Chapters logo

Life On The Spectrum: Chapter 7

Heartbreak and Self-Discovery.

By Sean CallaghanPublished 4 months ago Updated 3 months ago 5 min read
Me at Callaghan Christmas Party 2006.

On the last day of school, The girl I liked told me that she did not want to leave her current boyfriend, who had not taken well to the news that she was planning to dump him for me. She said had re-thought her decision to go out with me.

I felt completely heartbroken and had an emotional collapse, so I left school early that day. My condolence and companion through the summer of 2005 was the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson had become my musical hero due to his amazing music, history of mental illness and triumphant recovery, and his 2004 completion of the legendary 1967 SMiLE album, which had been abandoned halfway to completion for reasons that have filled numerous books and documentaries about Wilson and the Beach Boys. I consumed all the material I could find, and in August 2005 I got to see Brian Wilson and his amazing band perform the finished SMiLE album live.

When school started again in Fall 2005, I still saw the girl frequently, and tried to re-kindle our feelings for each other. But it was no use. As time wore on, she seemed to be becoming more and more like a total valley girl, which I hated. Soon, I wondered what I saw in her to begin with. Other than this attempt to overcome the pain of the previous year, the 2005-06 School Year was pretty much uneventful, which for me was something of a triumph.

In Summer 2006, I convinced my parents to take the family to Anaheim, California, to visit Disneyland for the tail end of its 50th Anniversary Celebration. I’d really wanted to go, and my parents agreed to make it part of a larger California trip. It turned out I didn’t mind at all. I absolutely loved the trip—all of it. As for the Disneyland Park, some of its attractions were actually better than their WDW counterparts, especially in the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, Disney’s California Adventure was an overall disappointment at the time, though it had some positives. Overall, though, the Disneyland Magic Kingdom was much more dynamic than its Florida counterpart, with several rides having been significantly upgraded—such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and even It’s a Small World.

I enjoyed the balance of things we did in California, which included Hollywood and the Universal Studios in Los Angeles, and in San Diego, Seaworld and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, which hosted the cover photo shoot for Pet Sounds, almost surely my favorite album of all time. We also went to a ballgame in Petco Park in San Diego that was memorable for more than the fans’ treatment of the visiting Barry Bonds during what might have been the coldest baseball game I ever attended, even though it had been a 90 degree day when we left our Coronado hotel that evening. Who would have thought that the cold of an August night game in San Diego could trump the cold of a wet and drizzly early April game in Philadelphia?

My parents wisely began and ended the trip with days in Disneyland, mostly so they wouldn’t be miserable while doing San Diego and Hollywood. At the end of the trip, we were staying at a hotel in Hawthorne, California, childhood home of my musical heroes. In a bookstore there, I purchased an autographed copy of a recent Brian Wilson biography by Peter Ames Carlin. In it, I found the address of the Wilson Brothers childhood home and insisted we go there, which we did. While the home is no longer there it is now home to a large historic landmark monument paying tribute to the Beach Boys and the Wilson family. Afterward, it was the drive to LAX and the end of our California Adventure. I spent the night reading the Brian Wilson book on an airplane flight across the country back to our home in Pennsylvania. It was a satisfying trip and the only sad thing was to think it had all come to an end.

By contrast, the 2006-7 School Year was once again not very memorable. Again, that might be a good thing as I was beginning to feel very comfortable with Vanguard and the staff and students there. So there was really only one memory of note and it was a home one.

In early February 2007 at a birthday party for my young next-door neighbor, her father and mine were discussing the infamous rumors about how to synch Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with the classic movie The Wizard of Oz. On internet advice we all watched and the adults got quite a kick out of how many coincidental things happened on even the second and third spins around the album—too many coincidences to be coincidental, my father said. I had great fun, but as I listened over and over, I found myself completely blown away by the album and became a huge Pink Floyd fan, diving deep into their material much as I had done with Elton John and the Beach Boys before them.

In May 2007 I was told that there was a camp in upstate New York for disabled children that wanted me and that had a music program that I would love because it would help bring my singing and drumming to a new level. I was skeptical, of course, because of my previous camp experience. What’s more, unlike previous summer camps I’d known, this one was an away from home sleepover camp that would last 3 weeks, I was apprehensive about going since every Summer Camp or indeed program for kids with disabilities I had been placed in before had been a complete disaster. What’s more, due to the negative experiences of being affiliated with “disabled children” had caused me I now strongly disliked and made fun of severely Autistic and Mentally Retarded People, I saw them as freaks and I had spent much of the previous 7 years trying to be free of any affiliation from them because of the negative perception that entailed.

Still the musician who I talked to via phone sold me into going.

Right after the end of the 2006-2007 School Year , my family took me up to New York State, dropped me off at the camp and left. My fears were confirmed, it was mostly severely autistic and mentally retarded kids I would be rooming with for the next 3 and a half weeks. While I brought LOTS of books and things, I felt trapped and on some days refused to eat. The only condolence was my private meetings with the Music instructor twice a week, which I enjoyed immensely.

Eventually I got fed up and said to one of the kids “You people should be in camps” meaning they should stay in this camp and be separated from society However in my anger, and in the reaction I got, it was obvious that the picture I was painting evoked Nazi Death Camps. I realized what I had done and saw the internal monster that had been rearing its head throughout my entire adolescence had become apparent. After that comment I stood on the basketball court deep in thought and I decided that enough was enough. The demons that had been building in me for the past 6 years needed to die. I let all my anger and resentment from the past subside and a new Sean Callaghan emerged from the darkness that had consumed him for years.


About the Creator

Sean Callaghan

Neurodivergent, Writer, Drummer, Singer, Percussionist, Star Wars and Disney Devotee.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.