Blimey I nearly fell off the edge! The Asperger Path has been winding a route through some perilous peaks and spectacularly rugged ravines in the last month or two. Here I am on the other side. I am battered and bruised in places but, like any good traveller’s luggage, each scrape is a tale to add to my unfolding history.
I have been in Cambodia for about six months. I have made mistakes and compounded them by applying bad strategies. I have taken the wrong job in the wrong city and then the wrong job in the right city. I have been thrust into some rather awkward positions to expedite my extrication.
So here I am. Sweltering under the sun in Battambang. Currently I am working seven days a week but finally it’s the right job in the right city. The seven day weeks are just a blip. It is only for three weeks but I am looking forward to that day when I wake up and realise that I am not teaching. The workload, like the heat, will not be fatal. I have picked and chosen carefully and longer term life is looking rosy as I settle into undergraduate teaching.
The heat will not last forever. The rains will come and that is the next hurdle I face but my year here is already half over. My big reward will come when the rains subside. I will travel across this amazing country in the cooler months of winter. Then, as my visa nears expiry, I will choose a new country to explore.
Like Cambodia, the next country will no doubt be full of stops and starts as I awkwardly try to fit myself in to my new surroundings. I may be bruised and battered but my, what a path I am travelling down.
When I was young I never really knew what I wanted to be. I was a good all rounder academically so I was not encouraged to make any decisions. People told me I should keep my options open and not specialise to early. I never committed to anything and, as I have made my way through life, I never really have.
So here I am. At fifty I am still drifting through life and wondering what and where is next. I fell into teaching more than twenty years ago. It was more about escaping the drudgery of life at the town hall than finding a vocation. I now appear to happily richochet between the two, though teaching is my preferred choice.
My current incarnation, a teacher of English in Cambodia, is going rather well. I am enjoying the challenges and there are plenty of them. My current path has taken down some very new and different teaching avenues and might almost tempt me to stay a while. I have already been here six months and it’s starting to feel like home but then there are so many other countries and they are so close.
I am a restless soul. I roll and I drift and I don’t gather moss because I can’t keep still. Some researchers say that ADHD and Aspergers are closely linked. I don’t know if it’s true but certainly I can switch my focus from one thing to another fairly easily. It’s what I do best. After all I am a good all rounder. It seems a bit daft to settle down to something at this point. So I will continue along my rather chaotic Asperger Path, passport in hand, and no doubt find some activities that will divert my attention. The only deficit I can see is the judgmental way society labels and classifies its dazzling differences and distinct diversities.
A streetcar named desire stopped in my town the other day. A stranger disembarked and before he got back on he got and the bell clanged to signal his departure he declared that I looked comfortable in my own skin. Such a lovely compliment, thrown as he sped away to elsewhere.
We had spent such a short time together but looking back, the conversation was deep and the humour dry and sparkling like a good champagne. Certainly I had felt easy in the to and fro of the friendly conversational joust in which neither of us were tilted from our seats. We were well matched.
I’ve never depended on the kindness of strangers but when you’re travelling alone a stranger’s takes can light up dark unknown skies. I thrive on meeting new people. The relationships are superficial even if the conversations are deep and the torturously subtle complexities and conventions of long term relationships are hazards that need not be traversed.
As I travel alone on the Asperger Path, I realise that my life has acquired an openness and sense of freedom that it had often lacked. I have neither the time nor the ability to set up bizarre rules and restrictions. My life, so often run around a set of self constructed, constrictive mantras, is now open to the four winds and whoever they blow my way.
I have made some unusual choices and I’m sure the odd eyebrow is raised in my honour. However I took the road less travelled so I grateful when the streetcar drops off a stranger and he walks a block or two with me. I don’t depend on their kindness but it is most welcome.
It’s been a while since I put thumb to phone to tap out a metronomic message to put in my bottle. Life has taken me and carried me down a dizzyingly bizarre route. However far I have travelled I’m still here. My backwater life has had a few up and downs but the journey has been an internal one.
