Unlike the short story that the title alludes to, this post is about happy things.
When I started blogging, it was scary to be writing about myself. I had no idea what me talking about me sounded like. At first I think I simply imitated the voices of other bloggers I liked, holding myself at arm’s length as a defense mechanism.
I probably shouldn’t have been as worried as I was. Few people read those early posts in real time. A lot of you have since mainlined the entire blog (in chronological order, no less), but at the time, I was mostly shouting in the wilderness.
There have been times when I’ve been tempted to go back and revise some of the early posts. I had little knowledge about autism and no right sounding as authoritative as I did. But I’ve let them stand as they are because I like the record they create and I like the evolution I can trace in my writing and in the way I’ve come to think about autism and being autistic. I’ve learned a lot in 26 months, some through research and self-examination, but just as much through the comments that so many of you have generously shared.
As the number of comments on each post has grown, I’ve come to see my writing as a conversation starter and I look forward to seeing what readers will add to my initial thoughts.
I’ve never been good at writing conclusively. Endings are my nemesis. Thankfully, blogging is suited as much to asking questions as to providing answers.
I doubt I’m alone in being a blogger who dreamed of writing a book. For a long time, it was simply a “some day” kind of dream. There were two unfinished novels languishing on my hard drive and for the first year of blogging I was having too much fun researching and serendipitously writing posts to muster the amount of executive function that putting together a book would require.
Then something clicked for me one random weekend in August and I went a little nuts with Post-it notes and Google docs folders. In typical aspie fashion, I plowed through a first draft in weeks of furious cutting, polishing, adding and organizing. I revised and edited until I couldn’t stand to look at the words anymore and then, while everyone was sprinting through NaNoWriMo, I set myself a goal of sending out a proposal by the end of November.
The only problem was, the book still didn’t have an ending.
It wasn’t until an editor at JKP asked to see the full manuscript that I sat down to write the ending. A bit desperate and up against a deadline, I spent a lot of time complaining to The Scientist about how hard endings are. As he always does in that situation, he told me to go back to the beginning.
I have no idea where he originally heard that bit of advice, but it’s brilliant and nearly foolproof. Endings proceed from beginnings–sometimes in obvious ways, but more often in unexpected ways.
August 2014 was a hard month. While I’d spent the previous two Augusts immersed in words, this year I swore off writing (and reading). By August sixth I was bored senseless and had started to question what my life would look like if my language abilities continued to decline at the pace they have been over the past year.
Apparently I can only play The Sims for so long before an existential crisis sets in.
I’ll spare you the details of the two weeks of self-pity that ensued and jump right to the “It’s August so it must be time to hatch some sort of epic life-changing plot to do something I know almost nothing about.”
The result was this: Stimtastic
I’d been thinking for a while that it would be cool if there was a place that autistic adults (and teens and parents of autistic kids, but especially adults) could get stim toys and chewable jewelry that was specifically for us and that had a consciously stimming-positive message. Then I realized that, “hey, maybe I could make that happen.”
My brain started running off in all sorts of directions. What if the website was not only stimming-positive, what if we used all autistic models? What if we didn’t gender our products? What if we gave back a portion of every sale to the autistic community? What if we supported autistic artists by selling autistic designed products? What if we created a program to help out autistic adults who couldn’t afford things like stim toys and AAC and weighted blankets?
Most of this is still a dream. If you checked out the website, you can see that I’m starting out small. After weeks spent playing with stim toys, I’ve settled on a few that I love to start. If things go well, the site will grow.
And I hope they go well. I’m an idealist at heart and what I’m envisioning for Stimtastic is an extreme manifestation of that. For example, I saw someone on Tumblr post about how they’d like to create cute, stylish weighted vests or jackets for autistic adults. Because we should be able to look great and meet our sensory needs, right? A lot of people responded by liking the post and some said that they’d love to own something like that but might not be able to afford it. And immediately I thought, “this is something I could help with!”
I’ve already decided to set aside at least 10% of sales for giving back to the community. What if in addition to traditional charitable giving, it was possible to use some of those proceeds to help individuals get things that make their life better while also supporting an autistic artist or crafter? What if I could help pay for part of the cost of weighted vests/jackets, making them more accessible to a greater number of people?
Bringing an idea like that to fruition is probably a long way off, but that hasn’t stopped me in the past. I’m terrible at endings but I’m great at beginnings–the wilder and more unlikely, the better.
I don’t know what is about Augusts that make me so restless.
It’s nearly November now and like last November I find myself putting in extra long days trying to bring an August brainstorm to fruition. There are so many things that I want to do and yet I have to go slowly, at a pace that my brain will tolerate.
Fortunately, The Scientist has been supportive from the moment I returned from a long run and infodumped for the rest of the morning about my wild new idea. He’s taken all of the photographs for the website and designed the logo. He’s working on some videos, filming and editing them as he has time. Perhaps it’s time to give him a new name. The Artist, maybe?
I’ve known for weeks that I would be making this post and the thought of hitting Publish on it is as terrifying as the first post I ever made.
Looking back on each of my August beginnings, I see that I had no idea where I was going or what would come of those scary plunges into the unknown.
But I know where I’ve been and that gives context to where I want to go, where I’m aiming to go. The autistic community has helped me shape and solidify my identity as an autistic adult. The support and encouragement I’ve gotten over the past two years has been amazing and I’m grateful beyond words for that.
I also know that I’m privileged in many ways and I feel a certain responsibility to put that privilege to good use. Blogging has been an intangible way of giving back, but I’ve been wanting to do something more tangible for a while now.
So here I am, taking what I know and what I’ve been blessed with, and trying to put it to work in a new way. My hope is that Stimtastic will contribute positively to the community, as a website that celebrates stimming and the role it plays in our lives. On a more personal level, I’m hoping that it will be a way for me to stay involved in the autistic community while my language difficulties decide where they’re taking me.