I just read the post over on Autism Speaks about Sarah Shaffer, a young woman from New York who wanted to give back to her community, and chose autism as her “cause”. She works with Autism Speaks 2 Young Professionals, and they have raised a tremendous amount of money for the organization and for research and for education. It’s all good. And on August 5, there is a party from 7:00-10:00pm to raise money that is going to be held on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Tickets are $75.
And just like that, reading her post, I was taken back to BA days, the Before Autism days. The days where on a whim, I could go out dancing. I could ask the DJ to play Britney for me (she- and I- have been around a while…). I could laugh at myself dancing with “unprofessional” moves. I could plan an activity from 7-10 and move on to another party, another band, another night of fun. Although I have never lived in New York, I, too, was a young, professional woman of twenty-something who cared and wanted to make a difference. I could do good, feel good, and be good- and look good while doing it all.
And I, too, had causes. I helped animals, I helped the environment, and I helped the library. I looked at my world and knew that there were so many things that needed help- too many needs and not enough money. I was young and relatively untouched by these things and who better to do the hard work of cleaning and advocating and standing at tables to get signatures than me? And so I went to fundraisers and I signed petitions and I danced. I knew that I was lucky.
And then… and then autism hit. And then I truly learned that behind all of those fundraisers, all of that work, all of that joy of doing good- there was a reality that I didn’t want to face, or even imagine, when I was young. I learned that there were families, just like mine- who had done all of the “right” things, who were facing dreams deferred, who were staring at an abyss that I had no idea existed when I was young. I learned that there were families who have learned to laugh at things that I would have cried over when I was young. I learned that a shower and clean clothes are my definition of “dressed up”- unlike the full makeup and perfect hair I used to have when I was young. I also learned that there is joy mixed with tears in small steps, and tears mixed with joy in large leaps, and that the emotions are much more complex than I understood when I was young. I learned that there are an awful lot of children worse off than mine and that there are shades of gray along this spectrum that I never knew existed when I was young. I learned that I’m too tired and I’m too drained to even imagine dancing all night long like I did when I was young. I learned just how lucky I am.
And so, to those Young Professionals, I say “Thank you” and “Enjoy”- enjoy being able to contribute, enjoy making a difference, enjoy dancing. Enjoy being young.