#7: What’s my year story? Reflection

Part 1:

Self Direction:

All great leaders have vision. Every single one sees clearly what they want to change and become visionaries. They don’t need others around them to understand; they don’t need to develop ideas with others. In other words, they have the vision, and the rest follow. Through this year, I have had the wonderful chance to discover my passion and stick with my vision. My real journey this year began during our December retreat, when we formed teams around common interests. I was interested in autism. However, no one else was. To fit into the group, my topic had to change to mental health, but this wasn’t what I was interested in. After leaving the retreat, I was able to reflect back and ask myself if mental health was something I still was passionate about. I decided that I wanted to follow my own passion to pave my own way and split off. It was a leap of faith. I became my own leader. As a result, I have been very self directed. I learned to manage my time, which was significant. Mainly, I found that through not compromising to fit a mold, I was able to really branch out, follow my own passion, and learn more about who I am through the process.

Responsible and Involved Citizenship:

I had a chance to discuss my topic with peers at What’s the Story?, as well as with Geoff Gevalt, my mentor. Geoff especially gave me feedback on parts of the story that weren’t clear and that could be developed further. He also gave me an opportunity to see my project from a different point of view. Through hearing the thoughts of the general public about autism, I was able to formulate my purpose and audience to create the change I wanted.

Of all the areas I would like to practice further, responsible and involved citizenship is the one I want to practice most. As I was my own group this year, I didn’t have as much opportunity to communicate and work with others; in teams especially. Although I have learned a lot about how to formulate questions in interviews, create and receive feedback, and use what I know and hear from others in order to look at my story from many different points of view, I have not had a chance to work in a group and have had less practice with this particular skill.

Informed and Integrative Thinker:

One of my favorite parts of this year was getting to think outside the box for how to create an engaging and meaningful documentary. My huge inspiration came from watching a Ted Talk on bullying, in which the speaker used poetry and animation to create a visual and audio story. It was very powerful.

I found myself connecting to poetry and animation and was inspired to add it to the end of my documentary. The topic of autism is so huge, and most people believe it is very concrete (which it is), with facts and numbers, but underneath that we’re all still human. This is what my documentary focused on. It was always difficult to explain to people how my poetry and animation was going to ft into my project while I was still working on it. However, I was undeterred and kept right on going. I eventually finished my animation and poem and was able to see them together. My dream became a reality.

What I loved about creating my animation and poem was how much fun it was to think outside the box. It really created a product that is both visually entertaining and powerful with words.

Clear and Effective Communication:

Coming into What’s the Story? this year, I didn’t know what to expect. Interviewing? Working in teams? Making a documentary? All questions that were a bit scary.

Coming into the second half of the year, I found working independently on my idea liberating, exciting, and also a bit scary. It was like being a fledgling bird. You know you’re ready to learn to fly, it’s just scary taking the first step.

Interviewing got easier every time, and it felt rewarding. Meeting new people, learning new information, deepening my own knowing all felt so exhilarating. After I finished my interviewing process, the editing process felt like it would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. However, it was still enjoyable to see the pieces coming together. Organizing my info was long and laborious, but necessary, and it made further editing so much smoother. Synthesizing the interviews into the most succinct parts was difficult because each interview was so rich with insight. Targeting my audience and making the information exciting and new was one of my favorite parts of the documentary-making process. I am also a storyteller, as any documentarian, finding the stories and using those was powerful also.

Part 2:

Through this year, there were many things that made an unexpected impact on me.

Coming into this, I was excited to begin a new chapter of my life with What’s the Story? but was nervous about interviewing and creating my own product. I was unsure of my ability in such an environment with so many opportunities to talk with people I didn’t know. Finding my passion for autism and humanity, as well as gaining an understanding of who I am through discussing with others, built my confidence. There is so much joy that comes from making change in an area that you feel truly passionate about. This is what my entire year has been about and has manifested into.

Confidence and perseverance were important for me this year. I understood the larger truths beneath autism (and any label): that we are all human and have our own special gifts as everyone does. That meant that I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to change. Often people were confused about my vision because of its depth. They questioned what my ideas had to do with autism, and it was often a bit scary answering and expecting others to understand. I learned to be confident and trust what I know, and especially to persevere and hold onto my truth no matter what.

Hearing my interviewees talk to me about their experiences, thoughts, and especially their stories brought me so much joy; and my confidence grew from it. Often through life taking the first step is the hardest part. Although every interview was mostly exciting and slightly stressful to me, I found that each one became easier as I gained my footing and expanded who I am. I was able to create succinct questions for my interviews as I grew in confidence, and my interviews became more focused on the change I wanted to create. I learned to be clear and professional when talking. I enjoyed digging for meaningful stories. The happiness that came from talking to others who were equally passionate also expanded my confidence. I am so glad I took the next step and expanded into interviewing.

Through this year, another lesson I’ve learned is about patience. I had no idea how long and difficult the editing process would be. I needed to learn how to use the equipment and navigate the technological difficulties that arose. The hours I spent editing taught me so much about being patient and continue on, even if things aren’t working. I had to trust that everything would work out in the end.

When I think about what I will remember many years from now and beyond, I know I will remember the joy of flight, metaphorically. I came into this year as a fledgling. I was ready for a new challenge but was still afraid of falling. I found my way and beat my wings when I found my passion in creating understanding of all people, and I first found the joys of flight when I became an independent team and began interviewing. From there, it was a crescendo until my documentary was complete. This was my favorite part of the entire year: putting together my documentary and watching the image come into focus for all the world to see. These are my joys of flight.


Featured image: by Esther Palmer

Aidan Palmer

One Response to “#7: What’s my year story? Reflection

  • Aidan, I love this reflection because it carries, too, some of the images that you put in your project which, after all, was about shedding labels, taking flight as individuals, being seen as individuals. You were a delight to work with; your enthusiasm, willingness to consider other points of view and your intense commitment — combined with your strengths: self-motivation, visual art, self-critique and assessment, poetry — resulted in, not surprisingly, a very moving story and project. You were ambitious. And you kept to that ambition and, if anything, expanded it as you got deeper.

    I’m sorry that you missed the opportunity to fully collaborate with others on a single project. But that is the only thing you missed from this experience and you made up for it with the feedback you shared and received with others.

    Thanks for the opportunity to work with you.


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