The year 2016 will likely be stone-etched in infamy as one of the most potent years in a long time. Whether on a micro/personal or a macro/world scale, it seems as though it left its mark everywhere, on everyone, in some way–probably multiple ways.
Although 2016 didn’t exactly suck for me, it was harsh for many other people around me, both on a micro/family level and on a global/community level. And although I can’t really say that it was cruel to me, I can certainly say that I didn’t escape its crosshairs; it left its mark on me, too: I discovered that I’m actually autistic/an Aspie.
As I’ve stated before: how’s that for a life plot-twist?
But believe me, I’m not insensitive; I watched–and felt, by sixth-sense proxy–the carnage that 2016 left in its wake beside the people around me. And I attempt to telepathically bathe them warm comforting thoughts, positive energy, peaceful vibes, well wishes, hearts and smileys, hopes for peace and healing, and just about everything else I can think of.
I hope that it comforts everyone to remember that at any rate, last night (I’m pushing myself to get this in under the midnight wire on New Year’s Day, Central Standard Time in the US, although many of you may not see this until after the sun has risen on 2 January), a friend and her partner, her kids, a couple of their friends, and I quietly and self-consciously rang in the New Year at her house once her elderly father’s condition had been stabilized in the hospital the day before. (Really, 2016?)
And now, 2016 is freshly-but-safely in the rearview mirror. Regardless of how it treated us, it’s done.
Now, I’m looking ahead to 2017. It’s stretched out in front of us, a blank screen, a blinking cursor, a fresh canvas, a shiny penny, a newly-constructed and untraveled highway. It’s generally free of tragedy (at least, I hope so). It doesn’t have any mistakes in it yet. Dropping the New Year’s disco-ball is like hitting a reset button.
Some don’t celebrate New Year’s Day. After all, there’s no break in the continuum of life; not much changes from 31 December to 1 January. We generally pick up where we left off. It seems arbitrary.
And it is indeed arbitrary. (Who decided that it should be in the dead of winter? It doesn’t even coincide with any other holidays or change of seasons.) Why is January 1st anything special? By itself, it probably isn’t.
But in addition to the psychological reset button, it can also be a renewal of previously-tapered-off efforts, forgotten projects, lax self-evolution. It provides us with an (arbitrary) opportunity to make resolutions/goals (whatever we want to call them). It could facilitate a fresh outlook. It might help us process events, reactions (to those events), emotions, thoughts, wishes, and/or dreams.
And here I am, true to form, shouting from the mountaintops: just like Chinese astrology has its Year of the Dog or Year of the Snake, let’s make 2017 the Year of The Autism Spectrum (and no, I don’t intend to imply that the autism spectrum is somehow comparable to dogs and snakes). If 2016 was the Year of (You-Fill-In-The-Blank), we can make 2017 a year about us.
A year to speak up (more). A year for speaking out. A year for telling our stories. A year to be heard.
A year to drop the mask. A year to be our true selves. A year of authenticity.
A year to express ourselves. A year to write; a year to submit our thoughts to relevant outlets. A year to create.
A year to make friends within the community, banding together. A year for reaching out, whether in support or for support. A year to defeat trolls and elitists, and unify whoever remains standing. A year of compassion and empathy.
A year of action. A year of advocacy.
A year of self-education and understanding.
A year of sharing and supporting.
A year for voting with our wallets
A year of decluttering our lives and minds.
A year of kicking into top gear, whatever your top gear may be.
A year for taking over the world.
I encourage all of us to be ourselves, without shame and without regret. I encourage all of us to express ourselves in any/every way in which we feel comfortable. If you’ve been thinking about writing a speech, giving a lecture, making a guest appearance at a conference, starting a blog, reaching out to a particular entity (business, organization, political figure, celebrity figure, etc), go for it. If you’ve been thinking about starting a business, writing a book, beginning counseling/coaching, participating in Asperger’s/autism spectrum-friendly research, or “simply” sharing your Aspergian/autistic perspective/thoughts with people on an individual basis, then the time is now.
I encourage all of us to live our lives in ways that are as palatable as possible to our neurology. I encourage all of us to give ourselves permission to leave a hostile, overwhelming, toxic, overstimulating, or energy-draining environment (and that applies not only to a physical/sensory environment, but also to people).
I encourage all of us to be compassionate–toward ourselves, toward each other, toward the other people in our lives, and toward people in general (including those not on the spectrum). I encourage us all to give each other and other people the benefit of the doubt–to assume nothing, to seek clarification, to ask for explanation, to gain insight, and to reach a fuller understanding about a person and/or their situation before reacting (a simple “what do you mean?” or “please elaborate” in response to a questionable comment takes a lot fewer spoons than an all-out war over a misunderstanding). During a stalemate of opinions, a calm agreement to disagree might be a wise option at times.
And last but not least, I encourage us all to keep reaching out, to people both on and off the spectrum. To friend-request more people or “like” more pages (Facebook) or follow more accounts (Twitter) of autistic people and related spectrum-friendly entities. To give and request support. To stand up for people being bullied, trolled, or unfairly criticized. To turn unknowns and even some enemies (where possible) into friends and allies. To build bridges, to gain alternate perspectives, to seek truth, and to foster understanding. On the flip side, I also encourage all of us to call out unacceptable, irrational, and cruel speech/behavior towards the innocent (i.e., anyone who hasn’t done anything wrong).
This can indeed be our year. We simply have to commandeer it. Let’s seize it and make it ours.