Friday, June 12, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Japan Day Three: A Walk in the Gardens


For the first time in all of my international travels jet lag wasn't an issue and I slept the entire night. Since I've stated this, I'm fearing what could happen tonight, but maybe going 14 time zones is easier than 6? I hope so.

I slept for 11 hours and the only thing that got me out of bed was this nagging sensation of hunger. The hotel has a breakfast buffet that for 1,100 yen and it looked, well, different. Whereas breakfast at my hotel in Amsterdam was the stuff culinary dreams are made out of this was, um, edible? For some it's probably a delicious and savory meal, but this wasn't my type of bacon, the eggs had ketchup on it, I don't know what the meat in the sauce was, but the bread I had was pretty decent. Thankfully I came with breakfast bars so after I tried a bit of the food I retreated to my room to eat and finish the post that was yesterday's entry.

Once my writing was done I looked on Google maps to see what was around and per my Film Theory I thought it right to go to an art museum and sure enough just an hour's walk north of me was the Museum of Modern Art. I headed out around 9:00 and I made sure to keep track of all the monuments and buildings I could because I was walking without the aid of technology. If I'd didn't remember the way I came it would result in me getting lost and having to resort to either A. Being lost for hours and hours or B. Caving in and taking an expensive cab.

Thankfully the main roads are clearly marked and I walked on the sidewalk of road 301. I quickly noticed that the majority of people walk the way of traffic meaning, here, people walk on the left. The few times I walked on my side of the road, meaning the right as that's what the way we drive in the US, I got a few looks. I wouldn't call them mean looks or leers, but it was a look as if to say, "ha! American, learn how to walk!"

On my way to the museum my mind began to fill with thoughts as it finally hit me that I was walking in a foreign land that I never thought I would visit. From this thought deep thoughts started filling my brain as I tried to figure how why I was here and what I wanted to accomplish. From that I thought about Asperger's and the time of my diagnosis to the events of the past six years and just how fast I went from hopeless to bringing hope and yet through all that I still, myself, have moments where I too feel helpless and I began to wonder if this is normal.

As I tried to make sense of my life I looked around at the beautiful skyline and figured that where I was just happened to be one of the ultimate examples of living life with Asperger's. This isn't to say that Tokyo, itself, brought this on, but here's the thing; I heard no English today, I couldn't read any of the signs, and what that meant was I was living life having no idea if I had done the right or the wrong thing. I've learned to have a gigantic smile anytime I'm I a stores when buying something and I think I've perfected a gracious bow in gratitude, but besides that I'm socially blind. I knew coming into this that I'd learn Amsterdam was just a easy stroll compared to this, and looking around my surroundings I knew I was right.

But going back to the thought of life; I have struggled with my diagnosis since day one. I've come along ways, I know there's always hope, and I know that I need to define it instead of it defining me but at the same time I fear the limitations it attempts to put on me. I say attempt because I fight it, I fight it fiercely, but when I know what I want to say and can't, well, it's hard to accept that. It's even harder when it's an ongoing thing. It's odd that I has to come 7,000 miles away to write this, but that's what being in a new environment like this does.

The road curved and I noticed a bunch of tourist type people crossing the street so I followed them and I quickly found myself in the Imperial Gardens. I crossed a bridge of a moat which, from the signs, either cost 1,471 to build or was built in 1,471 to protect the emperor. The gardens were a tranquil place in the midst of the bustle of Tokyo and I rounded a corner to see a field that made me think of the most pristine golf course fairways I've ever seen. Okay, so I love golf and most people wouldn't have that thought, but with the way the grass was it was perfect for a sit to reflect, which many others were doing, so I joined in and started rehashing my thoughts on life. 

Thinking thoughts such as, "If I had only said this" or "If I could only do that" is a one way ticket to a depressing mindset. Here I was, at the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, Japan and my brain was focused on how to be better at speaking, or how to overcome social fears. I was being robbed of the experience, but that within itself was the experience for me. I've done a good job at home blending in and eliminating situations that get me out of my comfort zone. I think that's why my writing has been stagnant which is great for myself in terms of avoiding stressful moments at the checkout line (see numerous blog entries my first year) or issues on the golf course. The bottom line is I've done a great job managing Aspergers and it's easy to forget that I have it. This is both good and bad. It's good because I've grown but bad because it's hard to accept it and when I stood up I laughed at the fact that I've gone halfway around the world and what would be simple social interactions for others is, for myself, fear inducing.

The path had some more turns and as I reached the top and was just about to take a picture the most fitting thing happened; there was a guy reading a sign and his shirt said, "life is what you make it". This was the grandest of grand reminders of who I am and what I've done and I don't mean this in terms of personal accomplishments or accolades but rather the thoughts I had been dwelling on. I uses to live life defeated; I'd wake up defeated knowing there was no reason to look forward to the hours and weeks to come. What was the point of life? If failure was a guarantee why should I struggle against it? Why should I fight to become more than I was? There were many people who saw my potential and one by one they helped me along my path and seeing that shirt put it all in perspective.

I started in my first post of this journey saying that I was hoping to find myself and perhaps, in a way, that shirt at that very moment helped me see that I already have. We all can read motivational speeches, or have someone whose opinion we value tell us something important, but unless the context is there at that moment the meaning can be lost. I've known life is what we make it, in fact that can apply to anything (except if I try to cook, I can't make anything) but to read that after thinking about my journey to be able to even go on a journey like this made it all real and I understood that it is okay to be frustrated; it's okay to want more but at the same time if that's all I see in myself then that's all I am and I allow Aspergers to define who I am.

After such an emotional walk in the gardens it seemed like a moot point to go to the art museum but I did and it was no Rijksmuseum but it was enjoyable nonetheless. After that I walked back towards the hotel and didn't get lost, thankfully, but with my bruised. Shin and sprained ankle my day's journey had come to an end, but what a day it had been. I went from being very critical of myself to having a newfound understanding of just how much I've gone through to get here. This Aspie Traveler series, usually, is about the external and about the places and interactions I have but today's journey was one of inner understanding and while I still struggle socially and often times leaves things unsaid, even if I know what I want to say, I don't think I've ever given myself credit for saying what I have said and enduring the things I have and still have the desire to get up each day and look forward to the upcoming hours and weeks. Life is hard, it may be even harder if you've got Aspergers, and since I know this I realized today I'm one of the toughest individuals you'll meet.

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