Let’s Be Practical

It all started with a Buzzfeed quiz: Eat Your Way Through Europe and We’ll Reveal Your Dream City! I got Barcelona, and while I was reading through the blurb describing warm oceans and sea breezes I thought to myself “you know, I’d love to see Barcelona some day.”

But let’s be practical, I probably won’t.

I think the most heartbreaking part of being diagnosed as an adult is that I often still think that I am neurotypical. And since I’ve spent 28 years being bombarded by the idea that I can do anything I want, I see no reason why I can’t. As long as I Try hard enough.

I think we all know though, that autism doesn’t work like that. Now I’m not implying that we shouldn’t try! Yoda said “do or do not, there is no try”, and I disagree with the little green bastard, because I think “try” is not a placeholder for “do”, I think trying is an action in its own right.

And because of this, I subscribe to the school of Realistic Trying. To me, this means that I’m never going to stop pushing forward and doing things, but I’m going to be realistic about how I go about it. Let’s take Barcelona. Barcelona is in Europe. In Spain. I live in St. Louis, which is 4644 miles away, smack dab in the center of the United States. And thanks to the myth of Trying Hard, a large part of my brain still thinks that travelling that far is doable.

Let’s make a quick list of barriers to travel:

  1. I have a routine, and if it is not followed, it will eventually lead to a meltdown.
  2. I can’t deal with unpredictability, and travelling to a new continent is full of them.
  3. I am a picky eater, and my precariously balanced diet depends on me being able to eat safe foods.
  4. I get overwhelmed by people. I’m pretty sure a transatlantic flight would be the end of me.
  5. Sensory Overload. Enough said.

Yet my brain tells me that I Can Do Anything, and my common sense can’t shut it up. My brain tells me to Follow My Dreams. Common sense suggests maybe finding a more realistic dream, but this is quickly shut down. I Can Do Anything, my brain proclaims.

I can’t do anything.

I can do some things, and that list is always growing. This is what I need to focus on, because I logically know that I can’t just push through a meltdown with the power of Trying. What I can do, and what I need to do, is to get to know myself better. Find out where I can make little adjustments without compromising my mental health.

So on days when I try something new, I keep my schedule as close to normal as possible, even if I’m not at home. I talk myself through things that might be unpredictable, so I can be ready for them. I pack myself just-in-case food, and I know where the bathrooms are- just in case I need a break. And for the sensory worries? I never leave home without ear plugs, stim toys, and distractions.

I wish my brain thought those little adjustments were a success, but I think we all know by now that that it doesn’t. Because my dreams didn’t come true, it tells me, I must not have tried hard enough. Who cares about small victories? I’m not lying on a beach* in Barcelona, so I’ve failed.

Let’s all give a rousing Shut Up to my brain, because yeah, maybe I haven’t made it to Europe yet. Maybe I never will. But hey, let’s be realistic, I’ve got Nashville, and Chicago, and Kansas City, all a hop, skip, and a jump away, so let the road trips begin!

*I would never do this anyway. Wet sand is sensory hell for me.

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Let’s Be Practical

  1. I used to have to travel from Boston to Paris for my job, several timea a year. First trips were hell, then I figured it out. The min reason i could was that I knew my limits. Planned all subsequent tripa like my life depended on it, becauae it did. Ans now I am confident I can travel to mamy places I want to go

    Point is, Autism providea a roadmap that shows us what won’t and what will work. And because you have the ability to see what won’t work for you, you also have the capacity to find what will.

    If you truly don’t want to visit Barcelona, then don’t. But if you really want to, I can help. I’ve been there myself with friends. Traveled all over Europe, in fact. Being out if the USA can be a breath of fresh air for those of us on the spectrum. You can DM me in Twitter @VoxVisual. Seriously, it can be done with the proper approach. Don’t give up! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been bumbling around trying to figure out how to thank you for your kind response, so I’ll just do it- Thank you!

      Travelling is something that I never gave much thought to. I always figured it would happen eventually, and I think turning 30 this year has stirred something in me.

      I’ve got some small trips coming up, and I think I’ll be using them to figure out my limits and start testing techniques. I agree with you that planning is key!

      Thanks again for the inspiration and advice- perhaps my new travel motto should be What Would VisualVox Do? Unless that’s weird. Then I definitely won’t 😂.

      Like

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