Why Veterans Day Is Meaningful To Me

Today is Veterans Day! It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, so this is a perfect prompt for me ^^; That is not the only reason I wish to write this post. I want to share the reason why I like Veterans Day. In 2008, my Uncle Ricky died from a bomb explosion while serving in Iraq. He was only 23 years old, which is crazy for me to think since I’m only two years away from being 23 myself. Because of that, I revered people who served in the military. However, I didn’t think that deeply on the importance of what they do. It wasn’t until I became old enough to vote that I began thinking deeper on what it means to protect a country. Since it is Veterans Day, I feel like it is a good opportunity to share my thoughts regarding the military.

This is my Uncle Ricky ❤

I always loved days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentines Day, National Sons and Daughters Day, etc. They all have one thing in common that I adore: honoring another person. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we honor our parents. On Valentines Day, people honor his or her romantic partner. On National Sons and Daughters Day, parents honor their children. Honoring another person is a very Biblical thing to do. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NIV) says: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”

We see so many people dishonor others. We see this with Cancel Culture. We see this in political campaigns. We see this with older people despising the youth. Imagine how discouraging this must be to the people who are dishonored, especially if they’re trying to better themselves as people. I know this from experience. I was 13 when I learned about God. I was learning things from the Word and applying it to my life. However, people made me feel like what I thought didn’t mean much. I didn’t feel valued because adults looked down on me since I was only in middle school. It made me even question if God thought I was valid. Dishonoring people is a dangerous thing to do. It creates more problems, not solve them.

I will give another example of this. I feel horrible for people like the actor Kevin Hart. He wanted to host the Oscars, but people took that opportunity away from him because they decided to dishonor a wrong decision he made YEARS ago. He made a joke that was hurtful towards the LGBTQ community. Sure, that’s not a good thing to do, but love is gracious. It forgives offenses like that mean joke. If I were Kevin Hart, I would feel discouraged. I would feel like I can’t get anything I want because a pretentious society says so. Luckily, I have God, who promises to grant our hearts’ desires when we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4). I want to note 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, 10 regarding what Cancel Culture did to Kevin Hart. It’s what God calls the church to do in situations like Kevin Hart’s Oscars case.

I have a reason for bringing up those two examples of dishonoring people. We must understand Honor vs. Dishonor. When we don’t see the destructive nature of the wrong choice, we may fail to realize the importance of the right choice. Likewise, if we don’t understand the constructive nature of the right choice, we may find ourselves doing the wrong choice. When we dishonor our veterans or omit honor for them, it hurts them. It can even lead to them becoming so discouraged, they’ll become unable to see God’s love for them and abandon righteousness. Thankfully this doesn’t always happen, but it can definitely happen. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 warns us of this.

1 Corinthians 13:5-8 is another verse I think about on Veterans Day. Not only does it say we should not dishonor others; it also says that love always protects. Protecting is what our veterans do. They protect us by serving in the military. They literally protect us with their lives to make sure that our lives don’t have to be afflicted. This is why we honor them, especially on Veterans Day. Veterans work hard to protect. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:7, to protect is love. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, we must honor those who work hard in love and service.

Romans 13:1-7 talks about the purpose and importance of government. I love this verse because it is loving truth. As corrupt as government can be, God didn’t design it to be corrupt. Yes, He designed it! Now, He doesn’t approve of government leaders to abuse power. Jesus clearly says this Matthew 20:26. You can reflect more on Matthew 20:26 and Romans 13:1-6 on your own. I bring up these verses to emphasize Romans 13:7 in particular. The other verses I brought up is more for context for what I’m about to say. Romans 13:7 says, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” We owe our veterans honor. Honor is not something that should be done carelessly. Honor is thoughtful, considerate, and shows itself through word and action. Veteran Discounts is an example of honor. So is listening to their stories. So is thanking them with our words, both with the mouth or in an internet post.

I want to end this blog post by encouraging you to be more intentional about gratitude. Gratitude and honor go together, after all. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” Don’t be discouraged if you believe you take things for granted. It happens, and God forgives us when it does. We can stop taking things for granted today and begin practicing thankfulness. Since today is Veterans Day, let us start by thanking our veterans ❤

What It’s Like Working At Amazon

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a blog post. I’m glad I feel like I can write one now 🙂 A big reason why I haven’t posted these past couple of months is because I have been busy working at an Amazon Warehouse. I work full-time there. I work Wednesdays -Saturdays, 10 hours each day. Sometimes I’m required to do mandatory overtime on Sundays. I get pretty exhausted after a day of work. However, I think Amazon is a good place to work for the life chapter I’m in right now. I know I won’t be there forever. I’m leaning on God to give me direction for the career I want to ultimately do ( being a TV show creator). He’s already given me some resources, including a Hollywood connection. I’ve been employed at Amazon since the beginning of July of this year.

As you all know, I am diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Some of you might be wondering ‘How is it for a person on the spectrum to work at a warehouse? Is the work difficult for her? Is interacting with coworkers too hard?’ I know lots of people on the spectrum struggle a lot with finding employment. I understand. I used to be one of them. Typical work expectations can be difficult to meet with an Autistic brain. Working at Amazon is definitely a fast paced job and that can be very hard for most ASD folks. Following instructions and avoiding misunderstandings between coworkers isn’t exactly our forte. I still find myself struggling to meet Amazon standards every time. Although there are days where I reach my target, there are also a lot of days where I’m not packing as many items as Amazon wants me to. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that my Autistic brain can slow me down.

In this blog post, I would like to tell you what it’s like for me personally to work as an Amazon warehouse associate. Don’t worry, my personal experience isn’t an Amazon horror story like the news keeps on highlighting. My experiences at Amazon does include a few not-so-great ones, but when I keep my mind positive, I feel so blessed to work there and see so many good things about my job.

I want to start off with how transportation works out. Like many other people on the spectrum, I don’t have a driver’s license. However, I am blessed to live in an ideal spot for transportation using my town’s transit system. I take the bus to work. There’s a bus stop that’s super close by my apartment. It’s honestly perfect! There’s also a bus specifically for people who need a ride to Amazon. It’s called the “Amazon Express.” XD It comes twice a day. Once in the morning for day shift people and once in the afternoon for night shift people. I take the morning bus because I work day shift. I start work at 7:30am, and the Amazon Express leaves the transfer center at 5:30am. Therefore, I have to get up at 4 in the morning and make sure I catch the bus at 5am so it can take me to the transfer center. Otherwise, I resort to using Uber. At first I was worried that I’d be horrible at getting into the habit of waking up so early every day. Now that I’m used to it, I actually enjoy my bus routine. It’s my “me time.” I always have books with me to read in the morning. There are times where I miss the bus, but luckily those are rare occasions for me.

Now for the work expectations. I work in the multi-packing department for Outbound. There are three positions I’m trained in in my department. The first position I got trained in is packing. A packer’s has a goal that they must reach when they pack. The goal is to pack at a rate of at least 250 item units per hour. I have reached this rate a few times, but not as much as I should. Honestly, I’m not the best at reaching the target rate consistently when it comes to packing. More times than normal, I am under 250 item units. Sometimes I don’t even make it to 200. I’ve worked at Amazon for nearly 5 months, and this is still the case for me. I often beat myself up for it.

Whenever I reach my goal, I get so excited. I feel competent. However, there are days where I feel like I’m working just as fast as I did before, and then it turns out that I’m below target 😦 That can really bring me down. In those cases, I remind myself that I’ve reached the goal before, so that means I’m capable of reaching it again. I still feel like I’m learning when it comes to packing.

There’s a position I’ve been recently doing called inducting. I don’t think I’ve done enough inducting to really have an opinion on it. I’ve done it maybe about ten times, more or less. It can be tough unless I have a floater helping me.

