*For an update to the purpose of this blog, please scroll down.
This is a blog about me on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s Syndrome). There is a saying in the autism community that “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” (Dr. Stephen Shore). This means that everyone on the spectrum is different, which is why I am not holding myself out as representing others on the spectrum. This blog is about my autism. Many characteristics of Asperger also exist amongst the ordinary population so I like to think that Asperger or not, we should treat each other with kindness for everyone is fighting their own battle.
I am a female in my 30s. I was born and raised in Singapore. I studied at University of London, where I obtained a bachelor’s degree in law and politics. Returning to Singapore, I completed my master’s degree in law. Ten years ago, I moved to Hong Kong with the intention of practising law. However, six months into my traineeship, I decided that the legal profession was not for me and ended up working in the academia as a research assistant.
I grew up in a small urban city with a Chinese family background. Growing up in a competitive environment, I am used to being compared with my peers and to be judged by their standards. At schools and in my family, grades are the only thing that matter. I was taught to follow the mainstream and learn there is a standard path I should follow to be considered good: you need a good university degree to earn big money in order to enjoy a successful life. It never occurred to me that there could be other ways of life other than the city. I am a city girl, only by default. Deep down, I long for nature and wilderness. There is also a desire for independence and freedom. When I moved to Hong Kong ten years ago, I thought I would spend my working years as a lawyer, like most law graduates do, work through the ranks and earn a stable income. As life turns out, I did not become a lawyer and I am not earning big bucks. I was more interested in research writing so I turned to the academia for employment opportunities. The passion I once held for the study of law derives from a strong sense of social justice, which I later discovered is a characteristic that individuals with Asperger are renowned for.
Before moving to Hong Kong, I already knew about its country parks and hiking trails. I was determined to make the best use of its natural assets and became a keen avid hiker. However, in the past few years, I am starting to find life in this crowded city unbearable to the extent it is making me sick. I am overwhelmed by the sounds of busy packed streets, the incessant chatter and hordes of traffic, human and vehicular, which seems to be bombarding my senses from all directions. Queuing is a big part of life here, whether it is lining up for food, transportation, elevators, grocery shopping, or the restrooms. I feel trapped standing in line with people who seem oblivious to the concept of personal space as they carry on with their social activities, gossips and conversations, I could not shut out their noises. It is a struggle to navigate the narrow streets without coming into physical contact with other pedestrians. While Hong Kong has always been a densely populated city, the accumulated effects of an ever increasing population and growing social conflicts that have shrouded the city in recent years are slowly draining my brain and mind. What little remains of solitude in the country parks, has also become more and more popular with locals and tourists alike that it now seems even impossible for me to enjoy hiking. I learned that it is common amongst individuals with Asperger to have sensory sensitivity issues, such as heightened sensitivity to sounds or touch. This might explain why I am finding it harder to tolerate the situation than others.
About my dream
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry Thoreau, Walden: Life in the Woods
I dream of moving to Australia or somewhere where I could enjoy space and solitude. Where I used to think that life beyond the city seems unimaginable (having moved from one small country/city to another small country/city), life seems bigger in Australia. I am attracted to the country’s vast open spaces and skies that stretch as far as the eyes can see. I love the views of the countryside, visiting quaint historic towns and villages, admiring the vistas and rolling plains, taking a stroll in the woods and to be embraced by nature. Even in the city, there are parks with lush greenery and empty spaces. This country has what I perceive to be the ideal space: a comfortable amount of space for living, for walking, for socialising, for solitude. One day, I hope to visit the outback and hike along some of the country’s beautiful rugged landscape. This place would be my Walden and it is my dream to move to Australia.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Life in the Woods
*Update to blog: 2017
This blog started in early 2016 with the intention to reach a wider audience. At the beginning, I was looking for hope. Then, I was looking for miracle. Swing in 2017, this blog has a change of purpose. While not much of a writer, for better or worse, I am writing my own story and this blog is a record. And if there is a key message from my blog, that is the importance of a supportive and understanding environment especially for those on the spectrum because autism is a condition which affects not merely how we interact with people but more importantly, the environment. This blog started because of a dream and will continue until I’ve found my Walden.
“Here I am thirty-four years old, and yet my life is almost wholly unexpanded. How much is in the germ! There is such an interval between my ideal and the actual in many instances that I may say I am unborn. There is the instinct for society, but no society. Life is not long enough for one success. Within another thirty-four years that miracle can hardly take place. Methinks my seasons revolve more slowly than those of nature; I am differently timed…My spirit’s unfolding observes not the pace of nature. The society which I was made for is not here… If life is a waiting, so be it. I will not be shipwrecked on a vain reality.”
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, July 19, 1851