January 14, 2021

Twenty years ago, in the dead of winter, I was a miserable middle schooler – anxious, friendless, and too smart for my own good.

My parents pulled me out of school for a week, and took me somewhere new. I’m pretty sure that week single-handedly saved my mental health.

We drove and drove, crossing state borders until the air warmed up enough for shorts and t-shirts. We pitched a large tent by the ocean, and a mini one next to it for storage.

I still had schoolwork to do. But here, it was different.

Early each morning, I crawled into the mini tent, sunlight filtering through, and did my assignments one by one. I felt calm, focused, and free – empowered by how much faster I could do it alone than in a classroom.

Then I swam, and befriended the girl from the campsite beside ours, and played checkers by the light of camping lanterns until the stars came out – more stars than I’d ever seen before.

After we returned home, everything slowly got better.

That kind of escape isn’t possible for many, especially now. But parts of it are. Blanket forts can be created, and online classes skipped.

Sometimes rejuvenation is more important than participation.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.