The other position I’m trained in is called rebinning. The job is to put items in a wall one at a time. The packers are on the other side. The items are put into chutes that correlate with customer orders. When all of the items from an order are all in one chute, it is pushed from the rebinner side of the wall to the packer side of the wall. That also makes room for a new order to be put in the chute. I hope that job description makes sense ^^”

At first, rebinning was SO HARD! I’m not kidding, there were days that I honestly cried because I would be so below target. For rebinning, the target rate is 600 items units per hour. I was in the 200-400 range for what felt like forever. I would have moments of intense work anxiety and be distressed by little movies in my head of getting fired for my lack of speed. I was so embarrassed and got discouraged.

I began praying to God as I worked. I asked Him to help me become faster. Soon after doing this, I started reaching the 500s zone consistently. Eventually, I began reaching at least 600 item units per hour EVERY TIME. Sometimes I even reach 700. I once earned a break card for most improved rebinner. It felt awesome, let me tell ya! I honestly give credit to God for helping me with my speed. Now I feel no worries whenever I’m assigned to rebin.

I honestly just realized as I wrote that previous paragraph that I don’t really ask God for help with my speed when it comes to packing ^^” Note to self: pray for speed when packing and trust that He’ll help you.

I like the managers at my department. They aren’t mean to me and are gentle with me when I make mistakes. They know I have a disorder, though they may not know it’s ASD specifically. Most of them are energetic, enthusiastic, and even funny. Sure, there are times they are stressed and it shows. However, I just give benefit of the doubt in those moments and try to make their load easier by doing my best.

One time I cried very hard in the middle of packing. I got so stressed and so anxious that my rate was terrible. I got scared I was gonna get fired. Now that I have bills to pay, the thought of that was even more scary. This happened after about a month of working at Amazon. I was all settled in my apartment at this point. The managers took me into HR and my supervisor talked with me. She reassured me that I was doing okay. I’m so thankful for how gracious she was with me. I feel like I can honest with her when I’m having a problem 🙂 I can’t speak for every manager for the other departments, but the managers in my department are pretty good ones in my opinion ❤ I can’t really recall any negative experiences with them.

My coworkers are pretty chill for the most part 🙂 I have some acquaintances that I feel pretty comfortable talking to during a shift. I’m not really close with any of my coworkers, but I know a few people that I can talk to sometimes. One coworker even referred to me as her “Home Girl.” XD

I did have two pretty bad experiences with two coworkers. They got so bad, I was tempted to retaliate. Sometimes I struggle with standing up for myself. Either I’d be completely silent and let the other person win, or I’d lose my temper and get in trouble for it. I lost my temper with a bad coworker at my first job and that’s how I got fired from there. When I worked at KFC, I didn’t know how to handle a certain bully. I frequently held back my tongue while she’d bully me. It was horrible. I wish I knew how to stand up for myself. I even wondered if I had it in me to stand up for myself.

I’ll tell you about one of the negative coworker experience I had. At Amazon, my coworker Gabriel encouraged me to stand up for myself after I was being bullied by a bossy coworker (she wasn’t even in charge). That coworker was talking to me like I was dumb. She dumbed down her speech and gave me unwanted advice on how to do my job. It got to the point where she was acting ridiculous. She even scolded me for something I didn’t do. Luckily, without losing my temper, I was able to tell her she needed to shut up. Guess what? She DID! 😀 Lemme tell ya, she did not expect me to say that. She looked completely off guard. I was able to stop her from bullying me without doing or saying anything that’d get me in trouble 🙂 That is not something that’s easy for people with ASD.

The environment at Amazon is pretty okay. Lots of associates complain about the job. Sometimes it actually gets on my nerves. I see so many positive aspects of my job that it can be hard to take the whiners seriously. I realize that everyone’s different. What works for one person may not work for another. Amazon works out nicely for me in this season of my life, but for someone else they may struggle. My wish is for those people is for them to lean on God and be able to experience many blessings from Him. It works wonders, honestly! I know from experience ❤ The managers’ enthusiasm at standup also makes the work atmosphere feel nicer 🙂

Lemme tell ya, there are times when work is BOOOOORINGGG! I have days where I feel like I LIVE at work. Sometimes it’s easy to lose focus. There are five main things that keep me sane: prayer, my books, my sketchbook, my Ideas Journal, and my phone. Through prayer, I feel like I’m coming closer to God even as I work. I have all sorts of books to give me spiritual knowledge and encouragement. I also have books that help me as a writer. I have my sketchbook to make drawings or comics. Then there’s my Ideas Journal, where I write down all my story ideas. I can’t use my phone during my shift, but I can use it on the way to work and at lunchtime. I use those opportunities to browse social media, read Bible verses, or text somebody if they’re up early in the morning like I do. I have a cute little Pikachu backpack to help me carry those things (except the phone goes into the locker before work). They remind me that I have a life and purpose outside of Amazon.

Those are all the things I have to say about my experience at Amazon. It’s pretty good so far. I hope you found this blog post interesting. If you’re on the spectrum and still searching for employment, there’s hope for you ❤ God is always there to offer wisdom. He will give you wisdom, without faultfinding, if you ask without a doubt that He’ll answer. If Jesus is in your heart, He’ll strengthen you so you can do anything. Leaning on God is what helped me get my job. I’m so thankful for His blessings. I definitely couldn’t work at Amazon in my own strength.

My First Week Experience at New Apartment

I’ve been very busy with the new apartment, and now I’ve finally had time to work on a new blog post! ^^ I am 20 years old and on the Autism Spectrum, and this month I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time and living independently. I now pay my own bills, decide when to do chores, and do my own grocery shopping. This isn’t very common for people who have ASD like me. I am very grateful that I am now experiencing this. This milestone makes me believe that anyone who has Aspergers, Autism, ASD, or whatever you wanna call it, can achieve this. My timing isn’t the same as most NTs, and I think that’s okay. I believe it’s wrong to put into people’s heads that there’s a “right time” to move out, go to college, date, have a family, etc. Everyone is unique and, in many ways, that’s the way it should be. I have now officially spent my first full week at my new apartment, and I thought now is the right time to make a blog post about it.

I wanna start off with the pros of living on your own.

#1 – Independence

It is so freeing to not have to abide by the conditions my parents put in place for me to live at their home as an adult. One thing that really bothered me was chores. I had to get them done at a certain time before doing anything else. Many times I would experience sensory overwhelm from work, go home, and just wanna rest and not be able to do that right away. I agree that as their adult child living in their home, I should contribute to cleaning up the house. What I didn’t like was being yelled at whenever I failed to do that. My logic for when to clean conflicted with theirs, and it led to several arguments between us. I often didn’t feel like the adult that I was because I was being told what to do as if I was still under their authority.

When you’re an adult and still living with your parents, they should let you make your own decisions. I think my parents did that okay. They taught me that an adult should be free to exercise independence. It’s not just healthy, but also their lawful American right as well. However, since you’re still living under their roof, you still have to abide by their house rules and make contributions. One rule that I had to abide by was to not swear in the home with my youngest sibling in the room. I felt upset that I couldn’t speak the way I wanted to in this way. She knew this rule, and would report me all the time whenever I let a cuss word slip. It bothered me so much. Now that I live alone, I don’t have to worry about being “tattled” on.

It is so freeing to make your own house rules and abide by your OWN schedule and standards. Being able to abide by boundaries that YOU put in place and not someone else feels great! I believe that it is healthy to do this, especially for the long-term. The earlier you exercise independence, the better prepared you’ll be in the future for things like a long-term career, having a family, etc. I believe the longer a controlling parent delays an adolescent’s or young adult’s freedom, the more it hinders their ability to manage their own life when mom and dad are no longer around. Being 5 years old and told what to do is one thing; being 2 years away from adulthood (16 years old) and having every decision made for you is another. Even 5 year olds need freedom in some ways, like being able to choose what to wear. I’ve only had a week to experience this type of independence, but there has definitely been a difference right away.

