My first blog was called Politics, Parenting and Other Hazardous Pastimes (aka HazPaz). Don’t bother visiting it, though. I lost access and now it’s controlled by some creepy spammer that’ll make the page jump to their advertising site.
I got into political blogging after 9/11 in an attempt to understand how something like that could happen. Eventually, I grew so sick of the partisanship, the mindless party loyalty, and the inability to affect substantial change that I stopped. By that time I had two children diagnosed with autism and my focus was on far more pressing and personal issues.
Between HazPaz and Embracing Chaos, I worked briefly on another blog that is all but forgotten. I didn’t like the platform or the way it excluded certain visitors. By then I’d also decided to seriously pursue my writing aspirations. So, I started a WordPress blog and tied it to my own website, www.StephanieAllenCrist.com.
The whole purpose of this blog was to establish a platform for myself in the autism community. I’m not talking about a marketing gimmick. I’m talking about a real presence. I wanted to be a voice of substantial change and I was ill-informed enough to think it would be easier to engage in social change regarding autism than it had been to create political change.
The more I engaged with others involved in autism, the more entrenched the sides seemed to be. There were the people committed to the cure and there were the people committed to the empowerment of people with autism. The sides seemed impossibly divided. A side had to be chosen. I chose empowerment. I chose neurodiversity.
I believed I could convince others that my fellow neurodiversity advocates and I were right. I realized, however, that the best hope of this was to catch people before they made up their minds and show them that there were alternatives besides the cure-at-all-costs approach. Like many others, I talked more than I listened, and I listened mostly to those ideas that I already agreed with.
After a couple of years, I realized it was politics all over again. I knew that road led either to burn-out or fanaticism. There had to be a better way. It seemed like a good time to find it.
People I’d been engaging with for years started dropping out of the discussions entirely. Some I liked quite a lot. Some I respected, whether I liked them or not. These were people who had the potential to be noteworthy leaders. But, like me, they were exhausted and frustrated. Others changed their focus, building bridges instead of burning people they disagreed with.
Those who changed their focus seemed to follow a common theme. They were listening more and less selectively. They were reaching across boundaries in an effort to understand and cooperate with opponents. They were finding common ground. It was a beautiful thing to see.
And those who I’d respected without liking seemed much more likable, because they were less abrasive. These became the people I most wanted to spend my online time with, the ones who didn’t want to fight, but still wanted to have an impact.
My life had also taken some twists and turns along the way. I earned a B.S. in Business Administration, started my own business, and earned a M.S. in Written Communications. I landed a book deal for a memoir of my experiences as the mother of three children with autism. And I started a second master’s program, this time studying nonprofit management via Rutgers Online MPA program.
I had a vision—a new and different vision—and now I have a plan to see that vision become a reality.