What It’s Like to Kiss the Sun

You’re probably familiar with my one confession.

I’m actually quite good with interviews.

Almost a year ago, I recounted a bit of an experience where I essentially scaled a wall of five rounds of interviews and beat out a couple hundred candidates. Except one. I’ve made an art of getting as close to victories without being able to take them.

So off I fell that wall, back slamming to the ground and heaving the wind out of me. I was sore in defeat, but over time I found what it was to be resolute.

While I’m not sure how neurotypicals do it, my “autistic strategy” is cycling back into routine deep enough to where I can counteract my other autistic routine of self-talk-immolation: where I don’t revisit the regret and rethink what I should have done, but rather unknowingly dig myself into the futures where I’ve failed.

This past year, I scaled the wall again.

In my career, I tend to balance contentment with opportunism, better recently now. So when an interesting opportunity opened up, I grabbed my hat and tossed it into the ring.

What I didn’t realize was that it’d set off a four month crusade, one in which I’d be contending against several hundred applicants. Without getting too far into the specifics, each meeting carried its little share of joys, reassurances, delights. You know, those little things and answers that make even a pessimist (me!) feel like this was it. These were the doors.

One by one they opened. Different scenarios and tracks made this more and more the right kind of opportunity for H2’s next adventure. This wall took me to greater heights.

Ten interviews total. Talk about putting skills into practice! After that point, I feel like they’d have been sick of me. I even lowkey disclosed my autism! That was a huge first.

But throughout this entire excursion, the many rounds, the many faces, for once I felt peace throughout. No major worries. No gut-wrenching concerns. My autistic-tinged skills and prep seemed to be delivering “the big one” for once.

After the ten interviews, we waited.

And waited.

I was not selected.

In my soul I nodded. My fingers let go that same wall, where I’d climbed twice as high as last year. I felt indeed I had kissed the sun and watched it shrink as backwards I fell, bracing my back for that same impact, only more intense, that same breathless feeling of the wind being rushed out of my lungs.

I have made an art of this.

I’ve snapped back, not from being fitter in my old age, but from understanding what it’s like to come this close. Again. These heights are terra firma. I was sad with the heaviness of this long journey that concluded in similar end. And that is OK.

I thought about the comedy of it all, how I have indeed come far, yet feeling it is not far enough. How my interesting path isn’t so much progress, but merely making a long and winding journey of it. How I’m learning that not every good path is the right path.

I thought about my daughters. How we’re ever going to cram them all into one room. Where I’m likely going to have to uproot this office, the place where the journeys begin, and bury it in my basement, like an object lesson — where once this little alcove kissed the sun, but cannot keep trying to climb to such forever. The mounting needs, my futility in expanding the borders, many daunting possibilities.

We don’t quit yet.

For all my prognostication, the hopes were never as I wrote them.

We kissed the sun, fell back to Earth, where that beaming star looks dimmer. But only until the dust settles, when I shake the rest of it off, fix my hair, grab a coffee, and look forward to the next hill — where I’ll aim to do more than touch the light, but find it embracing me back.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, I might not be good at “getting jobs” apparently, but y’know, I interview a lot. These tips may help. And if they don’t, they’re worth a laugh:

Why I Don’t Make Resolutions (and what I make instead)

I don’t do resolutions for a new year, because it’s more in keeping to break them. To joke about how soon you’ll fail. To join the masses in abandoning the resolutions to dissolutions.

Even last year, I think I made one offhand in a meeting about how I was learning to do more things left-handed — while that may be true, I didn’t really chart my progress, track my goals, or celebrate my resolution once complete.

I can wave much better left-handed, yay.

For each new year, sometimes I’ll set a goal, something SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound), sometimes I’ll establish a habit.

My weight loss goal was one of these: I started that habit early, and I went from whale to walrus within 9 months — that was powerful.

But it was powerful for another reason:

My best resolutions are habits.

Me being autistic me, once I lock in a habit, it’s hard to break. And it’s amazing when it’s a good habit, like eating right, exercising, financial discipline (or delegation!).

