Today I stood up on stage in front of 1300 people and told them a load of things from my life, all 41 years of misery and triumph, mistakes and masterpieces, loss and victory. I told them how I had been a teenage socialist, a criminal and drug addict, a homeless person with schizophrenia and a career public servant, author, autism advocate and artist. They laughed at (mostly) the right bits, they clapped – sometimes unexpectedly and I made both my mum and my dad cry (in a good way). After I had bared my soul to this multitude, they all got up and gave me a standing ovation. It was really quite amazing. I was speaking at Irabina Autism Services’ conference alongside Temple Grandin and Tim Sharp.
Add to the mix my most significant role model – both as an advocate and as a human, Professor Temple Grandin – plus a dinner with said role model, my amazing support person, coauthor and friend, Emma Goodall, my parents and amazing artist Tim Sharp and his mum, and it really was the most perfect of days. I can’t remember a better day ever, in 41 years of life. That is quite something to say about one day but it is well-deserved.
I was going to write about the difficulties i have in giving talks – the self-doubt, anxiety and fear. I did have some interesting manifestations of anxiety before giving my talk today, the most amusing of which was thinking that while my spoken words made sense to me that every one else was hearing gibberish and I would stand up on stage and talk like the Swedish chef in the Muppets!! I also spent a good three months worrying that I would get unwell with my mental illness or that Temple Grandin would be unable to attend and the event would be cancelled. The anxiety was interesting because I felt like I was in a plane coming in to land in bad turbulence. It was all chaos and anxiety just before landing; with the wings going up and down and the passengers thinking they were going to die but it levels out right before hitting the runway and ends up at the terminal with everyone happy and safe. I realised three days ago that it was a great honour and opportunity to present at the conference and not a punishment and that I have given a load of talks before and they have all been good. By the time I got on stage I had banished most of the nerves
In fact m talk was not just good. I think it may have been the best presentation I have ever given. About halfway through I realised that I wasn’t speaking to 1200 people, but instead that I was speaking to one entity – the audience. I was not lecturing, we were conversing. I looked out and 1200 people – my biggest live audience ever – were responding to me and giving me energy and encouragement. That is a lovely experience for any public speaker.
It was such an amazing day and I can’t talk about everything but my highlights were:
- loads of people wanting photos with me mad me feel like a celebrity but it also seemed a little absurd and made me smile
- My parents sitting in the front row and being applauded by everyone,. The fact that my parents were there was fantastic and they had a great time to (plus my dad tok a bunch of photos which I’mm looking forward to looking at)
- Parents – mostly mums – telling me how much my talk meant to them as they have children in similar situations to me as a young person
- Listening to Temple and Tim’s very different but somehow similar presentations
- Getting an extra 200 Facebook friends in one day!
- Having my friend and support person, Emma, making my success possible through her great leadership and support
- Meeting Temple Grandin
- Having lunch AND dinner with Temple Grandin
- Temple not only looking at my employment book in her spare hour between the event and diner but also telling me it is full of good tips
- Meeting Tim Sharp and getting a drawing from Tim which he made for me
- Feeling like I made a difference
- Selling over 100 books plus pre-orders
- Having a university friend from 1995 attend and discovering he is also on the spectrum and has two kids on the spectrum
- Meeting hundreds of amazing people
- Knowing that I absolutely killed it with my presentation (in a good way).
.To say the even was a career highlight is an understatement, It was amazing,
Thank you for sharing my happiness in doing this great and wonderful thing,I’m not sure if it will open any doors to anything but I don’t really care. It was the best thing I have ever done and that doesn’t really need any further actions.