Thursday, January 6, 2022

Origins Part 3: Finding My Voice

So, I wrote a book... one thing that is extremely disheartening to new authors is what comes next. Yes, it's great a book got published but that doesn't mean people will care right away. In March of 2009 I was at a teacher's conference in Saint Louis with my book and sold zero. Zilch. Nil. Nada. Nothing. Was the journey worth it? That's what I asked myself that evening as the feelings of rejection I felt each time I was passed up stung like all the nights filled with hopelessness.

Nothing just happens overnight. When other authors, and people desiring to be a public speaker, ask me about the process of "making it", whatever that fully means, it is difficult to relay the message that they should never give up. For any successful speaker or author, you see or know if they too probably have a story of what my first function of my book was like. It takes work, and a bit of luck, but it does seem the harder one works the luckier they'll be. My luck was to occur a few months after throwing up a goose egg at the conference.

My dad had been in communication with the non-profit that I got my diagnosis at and he delivered some books for their leadership team. It was through this that my book ended up on Ron Ekstrand's desk and it wasn't long thereafter that I was hired as a consultant to go through their parent training program and see if any of my concepts could be utilized into the curriculum. 

I didn't know what parent training was or what it entailed outside of the fact that I had a job with the coolest job title I ever had. Me, a consultant, that was just grade A+ awesomesauce! As cool as I thought it would be it actually changed my life as I finally got the accurate info about the autism spectrum and not that awful site that I read on my diagnosis night. For once, the word "hope" wasn't followed by "lessness".

The three weeks came and went, and I quickly got depressed once more as I feared vanishing from work that mattered. What was there for me though? I was just a local author that could come up with concepts on the mechanics of behavior of the autism spectrum but nothing more.

A couple weeks later my dad told me we were going to drop in on a Masters level teaching class at Lindenwood University. Oddly, I didn't ask many, if any questions as to why we were going but I dressed kind of nice which was good because when we got halfway there my dad said, "Oh, by the way, you're presenting tonight." Wait, what? Me, presenting? How? I didn't have an ounce of whatever the opposite of shyness is within me. Walking into a 7-11 to get a pack of gum was the stuff that a horror film of social anxiety was made of. With that being so how on Earth was I going to stand in front of a class, much less masters level, and not bomb out?

When we got there my dad informed me that he had made a PowerPoint presentation on the concepts of my book and it should be self-explanatory as to what I should talk about. Sure enough, the flow was natural and I found it eerily easy to speak in front of that class. This was odd because usually my teachers in school had to read my book reports because I couldn't deliver them out loud, but this... this was different. This was fun!

A week after that a grandparent that had gone through parent training reached out and asked if I wanted to present at the Missouri National Educators Association conference that was to be held in November. It said yes with a bit of fear fearing that the ease of the first presentation couldn't be reproduced.

November came and several hundred teachers had signed up for my presentation. This was much different than earlier in the year when not a single person wanted to hear from me, but now I was going to have 60 minutes to fill and I was worried. 

Once again, my dad had made the PowerPoint and I went into the presentation primarily in the dark as to what I'd be talking about but if I had tried to study and plan the anxiety would've crushed me. At the end of the 60 minutes I held my breath after I awkwardly thanked the audience for hearing me ramble on and the thunderous roar of the applause took me by surprise. They just didn't like it, they loved it.

After that Ron Ekstrand hired me at the turn of the year to be a part time presenter at the Saint Louis County Police Academy on their behalf and once again I was frightened going in as I couldn't see what I could say that would have any benefit but quickly I rose to the top of their highest rated instructors and that in turn led me to my first full time job as a presenter and also a blogger.

As my audiences grew, and my blogs started being read by people from all over the globe, I still remained in the dark as to why people cared what I had to say and why my audiences said the presentation was so engaging. I'm not being overly humble as in saying, "oh, that? Yeah, it's nothing. I could do it in my sleep!" Truly, I don't understand why my book got picked up by a division of Penguin in 2012, and how I was able to do two national speaking tours and people took time out of their day to come see me speak. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely proud of what I've achieved and most certainly want to continue, but in my mind I'm still that, let's say kid, that found out about their diagnosis and just always saw themself as the "shy, quirky kid."

The years went on and each blog post and new venue I presented out was simply a dream. I enjoyed hearing the hope I brought, or the inspiration I gave a teacher in understanding a student and how they could better serve them, or even the parents who would tell me, "I didn't know my child until I heard you so thank you for introducing their world to me."

I would get correspondence from all over the world and one of the common subjects was the fail-set mindset. That is, well, one way to describe it is in my original diagnosis story; since that website said failure was a guarantee I then wouldn't even try because failure was destined to occur which in turn assured failure would happen. I'd respond to these the best I could and talk about the positives to be looked at in the situation they had described to me. Well, there is a dangerous slope that's navigated when a person like myself doesn't understand why they're successful and why people want to hear from them, and that story will be tomorrow's blog as I give you the story of the second time my life was shattered.