I was going to call this website The Van Project, but the name was taken. If you’re reading this you probably know me, at least in passing. Perhaps I handed you a card and said, “check this out.” In any case, you probably have at least some idea of why I’m doing this, why getting a van is so important to me. However, it’s traditional on blogs to offer up some context in one’s first post, so, here goes.
I was diagnosed as autistic in my mid-thirties. That’s when a doctor wrote a word on a piece of paper and made it official. But, of course, I had been autistic all along. As a child, depending upon who you asked, I was strange, or odd, or difficult. Sometimes I was even a problem. I was smart, no one doubted that, but I was certainly not normal. The most helpful thing about being diagnosed as autistic was that it meant that, while I still wasn’t normal, I also wasn’t alone.
My childhood, and a good percentage of my adult life, happened prior to what most people these days would think of as the Internet. There were scattered bulletin boards that could be reached after listening to a dial-up connection sing its song and a warning was given to everyone in the household, “DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE!” But nothing like the ubiquitous web of easily accessible information we all take for granted now. I couldn’t just hop online, do a Google search and find a million stories about people like me, stories that might have assured me that I wasn’t the weirdest thing in the universe. Everyone lives in their own world, but for a person with autism, growing up pre-Internet, it was a world with no stars in the sky. I was a lonely child.
Even after I had my diagnosis and the Internet opened my eyes to a wider view, I never grew comfortable anywhere outside of my own head. Most of my time was, and still is, spent in a book or in some other way learning about things most people don’t trouble themselves with, things on – and often a few steps beyond – the outer edges of normal. My interest in things paranormal, occult, fringe and generally weird goes back a long way. My desire to explore and have adventures goes back even longer. And my love of story goes all the way back to my earliest memories.
It might surprise the average neurotypical – what we call non-autistics – to hear that being autistic can sometimes actually be great. We see things differently than most people. The world, to me, is full of stories, and every story is a pattern. I’ve always been good with patterns. I have a knack for them. You might think such a knack would mean that I could apply it somehow to making a living. But you’d be wrong. After decades of trial and failure, I am forced to admit that normal things such as regular jobs are not within my power. I’m not looking for a pity party, just stating a fact.
Maybe you get up in the morning, have your coffee, go to the office, do your eight hours, come home and collect your paycheck. I envy that. It may seem odd, but, to me, that’s freakin’ magic! This thing that millions of people do every day and think it’s the most mundane thing in the world is simply beyond me. Yes, it’s frustrating, but there it is.
As I said, I’m not looking for pity, so I won’t bore you with the difficulties of being a child with undiagnosed autism in an abusive home. It was not a happy time. Let’s leave it at that. More important than my past, however, are my present and my future.
There comes a time in every life when one must figure out who they are and what path they are going to walk. It’s taken me a long time, most of it spent taking other people’s advice and trying to be (or at least appear) normal, to realize that my actual place is to seek out and enjoy the weirdness in the world, and, perhaps even more importantly, in myself. So, I intend to spend the remainder of my life in exploration of the weird.
My first step on this journey is to obtain the means to travel. I’ve always liked vans, even before I was old enough to drive. Autistics often need isolation, a safe place where we can get away from the massive amount of sensory stimulation that overloads our brains. I never developed a desire to put down roots. Staying in one place, no matter how homey it may be, just isn’t my thing. So, the first time I saw a van, one that wasn’t full of construction equipment, paint buckets, dayworkers or missionaries, I was blown away. It was a sensory haven on wheels! How cool is that!
But it’s more than just infatuation with the idea of a van. A van will serve a very important role in my weird wanderings. Many roles. A van will serve as transportation to vastly increase the range of my explorations, as a free hotel room to make those explorations financially possible, as a base of operations from which I can conduct the business of exploration and, of course, as a haven to which I can retreat when my senses are overwhelmed by the world.
I’m not looking for anything terribly expensive. I’m not picky. If it runs and the roof doesn’t leak, it will do just fine. My intention is to get a van that is structurally and mechanically sound and modify it to suit my specific needs as cheaply as possible. I see lots of Craig’s List in my future. I’ve created this website so that, if you’d like to be involved in my efforts, as many options as possible can be made available to you.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be adding more opportunities to be involved. I expect this site to evolve as my journey progresses. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Thanks for reading and always EMBRACE YOUR WEIRD!