I have never thought of myself as a public speaker. In fact, although I have always felt that I had a story to share, I always felt like more of a follower than a leader.
Then I met you. All of you.
When I joined Twitter and WordPress, I had no idea what was going to happen. I thought I would give it a shot and just see what happened. In time, the excitement of “tweeting to the stars” faded away and even the excitement of being heard – for what felt like the first time in my life – started to fade.
I realized that there was something so incredibly precious about my daily tweets and reading yours. I realized just how many people have a story to share and that I want to be a part of sharing, not just my own story, but yours as well.
I finally realized that I am not invisible and I have been choosing to hide. I realized that although there is a science to all communication, especially having Aspergers, that there was this incredible network of support I never had before.
This amazing network of people I found, one year ago, I now consider my friends. This may always feel like slightly unknown territory for me in some ways, but there are truly no words to express the level and depth of my gratitude for those who have seen me through some scary challenges in 2012.
I have wanted to write this blog for a couple days now- but every time I sat down to write it, I couldn’t. Last night, I started scrolling through my timeline to to read old conversations and literally found myself wiping away tears and scrolling more and more and I couldn’t stop for awhile.
A lot has changed in the last year. I faced the possibility of a cancer diagnosis in June and you were there. Some of you know little about me, but you were there. You continuously offered support and gentleness when I needed it. You’ve offered me laughs and strength when I’ve needed it too.
And when I received the good news that the cancer had not yet become invasive, but had come so close to the line, I couldn’t wait to tell you all.
I look back at that time as a time of learning and growing. I thought that I needed to feel validated by all of you to feel like a true writer. What you’ve all taught me in many many many different variations, in units of 140 characters on Twitter and comments here on my blog, is that I am a writer even if no one ever responded.
I have gained a new sense of self value. I have learned even to break out of my shell beyond the Internet and actually try talking to people at work and outside of work. I start realizing that if I value my words, my life, and myself at zero- that is how I will present myself to my mirror every morning and everyone else as well.
I am part Aspie, part Aries, part Italian, part Irish, part Native American and well a plenty of other swatches of things. But each piece does not define me alone. At the end of the day, being on the Autism Spectrum, has many challenges that the average person may not see when they look at me, but it always has blessed me in countless ways.
It has challenged me to try harder socially. You have all inspired me to keep trying each day, no matter how far I might fall, the next day- try harder.
But something you helped me realize was that instead of trying so hard to change who I am to help me fit in, I just needed to finally try to accept myself for once and just learn new coping skills to help make me stronger.
An enormous thank-you goes to CNN for including my story in a project on Autism in April. Also to Sara Winter and Squag.com, Josh Groban, and Leah Remini who have shared my work. Special thanks go to Joyce Maynard who gave me words of wisdom on my finding strength within to pursue this children’s book, and to countless others who have supported me and inspired me to keep writing.
I can’t wait to see what 2013 has to offer. I am so excited to see “Really, Really Like Me” find the right publisher. I can’t wait to hear more of your stories and to share my stories with you.
But most of all, I am just so grateful to have met you. Yes, all of you.
And guess what? I’m still not a public speaker and I may never hold a microphone on a stage – but you have helped me find my own voice – a voice to write. Yes, the end of 2012 definitely marked a milestone that I remember forever.
But this is truly just the beginning.