The twists and turns, at times almost Machiavellian, havr surprised me but they have failed to knife me and I have walked away, unscathed and unscarred. I have a new and, for me, more interesting job. I got called professor the other day and when I checked irony was not lurking in the corner. I am falling in love with my teaching. Adults and small groups seem deliciously simple after the dramas and joys of teaching my large grade 1 classes. However easy the management might be however, the content is challenging and my skills are being sharpened. My mind is tingling in ways I thought were long lost. It’s a privilege to be teaching teachers and seeing colleagues introduced to new concepts and ideas.
So, backwater Battambang will be home for a while longer. There’s a contentment in lingering yet still knowing that, a year from now, I’ll be elsewhere. The Asperger Path is moving slowly and the restless motion of my thumb taps a reminder to live each moment and let each moment pass.
I am a bit stressed and anxious. Life has come along and overwhelmed me. I was not thinking or planning and I was quite happily suspended in the moment. A traveller resting in a tranquil bubble. When I am away from anxiety it feels like I am away from reality because, sadly, anxiety is the most real feeling I know.
Anyway along came reality. Would I like a promotion? Experience should say no. My mouth says yes and even as it is being said the scenarios start playing in my head. I call it the what if chain. My mind can string countless hypothetical situations together. The first one or two are where the world discovers the genius that has now been hidden in its midst for fifty years. Then the disaster movies start. In each I play a leading role in my own humiliation and downfall. There are more sequels than a Rocky movie and the plot is always formulaic. I play the loser and the tragedy is that I am brought to the ground by my own shortcomings.
The joys of the Asperger Path are manifold and diverse. I have amazing skills but I do not hold a broad portfolio. I have so many blind spots and I am a great deceiver. The other day I was talking about being a good friend and my companion said I didn’t sound like a man on the spectrum. Reality has taught me harshly that talking the talk and walking the walk are too very different things. I know my weaknesses and my how I have analysed them in detail. Knowing you’re blind doesn’t give you sight and knowing that I’m not a “people person” doesn’t make it easier to be one.
I will go back and explain that I am not the right man for the job. Humble pie with sour cream will be my plat du jour. Hopefully I will stay where I am but, more likely, I will move on . Am I a traveller seeking the next adventure or merely a man who is constantly running away from the last debacle?
Desire can easily make a wise man foolish. I have a crush on someone. At fifty I suddenly find myself feeling as giddy as a fifteen year old. The first time we met he scampered over and told me all about his life and work. I listened but was distracted. I couldn’t decide if his sunny smile was broader than his feet. Both were irresistible and, being shy in the presence of beauty, I studied his feet more.
The second time we met he had forgotten my name. I remembered his and, much my shame, had practiced saying hello in Khmer so that I might charm him. He was as puppy-like as before. His broad, welcoming smile comes so easily and it’s hard to believe he only had the same number of teeth as any other mortal. I saw his eyes sparkling and then spent a while contemplating his feet, naked save for a plastic Y strap disappearing into his rather excitingly spaced toes.
Last night I saw him again. He regaled me with tales of traditional games that will be played in the run up to the New Year celebrations. How I want him to wet my face and blow flour all over me. Or perhaps in the tug of war I can encircle his slender waist with my arm and add some weight to his team. As we talked I found his excitement quite contagious. My smile must have mirrored his and he said my smile puts a light in his heart. I caught his eye, just for a moment before, feeling my colour rise, I dropped my gaze to his toes, which flex constantly as he talks.
He wants to visit me at my home before the New Year. Cambodian custom demands footwear be left by the door and finally I will see those capivating, dark feet fully naked on my floor. I am not foolish enough to risk clouding a beautiful smile so I will be a perfect host and offer my guest tea and cake rather than a foot rub. I may feel as giddy as a fifteen year old but experience has made me a wise old man.