#2 – Pride

When I say pride here, I’m not talking about the kind of pride where you think you’re better than everyone else. I’m talking the kind of pride that comes from a sense of good accomplishment. As a person on the spectrum who is constantly told by statistics that I can’t be independent, I feel proud that I have defied the odds. I don’t think I’m bragging when I say this. I definitely had people help get me here. I also gotta thank God for blessing me with a job, wisdom, resources, and other opportunities to get to where I am now. I definitely couldn’t get here completely on my own or even in my own strength. But I’m definitely gonna say “In your face!” to statistics that people use to limit people like me. Not so much because I’m capable, but because God is!

#3 – Relief

Living on my own gives me hope. I feel hopeful that I can accomplish the things I want to accomplish, like making my own successful TV shows in the future. I believe that that can even happen in the very near future with enough hard work and wisdom. I know what it’s like to feel trapped under your parents’ roof. Many people will even put you down for living with your parents. This has happened to me. It feels awful! I don’t think anyone should have that sort of attitude. It’s destructive. I feel relief that good things like this can happen to me. I can now say it has.

#4 – Faith in God

You can have faith in God no matter what your circumstance is. Heck, I still leaned on Him even when I didn’t think I’d ever move out soon enough. I don’t wanna downplay having faith in God when circumstances seem hopeless. Everything WILL get better. That’s a PROMISE. For me, in the present, things have now gotten better in this particular aspect of my life (independent living). I didn’t know it would happen so quick. I remember worrying so much about not even living independently ever, even within the recent months prior to signing my lease. This good harvest of independent living has strengthened my faith in God in a way that hasn’t happened before ❤

Now here have been some cons of living on my own that has happened:

#1 – Roommate miscommunication

There has definitely been a few moments of frustration between me and my roommate. One thing is cleaning the apartment and running errands for it. She likes to clean up her mess right away after she’s finished with what she’s doing. I like to clean up later. This has led to some frustration between us. For awhile, she seemed so salty towards me and I didn’t even know why, even though I would ask. She eventually told me that one of the things was that she didn’t like that I wouldn’t always clean my mess right away. It’s not that I never clean at all, it’s just she felt like she was doing more stuff than I was. I think the problem is that we haven’t been communicating how we want to share our workload for our home. We knew we were gonna split the house work, but we didn’t have any clear picture on what that would look like. My roommate and I did talk about clear ways we can split the house work, and we’ve come to agreements now. In fact, today I told her I would clean up my mess right away so she wouldn’t have to come home from work to see it. Sometimes you just gotta compromise for the other person. It’s courteous.

I believe this con is something that can definitely be something that can be handled in a smooth manner when it happens between two mature adults living together. It doesn’t have to be frequent. My roommate and I have made some mistakes, but I believe things will improve for the better. It already has. After all, it’s only been a week. When you choose a roommate, make sure they have a good work ethic, can talk maturely about your guys’ differences, and be open to change for the other person willingly. If you have a stubborn roommate who is a slob, you’re gonna have a bad time. Be wise and remember that love will overlook many mistakes. Overlooking wrongs is part of what will lead to seeing rights.

#2 – Money Mistakes

During my first week at my new apartment, I worked overtime at my new job (Amazon). I pack boxes full-time there, and this week was Prime week, meaning 9 1/2 hours of mandatory overtime. I’ve been getting good paychecks from Amazon since working there this month. Definitely sufficient income for affording this apartment. During my day off after Prime Week, I spent a LOT of money. I wasn’t so worried because I knew I made good money from Prime Week. Today I look at my bank account, and it was NOT what I expected. I spent so much more money than I thought. It’s not like I spent everything, but I definitely over-did it. I started to feel guilty because a good chunk of what I spent were on things I didn’t need. Yes, I spent some stuff on essentials (such as a broom and dustpan), but there were some things I got that weren’t needed. I justified my spending because of how hard and long I worked. I am easy on myself because this has only been my first month of living in a new place. I needed to remind myself that I’m okay. Now, if I continue making careless mistakes like this down the road, I would be more ashamed, but it’s important to give yourself grace ❤ It’s good to save up enough money to cover unexpected expenses before living on your own.

Some other things about having an apartment:

Another thing about living in your own place is work. You must have a job before living independently. You need a steady source of income, and one that pays sufficiently. My current income is more than enough. I also have a roommate, which makes rent much easier. My advice to other Autistic adults like me is to get a job. I know, it’s many times challenging for people like us. There are so many things employers look for in an employee that we, honestly, aren’t exactly wired to be natural at. Most jobs require some sort of social expectations. Before Amazon, I had two fast food jobs and one job in a school kitchen. Lemme tell ya, those jobs were chalk-full of expectations I didn’t know how to exactly follow. I even got fired from my first job. I had to learn and adapt to things that weren’t built into me. But let me tell ya, it’s worth it! It took hard work, patience, and lots of learning, but I finally was able to get to where I am now because of these experiences.

The last thing I wanna talk about is transportation. Most people with ASD can’t drive. I’m one of them. Yes, even though I live on my own, I don’t have a car nor license. However, I get to where I wanna go through two things: Uber and buses. Uber is definitely more convenient, but not something that’s wise to use for daily transportation. I usually try to use it only 1-3 times per week. I use it on Saturdays to get to work because the bus doesn’t run until 9am (I need to be to work by 7:30am). To get to work, I use the bus, which is much more affordable (but takes longer). Transportation is something you really gotta think about before living on your own. Make sure it’s reliable. My methods of transportation are reliable enough, but there are cons to not having a license. It’s possible to live alone without one, but it comes with challenges. I also must be at the bus stops at certain times, so it’s not like I can hop on a bus whenever and wherever I want. You gotta memorize bus routes, bus stop locations, and the times the bus arrives at those locations.

So those are things I wanted to share about my experience at my new place. It’s been a great experience so far. The good definitely outweighs the bad.

The table where I do my art and use my laptop.
There’s an anime store near my home that I walked to. I got stuff from there to decorate my new room ^^
Our kitchen
The balcony view
My dresser in my room ^^

My Vision: Possible Experience

I just want to let you all know that this blog post will be a longish read. There is just so much to say and I will do my best to summarize my experience. I want to express how much I appreciate the conference, some of the things discussed at the conference, and how it strengthened my faith in Jesus.

One night, I was upset with my parents because I felt like they were not supporting my vision, which is to be a TV show and movie creator. I didn’t feel their support for a number of reasons that I won’t get into. I expressed my frustration with what I perceived as a lack of support, and it led to a conversation that left me feeling hopeless. I prayed to God that He would give me direction. I was so unsure of what my next steps needed to be. I wasn’t even in college (and still not).

Hours later, I’m browsing Facebook. I’m FB friends with a few people I liked in the animation industry. I don’t know these people personally, but I was friends with them as a fan. I come across a post by Butch Hartman, the creator of The Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom, two cartoons I loved watching when I was younger (heck, they’re both still entertaining in my opinion as someone in my 20s). His post was about a conference being held near the Chicago area called Vision: Possible. It is about taking the next steps towards achieving your dreams.

I saw this post in my Facebook feed on October 7th, 2018.

I was blown away. God answered my prayer so fast and in such an obvious way! I had no clue about Vision: Possible until literally an hour or so asking Him to show me what I need to do. In fact, this was Vision: Possible’s FIRST conference (there’s been 5 more since then). After doing some more research, I felt I had to take advantage of this opportunity. Chicago is so close to where I live and I had friends in Illinois who lived even closer.

After deciding to purchase admission to the conference, I immediately thought of my best friend Maisie Merlock. She is an aspiring and ambitious actress who has been in commercials, short films, and other things. One of her best roles was in a TV show called Chicago Med, where she guest stars as a patient in the episode 8 of season 1. We’ve known each other since high school and is one of my closest friends. She is such a cool and creative person. If you want to support her, consider following her Instagram @ maisie_merlock and her Facebook page Maisie Merlock.

A scene from the Chicago: Med episode Maisie appears in.

Maisie agreed to come with me to the conference, and it was a great experience for both of us. We both learned a lot of things. Before I get into what was said at the conference that taught us and changed us so much, I want to talk a little bit about the speakers who were there.

