what’s going to happen


Hello, other autistic people.  Does it help you go out into the world, if you know what’s going to happen?

My spouse Ming and I were traveling and made it up to Seattle.  We wanted to visit Whidbey Island, which meant going on a ferry.  Wow, we’d never put our car on a ferry.  How much does it cost?  How long is the ride?  Is there a bridge we could take instead?  Is this going to save us a lot of time?  Do we need our car on the island?

We looked some things up on the internet and decided to take the ferry.  But it was a big deal.  I was at the edge of my capacity, as we waited in line to drive onto the ferry.  So excited but also anxious.  It’s hard, not knowing what’s going to happen.


Whidbey Island was recommended to us by an elder friend as a place where many artists, writers, and other creative people live and work.  I’m hungry to learn more about the Seattle area.

These days, the Pacific Northwest is my home.  I’ve been here about a year and a half.  I feel a responsibility to learn more about where I live.  I feel a responsibility to the land, the people of the present and past, all the organisms of the present and future.  There’s a lot to learn about the culture, logging, racism, resistance, permaculture, the climate, the plants and animals, the mushrooms, community, the mythology.  I’ve barely just begun.

Also I enjoy islands.  I loved visiting the Channel Islands off the coast of California.  I went to Anacapa Island when I was a young person.  Then I went to Santa Cruz Island with Ming just a few years ago.

Travel is a big deal–I need to be brave to face extra stressors of being away from home and changing my routine.  I need to feel strong.  But travel is full of learning, and I love it.

the ferry

The ferry was kind of scary, for a claustrophobic person who needs an exit plan.  You have to pack in like sardines and trust that it’s safe and you’re ok.

I can consider earthquakes, fires, and other real emergency possibilities.  Or I can just feel a primal, basic fear in my body which is about being trapped for years of my life in a more emotional, domestic violence sort of way.

It’s a lot of work to have those feelings and do it anyway.  On the ferry, we walked out to the deck for a little while.  I talked to a queer-looking stranger for a moment.  Yes, I’m awkward.  Hope I didn’t make them uncomfortable.

I looked at the water and thought of all my boat memories: Whale watching trip when I was a kid, fishing trips when I was young with my dad and his friend, something from a movie–a memory that’s not mine.  I looked at the sky.  How long until we get there?  Are these boat workers happy?  Could I work on a boat like this?  Could I just ride the ferry back and forth all day, or would they kick me out?

what’s going to happen

We got back to our car in time to drive off the ferry.  Then we were able to navigate the return trip also.  It was an exhausting day.

But worth it!  I’m still pondering what we did and how it felt, in and near Seattle.

  • Could we live there one day?
  • How often would we go to the water?
  • Could we afford the rent?
  • How hard would it be to make new friends?
  • Is the culture really different?
  • What could I learn there, that I can’t learn here?
  • Could that place be my home?
  • Could it welcome me?

Months later I’m still integrating the trip, connecting dots, and remembering parts of it, like the fancy Filipino restaurant we went to, a certain library, the way the vacation rental was set up, with Chinese written on the signs.

Sometimes we can’t know what’s going to happen.  Surprises can be ok.  In fact, surprises are a reason to keep trying.  I could not predict how the music museum felt disorganized, or how I would react emotionally to the hip-hop exhibit.  Or predict my confusion of how to work the gate where we were supposed to park at the vacation rental.

I could just lie around thinking about gates for a while–how hinges work, room for a gate to swing, how gates stay shut, what an alley is.  Yes, I could lie there and ponder just that gate for a long time.

Not sure it takes autism to be so delighted by details like that.  But I’m happy I notice things and love them.  Disabilities can be dangerous gifts.  I’ll enjoy the fun parts of who I am, as much as I can.

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