Now is the time of year when I love the outdoors. It’s one of the things I am going to miss about Montana when I leave in August, the wide variety of outdoor activities available. I’m on the lookout for a job now, and once I get one (I hope…) I plan on saving up my money so that I can take trips out of town to go hiking, float on the river, go horseback riding, and kayak to my heart’s content.
I’m surprised as anyone that I have such a deep love of sport. When I was a kid, this wasn’t the case, because I was forced to participate in soccer, basketball, baseball, and other nightmarish means of torturing children by making them work with people they loathe in school and then have to see again after school in sport. During my tenure as an athlete, my pleas, cries, and begging towards my parents was largely ignored, with my mother insisting that I stay in sports so that I wouldn’t get fat, and my father, who had two daughters when he’d longed for sons, wanting to mould my sister and I into star athletes that would get full scholarships in college basketball. When I begged him to let me quit playing softball after being named “team retard” by the other girls, being pushed into the dirt, having softballs thrown at my head, and being spat at, he growled at me that nobody in this family was ever “a damn quitter”. I only agreed to stay on because mom promised that if I did softball, I’d be excused from ever doing team swimming and water polo, which involved daily hours in a germ-filled pool which kids regularly loosed their bowels and bladders in, and wearing a bathing suit. At least softball was less germy, and I could preserve my modesty, something I valued during a time when I was beginning to acquire the thunder thighs and large bum which have stuck around to this day.
After hitting my teen years, and teams which required no talent or skill disappeared, so did my chances of ever having to be pushed into team sports. And for the longest time I did no sports at all. The traumatic memories meant I didn’t even participate in PE, preferring to fake an illness over having to go through the horrors of team sports again.
But when I was 16, I discovered yoga. For a project in school, I started going to the yoga studio near my house every Saturday and Sunday morning. The pace of yoga was gentle and easy, there was no stress on competition, and my poor hand-eye coordination and underdeveloped fine motor skills didn’t cause as many problems as they had in team sports. It helped develop my flexibility, and alleviated symptoms of scoliosis and the pain of carrying around an extremely heavy backpack all day in school. By the end of the project, I put down another $100 chunk of the money I’d saved up working at a stable in order to continue yoga.
And speaking of stables… Horse riding was my salvation as well. I was lucky to work at a stable and always be around horses. Being in the saddle was the absolute best way for me to forget about my troubles. It was therapy like no other, and I loved it wholeheartedly.
When I came to Missoula, the pattern of seeking out activities I loved found a solace in rock climbing (Once a week, $5, University Rec Center) more yoga, hiking, and swimming. I tried joining the Equestrian club so that I could also enjoy horseback riding again, but that turned out to be a bust, when I approached them about trying dressage, they mocked my pronunciation of the word “dressage” and sneered at my lack of lessons or competition experience. Not worth horse riding if it meant being around those snobs.
Now I find myself with plenty of free time, and hopefully I’ll be getting some money soon, and will be able to partake in the things I love. The fundamental difference between the sports and activities I do for enjoyment now as an adult and the torture I went through as a child is the fact that I am allowed to go at my own pace, I don’t have to worry about pleasing teammates, and it’s not about competition, so much as it is about personal fulfilment. And who says autistics don’t like sport? We just don’t like the kind that’s touted as the only acceptable way to enjoy the outdoors.