I used to think that relationships and family would take me a long, long time to get to. I was a wonderfully awkward teenager who desperately wanted to fast forward through the social mores of high school and had no idea how to participate in all the relationship runaround of the schoolyard. I just avoided it. My life was stressful enough!

I guess I worked so hard in primary and secondary school to overcome crippling obsessions and anxieties and develop a positive profile in my year level that I got to my adulthood and found it very hard to relax enough to let someone ‘in’. Any relationship involves letting another ‘in’. This always seemed so risky to me. Plus I honestly think I was in such a groove of working on myself that I thought I would be ready in some magical far-distant future for relationships. But there’s nothing wrong with me. And you’re never ready!

Nevertheless, it took me a long time to let down my guard: a guard that was very strong after a childhood where I felt the sting of rejection and the loud negative whispers behind my back. The world is now becoming much more embracing of Autistics. I CAN’s vision is a world that benefits from embracing Autism. Our purpose is to prove what Autistics CAN do. I am convinced that today’s generation of Autistics won’t grow up needing to put up such a strong guard of protection. If you do put up a guard, I get you. I really get you. And the good news I can say is one day, if you’re open and brave enough, you will meet someone who will make you feel safe enough to let the guard down.

My partner Karen was that person for me. My Autism makes me feel emotions very deeply, sometimes to my great frustration! The depth of these emotions often takes a while for my mental decision-making to actually catch up. This delay, which you could also describe as my processing delay, is not a bad thing. Like many Autistics, when I make a decision, I make it for good. It’s been that Autistic focus and determination that has helped me dig in enough to grow I CAN to a workplace of 27 Autistics. It’s that same determination that helped me pull my act together and commit to Karen after her long years waiting for my decision-making to finally get there.

I’m excited to say we become parents in one month. It’s a surreal, overwhelming, exciting, terrifying moment. I definitely know I’m alive. My equivalent of stimming is clicking my fingers. I click my fingers when I’m over-stimulated, sometimes to a tune I’ve had composed since my little social triumphs in Little Athletics as a kid. I’m clicking a lot at the moment!

It’s a raw, precious moment this impending parenthood. You think of everything that helped you reach this moment and everything you still want to achieve. Life is going to change dramatically. I’m going to appreciate in such a personal way the experiences of my parents and other parents. So I want to say THANK YOU for whatever role you have played with Karen and I, whatever role you have played with I CAN and get set for a pretty entertaining social media thread as a little Varney puts me firmly in my place

The I CAN Network creates a world that embraces Chris’s strengths. We need your support to continue creating a society that empowers young people on the Autism Spectrum. Join us by donating to our next venture: holding one of our acclaimed camps in Queensland.

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