A friend and respcted colleague asked me a question I have not been asked before today. He said ‘Jeanette, you have one shot at this. You are in the universe once. What do you think you should be doing with your one shot? I thought for a nanosecond and then replied ‘I’m doing it. My Autism advocacy is may calling. I love it. It is my passion.’ My friend said this was obvious when he heard me talk about advocacy. I get to do what I love which is a privilege.
I want to share with you my last day or so, doing my ‘calling.’ I spent yesterday evening and this morning in the regional Victorian town of Mildura. I was invited there by my colleagues who deliver the Swinburne University Autism MOOC course. The event was a sort of launch of their programme in a non-online context (although the videos created for the MOOC course – including my one of employment and the other on gender and Autism – are apparently still going to feature in the coursework.) This was my last speaking engagement of 2015. It was presentation #25 for 2015 for me – a busy year.
I’ll be honest – part of me didn’t want to go to MIldura. I spent last week helping my workplace celebrate International Day of Poeple with Disability. It involved a lot of meetings and emails and some public speaking. On Friday I introduced some videos (the excellent Spectrospective’ video produced in April this year by Amaze / Autism Victoria and some TED talks which included mine on resilience and Temple Grandin’s on different kinds of minds). Just before I went onstage in our theatre at my workplace I was asked to give a brief presentation at the Happy Hour (in to hours’ time). I quickly dashed off some dot points and added one to acknowledge our CEO who let us know she would be attending. While public speaking and I are as friendly as close cousins and I am not intimidated by looking into a sea of expectant faces, I was concerned my lack of preparation would impact on the quality of my talk. Of course it went fine, but after that – and speaking to some staff at Australia Post HQ on Thursday – I wasn’t all that excited about hopping on a plane and doing it again in a different location.
On Saturday morning I dropped the Mr Kitty person at the boarding place (‘cat prison’ according to my feline friend) and went out for coffee with my lovely friend Julie who gave me a lift. (I don’t drive, which is usually OK but for dropping off and picking up the furry boy I do need assistance by a friend with a vehicle). I felt tired. I didn’t feel like flying to a hot place and staying in another hotel. My life recently has seemed to be a procession of airports, hotels and conference venues. I don’t mind but I had just got to a point where I wanted to spend my weekend sleeping in and reading books and playing with the furry boy.
My weariness and ambivalence stuck with me until I boarded to plane from Melbourne to Mildura. I looked out the window and saw a beautiful patchworks of wheat fields and dams and trees dotted about, all flat with no hill or mountain in sight. For some reason this got me excited. Then the album I was listening to on my phone stopped at the exact moment the plane got into the gate st Mildura airport – that kind of coincidence always makes me happy.
I was met at the airport by one of the local people. She was lovely. She told me all about the town with a sense of civic pride and fondness. I got to the hotel which was a splendid old building with three country pubs nearby and a clientele comprises almost completely of blokes in shorts and thongs (flip flop sandals for non-Australians). The best thing was the air conditioning – it was 41 degrees outside – dry, desert heat which feels like an oven. All of a sudden the magic returned. I was going to talk to people about Autism and change the world just that little bit.
The talk I gave today was about Autism and mental health – the topic of a new book due out next year penned by myself and Dr Jane Nugent and Dr Emma Goodall. Autism and mental health. Improving clinical services to help them better understand the needs of Autistic clients – is very, very dear to my heart. I was a little anxious to give this presentation but I thought it was a great topic and I will probably be giving a similar talk several times after our books is released. The audience found my talk helpful – they bought most of my books. After lunch Chris Varney, Chief Enabling Officer and founder of the I CAN Network gave a great presentation based in his experience as an individual and the experience of the I CAN Network. It was a good mix – In a very simplistic sense, I sort of set up the problems in my talk and Chris provided solutions. The audience was not huge but they are engaged and interested. There is no feeling like speaking to a group of people about something you are passionate about. I found it hard to believe that I had had mixed feelings about giving my talk.
So when I was asked what my one aim, the thing I need to do is, I understood that I will probably be doing this advocacy stuff for a very long time. y calling has called and I have answered with an empathic ‘I’m all yours’. I feel so honoured to get to live my calling.
Me speaking about mental health and Autism in Mildura