There’s a phenomenon in video games I like to call the “Insurmountable Waist-High Fence”.
You’ve probably run into it yourself countless times. You’ll be making your way through the countryside, on your way to kick the arse of the evil overlord/terrorist cell/zombie hoard, when the urge to explore comes over you. You try to deviate from the invisible corridor the game’s trying to funnel you down, only to run into a flimsy, waist-high wooden fence that wouldn’t keep in a three-legged donkey. Your character should easily be able to vault over it, or blow it to pieces with your automobile-sized alien plasma bazooka of doom. But you can’t, because its purpose is to stop you wandering off course.
Autism often feels similar to this.
See, there are tasks in life that seem simple. Other people seem to have no trouble doing them. And yet when I try, its like my brain just hits an Insurmountable Waist-High Fence.
For example, a few months ago, my then-girlfriend asked me if I could stay at her house during the day while she was at work, in case the people coming to connect her internet came while she was away. I said yes, and sure enough, they turned up a few hours before she got back.
Then everything went to shit faster than a tornado going over a sewerage pond. I forgot which questions I needed to ask them, got confused by their (to me) vague statements, and ended up calling my girlfriend and trying to act as an interpreter between her and the workers. It was something like they were there to check the phone line, but their responsibility ended at the fuse box… I still don’t understand what the hell it was all about; the details and concepts slipped away like slippery soap every time I tried to grasp them. I felt like an absolute moron.
The funny thing is, people often tell me I’m intelligent, but it doesn’t feel that way to me, because I struggle with things that everyone around me just breezes through. A lot of the time it feels like I was installed with the wrong operating system in the factory, and now I’m running Windows in a world built for Macs. Doing paperwork, installing internet connections, arranging for automatic rent payments, these things should be easy, but for some inexplicable reason, I can’t seem to wrap my head around them.
Perhaps the most frustrating instance of this currently has me in a headlock. After years of submitting manuscripts to paperback publishers and never hearing back, I’ve begun to explore the possibility of self-publishing my stories as eBooks. A friend of mine was kind enough to link me to some self-publishing websites. Yet when I read the content on these sites, my brain turns into that cheap crappy tofu that cooks to the consistency of scrambled eggs and tastes like some kind of industrial glue used to hold space shuttles together.
Now, my stories aren’t quite ready for publication yet; I need to find someone who can proof read and edit them first, to make sure they’re not insipid rubbish. But that’s turning out to be roadblock as well, and being bogged down in the mental mud so close to my childhood dream of publication (I’ve had articles and short stories published before, but my novels have always been my first love) is really getting my goat. (Unfortunately a goat who refuses to jump the Insurmountable Waist High Fence)
Perhaps the answer lies behind me instead of in front of me. I grew up in a rural town, and through my childhood I spent a lot of my time climbing over fences I wasn’t supposed to. But I didn’t do it alone; we would go adventuring as a group, and if the fence was too tall for one of us, someone else would give them a boost.
Maybe all I need to clear the Insurmountable Waist High Fence between me and my dreams is to stop trying to be a one man army and ask for a little help now and then.