Seven days. That’s how long I have. Seven days, just one week until I do the hardest thing I have ever done. I have begun preparing – I have acquired boxes and put things into them, hired movers, put a shiny new key onto my keyring. My mind is ready, even if my heart is not quite sure. My family, certainly, thinks it is about damn time, even as my mother worries that I will still need her.
I am moving out.
I am doing it a good decade later than most neuro-typicals do it. Most of my friends, even those younger than me, have been on their own for years. But due to various reasons, directly related to my autism, I have been paying rent not to a landlord, but to my mom, (and even then, far below market value.) I have lived my own life, but I have also always had that back-up, the help when I needed it, the emotional support that for so much of my life has only come from one person – my mother.
Yet I am moving out.
Over the past five years, since we have moved here, I have made the first adult friends of my life, and I have been steadily working on building up a support system outside of my maternal parent. I have found a church community that I can call on in times of need. I have a therapist and doctors whom I trust. I have bought my own car now and can handle a mechanic on my own, as well as insurance agents and landlords.
I have actually been looking to move out for a good two years now, but due to the fact that I live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation, I cannot afford to live on my own, and the vast majority of roommates I’ve interviewed with over craigslist have had a negative reaction when they find out about my autism. This spring, however, my friend Matthew was also looking to change his situation, and together, we have found a three-bedroom place with a roommate I don’t know well, but I like more every time I see her.
I have so many things to do. I need to clean the new place, I need to figure out my new commute, I need to locate pharmacies and grocery stores. The new place, while much further from my part-time job, is much closer to my friends, within walking distance of some of them, even, and I am very excited about that. Despite the fact that I lived in the dorms at my college, I never really partook of college life, except on rare occasions. I was both too mature and too immature for college, though I did not know it then and, as usual, that’s a whole ‘nother story.
My new place is actually only about twenty minutes from my old, and I consider that a good thing since, as I told my mom, I do plan on crashing if the weather is hot enough, as the new place lacks air conditioning and we have central air. She said that’s fine. I said I wasn’t taking my keys to this house off my key ring. She said that’s fine, too.
I am trying to do as my therapist advises me and to give myself as many breaks as possible during this difficult time because, as much as I may want it, this is a change and change is and always will be hard. My autistic body quite literally rebels against it. I am not sleeping well nor eating well. My mind is overfull and I keep thinking of things I have to do, yet somehow I never get anything done. Packing is a heck of a lot harder than I remember it being. I thought it was just a matter of putting things in boxes, but nope, the things in boxes have to be washed, wrapped, folded, arranged.
I have never lived with anybody other than my family. I have also never lived with cats, but the consensus among everyone I know seems to be that cats are fantastic and wonderful creatures who will basically leave you alone. I can deal with that. A cat won’t be offended if I make a mistake. I can just hope that my roommates are as forgiving.
The fact is is that I will not just be staying at this new place. I will be living there. This new place will be my new home. And I have always been much more autistic at home than anywhere else. Even Matthew, who knows me incredibly well, has never seen me have a full-on meltdown, never seen me caught in an OCD cycle so bad I cannot stop doing the same thing for hours at a time, never seen me when my echolalia is turned on high and my grammar goes to pieces from pure exhaustion. I am terrified that my housemates will see this side of me and hate me, or at the very least be annoyed by me. I am terrified that I will not succeed at this, that I will fail as I have failed so many times before.
I’m not ready. I know this. I’m not ready. Not yet.
But I long ago figured out that if I waited until I was ready to do anything, I would never do anything at all. I feel as if I am standing on the edge of a cliff, knowing that I need to leap but wondering if my wings will hold me. I hope, I know that, they will. I hope that, I know that, when I unpack all of these boxes in my new home, I will also unpack the knowledge and skills that I have been acquiring for years towards this goal of living independently.
I have no doubts that in the next few months, I will learn new things about myself and about others. I will acquire new skills in cleaning and communicating. I will push myself harder and farther than I have ever gone before, because this truly means more to me than almost anything else I’ve ever done.
The next time I post here, it will be from my new home.