When it comes to making the world a better place, it can be daunting to take on the big things. Sometimes they are impractical or impossible. Cost, work, location, all these things have to be thought about and considered. There’s no point in deciding to move to the country if your support-network and work cannot be uprooted.
Life is often a series of compromises, but let me tell you a story of the day I decided to completely revolutionise my world.
I was at a transition-point any way. Sometimes when one thing changes it can be the catalyst that sets off an entire landslide of change. I had recently left a long-term relationship, I was unhappy in my job, and then my ex announced he was going to move away, so no need to stay in the area for the children’s sake, especially since the schools were poor and the reason I had moved there in the first place – my ex’s work – was gone. I thought, why not use this opportunity to start afresh?
Once the decision was made I let my problem-solving do the rest. I grew up in Wales, in the countryside, and longed to return to that huge expanse of green. I was living in the stunning North Yorkshire moors, but for all its beauty I had struggled to feel settled and at home there.
I decided on Wales, my Hiraeth brought me home. Hiraeth is a Welsh word with no direct translation. It is a longing for home, but that can mean a longing for a feeling more than a specific place. I was longing to belong somewhere, to feel peaceful somewhere. I had had my fill of listening to other people’s dogs barking, or feeling ground down by unexpected visitors and uncertain days.
I remember arguing with a neighbour about their insistence that they should leave their bin in my garden, and thinking, ‘This is who I am now. This is my life. I am someone who argues about bins.’
They say autistic people don’t like change, but that’s not true. We don’t like unexpected change that happens outside of our control, we don’t like the world not being as we thought it would be, but change that we are in charge of can be energising.
I’m not saying that the prospect of moving wasn’t huge and exhausting, but there was hope to it. I was going to live somewhere without neighbours, somewhere I could sing in the garden and no one could hear, somewhere I could sit outside and no one could ambush me, somewhere the children could run and be free and safe.
Don’t get me wrong; I am in no way saying that escaping to the country would suit every autistic person. This is my story, and this is what suits me. I know many autistic people would hate my lifestyle and need the immediacy of the city. If I run out of milk then I can’t just walk to the shop and grab another one. Public transport is awful, it can feel lonely, there are downsides to what I do, but overall this environment is one that suits me as perfectly as any could.
When you decide to dramatically change your life, it is worth sitting down and really thinking about what it is you would like your home to look like. For me my priorities were somewhere in the countryside where I can be outside in my own space, somewhere peaceful and quiet without immediate neighbours, somewhere near woods and the sea, somewhere with a beautiful view and space to grow things, somewhere people won’t just drop in, somewhere I can reconnect with the world and forage for foods.
Take the time to look at your world and to work out what does and doesn’t suit you. We all have to compromise, but we shouldn’t be afraid of change. Moving to Wales was the best decision of my life. Sometimes I find myself longing to be nearer to places; I wish there were better transport links when I have to travel for work, but the payoff for me is more than worth it.
Work out what it is you are willing to live with and what it is you need, and embrace change in a world that struggles to accept it.
Along with Flo, Rhi Lloyd-Williams is a co-founder of Autism HWB. She is also a writer, poet, parent, playwright, blogger and all round good egg. She writes about autism on her website AutistRhi.com and you can find out more about her play, The Duck, at Autact.co.uk