And then the other powerful thing:

The best resolutions don’t always coincide with a new year.

Like this channel, my blog, health, journaling, advocacy, and so much more — I didn’t set about the year with those major milestones in mind. They just happened from good habits, and I’m glad they did, irrespective of when I set about them.

So where does this intersect with autism?

Well, I may have set about baking in some goals and habits for 2021. They aren’t things that will be “accomplished” or “celebrated,” but I can look back and be grateful that I’m using my autistic tendencies for and against myself.

One: Don’t quit.

Hunter, you’ve gotta be joking —

Nope. Despite all the moment, self-care breaks, troughs, nadirs, I find I can usually lean on my autistic “powers” of momentum to carry on, keep the routine, press on, etc.

But what if I just couldn’t?

Now at least I have one more arrow in the quiver, an extra bootstrap to where I won’t be letting myself down when I deserve to press on. It’s an easy goal. Keep trying. Keep at the writing. Keep with the channel. Never stop attempting new things. Be kind until it hurts. Don’t quit.

Two: NO MORE NUMBERS

Yep, I’m leaving my data and analysis career to — NO NO NOT THAT — THAT IS A JOKE.

I realize I’m a mild obsessive over things, measures, success criteria. The details stand out. And the patterns, and the numbers.

If a blog, a post, reel, or video doesn’t have numbers, then I feel like I’ve become attached to the wrong thing — it dampens my mood, casts doubt on my worth, and tailspins me far more than it should. That’s a normal, human thing, but then being autistic, it’s hard to headspin out of it.

Later this year, I realized that if the numbers make me sad, then they should be making me happy.

And for me, that just isn’t right. It’s not what I look back and celebrate or enjoy. Seeing a number go wild isn’t what “does it” for me. It’s the conversations, the engagement, the people given hope and help.

I’m going to go beyond the numbers this year and beyond. I apologize for not celebrating those with you, because there’s other things we should be celebrating. I hope you’ll join me in those instead.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

I appreciate you reading! I’m including this video for your amusement, because I hope that a “stretch goal” will be to UNMASK more this year. Here’s how this gets started O_O

The Year That Everything Changed: The Life Autistic Retrospective

It had nothing to do with the pandemic.

This has been a trying year for many, but as I reflected on how it has affected my autistic self, I feel I’ve been a bit . . . transformed?

Beginning the year, I’d been making strides in a particular track at work, I was “only” a father of two, and The Life Autistic was a slow and sturdy blogging venture.

And all of that changed.

Work has been a bit of an upended whirlwind, I’m now a proud-and-busy father of three, and The Life Autistic — it’s an entirely different outlet now.

Mind you, I’m still very much autistic and alive, so on balance that hasn’t changed. But I had no idea the kind of creative light effusion that this outlet would take, the connections it would make, the lives it would touch, and—incredibly—the hope it would offer.

Today, I’m going to walk through a bit of a retrospective on what happened and what I’ve learned about myself and you all along the way. This is a bit of a longer read, so I hope you’ll join me.

This blog started out of a lower point in my life, so it’s only fitting that the next steps came from additional low points. COVID-19 threw us all for a loop, and I definitely felt a lot of that at work — it was OK, but that and other changes dealt me hands that I wasn’t used to dealing with.

Oddly enough, it was there in a channel that some of us watch enthusiasts shared our Instagram handles. I shared mine, but I went back later to make a crucial step.

I had an Instagram to have it, but I realized that it wasn’t 100% of me me — I didn’t really make my autism as open there. But there I was, on the couch with my daughter, cleaning up puke, and I realized “I need to be more of myself where I am trying to be myself.”

That was a first step that opened doors – to people who were also here, searching for their own answers, experience in autism, as autistic people, autistic parents, and everything in between. It may sound silly, but something about seeing the slices of life autistic resonated with others, and in turn, those slices resonated back, opened my eyes to the vast experiences of others.

A small step.