One of the speakers at the conference is Carly Hartman, who is also the oldest daughter of Butch Hartman, the Hollywood cartoonist I mentioned before. She has a YouTube channel too, and one video I was very entertained by is the one where she attempts to draw her dad’s characters. She has such an inspiring and beautiful heart. She is a very smart person, loves business, and is a gorgeous gal! She has a business profile on Instagram as a Network Marketing Coach @ carlyyhartman. She is 23 years old and is very successful.

Another speaker at the conference is a young man named Nathaniel Spiers. He has a great story about how he became a web designer. He is very intelligent. He was in a sticky situation that led him to needing to hire a lawyer as a teenager, and he did it through teaching himself web designing. His story on how he overcame his obstacles through the grace of God was just awesome! He loves God.

Another speaker at the conference is Julieann Hartman, the wife of Butch Hartman. I was very moved by her passion for God. She is fearless! She is passionate, sweet, and has a strong faith in God. Out of all the speakers I talked to her the most. I told her some tough stuff I was going through and she was so loving. She made me feel like I can overcome any challenge, even the challenges that come with my form of autism. At the conference, she felt the need to tell us that “If Julieann yells at you, she’s not mad at you, she loves you!”

Lastly, the other speaker at the conference is Butch Hartman. I grew up on his cartoons. I love his artwork and sense of humor. He has a huge inspiration in my own cartoons, both drawing wise and storytelling wise. He desires to glorify God through entertainment. I felt like I could relate to his passion because our interests are similar and both our pursuits are dedicated to God.

Left to right: Carly Hartman, Butch Hartman, Julieann Hartman, and Nathaniel Spiers.

Butch Hartman’s vision is to create an entertainment streaming site that is called Oaxis. His mission is to provide quality family-friendly entertainment. Everything that will stream onto Oaxis are shows and movies that have Christian values at the center. I get monthly updates through email, and I am very excited by Oaxis’s progress each time. You can get monthly updates through email, too, by signing up for it at their website here: https://www.oaxis.tv/

Oaxis logo

Carly and Nathaniel were the first speakers to talk on Day 1 of the conference. They talked about not knowing how to get to where they wanted to go and not even knowing what they were doing at first when they started their businesses. This was so encouraging for me as someone who was in the same boat. Since then, I’ve been looking into opportunities to get closer to my vision using the resources I already have, but hearing about how they began their vision journeys made me feel like I could achieve my vision, too.

On Day 1, the speakers used Romans 12 as a key passage in the Bible that many of principles that would be taught at the conference would come from. It stressed the importance of renewing your mind with the Word of God and living out our salvation during our vision journeys. These verses would be referred back to several times throughout the conference, each time being totally relevant. One person who attended the conference praised the speakers for using Bible verses during the conference. He talked about how many Christian conferences don’t actually use Bible verses while discussing the topic of business. He loved that they applied verses to the steps they were teaching. Vision: Possible is the only conference I’ve ever been to, but I just couldn’t believe that Christian conferences would leave out Bible verses when it focused on “secular” things like business. The speakers made it so clear that Christianity has a place in the marketplace. In fact, it is Biblical. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Jesus was a carpenter, after all. Some of His disciples were fishermen, too.

One thing Butch Hartman talked about at the conference was something called an “Elevator Pitch.” The concept is to imagine yourself stuck in an elevator with a famous director for 30 seconds (the example Butch used was Steven Spielberg). The goal is to summarize your vision and its heart in a clear and summarized way, all in a matter of 30 seconds. We even did our own elevator pitches in groups at the conference. The goal is to express your idea and make it sellable in half a minute. Immediately, I wanted to practice making my own elevator pitch and pitch it to Butch Hartman before the end of the conference. On Day 2, I asked him if I could do this during lunchtime, and he said yes, but later. I was nervous at first that it wasn’t going to happen, but spoiler alert: it did happen. And in an unexpected way that I’ll tell you later.

Throughout the conference I took notes in a notepad the conference provided for us. I did my best to note the most key things, especially the ones that stood out to me (I’m not very confident in my note-taking abilities, since I’m tempted to basically write a manuscript of everything that’s being said). Here are 2 pictures:

A page from Day 1
A page from Day 2

I don’t want to get into the specific teachings at the conference. I wouldn’t wanna risk plagiarizing the speakers’ words. However, I will mention some of the things they talk about. They go into things like explaining the importance of networking and how to do it, motivate you to overcome your fears that get in the way of your vision (this was a BIG one for me), the preparation and execution phases of an idea, how to clarify your visions to yourself and others, and so much more! They do it in such a way that I, who is not familiar with the world of business and marketing, can understand. If you do not know where to start, but are passionate about your vision, then this conference is for YOU! It’s motivational, spiritual, packed with wisdom and advice, and so much more.

There is a Facebook page with weekly live videos that conference attenders can view. Butch and Julieann, as well as guests on occasion, will continue giving advice and encouragement. Not only that, they will also ask about your progress. In the live chat, you can ask questions, give brief updates on your vision, and share the glory of God. The page makes me feel like that I am still part of the Vision: Possible family (yes, they call it a family, and I agree). I feel like I’m apart of something bigger than myself. I felt so much purpose from this conference, and the Facebook page helps. I listen to their videos when I can.

At the conference, you can purchase a USB containing audio files of the conference that you can listen to whenever you want. Now, I had to get the audio files through email. Before the speakers can perfect the audio, the 2018 California fire happened, so it was delayed. Eventually, they just had to email the files instead. Either way, you can purchase audio of the conference to listen to after it’s over. I listen to the audio files from time to time, especially while cleaning. I want to praise the Lord right now for keeping the Hartmans’ house safe from the deadly fire! In faith, the family prayed over their home and believed God would protect their home. I know they will continue to bless others through their house.

I also want to mention the founder of The Hope Center, where the first conference was held. Her name is Nichole Marbach. She is a wonderful person who has been healed from Bipolar Disorder and emotional healing from a tragic past. She gave me wonderful gifts as well after the conference was over. They are so meaningful and precious to me.

I am still reading the book, and I highly recommend it based on what I’ve read so far.

By the end of the conference, the speakers, Nichole, and my best friend prayed over me. In short, I’m dealing with a lot of struggles because of things going on in my home. It was enough to put college on hold again and move out of the house with my sister. I’m happy that I’m moving out, but not all the reasons are positive. I remember telling Julieann about what I was dealing with at home and the challenges I was facing because of my Asperger Syndrome.

By the end of the conference, the speakers and Nichole prayed over anybody that needed specific prayer. We even prayed for a woman that was in a wheelchair for 25 years that she would be able to walk again. I’ve never seen anyone faith heal before, and I was afraid to watch. My faith was too weak to watch the speakers pray over someone who has been disabled for such a long time. I went into the bathroom, hoping that the prayer would be over by the time I got back.

When I finally returned, all the speakers asked if I was willing to be prayed over. My guess is that Julieann hinted to everyone that I had a situation that needed prayer while I was gone. Even though I was nervous, I let the speakers pray over me. The speakers, and my best friend Maisie, all laid their hands on me and prayed over my situation. After the prayer was over, I felt a pain that I’ve had for 6 years go away. It was incredible. I felt a courage and a hope I haven’t had before. Everyone at the conference prayed for me. I felt like people actually loved me, which is not a feeling many people with Aspergers feel often enough. When I was visibly nervous, two people from New York gave me shouts of encouragement. We talked earlier in the conference and they were such great people! They even looked at my drawings and gave feedback.

After the healing prayer was over, Butch Hartman looked at me and asked me to give my elevator pitch into the microphone. I was so nervous. My elevator pitch that I practiced for was such a quirky TV show idea. It was a comedy TV show. However, I somehow got the courage to tell him my vision, all within 30 seconds. He even made comments, and it felt good to hear from someone I looked up to for years. Someone I looked up to as both a Christian and a TV creator. He even got to look at some of my drawings afterward. At the very end, everyone got to be prayed over. It was so powerful.

