like they want to be a writer or an artist, an actor, a computer guy, a lawyer, a doctor, but they have these incredible, incredible hardships. What kind of advice do you give them?

Simon: Well, still be persistent. Have faith in yourself. Just work toward your goal, and set time aside. Maybe plan it day by day. Write it down on a calendar if you forget, and if you cannot seem to attain it, then maybe get help for it in some way.

Joel: Like what kind of help?

Simon: Maybe from a friend or family member that can help you reach your goal.

Joel: Okay. Is there anything else that you would want to add about any of this, about the interview, about asking me to interview, about any expertise you may have in helping other people?

Simon: Well, I also have somewhat of a clinical depression, although I haven’t really experienced it lately. When I was a teenager I would feel kind of down in the dumps and complain to my mother, because she was really experiencing health problems when I had my own mental health problems and we were very conflicted with each other.

As time goes on, we, I hopefully can say, that we’ll have a more stable life and also we’ll be able to come and reach and agree to terms. Did I make any mistakes in the interview?

Joel: Not at all. Is there anything you want to add or anything else you want people to know makes you feel uncomfortable?

Simon: I really can’t think of anything, really. I did want to add something, though, regarding female versus male. I feel that women are, because of the media, are becoming more glamorous and more appealing to the eye than rather having substance as far as mental acumen goes. And this is not true for all women, especially if you have a job or are mothers or have the collegiate experience or at least graduated high school. But I feel that women are becoming much more provocative and are getting degrees in college that maybe aren’t as far as far along as computer systems or the sciences or mathematics or philosophy or history, but rather going for stuff like my mother did, like social work or psychology or just being a regular therapist. And that’s good, and that’s very nice, and I know you can help some people by doing that, but also you have to have a well-rounded way of approaching people who maybe can’t relate to that subject or just for talking with someone else about it.

Joel: Actually that brings up one more two-part question I want to ask you. Do you think it’s valuable to have releases if they’re frustrated?

Simon: Yes.

Joel: And the second part of that question is: Why do you enjoy professional wrestling so much and politics so much?

Simon: Well, with professional wrestling, I like the storylines. They have characters that mimic life. There are some moments that I don’t like in wrestling, like this Diva Search (Ed. Note: since discontinued)they have on Monday nights. Thursday nights don’t have it, but Monday nights do on this channel for men called Spice TV, and it basically glorifies women for their sex appeal and not for their mental brains, I guess you would call it, and it’s very frustrating to me to see that, because other women mimic that, especially teenagers. They have to have a tattoo right on their backs, because it’s cute and it’s fun.

Joel: Why do you like wrestling? Is it a release for you?

Simon: Well, in a way, yes. And it’s also entertaining. And sometimes it’s even thought-provoking if you think about, if you closely follow the storylines. But if you just watch it for like the violence or blood, there really isn’t much to it. But if you follow the storylines or, it even influences some of today’s news, and they sometimes mimic that. Not all the time. On occasion. But it’s enjoyable for the most part, and if you’ve watched it for as long as I have, you would understand why you would become hooked into it.

Joel: When some people say it’s “fake,” what do you say?

Simon: Well, some parts are and some parts are not; 80 percent of the wrestlers get some type of injury. Not the new ones, basically, but the people maybe thirty and over, like Hogan or Flair or Shawn Michaels, the people that have been in the industry for maybe ten, five or ten years or more. Even on a very first job they can be injured by a spot they didn’t perform correctly or properly. And that’s the nature of the business, and blood is real when they bleed, and all that, and that’s not fake, and then you have hardcore matches, which are more real than the other matches. You see, the storylines and the finishes are fixed, but wrestling is sometimes even more real than life itself.

Joel: Than life itself, interesting. Do you wish you were athletic?

Simon: No, not at all. I’m not interested in that. When I was younger, I had kind of like this social phobia towards playing softball or football or basketball, stuff like that. I really wasn’t the athletic type.

Joel: So you wouldn’t want to be a professional wrestler?

Simon: Oh, no, I wouldn’t want to be on the road for all those months, and I don’t want to involve myself in stuff that, you know, is not safe for you. I mean, I don’t want to, you know, have a chest the size of Hulk Hogan or anyone like that.

Joel: Why are you so interested in politics?

Simon: Well, because I think that it’s important on how it influences our global life and how people view us around the world, including in countries that didn’t support the war in Iraq, like France and Germany, Chirac and Schroeder. If we know more about politics, the more we can do to help the world, like the crisis in Sudan or Niger. Countries like that, that are visited by reporters. There was a reporter that was killed a few days ago that worked for The Wall Street Journal, I think, I mean The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, etc., and there have been a few reporters killed. I think sixty or so in, since the Iraq war began, and that’s just short of Vietnam. And Vietnam was a quagmire, and this is Iraq war is, too. And knowing the politics will help us understand the world better, and so they can hate us less.

Joel: One last question. This is the final question for you. What kind of mark do you want to leave in this world?

Simon: A positive mark that I was hardworking, that I cared about family and friends, that I was responsible in doing my duty on why I was put on this earth. I don’t believe in a higher power, really. I believe in having faith in yourself and maybe even sweating a little bit, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Joel: Okay, maybe there was a second part to that question. So do you want to be remembered for that, or do you want to be remembered for doing something great for humanity?

Simon: Really making advances in computer engineering, making the next big computer, or making the next great mathematical formula that can represent more than one thing. Something that maybe you’ll get a Nobel Peace Prize for.

Joel: Oh, you want to win one?

Simon: I’d like the money from it, but I don’t have the high education that is going to cost me money, because my family didn’t, you know, save money for college, so I’m going to have to take out a lot of student loans for that.

Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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