Saturday, April 13, 2019

Running Away


Running Away
Life is full of ups and downs, I think we can all agree on that. One of my highest highs, lead to one of my lowest lows (though I didn't know it at the time). Sixth grade was the worst year of my life. One of the big reasons for this was because as I have alluded to before, sixth grade was when the bullying got really bad.
As a result, my parents started looking for a new school. They found out about HLC, and learned that they were having an ice cream social. When the day came, mom told me that we were going to check out a new school. I was a bit worried about the change at first, but I was able to connect with the other students a lot faster than I had ever connected with anyone. When we got in the car after the ice cream social, I told my parents I had never met anyone like me...until that day. I knew that I wanted to go to school at HLC.
The only real requirement for enrollment was, to be on the spectrum. At this point however, I had not been diagnosed, but my parents strongly suspected. So I was evaluated by a psychiatrist who works for the school, and she said that we would find out the results soon. About a week later I slept over at my cousins house. In the morning, my Aunt Melissa got a call from my mom telling her that I indeed had autism. I started running around, screaming like a banshee. Little did I know what had actually happened.
Getting diagnosed did help. I went to HLC, made some new friends, my self-esteem skyrocketed, and my grades went up. But something changed about me almost immediately. HLC, as I think I have mentioned before, was mostly for kids lower on the spectrum than I am. Unfortunately, I didn’t really understand what the word spectrum meant for most of my time at HLC. I just thought everyone with autism had to act the same way- so I became more stereotypically autistic.
Despite that however, I still managed to stay true to myself. When everything with the HLC talent show and Ryan went down (see Weird is a side affect) , I started to "run away" from the school. At least that’s what I thought I was running away from. What was actually happening was I was distancing myself from autism itself (the stereotypes, and more importantly the parts that were actually part of me).
I wasn’t ready to open up about my autism throughout high school. I felt like people would think of me as stupid, or inadequate. That’s not what it’s supposed to be like. You’re not supposed to look at your peers and think that they are better than you. The unfortunate thing about this is I had a really good reason to think I had to do that. For my whole life before HLC I was bullied, and that was before I was even diagnosed. What kind of torture could people inflict now that what was “wrong with me” had a name? People, we need to stop treating people with autism, like they are the stupid. If not, they are going to start running away from autism, and by extension, themselves. Because let's be real, even when you are running away from something, you're also running to something. Give your friends and loved ones something to run to.

Have a greattastic day
J. Mitchell Ulibarri

Friday, April 5, 2019

Rekindle (Story Blog 1.2)

Rekindle (Story Blog 1.2)

In my previous installment of this story blog, I said I was going to master small talk by reading the book- How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Gabor. While I'm still planning on doing that, upon looking deeper into the book I realized it has more to offer than just that. I’m going to read the whole book, and while I'm not going to write about all the things I learned in my blog, I will write about the important parts. Without further ado, this week’s story is about time:
As I have explained before, my high school had an internship program. During senior year, the second semester students become full-time interns. The first semester is all about planning, for the internship(s). It's just a bunch of labs, and group bonding stuff- boring, but necessary. One day in one of the labs, the teacher dropped the bomb on us. “Students, while you are on your internships, you will have to read a book of your choice. I have suggestions in a pile that you can look at.”  As I looked through the pile, I stumbled upon a of copy How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends and choose to read it. I bought my own copy online, and I started read it. However, the teachers didn't enforce the “read a book” requirement because everyone was at different places and reading different books. So I forgot about it, until recent circumstances reminded me that could useful.
When I recently picked this book back up, I started flipping through the chapters and I landed on chapter 14 “making new friends and rekindling old friendships. I read it and a specific story stuck out to me.  The author describes a phone call he got from an old friend. He then describes all the fun times they've had since then, and gives credit to the friend for reaching out. He goes on to say you (the reader) can be the “blast from the past” and that's okay.
My first question after reading was, “Who should I reach out to?” I was struggling with this question for about a week, then my mom did something. I was scrolling through Facebook (out of sheer boredom), and I got a notification. I saw my mom had tagged me in a comment,  so I went to check it out.
The comment was on a post from a kid who was in my childhood playgroup. This friend and I were not too close, but we were friends at the time nonetheless. The link was to a podcast which promoted Never Walk Alone, a Mental Health Organization that he started which has been officially recognized by the Ohio State University. I listened to the podcast and I realized that he experienced a similar situation to me and S.M. (in that, he had a friend who passed away).
Immediately, I wanted to support him and what he is doing through my blog. Then I realized, if I reach out and ask him if I can support him though the blog, maybe, just maybe, it will rekindle a friendship. I reached out to him on Facebook and we met up this last Tuesday (4/2/19).  We talked for a while, and I asked him if he would consider writing a blog for me. He agreed and he will be writing as a guest blogger this upcoming summer (more on that later). I hope this partnership helps Ronnie, Never Walk Alone, and leads to an awesome friendship.