Nichole and Julieann afterwards gave me and my friend some gifts to take home. One of the gifts Julieann gave me was a keychain from Hobby Lobby. It was of a mirror, and on the back it said, “Believe in the girl looking back at you.” She told me that this is something she felt God telling her to buy, but she didn’t know who it was for. She said when she met me and Maisie, she knew the keychains were going to be for us. I struggled with severe self-doubt, but when I read those words on the back of the mirror, it’s like God was the one speaking it to me, and I believe He was. Ever since, my self-doubts are less and less frequent. It still happens from time to time, but not as bad as it used to be. This is a message I wish for all you guys to believe in for yourselves: that you can do anything and know it to the point that you truly believe in yourself.

I recommend reading Butch and Julieann Hartman’s book Vision: Possible, which summarizes many of the points talked about in the conference. I’ve read the whole thing and it’s great! I reread it sometimes to refresh myself.

You can get this at Amazon for $12. It’s so worth it!

Here is the website for the wonderful conference: https://www.visionpossibleconference.com/ Here, you can see when and where the next one will be held.

One of my next steps I plan on taking is making a comic for Webtoon. I have one still in the works. I think it will be a great opportunity to network with creative people and promote my ideas. I think this will be a great opportunity to take advantage of while I wait for college (if that’s the direction the Lord decides to take me in the future). (Butch Hartman actually told me he thinks I would be good at comics ^^)

I believe in you guys! It’s why I started the channel and the blog. This conference strengthened the faith in my vision for you guys ❤

Maisie, Butch, and Me
Me, Maisie, and Carly
Art for my current focus
Art for the show that I elevator pitched at the conference.
Our visions WILL happen ❤ and so can YOURS

Signs of a Good Social Skills Leader

This post is to help answer a question I received on Facebook. She asked where to find good groups for people with Asperger Syndrome. I thought about what advice to give.

I will say, there are some BAD social skill group leaders out there. I’ve read some of the complaints. To say they’re ALL bad though would be a “Hasty Generalization” logical fallacy. If it wasn’t for the social skills I’ve learned throughout my 3 years of intentionally improving my social life, I wouldn’t be writing this blog or start my YouTube channel. I see social skills as a tool that led to much of my freedom to express myself, and for the confidence I’ve gained. I think the key here is how they’re taught.

I will share what I believe to be bad signs of a social skills leader, and the good signs. I will say though, I have never been to a social skills group. I have never experienced what any of them are like for myself. The bad signs is based off my observations. The good signs are based on what has helped me personally as a social skills learner.

Here are some signs I’ve noticed that are common in bad social skill leaders:

#1 – Some Neurotypical people have good intentions, but don’t have a clear understanding of social skills themselves (this goes for NTs with wrong intentions, too).

I think it’s good to give NT leaders benefit of the doubt. Some of them are bad teachers, but do it with the right intentions. They do it because they want to help, but don’t actually know how to help. I feel bad for leaders that are demonized for their unhelpful approach to teaching social skills. I want to at least credit them for their good intentions, but the mistakes they make can definitely apply to people with the wrong intentions.

#2 – They may go off by their natural understanding, but not go much deeper by intentional understanding

NTs usually have the advantage of picking up on social cues than people who are autistic. They know those unwritten society norms that autistic people don’t pick up on naturally. However, NTs may lack deep understanding of how those society norms and cues work.

I’ve heard a person comment on Twitter say that they left their social group because the leaders could not explain the reasons behind the very things they would teach. If I remember correctly, the person said that they were told to NEVER criticize people. When she asked why, they told her “YOU JUST DON’T.” It’s like: “Wait? What about when someone is doing something wrong that can hurt other people? In some contexts, correction is on trivial things that don’t really matter, but what about on the things that do matter? What then?” I wonder if some leaders may not be able to explain any of their answers to those questions because they may be going off of feelings. After all, being corrected doesn’t usually feel good. Sometimes it’s rude, but what makes it rude? These are the kind of things you gotta think about.

Solid advice often requires research. Our natural instincts don’t always explain why you have that gut feeling. When you’re not intentional about the “why,” explaining the “what” won’t do any favors for autistic people. They may even do the “what” in all the wrong ways.

Here’s an example of that. One time when I was 6, I hit a dog with a bat because I was scared it would bite me. I saw it as “protecting myself.” When my mom found out, she gave me a spanking. However, I remember being so confused as to why she did that. She didn’t explain why it was wrong, she just punished me. Now that I’m older, I realized that it was obvious to her that you don’t hurt an animal when it doesn’t hurt you, but that wasn’t obvious to me. Because it was obvious to her, she felt like I should’ve known better, but I didn’t. This is an example of how an autistic person can misinterpret words of an NT without clarification. Now, the “what” in this situation was that “you should protect yourself from danger.” But I didn’t understand what constituted as protecting yourself. My actions were based on fear. Just because something is obvious to you, doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone. I now know that the “why” behind not hurting a dog is because you shouldn’t hurt an animal if has not proven to be an actual threat. Obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me.

By the way, I felt like crying as I wrote that paragraph. I feel horrible for beating an innocent animal, and I remembered the feelings of being confused. It’s a heart wrenching feeling and embarrassing to admit, even though I was young. I want to clarify that not all Autistic people would ever do this. I can’t even imagine as it being common! To NTs out there, don’t generalize this as something every Autistic would do to an animal.

#3 – Some leaders are legalistic, and don’t actually care about the person.

Just like in a church, people can become so focused on rules that they don’t focus on ultimately loving the person. This is a HUGE problem. The whole point of teaching social skills is to improve the life of an autistic individual! When you actually focus on caring about the person through actions, good social advice will be a byproduct. Legalism is defined as “excessive adherence to law or formula.” What tends to happen to strict adherence is that life is “behavior focused”, not “person focused.” A person’s wellbeing is much more than the way they act, even though how they behave affects their quality of life, but to a certain extent. I believe the way a person thinks is more important than their outward actions. A person can act a certain way that looks good on the surface, but inside they may be suffering.

I used to be a legalistic person. I remember being so focused on how people acted that I didn’t think as much on their peace of mind. Strict obedience to social “laws” can cause much so much emotional distress because of fear of messing up. It’s no longer about the person, but how they act no matter what’s going on in their lives. We must make allowances for each other’s mistakes. Love overlooks wrongdoings. When loving others is the focus, good behavior often follows.

#4 – Watch out for leaders that are hypocrites

This is one of my BIGGEST peeves with people who “educate” others on how they should behave. Isn’t it frustrating when ANYONE goes against what they tell you is right?

I remember using the hashtag #Abledsareweird on Twitter. For those who don’t know what this hashtag is used for, it’s meant for people who are disabled to share a time when non-disabled people tell them something stupid, mean, hypocritical, or even a failed attempt to “educate” them on their disability that they themselves don’t have. In the Tweet I made, I said, “How come NTs get so mad when an #ActuallyAutistic person violates their personal space, and yet, them giving us an unwanted hug is perfectly okay? #Abledsareweird”. That tweet got 151 likes and 35 retweets! It boggles my mind that the same people would also criticize me getting in their personal space, when they act like my discomfort from touch is something I need to get over!

Here’s something Jesus told someone in the Bible that relates to this point: “’Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

#5 – They are leaders just to feel like good people

Here’s another verse that comes to mind when it comes to this fifth point: “‘When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.” (Matthew 6:5 NLTa) I’m sure you know someone in your who flaunts. They make themselves out to be these righteous people, but only do it in front of others. Their real motive is to impress people.

These people half-heartedly reach out to Autistic people. They don’t go the extra mile. They don’t invest their time and effort to understanding when they don’t immediately understand an autistic person. Most autistic people catch this, and it makes them angry. They’re used to be being treated like the outcast, and it’s offensive when the very people claiming to help them make their lives worse.

#6 – They lack patience

Patience is KEY when helping an Autistic person out. They already develop at a slower pace than their peers (not in everything, but usually a couple of things at least). They may need more time to figure things out. When someone lack patience, they show irritation, which is never helpful. It may even make the person feel like they’re not getting better fast enough, as if their progress doesn’t mean anything. Be patient with us.

