A Year of Reflection Mirrors Growth, Gratitude, and Appreciation
Updated: Jan 6
By Melissa Lushington, "Don't Cut Corners...Unless It's Cake" Blog Slice #12
Last year in 2019, I took a college course during the fall semester called Writing for Mass Media. It was a wonderful and educational experience in which I met with a lot of memorable students, heard from a fair amount of guest speakers that work in the media, and even had some written pieces of mine published in the college’s award-winning and student-run newspaper known as The Vanguard, which I still write for today. The most memorable moment in that class for me came towards the end of the semester when veteran journalist Stu Bykofsky was the guest lecturer. During Mr. Bykofsky’s lecture, the former Columnist at The Philadelphia Daily News & The Philadelphia Inquirer had the class take out a piece of paper and write down some adjectives that describe us. One of the adjectives that I wrote down was that I am autistic, and little did I know that sharing that information would be the springboard to launch me into the platform that I am in right now. In December of 2019, my college Professor Ms. Eva Blackwell offered me an internship as an online blogger for Verge of Independence Project, a multimedia advocacy and resource organization for young adults on the autism spectrum whose independence is within reach.
The position called for me to write monthly blog articles on autism, so for one year, I have displayed information on how autism has related to my life both in the past and the present. Whether you are reading this blog for the first time or if you have been reading my blog posts for a while now, you need to know that blogging monthly is not an easy thing for me to do. There are so many things that go into writing a good blog, such as accurate information, sound research, effective use of one’s time, and having the courage to be open about yourself by revealing things you would not typically tell anyone. Focusing on blogging for the autism community, it dawned on me that the content I write about also benefits my family and me.
First, my mom has grown to understand more about why I was always so socially awkward and how my symptoms of high-functioning autism have improved over the years. Also, my blog articles on autism have allowed my mother to understand herself, recognizing how her social awkwardness as a child has impacted her adult life. Even relatives outside of my immediate family and friends whom I have presented my blogs to have appreciated me coming out as an autistic individual, citing, they not only have a better understanding of why I appeared socially awkward as a child, but they see how I have improved upon my social skills as an adult.
Second, since starting the blog, my self-confidence has developed tremendously. Adding to that is my appreciation for the positive comments from all those who read my blog posts on the Verge of Independence Project social media and website:
www.vergeofindependenceproject.org | Facebook: @VergeofIndependenceProject
It is vital to get feedback from my readers, as it helps me frame my perspective on the valuable information that I share. An example of this is my former elementary school teacher, who passed away this year due to having metastatic breast cancer. Debra Anne Bailer was my sixth-grade teacher at Joseph Pennell Elementary School. Throughout the years, Ms. Bailer and I stayed in touch with each other. Two of the last things I did before she died were sending her an email, in which I let her know that I was an intern, blogging for the Verge of Independence Project. I also gave Ms. Bailer a phone call, thanking her for everything she had done for me as my teacher. Afterward, she sent me an email telling me what a fantastic job I’m doing with my blogs. Ms. Bailer went on to say that my blogs reflect that I’m a strong, gifted writer. She also thanked me for giving her a call and saying such beautiful words of gratitude because it put her life into perspective. Ms. Bailer concluded by noting that her job of being a schoolteacher for twenty years made a positive difference in people’s lives.
Third, blogging for the Verge of Independence Project has allowed me to become familiar with other autism advocates and their organizations that promote autism education and acceptance. For instance, actress Kate Winslet started the autism organization The Golden Hat Foundation, and Eileen Lamb created the online blog The Autism Café. As I researched the stories of how Winslet and Lamb developed these organizations, I felt a sense of pride for the work and contributions that I am making in the autism community. The stories of Winslet and Lamb remind me of my story of how I became a blogger for the Verge of Independence Project. So, I feel incredibly honored to have a platform to lend my voice to the autism lived experience.
To conclude my reflection, it is a year later, and here I stand, no longer an intern, but rather a blogger as a regular staff member of the Verge of Independence Project. During 2020, I wrote the following top three titled articles:
1. A Gen Z Autistic College Student’s Message of Hope on Conquering Fear of COVID-19
2. Why Celebrate Autism Awareness Month
3. The Bridge of Friendship Between Autism and the World
I thank you all for joining me on this year-long journey of developing meaningful connections with other autism advocates and leaders and for allowing me to be part of something that helps me learn more about autism and to understand myself. I appreciate seeing how my participation in this organization has brought my mom and me closer together. Also, I am grateful to this nonprofit organization and its online platform that, as I mentioned, has allowed me to go from being an intern to becoming a staff member of the Verge of Independence Project. Furthermore, I look forward to sharing more content about myself and autism itself that will help inform and inspire the autism community for the next year and many more to come. Happy New Year!