Have a greattastic day
J. Mitchell Ulibarri

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Patience of Job

The Patience of Job
While Max (from “Dr. Mitch”) was the first friend I made when I went to HLC, he was not in my core friend group. As you may recall HLC, was the school specifically for kids on the autism spectrum. Some of the students enrolled, had a lot of behavior control issues as a result of their autism. In my second class on my first day of school at HLC, I met a girl (let's call her Caroline). Before class started, Caroline asked me if I wanted to eat lunch with her and her friend group. I accepted because I didn't have any friends, and she was really pretty.
At lunch I met her friends, (let's call them Zach and Jake) and I became part of their group. Now, Zach was just a friend from school, but Jake and Caroline had been best friends for years. The most defining thing about our group was this: all of us guys had a crush on Caroline, but none of us knew that the others had a crush on her. Eventually, Jake asked her out and they started dating. After a few years, and lot of shenanigans that almost broke the group up, I started dating Caroline.
Now, was Caroline a good person? Yes. Was she a good friend? Of course. Were we a good couple? NO! It was a very toxic relationship, full of lies, a lack of trust, and a ridiculous amount of drama (but that's a story for another time). As a result, we would break up, and then get back together, over and over. One of the many times we got back together, was in the spring right around my brother’s (Josh) birthday.
My dad owns an art studio in downtown Columbus, called Kobolt Studios. It is big and has a lot of warehouse type space, so it is great for parties. For example, every year we celebrate the 4th of July at the studio, and we watch fireworks from the roof. On this particular day in March Josh was having a birthday party at the studio with all of his friends. Zach was invited spontaneously, at the last minute.
During the last hour of the party Zach, a family friend, and myself were sitting in the 2nd floor conference room. We were just hanging out and talking, and then it happened. Zach asked me a question that I never thought would be asked- especially by a friend. For the sake of Caroline's dignity I will not say what Zach said, all you need to know is that it was inappropriate. I knew that he didn't understand what he was saying, but I didn't care. I felt my face get hot with anger, and I clenched my fist. I wanted to scream at him, but I thought about it for a second, took a deep breath, and instead told him how inappropriate his comment was and that I might tell Caroline what he said.
I regretted my decision immediately. Zach started to yell at me for “not being a good friend, and not taking a joke” then he physically attacked me. This was when “Dr. Mitch” took over. Each time his hands came at me, I would push them away and say something like, “no, we’re not gonna do this now.” Or, “Zach, do you need to take a break?” Eventually, he pushed me right out into the party. I told people not to get involved because it would just make it worse. People watched as I tried to de-escalate the situation, which was very tense. Eventually (an hour late!!), his mom came to pick him up. I escorted him outside and we got him in the car. When I went back in the studio one of the adult guests said to me, “Mitchell you have the patience of Job.” Of course I understood what she was saying, but I didn't understand why. There was no other option...I had to try to calm him down. If I didn't, Zach would have created a bigger scene, maybe even hurt someone. No matter what he said about Caroline, he was my friend, and he  really didn't know better. He honestly thought he was being funny. This is something you can expect from someone on the spectrum. Friends, family, people of the interweb please heed my words- be understanding with people who experience the world differently, sometimes they don’t understand what they are doing wrong. Wouldn't you hope to be treated the same?
Have a greattastic day,
J. Mitchell Ulibarri

Friday, March 22, 2019

Story For The Grandkids!

