Self-Pride

I realize this post will be a little self-centered. Today I want to talk about the things I am proud of and for in my life. These will be life milestones and accomplishments. Keep in mind, this is NOT a countdown or ranking in any way, shape, or form. Merely my thoughts. Ok. Now that’s outta the way, here we go.

First I want to bring up my life itself. I had life threatening open heart surgery when I was 4 months old. As in I’d die if I did not have this surgery, and actually, according to my mom, I did flatline for a minute on the operating table. Not to get too melodramatic, I am lucky to be alive. One heart surgery, broken arm, and pacemaker surgery later, I am still here.

Next is my graduating High School. I wasn’t exactly a Straight A student. I did ok, but could have done better. Regardless, despite the difficulties, I walked with the rest of my class in 2009 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Essex, Maryland. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal graduating High School, but for someone with Autism and difficulty to focus and pay attention, it was, and is, a HUGE accomplishment.

Third, I’d like to bring up my job(s). Work is often seen as boring, mundane and uninteresting. People take employment for granted. However, for people on the Autism Spectrum, it is a huge challenge to find and maintain employment. I have had some crappy jobs, too. But I am grateful for people who have given me the job opportunities over the years. These include the Hussman Institute in Catonsville, Maryland, Downtown Dog Resort and Spa in Downtown Baltimore, my job now at Words with Boards in Hamden, Maryland, and, obviously my favorite job (sorry WWB), Pathfinders for Autism.

To piggyback on the last paragraph, I am incredibly grateful for Pathfinders for Autism. I have been an employee there for the better part of five years. Apart from Hussman, and my current relationship, this is the longest I have ever held a job. And you know what? I have ZERO plans of stopping or quitting this job. It’s not just another job for me. I am honored to be “fighting” (or in this case advocating) for the greater good…raising awareness for Autism.

To go a step further, I am more thankful and grateful than I can ever express for my role in the Autism community. I am somewhat famous, if you want to put it like that, in the Autism community in Maryland. Due to my role, I was invited to speak at a National CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) conference in Timonium, Maryland. I spoke for an hour and 15 minutes, alternating roles with my sister Caroline. I have to thank Caroline, my entire family, and maybe most importantly, Dr. Rebecca Landa for giving me this life-changing opportunity and support.

Having said all that, I am thankful for my family. Not just my parents and sisters. My entire family. My parents and sisters are probably the biggest influences in my family. I said Caroline helped me with the aforementioned CARD conference, but my parents were there to support me as well. My other sister, Abbey, is a friend anyone should be lucky to have. Caroline is my closest family “friend”. My mom is my biggest advocate. My dad may be annoying, but he has always been there for me despite everything that has happened in my life.

Next I want to say I am thankful for my agency, Itineris. They have helped me obtain and maintain my jobs. Sure, I am on my own, basically, now with work, but I could not have done any of it without their help. Before I joined Itineris, I had no idea Pathfinders for Autism even existed, let alone the fact it would change my life. I am currently in the process of working on moving in with two close friends from Itineris for housing.

Last but absolutely not least, I am eternally grateful for my girlfriend of nearly a decade, muse, best friend, and love of my life: Allie. Allie is my soul mate. It has been an incredible 9 years and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us!

So what are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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