Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun - Day One: Over the Pacific



I'm now over the Pacific and it's beginning to sink in on just how ambitious of an undertaking this is for me. This was realized when I was trying to fill out the customs form and had a hard time making sense out of it because Japanese was primary with English being written in a small font. If it's that difficult to fill out the customs form what will it be like when I land?

Another thing that came up before this flight happened at the bar at the international terminal in Seattle. I was enjoying a cherry Coke and a person beside me asked where I was traveling to. I said that I was going to Tokyo so naturally the next thing asked was, "for business" to which I had to replay that it wasn't, exactly, business. I mentioned I'm a writer and doing a small personal social experiment and before I could give a thorough answer I'm assuming I bored him and he left; that or he had a flight to catch, but yes, why am I going?

When I wrote the first half of day one I mentioned reasons, but I think I missed the core of it. Well, that and I was so tired this morning writing it that I don't really remember writing it, but I know I covered the social aspect of the past three months in my life but this transcends that. I'd say that was the motivation to do this again but what's the purpose? What's the goals? The first is to, as plain as it sounds, see if I can survive. How will I deal with a culture completely foreign to what I know? Will I be able to navigate? How will I handle the constant bit of change?

Change? Actually, one of the reasons I love travel is the constant change because if everything is changing that means everything is the same. This goes back to Film Theory in my book, "Finding Kansas" in that "whatever happens first always has to happen." That being so, if I'm in a place I've never been and know nothing then I have no film to go by. How strong is this film? Going back two days ago to the Indy 500, my dad took a slightly different route than the route we've taken for well over a decade. To most this is a non-point as we went just one block north on this secret route (it is secret! It saves about an hour and if I share it with the world our advantage will be lost) but for that one block I felt this extreme sense of panic. I've heard this from many people, from many parents, how this topic of routes are sacred. However, where I'm going I'll be free of any routes, any routines, and the film has yet to be exposed to anything.

Also I go to prove to myself what I'm capable of. I'm sure it's hard to believe, or empathize with this, but I struggle daily with thoughts of, "Am I good enough?" This goes back to the day I was diagnosed and the awful, awful introduction I had. Deep within me I know there's hope, there's always hope, and deep within me I know the words that, "I'll never have a job, friends, or be happy" is just one gigantic lie, but there's this nagging part of my brain that still whispers it. It makes for two things: it can easily create a self fulfilling destiny and it also tells me I shouldn't try to venture out because failure is a guarantee. You'd think I'd know otherwise by now and I laughed at these thoughts as I went through all the photos on my phone and have seen all the places I've been and all the extraordinary things I've accomplished, but nonetheless the doubt remains.

The final reason I’d like to state why I am embarking on this adventurous journey is for what you've already read. There's something about the prospect of venturing into the unknown with little to no preparation (I am SO under prepared for this—by choice), because it sparks my thoughts and allows me to write. I hope, in the following week, to point out the duality that Asperger's can bring about. I can work a race with full control, navigate airports, and write amazing stuff like this (whoa! Self compliment! Note that because, that's a rarity) but the ability to express simple needs or emotions to those around me can be impossible. I can manage the superlative (many, many people have told me they wouldn't dare try to go to Japan, or any foreign country, alone with no contacts) but a simple phone call can lock me up, or a certain sound. While I'm capable of much I'm also incapable of things most people take for granted. Maybe I'll learn more about this on this trip, maybe I'll meet a challenge I'm not up for the task, then again maybe I'll manage the superlative once more. In reality I don't have a choice because this is sort of a sink or swim experience and I've always said I swim in a “sink or swim” situation and I'm literally halfway around the world from anyone I know so I'm own my own... And it feels great!

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