Now there’s probably some bad signs that I missed, but I did my best to cover the major ones. Now, here are some signs of a GOOD social skills leader:

#1 – They actually care about your happiness, not your outward success

Good social skill leaders will care about your wellbeing, not if you appear “normal” on the surface. If you are autistic and lack joy because of the things people are teaching you, a bad social skills leader may dismiss the feeling, concluding that you feel that way because of ASD or something is wrong with you. They wouldn’t even consider that their teaching style may not be effective towards the individual, or that what they say is wrong. A good social skills leader will listen to why the Autistic person lacks joy. They will base their solutions to their problems with their feelings in mind. They might listen to NTs’ ideas on how to fix the issue, but they will never dismiss the autistic person’s feelings. They will also be careful on who they listen to, filtering out the unhelpful people. They will be willing to admit if they’re wrong in their teaching approach, and dig deeper into how their teaching can be effective and beneficial instead.

To them, real success is their self-esteem, confidence, meaningful friendships, which is all about how they feel. The underlying success is not for them to get a job, have friends, or live on their own. That’s outward success. Many “normal” people have all those things, but still have low self-esteem, have low confidence, and lack meaningful friendships. Now, it’s FANTASTIC when an autistic person achieves those things, but it must come from feelings of being loved, valued, and moved to love and value others. I have had 3 jobs, have great friends, and I’m moving into my own apartment next month, but I don’t think I could ever have those things without feelings of validation that come from effective teaching. It’s my internal life being nurtured that led to me having this outward success, and that’s what good leaders focus on ultimately.

#2 – They take the time to LISTEN to you

In order to reach out to Autistic people, you MUST listen to them. It is KEY. When you don’t listen to them, you will be blind to what their needs are. You can listen to NT advocates, doctors, and parents all day long, but people with ASD have a unique way of explaining their needs because they actually HAVE it. They may not always be right, but they at least can say what it’s like to be Autistic. Learning their experiences will help you understand their needs in a deeper way. And guess what? They often KNOW what they’re talking about when it comes to this. Someone who is a parent know more what it’s like to be one than people who aren’t, even if they don’t have all the answers. Same goes for people with ASD.

Here’s Bible advice that I think goes great with this second point: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19.

#3 – They present both the “What” & the “WHY”

People who are able to explain why something is the way it is have a much better understanding than people who only know the what. For example, a person says the sky is blue. Someone asks why. If the person can’t explain why, then they’re probably not qualified to work at NASA. Someone who answers that questions with: “Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth’s atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time.” is someone who definitely knows their stuff. By the way, this is quoted word for word from this website by NASA, so I definitely didn’t know this off the top of my head: https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/blue-sky/en/

#4 – They clarify that social skills are “guidelines”, not “rules”

I believe absolutes exist, but social skills is a tricky area that’s definitely not always black and white. For example, lots of people enjoy sarcasm, but delivery must done just right. It can be funny, mean, fall flat, or taken seriously depending on delivery, which is hard for some people, including many Aspies like me. To almost every rule there is an exception. Social skills may not be the same in every culture. Making eye contact with the occasional looking away is okay in America, but doing that in China may be rude.

I think the key is moral standards first, learning the unwritten rules second, and expression last. When you have moral standards, there is integrity in every interaction you make and lines you won’t cross. When you know the unwritten social expectations, you know how the NT thinks and can adjust your communication in a way they appreciate (more easily anyway). Expression is where you can have “fun” in the conversation, like sharing your interests, coming up with a joke, or using certain words depending on context. Your moral standards will always be absolute, social expectations are your guidelines, and expression is the communication part.

#5 – They take an interest in you, not ignore you

Good leaders are interested take an interest in YOU. “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4

#6 – They talk to you in a way according to your needs

Not every person on the spectrum have the same needs. That is in fact why they even call it a spectrum. Some people may need more help than others, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. After all, a need is a need. It’s not gonna feel easy. Good leaders will be mindful of what you need. Some people need “tough love”; others need to be spoken to gently and kindly. Some people may need to be corrected; others need to be complimented. Everyone is different. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV

#7 – They don’t criticize you in front of others

I hear way too often about Aspies being criticized in front of others. That can be MORTIFYING. It can be so damaging to point out faults in the presence of others. If you’re in a position of authority, correcting an Aspie you have authority over can definitely be necessary, of course. However, doing it privately must always be the first resort, and in a loving way. Matthew 18:15-17 offers great advice on what to do when someone makes a social offense, and it mentions private criticism being the first resort. I always appreciate when people point out things I’m doing wrong when it’s done privately, particularly when it’s people whose opinions I respect and know are doing it with the right heart. Sometimes it’s not your place to say something, but when it is, be gracious. The only exception that comes to my mind right now is an art critique in the context of a classroom or a show.

#8 – Love is their goal, not “fixing” you

I have LITERALLY heard people say that they will “fix” somebody else. I remember hearing someone say out loud at an airport, “I will FIX her!” He said it in an angry way and I hope he doesn’t mean it in the way I think it means. That is one of the most dehumanizing ways I’ve ever heard someone refer to a person. They are not a toy that can be fixed with glue, or whatever fixing analogy you wanna use. It’s never that simple. Even if they don’t say it, some people actually do think this way. They try so hard to “fix” people, even when it’s not their responsibility and they can’t control the other person. What people need to do instead is to love the other person, and good leaders know this. They rely on loving action and words to help people, not use harsh actions or words to “help” them.

#9 – They see you as a person, so they don’t “need” to remind themselves that you’re human

My last point will be this one. @brookewinters33 on Twitter made this tweet on June 3rd, 2019: “Many disabled people are dependent on others to meet our basic care needs and too often we literally have to put our lives in the hands of people who admit that they often forget we are people.” Good leaders don’t forget we are people. They reach out to us because we are. They don’t see us as objects, but as human beings like anyone else.

I hope all this advice will help you find the best people that can speak life into whatever situation you’re in. If you’re looking to join a group meant for Autistic people, look for these signs in the leaders. Remember that nobody is perfect and we’re always gonna learn new things about each other, good and bad. That’s why love must be our highest goal so we don’t lose sight of the mission to help one another out ❤

Methods I Personally Use to Get Rid of Writer’s Block that (usually) Do the Trick

So I posted possibly the last video for my YouTube channel. You guys showed so much support and I’m grateful for that! ❤ One comment from you guys talked about how you wanna start a blog of your own, but experiencing Writer’s Block. Boy, do I know how that is. However, I haven’t had a bad case of Writer’s Block in a while. Most of the time, whenever I do encounter it, I’m able to make it disappear within minutes. The reason why I think that’s usually the case is because of some tricks and methods I’ve learned over the years. I thought I’d help out this person (or any other writer experiencing this) by sharing advice that I personally use all the time.

Note: there are MANY places on the internet that offer advice on this topic. I may repeat what they have to say. To avoid potential plagiarism as much as I can, I’m going to speak only from experience. In other words, I will tell you the methods I use and how I’ve applied them to ideas I’ve created because of them. Because these will be ideas I plan on publishing one day as movies or TV shows, I’m going to try to be as vague as possible while still giving you enough information to get the idea. I only have one exception to this, and you’ll know why once we get to it.

Before we get into the methods that aim to kick Writer’s Block’s butt, I think it’s important to first define what originality is. Below, I included the definition you can find for “original” through a quick Google search (Google will show you the same definition from the same dictionary I’m using in the screenshot).

I used the Dictionary app that came with my MacBook Pro, which came out in 2017.

This isn’t my favorite definition of “original.” The way I define original or originality is a bit more lengthy, but I think it explains the words excellently. My definition is me paraphrasing the way I first heard it in a YouTube video. I WISH I could cite or show you the link to the video where I heard it, but I honestly forgot what the video was called or who I was listening to. (If you read my blog post about facial recognition, you know I struggle to remember faces too). However, I’ve heard similar definitions from other writers, so I think it’s safe to include my own definition in this blog post. My favorite definition is this: “Originality is taking multiple ideas or things that already exist and combining them in such a way that people haven’t seen before.”

