I am a brother. It is something that does not take up much time, yet my brother is often in my thoughts. As children, our age shaped the roles we were given and seems to have shaped the men we have become.
He is older than me, and when I was young, he seemed so grown up. I looked to him for guidance and advice. Our home situation was somewhat less than conventional, so an unfair burden was placed on him that I never carried. He was expected to take care of me whereas I was just expected to be younger. He shouldered responsibility at an early age while I skipped through life, almost oblivious to the world around me.
My brother is fifty five years old now, and he has taken care of his wife and their sons. His family has grown up in a safe and loving environment that did not mirror our childhood existence. A stable home, where promises were kept and boundaries were maintained, has produced two happy confident young men. They have a home which is solid, built on love, respect and hard work.
I don't have a home and I have never really settled. I roam about the world, restlessly seeking things I'll probably never find. I would like to know how it feels to share my home and my life with someone. I am fifty and have never lived with a partner. I can only imagine the joys and woes of parenthood and have resigned myself to my solitary life. I have shirked life's responsibilities and I am still skipping. I never have everything I need and yet, thanks to the kindness of people around me, my scrapes are survived. I am still that boy who never has a clean tissue and always has untied laces.
On one level I have always wanted to be like my brother, but I am not. I am the younger son, and I was only ever expected to need looking after. He grew up to be a caretaker and I, perhaps not yet grown up, still take care when it is offered
So many years I wore boots. Big heavy boots that trampled a path through any terrain. I never stopped to think because I was always moving on.
I know that I have inadvertently trampled on some dreams. I know that my rough shod feet have caused more upset than they should. So many years I was unaware of the people around me. So what changed?
I did. Or more accurately I am. Changing that is. I realised one day that I had not been as kind as I could have been and that made pause for thought. I know that I have never been an intrinsically bad person. I am not a murderer, rapist or abuser. However it is not enough for me not to be a bad person. My aspirations are higher because I know I can be better than that. So I am changing.
Change is a long process. It is difficult and I will need to keep saying sorry every time I get it wrong. I will need to be develop my under exercised humility until it balances my pride and arrogance and become closer to the man I know I can be.
This then, is not an apology. Apologies are not generic, blanket statements that can issued impersonally. They should be a heartfelt message from one human soul to another. This is more a manifesto. I will throw away my boots and walk barefoot through this life. I will still move on but from now on my soul will be naked and exposed and each step will be taken gingerly. I think my journey will be all the better for it.
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.
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.
Am I still travelling? I mean I’ve rented a flat, signed a work contract, and got myself a twelve month visa. That feels like roots. Then again, I am still thinking where next. I just bought a laptop for work and I’m freaking out. Most people don’t buy a laptop when travelling but then a lot of people already have a laptop so thats only a huge commitment in my eyes. After all it comes in a backpack. The Asperger Path comes with baggage too in the form of over analysis and anxiety. It’s all right, I am still moving, just not too quickly.
Those that come here have already chosen a quiet diversion from the highlights of this country. On a lonely planet, the irony is that most are guided along more well beaten tracks. This backwater, Cambodia’s second city, cannot boast a UNESCO heritage site or awesome experiences. It’s quirky, a little offbeat and has a crumbling post colonial charm that doesn’t look amazing on social media. However, as a place to reside, it has a lot to offer. Great cafés and lovely restaurants, a tree lined river and lots of happy friendly people make this city a jewel. I am lucky to be able to work and that allows me to travel at a different pace. I am not a moss gatherer and one day I will roll away but for now Battambang is a home and a great place to experience life in one of my favourite places, the slow lane.