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.
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.