If you think about it, nothing is truly “original.” Everything has been done before. No one has done or created something that is pure original. There’s even a Bible verse that confirms this (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In the link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-concept#Examples you can see examples of original movies, also known as in show biz: “High Concept” movies. One of the movies on there is Ghostbusters, which I’m gonna use for an example. Pest control has been around since agriculture. Stories of ghosts and the paranormal have always been around, too. Combine pest control with the paranormal, and you get a pretty neat idea that hasn’t been done before (until 1984 when Ghostbusters came out). Now when you see these two ideas combined, it’s most likely because you’re seeing a parody or knock-off of the movie. (Fun fact: the creator of Ghostbusters is on the autism spectrum.) I think it’s a good reminder to know that original ideas aren’t completely original. They didn’t come out of nothing, they came from something. See what I mean?

I will share a method I used for one of my newest stories, which I’m working on for the website Webtoon. It was inspired by how the TV show Invader Zim was created. The creator, Jhonen Vasquez, created the concept in under an hour just by combining things he already liked. He liked things like paranormal investigators, horror movies, dark humor, even backpacks (which inspired the Zim’s PAK), and more, and incorporated them into his TV concept. While trying to come up with a comic to have potentially monetized in my bedroom, I remembered this method. I made a list of things I liked on my Pages app on my MacBook Pro.

Here is the original list of things I made when trying to come up with an idea for Webtoon. I wrote the list and came up with the idea on May 25th, 2019.

When I couldn’t think of things that I also liked, I Googled “List of Hobbies.” One of the things on Google’s list was “Shopping”, which I do a lot. That’s when I got a new story idea: “Impulse Purchases with Sharpay Spree.” It’s a comedy about a teenage girl that goes on constant shopping sprees and buys the most ridiculous things, often acting as McGuffins for an episode. For example, she buys a haunted doll (who also sticks around as a main character). I’m a frequent shopper and I enjoy it (except when I experience “buyer’s guilt”), so my personal experiences fueled the concept. I’m still designing this story idea’s lore, so I need some time before you may see on Webtoon’s Discover.

First artwork I made for the Webtoon idea.

Another method I have used once is a method used by the developer of a video game that’s still being made. It’s called Yandere Simulator, and it’s by a man named Alex (yes, we share the same name). In an interview with a YouTuber named Bijuu Mike, he explains how he creates most of his stories. He often finds himself making a story based on a taboo. For his game Yandere Simulator, that taboo was a type of Japanese character called a “yandere,” which means a person who is willing to kill anyone who may date their love interest. I challenged myself to make up my own story based on a taboo, which I wanted to be a comedy like Yandere Simulator. The taboo I eventually chose was “slavery,” which was two years ago. I fell in love with my story, and still working on it almost every day. I imagine it as an animated TV series that takes place in space.

Now, I know some of you guys may not want to use this method specifically. After all, taboos are… well, taboo. It’s uncomfortable. To make this method applicable to any writer, replace “taboo” with any abstract concept. Abstract concepts include love, beauty, charity, anger, freedom, etc. You can find many examples with a quick Google search. I often find myself coming up with ideas by thinking about abstract concepts, and then think of ways to creatively make them concrete. To show you how this can work, I’m gonna come up with an idea on the spot.

It is now 6:31 pm CST. I’m gonna base my idea off of the abstract concept of “growth.” A married couple want to have a baby. The next morning, after making an attempt, one of them sees a little sprout in their backyard. The plant keeps growing and growing for no apparent reason. Weeks later, we find out the wife is pregnant. Months later she gives birth to a baby girl. After the baby is born, there is a door inside the tree. The parents open the door, and they see memories of their new little baby. Startled by what’s happening, they try to cut down the tree, but the tree doesn’t even dent.

The baby is now ten years old, and she is very sick. The tree is bigger now, but it is getting weak for seemingly no reason. Every other tree in the backyard is healthy. The memories are fading. The parents come to the conclusion that these are memories of their daughter. The reason why they are fading is unclear, but they think it’s connected to their daughter’s health in some way.

It’s years later now and the girl is healed by this point, albeit close to death when she was sick at 10. The more mature the girl, now a woman, becomes, the more strong the tree becomes. The memories inside the tree all have different filters. Some of the filters have a negative effect on the tree, such as memories of the woman being raped by an abusive ex-boyfriend. The woman has been coping in unhealthy ways, such as turning to alcoholism. She turns into a beast when painful memories are triggered, even by a dear loved one.

Although the tree is struggling to survive, which doesn’t need to be nurtured by gardening, it is still standing. The grown woman has been in consoling and getting help. She is finding healing through the church her family attends. Eventually, she feels called to start an organization that reaches out to traumatized people. Ten years later, this organization becomes very successful. The woman has helped so many people who have been hurt like her. Suddenly, tragedy strikes as the woman and dies in a car accident.

The parents are mourning. They come to the tree expecting to see it dead. However, it’s more alive than ever. A talking squirrel comes out of the tree, telling the parents that the memories are stronger than they have ever been. He explains to them that this tree is nourished by the person’s impact on the world. The reason why the tree was sick during the times she was overwhelmed by alcohol was because she hurt others, and that led to the memories becoming painful and dead. The squirrel explains that tree grew as the daughter grew (in regards to character, not physical growth), and it’s now in full bloom because of her legacy.

It’s 7:05pm now, and I just finished writing down the idea. This idea has potential and may need to be polished, but you now got a basic idea for a story. Perhaps I’ll call it The Tree of Legacy. Maybe I’ll change the title later, but the purpose of this story was to show how fast a person can come up with an idea by using the method. This entire idea started just from trying to come up with something having to do with “growth.”

Sometimes one of the best ways to come up with an idea is by simply researching. Inspiration can come from researching for an idea you already have or trying to come up with a whole new one. I have a story where there are women whose appearance are based on flowers, and I’ve actually looked up flower anatomy for inspiration. Did you know the little vase-like shape at the bottom of a flower is called a receptacle? What if I had the women wear a dress shaped the same way to represent it?

My last tip is this: don’t wait for inspiration. Sometimes the best ideas come when you least expect it, that’s true. However, don’t try to view research as “forcing” ideas into your brain. Think of it more like “increasing your chances of encountering ideas.” Not all ideas have to be big ones to be great. No matter what, research is important if you wanna give your ideas the widest possible potential to impact people. It gives you more material to work with. You can’t come up with a thoughtful idea without putting thought into it. That may seem obvious, but sometimes we get so distracted by things that we forget those simple truths of life.

So in summary:

  • Originality is using pre-existing things and combining them in ways we aren’t used to seeing.
  • Try to come up with ideas by using your own interests as a starting point.
  • Base an idea off of an abstract concept.
  • Research, research, research!
  • Don’t wait for inspiration.

I hope this post has been helpful for you. Feel free to comment what methods personally help you out. Have a good day.

Why I Mostly Call Myself ‘Autistic’ Now Instead of ‘Aspie’

On my YouTube channel, I would often refer to my audience as Aspies. “Aspie” is a term of endearment to call people diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at two years old.

The first time I heard the word “Aspie” was from a YouTuber named Phantom Strider. I heard it in his video “Top 10 Best Nickelodeon Shows.” He uses the word “Aspie” at #4 of the list. Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuZsvmVQrYg

I LOVE cartoons. I kinda binged watched Phantom Striders’s videos for a few weeks, which are all pretty much cartoon related. This is one of the first videos I watched of his. If you love cartoons like me, I recommend his channel. He loves animation, passionate, and knowledgable about the industry. He has Asperger Syndrome too and I even talk about him in one of my YouTube videos. One thing I want to note before I go any further is that: in the context Josh uses the word “Aspie,” it’s very affectionate and positive. He does not use it in a negative way.