Story For The Grandkids!
I love downtown Columbus. There is always so much to do: you can go to the Short North and find a cute little shop, or you can go out to dinner with friends and family, or you can just walk around and pretend you're in New York City. But my favorite thing to do down there (or anywhere) is go on adventures.
My favorite people to have these “adventures” with, are of course my “sisters”. A while back, my “sisters” and I had this friend (let's call him Spencer). Spencer was a big skateboarder and he pulled myself and the older two girls into it. Was it fun? Yes! Was I any good? Yep, I was awesome! I could do all the really cool tricks… like the “fall on your face”, the “let's ride an old broken board down a steep hill and wipe out”, and my personal favorite, the “that pole wasn't there yesterday!” Guys, I'm lucky to be alive. Anywho, this leads to a very specific adventure.
The older two of my “sisters” (let's call them August and Anna), Spencer, and I decided to go do something one night in November of 2017. We decided to go skateboarding in a big parking garage downtown. Because of my innate “skating skills” and because the girls had not skated in a while, the girls and I brought scooters (you know the little kid ones with handle bars, think Razor). We parked and skateboarded/scooted to the parking garage. We rode the elevator all the way to the top level and my heart was beating out of my chest. The door opens and we enter a vestibule with two glass doors leading the parking area. Spencer walked to the glass door with his skateboard under his arm, turned back to us and said, “You guys ready?” I looked at August and then at Anna. Both girls nodded and we all looked at Spencer, and screamed, “Adventure woo!” We hopped on our scooters, Spencer on his skateboard, and started riding through the parking garage. It was amazing- the cool autumn air brushed against my face, the sound of the wheels on the pavement, and our downward trajectory made it feel like I was on a roller coaster without the scary height part. We made it down four or five levels before security caught us, but we didn't care- it was fun while it lasted.
That story is an example of one of the many adventures that my “sisters” and I have been on. Is it the grandest? No, but it's still important. Lets say, for example, I get married, have kids, they become amazing people, and they have kids. I'm going to eventually get that inevitable question from my grandchildren. “Grandpa, what did you do when you were a kid?” What do you think is a better story: “Well, one time played Fortnite for 24 hours straight! And then another time I watched every episode of Friends from start to finish for the 10th time.” Or “well, this one time my friends and I rode scooters through a parking garage”, “and this other time I played in my Christmas piano recital, dressed up as the Grinch.” I challenge you this week to do something awesome. At this point, I would usually give examples, but it’s entirely up to you what the word “awesome” means. Just go out there, do something fun, and make it a story for the grandkids (but, be safe!).

Have a greattastic day

J.Mitchell Ulibarri

Friday, March 15, 2019

Smile

Smile

(In loving memory of Samantha Jane McCarthy 3/15/98-10/15/09)

