I remember a time when the local Anglican parish pastor said to me, "You'll go a long way." The comment came when I was experiencing much self-doubt and anxiety, but such few words have had an impression on me.
Born in Toowoomba, Queensland in 1968, I was the first son of a local taxi driver and housewife, and never met my grandparents, who were of Belgian and Scottish descent. My great, great, great grandfather was a soldier who fought against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. I have an older sister, a younger brother and a younger sister. I had a normal Anglican upbringing and attended Toowoomba North State School, not long after the family settled into a house in Leawarra Street, Wilsonton.
A Boy Scout and amateur wrestler, I also learnt how to swim at the school pool, and would go on to attend a swimming club in town with my sisters and brother. Delivering Telegraph newspapers on a bicycle run in North Toowoomba for a few bob a week, I learnt the value of hard work.
Moving onto Toowoomba State High School in the early 1980's, I was a member of the school concert band, orchestra and cadet band playing the clarinet through to Year 12. In my senior year at Mount Lofty I achieved the first ever '7' rating in Queensland for the new subject area of computer art, and with the help of my computer wizard friend Daniel soon became very interested in computers. Back in the day we used a Commodore 64 and an Apple 2c computer.
I enrolled at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE) in 1986 and studied electrical engineering, enough to learn how to use and program computers, but not so much their internal workings. An electric shock from a 240 volt power point can kill you, so I thought it best to stay away from it. In any case I was given no choice. The teachers actively discouraged me from continuing the work, and distracted by all the excitement of World Expo 88 in Brisbane I wisely left the degree.
Not long after I bought my first personal computer, which was a dinosaur by today's standards. So began a time of computer gaming with games like Galaxian, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, I have played many of the 90's games. And sooner or later I started to develop my own games. I also played around with a voice recognition and synthesis application, and made the computer speak back to me when I talked to it. This was a challenging time of my life when I had to distance myself from a cohort of very undesirable characters.
In 1997 I started to do voluntary work at a new Toowoomba community non-profit organisation, offering my computer skills to the members where I am still active until this day. I designed their original website in 2005 after doing a short course in web design, and from there started my own small business in David Fredericks Web Design. Not long before starting this business my mother tragically died and I left the family home to get set up in a rented bachelor pad. Sometime before this I lost my life savings on a US diamond share scam that swindled thousands of investors around the world.
A couple of years later in 2007 my father died from Parkinson's Disease. I decided to go back to university to study a science degree in physics, mathematics and computing so I would not become despondent. During this time studying I met Australian-born NASA astronaut Dr Andy Thomas in Brisbane, then the next year in 2011 I flew to Sydney to meet first moon walker Neil Armstrong and managed to shake his hand while he was leaving the Sydney Convention Centre, where the attendees had paid $500 per seat to raise funds for CPA Australia. Neil's father worked as an auditor for the Ohio State Government. It was an immense honour to meet the man himself that I will remember for the rest of my life. Neil died at age 82 a year to the day after the Sydney event.
I took my first trip overseas to Auckland, then returned to start my new small business teaching computer literacy to Toowoomba's senior population. Since I have had this business I have bought a new car, travelled to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and am planning future trips to Antarctica, Canada, Norway to see the Northern Lights, and Sokol Airbase, a Russian air force base near Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow to fly to the edge of space in a Mikoyan MiG-29 (Fulcrum) fighter jet. Something for an adrenaline rush.
Not for a moment do I want you to think that I don't know what unemployment is like. People with autism face the worst kind of discrimination by employers. I was unemployed for a long time before I decided to become an entrepreneur and start my own small business. Given that I am over 50 I know very well the plight faced by older people in trying to get back into the workforce, even with qualifications and years of experience. For example there is an elderly man in Adelaide with six (6) degrees who cannot find anything, even voluntary work. I would not consider having a university degree as evidence of exceptional ability. Ideally you dropped out and did something.
I will leave you to contemplate this quote from Calvin Coolidge, former US President.