Last week I was a presenter on Autism Connect sharing my personal experiences navigating the journey with autism. In some ways it was a trip down memory lane recalling my almost 24-year journey. While my intent was to offer experiences and advice to others, in retrospect, I now realize that each year with autism has been a year of possibilities, progress and promise.
Each year is unique for a variety of reasons and 2022 has been no exception. The shift to the adult journey has had promise but also frustration in a lack of progress. At times the possibilities have seemed underwhelming and scarce, similar to the start of our journey back in 1998. While giving my presentation, I was reminded that often we encountered roadblocks, even dead-ends, yet managed to find our way back. In some ways the adult issues are like stepping back in time while moving forward. There is familiarity. A comfort. Fear of the unknown has been replaced by fortitude and determination has eroded doubt, year after year. Yes, there are unknowns, but autism and I have learned to adapt. Jonathan is now an adult and I’m learning from him as well. Things that served him as a child have changed, though some have remained the same and yet others have shifted to a more adult model. Intrinsically the child and man are the same but over the years, like fashion, the styles and sizes have changed.
I’m reminded once again that the journey is not about perfection and never will be. Each year has taught me to embrace challenges as opportunities to find a better path. To celebrate the good times as they will carry me through tougher roads ahead. And that no matter what, all is not lost, even when it seems impossible to find my way. The road eventually appears and leads me on.
In those early years fear seemed to dictate my life and choices. Fear of getting it wrong or robbing Jonathan of an opportunity. Sometimes it kept me from believing in myself and my son. Then I realized if I kept allowing fear of failure to direct me there would soon be no paths to pursue and the journey would end. I wasn’t ready or willing for either option so fear would need to be replaced by another travel companion. Thankfully, they appeared those times I needed them the most.
I’ve learned to welcome new passengers who accompany me year after year. Each passenger supports a different aspect of the journey, in subtle and not so subtle ways. These passengers are possibilities, progress and promise. Possibilities are all the destinations that have appeared without a map. So many of them scattered throughout the years and I know there are still so many out there that I’ve yet to discover, without seeing them I know they exist. Progress knows the way even when I’m unsure of the road ahead. It reminds me of cruise control; even if I take my foot off of the gas, progress keeps me going in the right direction. Promise is the passenger who reminds me I’m not alone and gives me the confidence to blaze new trails. Promise believes in the future, in me, in Jonathan and the years yet to be journeyed.
So as I watch 2022 come to an end, I realize it’s not an ending at all but a continuation of a life’s journey. A life with autism, my son and myself. Another Auld Lang Syne as we enter the new year accompanied by our passengers, possibilities, progress and promise setting out for destinations unknown in 2023.
Welcoming the possibility of new passengers to support our progress and offer promise to another new year as we journey ahead.