I used to feel sorry for people who had never been more than 50 miles from the place where they were born. They’re missing out on so much! So many sights to see! So many new experiences to have! So many different ways to live. So much to learn. But then, travel is my reason for being.
But over time, and especially in light of my recent autism diagnosis, I’ve changed my perspective quite a bit. Appreciating neurodiversity means understanding that not everyone sees things the way I do. Who am I to dictate the size of anyone else’s world?
I feel that the primary criteria should be that you’re basically content with your life. Of course, we all have good days and bad days, but in general, if you don’t have any current regrets, then your world is the perfect size for you. It’s not reasonable to expect there to be a one size fits all rule for the breadth of everyone’s horizons.
Many would consider my world to be very small. I work by myself on a drawbridge. I come home to my husband and my two dogs. I don’t socialize much. I don’t like big crowds.
When I do see people, I prefer it to be a one on one or two on two type of thing. I’d probably be out there a little more if I had as many friends in the Seattle area as I did in Florida, but it’s hard making friends as an adult. People have lives. Besides, I much prefer a few deep friendships to a lot of shallow ones.
For some reason, it seems to be culturally acceptable here in the Pacific Northwest to cancel plans at the last minute. I find it hurtful and disappointing, but it happens so often that now I am hesitant to initiate anything, and no one else seems willing to take the lead, so there you have it. Socializing is not really important enough for me to put much energy into it. In fact, too much socializing sucks the life force out of me.
But I don’t think of my world as small at all. I’ve been to 22 countries. I’m hoping to fit in 5 or 6 more before my time is through. I communicate with several people who I care about every day, either by phone or by Facebook or by text. That type of contact has value for me, too.
The bulk of my contentment stems from my ability to feed my curious mind. I love learning new things. I love hearing about other cultures, and I find international news fascinating. (On the other hand, I’m woefully lax in keeping up with local news.) I’m currently on an exciting journey of self-discovery, and I’m really looking forward to what I learn in 2023. The day I cease to be able to learn is the day I’m effectively dead.
I am not very good at living for today. I can see why that can be a good idea much of the time, as the past often comes with bitterness or nostalgia, and the future can come with stress and uncertainty, but one’s attitude about mindfulness is just as much of a value judgment as one’s opinion about world size is. Still, I love history and science, and can spend hours delving into the past. I also enjoy contemplating the possibilities of the future. So my world is gigantic in terms of time.
I can also get lost in my imagination. I can live inside a book or a movie, to the point where everything else fades away. It’s my way of traveling when I can’t afford to travel. I may seem expressionless and inactive on the surface, but I assure you, there is always quite a bit going on in my head. My inner life keeps me hopping.
So, if you’re a social butterfly, more power to you, as long as you’re content. But there is no need to measure my world by your yardstick (or vice versa). Yes, it is good for me to push my outer envelope from time to time, and it’s even better to make some compromises to accommodate those in my inner circle, as long as they are willing to reciprocate, but in general, I like the cozy life I’ve made for myself. It feels quite full to me, and it fits.
I can appreciate why people would like me to find contentment in the same ways that they do, since it works for them. I used to apply that same caring pressure to those who have never left their own county. It’s wonderful to have people in my life who want me to be happy, but this new autism diagnosis is teaching me that I don’t need to conform to some unspoken norm. It’s new and exciting to be able to let go of that outer pressure as well as that inner guilt. It’s wonderful to finally realize that it’s okay to just do me.
May your world fill you with contentment, Dear Reader. If it doesn’t, then pare down or expand your horizons, if your circumstances allow for that possibility. It’s never too late to live your best life.
I just hope that you never settle for dissatisfaction, because regardless of your circumstances and your opportunities, your choices will go a long way toward shaping your world and the size thereof. Take what you’ve got and, according to your tastes, make it into something that you see as beautiful.
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