Saving the dream

My ideal place to live would be a small town on a sheltered inlet of a west coast at a latitude somewhere between 55 and 70 degrees, i.e. comparable to Scotland and Norway. (Or the bottom end of South America.) Winters: mild, cloudy, rainy with some snow. Summers: cool, cloudy, rainy, i.e. un-summery weather most of the time. I could wear the same clothes year round but with a warmer raincoat and boots in the winter. I use the word “sheltered” because these coastal areas at these latitudes can be incredibly windy and wind makes rain hard to enjoy.

The town would be physically small enough to not need a car and I would easily be able to walk to supermarket, pharmacy, library, post office, bank, etc. There would be a small assortment of pubs and coffee shops for me to spend time in. And there would a few things like bookstores, second-hand stores, etc. Ideally, there would be a rail station. Branch line OK. But if not right in the town, I would be OK with taking a taxi or having someone drive me to the station. I would rarely be going out of town anyway.

My job would be low-key and allow me to enjoy being part of the community without having to constantly interact with people. I have always enjoyed being one of the people who sets things up in the morning. For example, at a community center, I enjoy setting up the dining room for morning coffee: putting the furniture back where it belongs if it was rearranged for an evening event; putting out bowls with the packets of sugar and creamer and coffee stirrers; cleaning out the coffee urn and getting the brew going; arranging the coffee mugs on a tray and making sure they are all clean; and taking used coffee mugs to the kitchen to wash as people come and go. And then later in the morning, turning everything around for lunch. This is the kind of work my autism allows me to excel at — without much risk of annoying people. If I have to be out sick, the next day I generally hear about how much I was missed. However, I would not be adverse to managing the database either — and enjoy taking my morning coffee break in the dining room. But I would not be career-oriented — just enjoying going to work everyday and making myself useful.

In my spare time I would visit coffee shops and pubs to read or write. Books would be checked out of the library or bought second-hand. At home I would watch TV and listen to the radio while assembling jigsaw puzzles, doing crafts, or writing. Depending on my living circumstances, I might have a cat and/or dog for company. I find it hard to imagine living with another person.

What I have just described precludes the prevailing technology of the time. In a less advanced time and place, I would have a landline phone at home and perhaps some kind of antenna for the TV/radio. Writing would be done by hand into a composition book. And any banking would involve visiting the bank in person. In the current context, I would probably be streaming TV and radio over the internet and writing into a laptop or iPad (as I am doing now.); and I would be banking online. But the kind of town I have just described might possibly, even today, not be built out with broadband internet access and might have spotty cellular reception — and I might have to live with the landline phone, TV antenna, and going to the bank in person. And I think I would be willing to make that adjustment.

But there is something I have not mentioned that makes my dream life probably out of reach for me — and which is why I do not attempt to pursue it. Housing. Or lack of housing. The little bungalow or cottage I might have rented in previous decades (even if it meant sharing with others) is now either a second home or an AirBNB rental. And if broadband internet IS available, home prices have probably soared as high-paid tech workers have abandoned cities to work remotely where they choose.

The sad thing is that my desired life is hardly ambitious. I just dream of living in a small coastal town, renting a modest home and getting around on foot. It is not as though I aspire to buy a large house + two cars + a vacation home + travel several times a year + pay for private education for children. My dream is very, very modest — but I might as well dream about being an astronaut, because that is only slightly less achievable!! Something must be very wrong with the world when such a modest ask cannot be accommodated.

Finally, the culture wars that have been playing out in the USA, UK and other parts of the world have made the city-rural divide much uglier than it has been in the past. I have made the big-city-to-small-town move many times in my life. Each time, I have definitely felt like an outsider, but being autistic, I am familiar with this and never let it concern me. But I never encountered hostility. I am not sure how it would go today.

So. I am saving this dream for another life on another world. Hopefully.

One thought on “Saving the dream

  1. I feel similarly. I don’t have very ambitious fantasies (not quite the same as yours, but similar), but the cost of housing in the UK makes it hard. I’m thinking a lot about this as E and I try to work out a possible future together, but it’s hard, particularly not being able to hold down a full-time job. And then we would want to live in a reasonably large Jewish community which, in the UK at any rate, means living in very specific (not cheap) parts of London or possibly Manchester. It is difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

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