I’m easily excited, energetic, and a generally happy person, but I wasn't always like this. Yes, before I started school I was very much the same, but school presented a problem. Starting around first grade, people started bullying me. The reason for the abuse was this: As (I think) I've mentioned before, I was diagnosed with autism at the very end of my 6th grade year. As a result, throughout my grade school years, I didn't have a label for what was wrong with me. From the perspective of some of my classmates, I was weird for no reason. This was not the only factor, however.
I am a people pleaser. I always have been, and I alway will be. Now, my class was incredibly rowdy. The teachers were always yelling at my class because of the amount of noise they made. Since I always wanted to make people happy, whenever the teachers yelled I felt like I personally, was failing the teacher(s) and (s)he was yelling directly at me. By second grade, I was so paranoid that I couldn't concentrate on anything except, how much trouble the class was going to get in on any particular day. To help me cope, the teacher(s) would tell one of the more well behaved students that a scolding was about to take place. The student who was chosen, would then tell me and I would put my head down, cover my ears so hard that I would shake. While that coping skill helped, the biggest reason I survived second and third grade, was because of a girl; S.M.
In one particular incident, the class was being even louder than usual when the teacher was out of the room. My heart started to pound, my eyes started to tear up, and I started to hyperventilate. I begged everyone to stop, but nobody did. S.M. (who sat next to me at the time), put her hand on my shoulder. She told me to put my head down and breathe. The teacher returned, and as expected, yelled at whole class. The whole time S.M. knelt next to me, and whispered, “You’re okay Mitchell, it's all gonna be okay.” Even though I was still incredibly stressed, because she was there, all I could do was smile.
Another time, this kid in my class was bullying me. He was calling me stupid, annoying, weird, etc... as he always did, and I got kind of upset. The thing is, if you are called something over and over again, eventually you start to believe it. At the end of the day, S.M. and I walked down to the kindergarten classroom to meet our brothers for pickup. As we walked, she asked me what had happened and I told her. She figured out pretty quickly that I was starting to believe the things people were telling me. “You know none of that stuff is true, right?” I told her that I thought she was wrong, and her eyebrows furrowed. “No, I’m not,” S.M. said, with confidence. “You’re smart, and kind, and funny. Don’t let people make you feel like you are not. Just be happy.”
I believed her and for a long time, I was positive again. When S.M. passed away, I came to a horrifying realization: because she was gone, I was never going to be happy again. In slightly more poetic terms, you can’t spell “smile” without S.M. This was my thought process for a long time. So many people, told me exactly what S.M. told me- be happy, but I truly believed that it wouldn't be okay without her. I guess that's the beauty of Sam's Fans though.
For those of you who don’t know, Sam's Fans is a nonprofit organization that raises money to support music and art therapy all across the state of Ohio. It was founded by my good friend Mrs. (Nikki) McCarthy, who just so happens to be S.M.’s mother. The beauty of the Sam’s Fans is this: Mrs. McCarthy took something horrible, something so unimaginably depressing, and turned it into something that not only makes me (and everyone who knew S.M.), smile on a regular basis, but also spreads those smiles to kids just like her. I think we can all learn so much from the the McCarthy family, but first and foremost- No matter what happens, no matter what crap life throws at you, smile….cuz nothing can make love die.
Have a greattastic day
J. Mitchell Ulibarri
P.S. For those of you who don't know, today (March 15th) is S.M.'s birthday. S.M.’s favorite dessert was ice cream. Every year Sam's Fans turns to social media asking friends to post pictures of themself and/or Their families eating ice cream with the hashtag, #icecreamwithSam Please join in the fun, eat ice cream today, share your smile, and post your photo.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Break a Leg not a Lung



Break a Leg not a Lung

Dear Ryan, hope you like this entry, its for you. As I have mentioned before I did an internship at my old school, Our Lady of Peace (Olp) for two years. My first year (my junior year), I worked with the first through fifth grades. Every December, Olp has a Christmas play. The fourth grade acts, and first through third sing in the choir. Because most of the classes in the play were the ones I worked with, my schedule was pretty much ruined on show day. I had to improvise, and I became the music teacher's assistant that day. The first two shows went off without a hitch, and the music teacher ask me if I was coming to the evening show to help out. I told her yes, and asked her when she wanted me to come back. I was planning on being as helpful that night as I had been during the day. Little did I know, that night would start the weirdest week of my life.
St. Charles Preparatory High School, is an all-boys school with an advanced curriculum. St. Charles is the school that my brother Ryan, his band, and his friends, graduated from. Now, I only hear good things about Saint Charles. However, I probably would have disintegrated upon walking onto the campus on the first day of school, had I chosen it as my high school.
I got home, on the day of the Christmas play, about an hour before Ryan did. It was finals time, so Ryan immediately sat down at the dining room table and started to study. I didn't really have anything to do, so I went upstairs and took a nap. When I came downstairs to go back to Olp,  Ryan was on the couch clutching his chest. He was experiencing sharp pain that wasn't going away, and he was having trouble breathing. My mom was on the phone with my neighbor, who is a nurse. Our neighbor came over, asked Ryan a few questions, then turned to my mom and said, “San, he needs to go to the hospital.” I managed to get to Olp, but I was distracted the whole time. When the show ended, I turned my phone on and I had a text from my mom that said that Ryan’s right lung had collapsed. I have to admit, I don't completely understand what happened, scientifically at least, but basically, his lung collapsed due to stress.
Ryan was in the hospital for six days, working to re-inflate his lung. Almost immediately after he got out of the hospital, my other brothers, my cousins, and myself started making fun of Ryan and his “Wimpy Lung.” The joke was cool for a while, but eventually it lost its sting and was only brought up every once in awhile. Around Thanksgiving of 2018 (coming up on the two-year anniversary), Ryan got pneumonia. The pneumonia caused Ryan to cough, and he re-collapsed his lung. This brought new vigor to the joke. So much so that now, every time Cousin Simple is about to play, I give Ryan a hug, look him dead in the face, and say “Break a leg… not a lung.” The phrase  started out as a joke, but now it's a very important life lesson:
As of tomorrow (3/9/19) I am on spring break. We all know what happens right before spring break, midterms. I took a history class this semester, and as of last week I was not ready for the test. I started hardcore studying early in the week, but I also had a research paper due. When Sunday night rolled around, I started to have a panic attack. I started crying and freaking out, and I could not think rationally. My parents told me the step back and take a break. After a little bit of angry mumbling, I walked up to my room and closed the door. My phone was charging by the side of my bed. I picked it up and I called Ryan. When he answered, I let it all out. I told him everything I was afraid of, everything that could go wrong, everything negative I was going through in that moment. Ryan responded very calmly and managed to calm me down. When I was calmer Ryan said, “You know I’m not good at handling stress. My lung exploded because I was stressed, but you just gotta push through it, you know?”
When he brought up his lung I chuckled for a second, and of course I thought of my  saying, then I realized what it actually means. “Break a leg”, of course means, good luck, and “not a lung” means don't panic. Run around the house like an idiot, say a prayer, play music, scream so loud that the whole world shakes, do whatever you have to do, but don’t panic! I smiled, finished talking to Ryan, and got back to work. When I took the test on Wednesday, I said a prayer, and told myself over and over again “Break a leg, not a lung.”