Link to Phantom Strider’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp5p6e83X5blZ93BaW_dvpg

I’ve been active on the channel for over a year. It’s been 8 months since my last video, so it’s not really active anymore. Throughout my time actively making YouTube videos, I’ve been referring to my audience members as “Aspies.” However, a lot of people who watched my videos didn’t grow up with the “Asperger” diagnosis. They grew up with “Autism.” Or often times “High Functioning Autism.”

I have a friend I regularly talk to named Charlie. He grew up on “Autistic”, not “Aspie.” Check him out on Instagram here: Charlie Martinez (@oldmancharles_34). He and I have had conversations on how we grew up with a different label, even though Aspergers is just a high functioning form of Autism. He’s told me that he doesn’t always like the term “Aspie” because it makes him feel excluded. As if having “Autism” is inferior to having “Aspergers.” If you have “autism,” you’re “slower,” “more socially awkward,” or just “less functional” than someone with Aspergers, even though they are both autism. If you have “Asperger Syndrome,” you’re still slow and socially awkward, but at least you don’t “have it as bad” as the autistic guy (or gal). This to me feels wrong. My friend Charlie is a great guy! He and I are into a lot of the same stuff and I enjoy my conversations with him. A big part of it is our ASD common ground and our love for movies. I haven’t met him in person, but I find it hard to believe that people judge him more harshly than they would me just because I didn’t grow up on “autistic.”

I know someone that grew up on “Aspie” who thought Aspergers and Autism were their own separate thing (medical websites will tell you otherwise). This used to be the case until 2013, which was obviously only 6 years ago. When the person told me he had Aspergers, I said, “I have Aspergers, too.” He reacts with, “I thought you had Autism!” That immediately made me think, ‘You think I’m dumber than someone with Aspergers?’ I am not AT ALL saying that I think autistic people are dumber than people with Aspergers, but that’s the stigma. Now, this was a long time ago and this man has changed a lot. I really like him as a person and I enjoy his presence. However, he was different back then and what he said hurt me.

These are some reasons that made me consider going by “autistic person” instead of “Aspie.” On Twitter, I often refer to myself as Autistic. In fact, #ActuallyAutistic is probably the hashtag I use the most in my tweets.

I can hear some people saying right now “Alex, you didn’t grow up on Autism. You grew up with Aspergers. You shouldn’t call yourself autistic when other people have been called it all their lives.” I get the concern there. It might come across as insensitive. However, why is it insensitive? There may be reasons other than this one, but isn’t the big one: “You grew up with Aspergers, not autism. Having autism is harder than having Aspergers.”? Well, Aspergers is, you could say, the “highest functioning” form of autism. It’s on the spectrum. If I told you, “I have Autism,” that isn’t medically incorrect. It can be “misleading,” but it would be misleading because of the assumptions that come with the Autism/Aspergers stigma.

A post from @oldmancharles_34 Instagram.

I have been bullied for most of my life. I was socially awkward, didn’t understand people, got in trouble a lot for angry outbursts and misunderstandings, was confused all the time, and so many other things. Heck, I still struggle with these things, though to a lesser degree. I get misunderstood so often, even today. I got placed in Special Ed, which I did not like as a kid. It felt alienating. I felt different! Asperger Syndrome is a real struggle.

Many people think Asperger Syndrome is also the coolest thing ever! Like it somehow makes me smarter. In my opinion, I think everyone has the potential to be smart. I think a lot of it is right time and right place. It depends on what family you’re born into, where you live, your resources, how much you are loved, your willingness to learn, etc. You might have seen shows like The Good Doctor argue that people on the spectrum can be brilliant. Yes, we are wired in a way that sometimes puts us at a more natural advantage than our neurotypical peers. It’s easier to concentrate on one specific thing, particularly when it is something we enjoy. Extensive knowledge in what we like can make us sound like experts. I will tell you, I’ve had many people get impressed by my artistic skills and knowledge. They are impressed with my stories, my characters, my artwork, my words. There are people who think I’m a genius! One person I know watches The Good Doctor and actually compared me to the main character. Now I’ve only watched the first episode (I liked it). I’ve heard people argue, including those on the spectrum, that it is a positive stereotype. When I went to college, I told a college student that I have Asperger Syndrome, and she replied bona fide, “Congratulations.” She wasn’t being sarcastic or mean or anything!

What I’m saying here is that I’ve had people saying that I’m brilliant, and other people say things that made me feel like the village idiot. I know other Aspies who’ve been perceived with both negative and positive stereotypes. I forgot where I heard it, but one Twitter user said her teacher told her she was “bright,” but not “intelligent.” I could relate, though no one ever blatantly told me that.

Side note: My first interpretation of The Good Doctor was that it just artistically shows the mind of an autistic person, not that it stereotypically shows the mind of an autistic person.

Many people might think I shouldn’t call myself “Autistic” because I’m “smarter than that.” That is based on ignorance. Autism doesn’t measure intelligence. It has a set of characteristics that at times puts one at a social, and sometimes intellectual, disadvantage. I think the core problems with Autism are more social related than intelligence related. Or you could say it’s a matter of “social intelligence,” but please don’t call it a matter of overall “intelligence.” You’ve got many autistic savants. You don’t have many autistic people that are natural at conversations. I often don’t like my autism because it causes much confusion for me. I still like it when I’m hyper-focused on what I love (sometimes). I just don’t like it when it’s so hard to interpret a social situation that everyone else seems to understand.

Autistic people who are “lower functioning” may have it harder than me, but that doesn’t make what I deal with easy. In fact, I wonder how much “lower functioning” is based on judgmental attitudes as opposed to scientific reality.

Regardless of who has it harder, we need to face truth. Jesus says “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) The truth here is, my medical diagnosis at 2 years old was “Asperger Syndrome.” It is 2019 now, and 6 years ago it’s been grouped in with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We now know that Aspergers is also Autism, so why act as if it’s not? We deal with the same key features, like sensory sensitivity and social confusion. The symptoms are just at all different levels.

The reason why I go by “Autistic” now is not because I’m looking for attention or pity. I do it to acknowledge that my Aspie self and all autistic individuals are on the same spectrum. We have the same diagnosis. It doesn’t matter who has it worse. Comparison is stupid. What’s that gonna do? To me, all it does is underestimate the real and difficult problems of those who are “higher functioning.” To me, comparison communicates “That person is more autistic than you are. You’re fine.” That’s not true. Every autistic person’s case is unique, Aspie or not. Dismissing problems because they are less severe doesn’t make them not problems (in this case here, we’re talking about the problems that may come with any form of autism). Imagine two leaks in a ship. One leak is bigger than the other. Would you say, “This bigger leak needs to be fixed, but we don’t have to fix the other one because it’s not as big.”? No, you fix BOTH leaks. This analogy is inspired by this quote: “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” — Benjamin Franklin

Going by “Autistic” as opposed to “Aspie” is more inclusive. I have fans that are all over the spectrum. This is something I didn’t expect when I first created my channel. I don’t wanna single out a significant portion of my audience like that.

I still use the word “Aspie.” However, I don’t use it as often and I don’t use it to refer to my entire audience anymore. I think it’s a cute term of endearment. I sometimes use it interchangeably. I will say “Aspie” around people who also grew up with the Asperger diagnosis. I don’t see it as a bad word. However, I typically avoid it in my online posts. I do it so that everyone feels included, as they should. I am not superior to someone who never grew up as someone with Aspergers but did with Autism. We need to use language that indicates that we’re all in this together. Exceptions are everywhere. There are people who grew up on Aspergers; there are people who grew up on Autism. There are autistic people who are verbal; there are autistic people who are non-verbal. There are autistic people who are Caucasian; there are autistic people who are Hispanic (or some other ethnicity). I know an Autistic person that’s Caucasian AND Hispanic (Charlie and my cousin)! Regardless of what all makes us different, we won’t get anywhere without a sense of unity. Identifying as “autistic”, I think, strengthens the unity.

Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to go by “Aspie.” If you wanna say “Aspie,” go ahead! After all, I heard the word come from a delightful Aspie himself 🙂

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29