life to the fullest


Yesterday, I was talking to my friend, Jeni, catching up about this and that. The This mostly being their impending move to Montreal (Oh my God!) and the That being her son, Tristan’s acceptance into college with a merit scholarship (Holy crap and Oh My God!). And then she said, “I have to send you his college essay. You’ll appreciate it.”

I texted Jeni somewhere in the middle of the essay. Here are a few highlights of the conversation.

Me: Holy %$!@ Jeni

Me: This essay

Me: HOLY %$!@

Her: I know, right?

Me: Damn it, I’m trying so hard not to cry.

Her: I know. It’s a hard battle fought, that’s for sure. But then you get this and it’s so much sweeter than anything you can imagine.

Me: If he ever wanted to make this public, I’d be honored to publish it. It’s incredibly beautiful on so many levels.

Ed note: Jeni then said a whole bunch of really amazing things about her son’s incredible mind and the potential of all of our kids and Insight and Hope, but since I didn’t think to ask HER permission last night, well, you’re just going to have to fill in the blanks on your own. 

Later in the evening, Jeni came back to say that Tristan would be happy to let me post his essay here on Diary. I might have squealed. Ya know, just a little.

So here goes.

Thank you, Tristan, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your beautiful words, and through them your amazing heart, with all of us.

What you are born with is what you will adapt to. The life you live, the friends you talk to, the quantity of people you will meet. These are all traits to expect in life, and I have gotten to know many people, and have adapted many skills. So let me say this.

​Even though I have Asperger’s syndrome, even though I distance myself from people, and even though I lost a brother to cancer; I know how very lucky I am to have come this far.

​I am a human being, living between two realms, each of these realms taking over me. Of course, we have reality, which is the realm that keeps me busy with studying and writing. The other realm is an imaginary purgatory, drifting with thoughts of creations and future innovation. The reason I wish to attend your school, is that I desire to one day blend these two realms into a form of self expression; this is an expression that I desire to release to the world, but it’s still building, and I think your school can help me achieve my full potential.

​What keeps me within the balance of these realms is the fact that I was diagnosed with autism. Autism has impacted my life in many ways, some good, some bad. Even though it has granted me the ability to create a realm of endless creativity, it still inhibits my ability to socialize; I am unable to think what to say, or how to say it. However, learning to cope with my autism has led me to a variety of skills and interests.

Some of these are playing video games, drawing, using my realm-traversing logic to produce stories and characters, and even some physical activities, such as diving and trampolining. Flying through the air flipping and twisting, has provided me a healthy way to fulfill my senses, which allows me to focus better and become more creative.

​Many of my ideas originate through certain events, experiences and obstacles in my life. One such obstacle was the loss of my brother Tucker to cancer. Tucker was a great brother with a kind heart and a rhythmic essence towards both the piano as well as the clarinet. We had a lot in common and complimented one another. We shared a love for video games and movies, and both were on the Pomperaug High School swim team together. But sadly, and unexpectedly, all of that dimmed away, when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. His painful experience of being in the hospital for 6 months may have granted him a lot of support and prayers from family and friends and people all over the world, but it didn’t fix the fact that his leukemia was too strong for him in the end.

My family is devastated. Every one of them was in tears, unable to comprehend the loss of our beloved family member. I have gone through my own emotional swings; crying at times when no one is watching. But, for my family I try to be strong. If they were ever to helplessly cry or be strangled by cruel thoughts of grief and sadness, I would give them a hug, and tell them “It’s okay, he’s much better now. He is no longer suffering.”

​Tucker’s biggest goal was to beat cancer and to go to college. He inspires me everyday. It is because of this life-changing experience that I want to help other people feel better about their problems through my ability to create stories through my art and computer design skills and love of video games. This world should become a place where people can learn to support and accept one another, telling them “Life may never be satisfying, but you still contain the strength to know that it will never keep you from living life to the fullest.”

Tristan Gowen is a 17 year-old senior at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, CT. He plans to attend college for video game design. He was recently accepted into Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT and was offered a merit scholarship … because he is just that awesome. 

18 thoughts on “life to the fullest

  1. Of course, congratulations to Tristan and the Gowan family. The essay shows what an exceptional young man he truly is and what it means to live life to the fullest. Thank you for sharing this, Tristan and Jeni, and of course, Jess.

    Love you,

  2. Thank you Tristan and his Mom for allowing this to be shared. It is incredibly touching and inspiring.
    Thank you Jess for ensuring this amazing young man’s words are shared with many.

  3. As a mom with a son who has Aspergers, I thank you. This is great perspective on life, on our possible future with our son and gives me great hope. Thank you. And more importantly, all the best in the future, Tristan!

  4. OMG! “Life may never be satisfying, but you still contain the strength to know that it will never keep you from living life to the fullest.” Tristan, I am humbled and in awe of your beautiful words this morning. Thank you.

  5. “I am a human being, living between two realms, each of these realms taking over me.” – This sentence stopped me in my tracks.

    “Me too, Tristan. I am not “on the spectrum” (at least not officially) but I am gratefully graced by its presence “on my path”. My path is made possible by a rectangular yoga mat, a magical square 4 year old son, and a round world waiting for someone like you to share your gifts, so that shape shifting at the expense of many other beautiful shapes is not the solution. You are conscious beyond your 17 years, beyond my 34+ (ahem). It’s people like you who are going to lead the integration of future generations. Not integrating squares into round holes or vice versa, but rather, the integration of a mindset that a square and a circle are one. We are all one. Namaste Tristan!”

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