You say yes; then you figure it out. Because when you know, just know, that you’re making a difference, it stops becoming a choice. Fear doesn’t get to be a reason to say no. The door opens; you go through it.
Event poster (Theresa Tongi).
Legends Arohanoa Matthews & Paul Quicke.
Superheroes Keri Opai & Theresa Tongi.
My digital art is being exhibited at an epic, real-life, (Dale Copeland’s work is here!) art gallery. With plinths and velvety chairs. Where people cooler-than-I-can-deal-with gaze about talking slowly and softly. I know. It’s next level. How did I get here? Serendipity. Magic. People. A million little things and a few big chunky ones. I said yes, I figured it out, and now it’s real. I’m part of an exhibition with incredible artists, part of a kaupapa that is changing the world. So, what’s on the other side of terror? Get ready: There’s nothing. Well, more like, no stops, if that makes sense. It’s open space. It’s freedom. It’s feeling like you can (and will) go bigger and further in search of the edge again. The art opening was mīharo, awe-inspiring; the Koru on Devon gallery wall-to-wall with people (in spite of clashing with both a big night of Very Important Rugby and New Plymouth’s record-breaking pirate pub crawl); filling the space with beautiful words, crackling energy, gasps, laughs, tears, joy. And still, it feels like the beginning.
For me, the journey into te ao Māori, and te ao Takiwātanga, are so tightly woven into who I am that I’ve only freshly found them to be individual threads. Two things that I have always been but not always felt, two things you can’t tell about me by looking. Two intangible things that affect every aspect of who I am and how I see the world. It’s a journey. Pulling out the threads, seeing myself as the sum of the parts. It’d be easier to stay quiet, disappear into my own skin, think everyone feels like I do, sees like I do. But I’ve made that impossible now. I can’t unknow what I know, and I can’t go back – I’m not even there to go back to. And so I’m scared, terrified, a lot of the time. But I’m also proud, and so humbled that people want to hear more from me. And it’s not in spite of but because of all the ways I thought I was wrong and broken. This is the new world. The new voices. The crashing and rippling of connections when superheroes meet. World-changers. I’m scared. But it doesn’t matter. He toa taumata rau; bravery has many landing places. Leaving the house. Speaking the truth. Being yourself.
Jolene is an autistic writer, speaker, and parent.
Since her 2018 TEDx Talk going public with her diagnosis, Jolene has been inspiring corporates, communities, and global giant IBM with her fresh and exciting perspective on autism.
Ultra-enthusiastic author and TEDx speaker Jolene Stockman is tangata whaitakiwatanga (autistic). This fast-talking, big thinking Kiwi is excited to empower autistics – and the neurotypicals who love them – with her vision of the world. Jolene lives in Aotearoa, New Zealand.