WATSONVILLE—From an early age, Marc Sander could tell he thought and felt a bit differently from his peers. One day, while playing basketball with a group of kids in his neighbor’s driveway, he became increasingly frustrated with how they were playing the game. They were double-dribbling, running while holding the ball and in general not following the official rules.
“I kept telling them, ‘No, you have to follow the rules,’” Sander said. “But when I told my dad, he replied, ‘It’s their driveway, so it’s their rules.’ He called them ‘Driveway Rules.’”
The term stuck, eventually becoming the title of Sander’s new memoir, which he released earlier this year. The book chronicles Sander’s experiences with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, through his young life, his twenties and beyond, until he eventually was diagnosed as an adult.
“The Driveway Rules” is Sander’s first published book, though he’s been writing since his early twenties.
“I had just moved to San Diego, me and my girlfriend had just broken up and I was dealing with alcoholism,” Sander said. “I was processing everything. I realized my outlet was to write.”
Sander got into poetry, inspired by a writing group he joined in San Diego and especially by the works of Alan Ginsberg. Suddenly, he said, his life started coming together.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I have something to say,’” he said. “It was really cathartic.”
Fast-forward 20 years or so, Sander had landed in Watsonville and was about to get married. He began reflecting on his past relationships, especially his romantic relationships that didn’t work out. He suddenly realized that he “needed” to write everything down.
Sander’s wife MariaElena De La Garza, who had a psychology degree, began reading up on different syndromes such as Asperger’s. Together, things started becoming more clear. Sander said that while having a diagnosis doesn’t technically change anything, it did give him some validation.
“For so long I just thought I was shy,” he said. “I knew I had challenges but I didn’t have a name for it. We all go through social struggles, but with Asperger’s, it’s amplified.”
“The Driveway Rules” is a collection of stories about Sander’s various relationships. While it mostly focuses on dating struggles, there are also chapters about his family and friends. Sander says he hopes autistic and non-autistic readers alike relate to and connect with the stories.
“The one thing I want people to take away… is to accept your struggles,” he said. “For years, I didn’t… I was angry, and kind of selfish. I have peace of mind now.”
“The Driveway Rules” is available to order through Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble and various other booksellers.