LIFE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM: YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN
By Brian Lafferty
May 28, 2012 (San Diego) – In November of 2007, Dad called me. He informed me that he put our Rancho Peñasquitos house of twenty years on the market. I was surprised because it was so abrupt, but I understood that it was time for my parents to move on.
My family and I moved to Rancho Peñasquitos from Tierra Santa in 1987, when I was almost two. At the time, Peñasquitos (hereafter referred to as PQ) was a burgeoning, rapidly growing and developing suburb. It’s the archetypal bedroom community: the parents commute outside the community to go to work while the kids go to school.
The house was sold – keep in mind that this was months before the housing crisis – and my parents moved to a new neighborhood in Escondido. It was a one-story house located at the end of a cul-de-sac, which was appealing; as a kid I always wanted to live in a cul-de-sac.
The neighbors were as friendly as any. My next-door neighbor had a black Labrador Retriever named Molly – who I nicknamed Ferocious Beast because she was playfully rambunctious and quite the “licker” as a puppy – and a grayish Tabby named Maddie. I frequented his house to watch Padre games because my parents didn’t have Cox, which at the time had the exclusive broadcast rights. Across the street were two older ladies who owned three cats with wildly differing personalities. Most evenings I watched TV with them and gave their cats attention.
There was a major drawback, and for the first year we lived in Escondido, I wouldn’t let my parents hear the end of it. Our house was located far away north from family and friends. It took thirty minutes to get to our home from PQ. This would be a major sticking point with friends, especially when I didn’t have a driver’s license. Even when I acquired one two years ago, it still made planning hangouts difficult, not to mention the cost of gas.
The distance left me feeling isolated. I missed out on many get-togethers, parties, and hangouts. I remember one time a great family friend got married in 2010. A few months later the reception was held at her parents’ house. It was an open house, in which people came and went as they pleased. We waited until Dad came home from work, and we arrived near the tail end of it.
I was disappointed that I didn’t know about it until Mom told me that day. I wish I could have been there earlier. In retrospect, however, the worst part of it was that awkward feeling I had trying to converse with people I hadn’t been able to see or talk to a lot since we moved.
Look, I know what you may be thinking. I was living in my parents’ house rent-free. It was their choice where to move. If I wanted to move closer to friends, I should have gotten a job and moved out. Rather than griping, I should have done something.
Unfortunately, I happened to graduate during the Great Recession. Add Autism and little prior work experience to the mix, and it’s like climbing Mount Everest. I tried getting a job in the entertainment industry, but Escondido was too far away from Hollywood, and I concluded that the entertainment industry wasn’t for me. I acquired paralegal certification, but it’s a challenge trying to get legal experience. It’s a catch-22: it’s difficult to acquire legal experience when law firms will only hire people with at least a year of it.
I wasn’t in any position to demand anything, given that I was living rent-free, but I at least felt entitled to some degree of happiness.
Mom and Dad planned to live in Escondido for at least twenty years. That, of course, never came to pass. After Mom died, the house was too much for Dad and I to consistently maintain. He put the house on the market in March of this year. When he didn’t get any offers – or at least any offers he wanted – he took it off after a few weeks and said he was going to rent it out. We were going to move into a two-bedroom apartment.
For the longest time, he was talking about living in La Mesa. In fact, he talked so much about moving there – even visiting a couple of apartments by the Trolley – that I would have been shocked if we weren’t going to move there. Turned out, I would get not one, but two huge shocks. The first was that we weren’t going to be moving to La Mesa.
The second was that we were moving back to PQ.
Now, PQ isn’t exactly where Dad wants to live, but he said he felt this would be the best place for me. I was excited as heck. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be living in PQ again, and certainly not so soon. Best of all, we were moving into a nice condo that is right in the center of PQ. I can walk to the grocery store, the gym, the bus stops, and all my friend’s houses.
Faithful readers don’t need to be reminded how out of shape I’ve been my entire life. Thank goodness for the gym. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I swim. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I lift weights and run. On Sundays, I take advantage of PQ’s hilly terrain and walk for at least an hour.
So far I’ve exercised every day this month. It’s done wonders for my well-being. I sometimes feel sad at night, but not a day has gone by this month where I’ve had a totally downer day. Despite not finding a job, I feel happy. It must be all the endorphins my body’s been releasing. I feel closer to finding some work or legal experience, whether it is volunteer or paid. In Escondido, the tunnel was pitch-black, with no end in sight. In PQ, there’s still no light, but I feel closer to seeing it.
The best part about being close to friends isn’t that it makes it easier to hang out. It’s having quick access to moral support, something I need much of. Being within walking distance of it is infinitely better than being thirty minutes away from it. I can feel the difference even when I talk on the phone. This is a really important transitional period in my life right now, and being so close to moral support eases the stress.
I’m a PQ boy at heart. I won’t live here forever; I plan on moving close to downtown San Diego when I get a full-time job. I do miss my Escondido neighbors, their pets, and living in a cul-de-sac. But moving to PQ has allowed me to put the past four trying years behind me and move forward.
Thank you, Dad.
Brian Lafferty is an Autistic adult currently living in San Diego, CA. He graduated cum laude from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Radio/TV/Film, and has been East County Magazine’s film critic since 2009. He welcomes letters at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @BrianLaff.