Have a greattastic day
                                 J. Mitchell Ulibarri





Friday, March 1, 2019

Small Talk (Story Blog 1.1)

Small Talk (Story Blog 1.1) 

Hey guys! I’m sure you have noticed that I have named this post “Story Blog 1.1”. Before I get into the post, I'm going to explain what that means. The word  “story” means this blog post is part of a bigger narrative than just the post itself. The 1 before the decimal illustrates what narrative it is part of. The 1 after the decimal illustrates what part of the narrative the post is. Without further ado, it's story time:
I have a big problem,but I think I have a solution. My “sisters” range in age from 22-15. The oldest, is going to be an anthropologist, and will graduate at the end of the fall semester. She plans to get a summer job out of state and she will most likely move after graduation. The second oldest is going to be a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, and she will be graduating this semester. She wants to get a job in Colorado. The third is a senior in high school and is thinking about ROTC or the military before (or after) she goes to school. This only leaves the youngest of our group, and myself in the Columbus area for the foreseeable future (if all goes to plan). The group ending, but that's not the main problem.
After a almost a decade of consistent friendship, I don’t think we need the group to stay friends, we will always be friends. The problem is, the number of friends I have actually made. I myself have only made (and kept) 6 friends: my “sisters”, S.M, and Max. Any other friendship I have were created by circumstance (ie. Kroger/people I live around etc.), family connections (ie. my Church/Cousin Simple, etc.), or though those 6 friends (ie. friends of my “sisters’”/Sam's Fans/H.L.C. after “Dr. Mitch”). Now, am I saying that these friendships are not as important to me? No, of course not! I’m not bringing this up to bash 99% of the people in my life. My point is that I because of the circumstances, I have a weakness. I’m lacking a very important social skill that I have not needed before. An ability that even “normal” people have problems with. This skill is of course, small talk.
Now, I’m an incredibly confident person. I've played countless piano recitals, I sing every week in the choir at Mass, and once I get to know a person I am crazy and I will for sure become the weirdest guy the person knows. If I have to talk to a new person I don’t know in a setting without people I know though, I get all insecure and scared because I don't know what to say. I understand these are normal feelings that a lot of people have, I really do, but that doesn't mean I’m ok with it.
I have decided to set some personal goals. One is reading a book called How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Gabor. I will have finished it by the end of this semester. I will then use the information in said book to master small talk. By next school year I will be fluent in small talk, and I will use it to to build friendships. Hopefully, this journey will be helpful for me, and any of my readers who need help with something similar.

Have a greattastic day
J. Mitchell Ulibarri.

Running Away

Running Away Life is full of ups and downs, I think we can all agree on that. One of my highest highs, lead to one of my lowest lows (tho...