The thrilling adventures of Queerly Autistic in…a shopping centre

Self-discipline. That is a thing I apparently do not have.

But no more! The thrilling tones of superwoman and all-around awesome funny-woman-on-the-internet Lilly Singh have served to knock firmly against my skull and stick a proverbial rocket up my proverbial backside. I have just downloaded the audio version of her book, How to Be a Bawse:  A Guide to Conquering Life, and it is full of tips and steps on how to get where you want to be – in my case, the most important passage waxed hilariously and poignantly on the importance of self-control, discipline, and deadlines.

So, I am going to set myself up a blogging schedule.

Seeing as Lilly herself is the inspiration behind this attempt at self-governance, I shall follow in her fabulous footsteps and commit myself to publishing a post on Mondays and Thursdays. This is writ in ink, in pixels and in annoying-phone-alarm tone, to force me to work to a deadline, stick to my schedule, and fulfil the promises that I have made to myself.

(I am aware that today is Saturday, but I hadn’t made a definitive decision on Thursday, and if I didn’t get it written down I would definitely have redecided, chickened out, or just plain forgotten by Monday – I have made an omnipotent authorly decision that today is an honourary Thursday)

So. LET US BLOG.

At the weekend, I had some very interesting, positive, negative, stressful and exhilerating adventures, in a most exotic location – my local shopping center and town centre. This is not a place that one would traditionally look to find an expedition fraught with danger and excitement, but the neurodivergent mind is not a great friend of tradition.

By the weekend, I am typically burned out and in need of some recuperation. As I am also currently studying to complete an online course (my perpetual hunger to learn without actually having to be in education coming through here) I have a particular routine that gives me the space to do fulfil these two needs. I go and sit in Starbucks for three hours.

Now, anyone who knows me will understand that I am what you may call a ‘rampant idealistic socialist’, so it brings shame upon me that this of all places would be my safe space. How very corporate and capitalist and tax-avoiding and OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHAT ABOUT YOUR VALUES. However, it is so, and I cannot change it. There’s something about the combination of the colours (muted greens and browns, never too over-the-top), the music level (softly in the background, never too loud), the space (in which you can tuck up and avoid human contact), the staff (who somehow always remember your name and order so you have to partake in very little human interaction), and the fact hot chocolate is the only drink other than water that I can stomach and Starbucks hot chocolate is one of maybe two versions of hot chocolate I deem acceptable to consume – this all leads to it being my guilty-but-nevertheless-safe space to crawl into and have study-and-downtime.

Last weekend, however, I had a task added to my list – I needed to go into the bank and set up a standing order.

As you can imagine, the terror of such a thing was immense. My banking app had failed me, and only face-to-face human contact would prevail. Being the organised and efficient individual that I am, I of course stayed sipping my hot chocolate for far longer than was necessary, and only left myself fifteen minutes before I needed to leave and go to choir. As I took a breath and stepped out towards the bank, terror gripped my heart. I had no idea what I was doing. Where did I need to go? How should I phrase the question? What if they weren’t friendly? What if I accidentally robbed the bank? In the midst of this anxiety, I did the one thing I know how to do.

I called my mum.

She is brilliant. As I stood outside of the branch and hyperventilated, she talked me down gently, explained exactly what I needed to do, and then promised to stay on the line as I took a breath and crossed the threshold into the bank. I could hear her softly talking as I approached the gentleman at the ‘here to help’ stand, talking me through what I needed to do, and…I did it.

There were a few hiccups. The moment when I needed a code I couldn’t remember to log in was a relatively hairy moment on the grand scale of things, but the helpful man who had popped out to give me some privacy just as quickly popped back in to help me look up the all important string of numbers. And then – as if someone had uttered a magic word – it was all done and I was ready to go. Hurrah!

As I strode out of the bank, my phone now switched off, new standing order gleaming in the ether somewhere, I felt an overwhelming and somewhat-pleasurable sense of adulthood. In that moment, I believed that I could survive in the big, wide world, because I was adult enough to do bank-type things.

I was proud of myself. I learned long ago to not be ashamed of the things I call victories, and to recognise the magnitude of achievements on my own barometer rather than anyone else’s. We each have our own levels and experiences on which to measure these things. What is a victory to me may be a simple, every day task to someone else. And we are allowed to be proud of ourselves for our own small triumphs.

Feeling warm from this inner glow, I made my way to the ticket machine to pay for my parking – as things stood, I was not going to be as late to choir as I had feared, so I should be able to slip in and pick up without too much trouble.

And then I rummaged in my pocket.

The second pound coin I thought I had transferred to my pocket was obviously still languishing in my car door pocket.

Dammit.

I took a breath. It was okay. My car was a little way away, but if I hurried, I could collect the money, run back, pay, run back again, and still not too embarrassingly late. It was doable. It was. I was glowing. I was an adult. I achieved things. So I pushed ‘cancel’.

The pound coin I had previously slotted into the machine clanked noisily into the tray at the bottom.

My ticket, however, remained sucked into the depths of the contraption.

Another breath. At this point my heart was pounding. Now I was going to be very late. I needed my ticket to get out of the car park. I had done the right thing. I had been in control and things had still gone wrong. The anxiety from before I went into the bank began to knot itself in painful loops in my stomach. With panic on the edge of boiling point, I slammed my hand into the ‘help’ button, hoping to retain my sense of adultiness long enough to ask for help and get the situation rectified.

When a voice came over the speaker, I explained my predicament – that my ticket had not been given back to me after I tried to cancel the transaction.

“What d’you press cancel for?!?”

I don’t know whether it was the temerity to question what I had deemed to be a perfectly logical action on my part. Or whether it was sneery, almost incredulous tone, as if I had just told him that I had attempted to fill the machine with beetroot and then called him for help when it gave me red juice instead of my ticket back. I don’t know whether it was because I had clompy heels on so I wouldn’t even be able to sneak quietly into choir as I arrived shamefully late.

I lost it.

Bursting into tears, I wailed that it was because I didn’t have the correct change. I sobbed as he sighed and told me to drive around to the front and pay there. I wept as I got back into my car and tried to navigate out of the car park.

I was hyperventilating almost when I jerked the car into a corner, yanked the handbrake, pulled out my phone, and, once again, did the only thing I could remember how to do – I called my mum.

To put it succinctly (don’t laugh), I didn’t go to choir. I calmed down enough to drive home, at which point I grabbed some chocolate, my face still wet with tears, still struggling to get my breathing under control, crawled into bed, and let myself be smothered by two very excited and worried puppy dogs.

I did nothing for the rest of the day.

And so that is that.

The thrilling adventures of Queerly Autistic – behold as she bravely dodges crushing responsibilities, traverses deadly social interaction, and finally navigates her way back, injured and bruised yet still fighting, to bask in the adoring (furry) crowds of home!

Coming soon!

Because this will definitely happen again if she continues to go outside!

Don’t forget to tune in on Monday for more enthralling and game-changing content.

 

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