Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Japan Day Five: Walking to Get Lost Only to FInd My Job

I have what I hope will be an unforgettable experience planned tomorrow but today's schedule was wide open. This isn't to say that each day is forgettable, but tomorrow has something extra special planned, anyway, I got up at 6:00 and at 7:00 I made the trek to 7-11 (they are open from 7 to 11 here as the name originally implied) for donuts and I returned to the room with a problem; what was I going to do today?

At 8:00 I decided to start walking. I had no destination, no plan, I simply was walking to see what I would see. It was somewhat harrowing because I had no map and with each block passed and each turn I had to use the GPS in my brain to remember where I was. This would sound exciting but my sense in direction in most every place is exceptionally good and I tried to get myself lost but I couldn't.

This entry was originally going to be about the walk, the emotions, the satisfaction of walking in a foreign land, but as I got back towards my hotel in the afternoon a person passed me and at first I froze because I didn't know if I heard what I thought I heard but he said again, "traveling?" It was indeed English, Australian from the sounds of it, and I said yes and he said, "business or pleasure?" which is a difficult question for me to answer because my business is my pleasure so I said both to which he inquired as to what that meant and I stated I'm a writer so naturally he asked what I wrote about and I mentioned the autism spectrum and for there the conversation was on.

I was right, he was from Australia, and he mentioned he had a vague knowledge of autism but had never heard of Asperger's. I was not prepared for a miniature presentation on the side of the road in Tokyo so my answer was probably not as perfect as it could be, but I explained it and mentioned that I had it and the all too often reply came, "oh, well you appear normal to me!"

Normal... I never know how to take this. I think each person that says this means it as a compliment but at the same time it's as if it undercuts every struggle I've faced to get here. This fueled the fires of presenting and when he asked to whom I present to I named all the segments of society I have and he became highly curious as to why I have presented to so many police officers and I was able to turn the "normal to me" line around and state that this was the reason why. The autism spectrum doesn't have a look or specific markers, if any. To him, because he didn't know what he was looking for, I was "normal"; just another traveler in a city that has the population of California! Once I started rattling off the quirks, the lack of eye contact, the twirling of my belt loops, the slight rock in my standing in place the look of "ah ha" came across his face.

After I explained all that he asked again, "so what are you doing to Tokyo, presenting?" To which I explained that I was here to see if I could make and to see if I could make it a week by myself and not starve. He found this to be a most daring of expeditions and it intrigued him and he asked if I had done this before. I talked about my Amsterdam experience but said that going in that trip gave me no ability to prepare for the megapolis that is Tokyo.

Perhaps 15 minutes passed and his friend came by and that was the end of an impromptu presentation. I find it amazing on just how fast a situation can change; here I was trying to get myself lost and if anything someone found myself for me. I said several times that I was hoping to find myself and maybe the thing is I already have and just haven't known or accepted it. I think we all strive to be more than we are or could ever be when perhaps we are actually more than that and don't know it. That's what the Power of One is. I planted the seeds of awareness and understanding in a person in his 50's who had never heard of it. Does he own a business? Is he affiliated with a police force? Does he have extended family that may have the diagnosis? All these question I'll never have the answer to but I know I did all that I could to open his eyes to what autism can be.

In one of my entries I said that we can travel the world but we can never run from who we are. We can try, but ourselves will always catch up with us. We can only run for so long before we find ourselves whether we like it or not and rounding a random corner it was simply asked one word in, "traveling" and little did he or I know that I indeed was, but it was more than just traveling to Tokyo; it was a journey to see what I am made of and what my purpose is. I know my journey isn't over, I'm still traveling and I'll still be traveling when I get home, but it's a journey that must be taken and I hope many, many more people ask me that question because I'll be more than happy to share my story of where I'm headed of a world of better autism awareness and understanding.

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