I have no idea why I am so popular at my agency, among my friends and family, or the Autism community around Baltimore. I legitimately have no idea. I swear to God, people flock to me for advice and tips about Autism among other things. I am like an Autistic version of Jesus. Sacrilegious as that sounds, I think that is a fair analogy. I am the “go-to” person for advice on Autism. I am a local celebrity around Maryland, and people love to hear me talk. I think maybe because I am open about my experiences and how I have been impacted, but again…I don’t know. It’s actually a lot of pressure being this well-known around the area. I have been asked questions that I do not know the answer to and have to come up with an explanation on the spot. I feel bad telling people “I don’t know” or “I can’t answer that” but some things, I really don’t. I am not an expert on Autism, despite what people might think. Like anything, your experience may vary. I can only tell you my POV or my perspective on things. It’s almost annoying being “that guy”. I have people day in and day out at my agency that want to talk to me. Some days it’s fine. Other days, leave me the Hell alone! And here’s the funny thing: it’s not the people I am close to at my agency that always want to talk to me. It’s the ones I find insufferable and annoying. Maybe I should hire security…Some days it takes all my inner strength not to tell people to fuck off. I tell them to leave me alone, but they don’t take the hint. So yes, being popular does have its downside. I got a comment the other day by a friend of mine and I am not sure if I should take it as an insult or a compliment. They said, “Tom, you’re the real voice of Autism…at least in Baltimore. Nuts to Temple Grandin.” I think they meant it as a compliment, but that puts a shit ton of pressure on me. Like, “I can’t mess up”. And not to toot my own horn, but maybe I am the next Temple Grandin. (Hey Temple…need an heir?) But having people look up to me as a source of inspiration is actually kind of worrying to me. I talk about me and only me. It kind of concerns me that people hang on my every word when I speak about my Autism diagnosis. Oh, well…fame has its price. But I am not doing this for money or fame or fortune or popularity. The real reason I talk about my Autism is because I like doing it. Simple as that. No other reason. I have a God-give ability, apparently, to connect with people and hold an audience. Why am I so charismatic to people? Evidently, I’ve got “it”. And I don’t even know what my “it” is but I have it. Maybe it’s because of my outlook on life that draws people in; maybe it’s my ability to find humor in everyday things; maybe it’s word of mouth and curiosity about what I have to say…I have no idea. All I know is that this ability I apparently have has led to some amazing opportunities and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store! Tom Whalen over and out!