The bigger step was a leap.

After really crashing into a frustrating personal ditch, I talked with my mentor at work who, well, followed my autism exploits outside work. And as I’ve written before, he helped me turn the simmer to a boil, to look at my new situation as an opportunity to grow other things.

And thus, The Life Autistic was born. Er, reborn.

It frightened me. This was a first, to step out of my comfort and talent zone, to literally open up my house, family, and more of me to the world as an openly autistic adult. I didn’t have a launch strategy, a brand, an idea of my audience, nothing. Not even a tripod.

But even without a single video to my name, I was joyed to discover over 100 folks actually subscribing to a channel with nothing but promise. So, thank you.

My mentor remarked that “seeing me articulate” the stories would resonate in a completely different way. Ok, I guess?

Off I went one Saturday morning, just recording off the cuff, warts, zits, wayward curls, and all — like an ugly first draft, but it was a start. I agonized over editing, audio, transitions, but here it was:

For my maiden attempt, I’m not going to offer a technical criticism, or where I feel it falls flat. What mattered was that I started something that meant something to people. An autistic adult who could relay it like it really was, without professional trappings, polish, an DSLR, decent editing software, one of those light halos, NOTHING.

Just me.

Apparently that was ok?

I’d like to pause and share one of my least favorite videos, that, for some reason, has been the shockwave with many. It’s technically my best video and some of the incredibly deep feedback I’ve gotten has made this effort worthwhile, despite how I feel about my hair, shirt, content, chin, and otherwise. My reflections weren’t just idle musings; they meant something to many of you.

I’m also forever grateful for my first “SHOUT” from the amazing Yo Samdy Sam, a kind patron, sharing one of my most fun videos, because apparently, autistic parenting videos are in short supply? Sorry you all don’t have better choices, but this was a fun one.

While I’ve enjoyed blogging, I had to brake here a bit, because videos were just A LOT. But STILL, I couldn’t believe how many other autistic people it brought out of the woodwork, like, wow, I am really not alone.

It began to feel a little more “public” now, people reaching out to me for advice, for help, or even just some guidance on navigating their own autistic experience. Mind you, I’m no expert, but I do have expertise in my own autistic experience. It’s connected me to a greater sense of community, where this is how I chip in, with what little it is. It’s just me.

I’m proud of my little outlet. It has been transformative for me, to better show and share my story as an autistic storyteller. To normalize the stigmatized. To show that we live FULL lives. In some cases, TOO FULL. Do you not notice the children?

Each of these episodes has such an interesting story or backstory. Or they opened MORE stories! I deleted my “boss” video at first because I couldn’t convey the right sense of emotion. My interview video has led to me doing podcasts across the globe. My haircut experience revealed to my stylist that she was very likely neurodivergent herself. My schools video almost made me quit the channel. My data video unlocked a dire need for neurodivergent advocacy at a major company.

It didn’t stop there.

One of my favorites at work went to work for Instagram on their new Reels product. I wasn’t big on the format at first, but I thought of her and thought “Hey, maybe this could make for a small episode, or a really funny Reel.”

Little did I know that this silly dalliance would bring in the fold.

You can check some of the comic autistic takes here, https://www.instagram.com/the_life_autistic/reels/ – but like…how is it that 150,000 people are watching me riff on autism and oils??

I know I posted a number; it’s not about the numbers.

People tell me they find me through this stuff, and now here I am, trying to encourage people about their sons, daughters, partners, through job interviews, appointments, disappointments.

As 2020 began, I saw none of this. NONE. ZERO.

And that’s not even counting the talks on neurodiversity, the work sessions, the further open doors.

I should have been a little less invisible and nothing more.

But everything has changed, and this is why.

I am here to help change things.

To be that “bizarrely chill” autism advocate. To be another beacon of some hope. To be a pretty real look at what life looks like while autistic.

I am so glad you all joined me, encouraged me, rooted for me in small ways.

I hope I can give back just a fraction of that in 2021.

*heart*