Posted in CA Clovis, CA Fresno

From North On

From North On is my travel blog, and was originally named Northland, NZ because the only thing I’d posted here was my trip to New Zealand. (Fun fact: That’s the only time I’ve left the country.) Now I plan to document more journeys in this blog, including:

  • places I visit in Fresno, because it’s fun to read about interesting places from a local’s blog before I travel anywhere;
  • my monthly trips to Anaheim, my original stomping ground; &
  • vacations, because no travel blog is complete without sharing a tourist’s view.

I’m not a fan of people, but I love to explore, and my therapist has suggested gradual exposure therapy for my social anxiety; so I plan to visit quieter places at first, then scale up in social intensity, in hopes my adventurous spirit can give my amygdala a little “You can do it!” fist-bump whenever my social anxiety flips my stomach over and triggers  fight-or-flight.

My End-Goal

Go with my husband to Knott’s Scary Farm.

On a Saturday.

…What? I did it once. In the 2000s, when this video was made…

Do they still have blade-free chainsaws?

That all happened before the exasperated anxiety…
Right now, just watching this video increases my heart rate. And the crowd is every bit as terrifying as the dude in the mask, so I’d say it isn’t mere aural over-stimulation. 

This makes Knott’s Scary Farm a fair way to measure when I’m no longer debilitated by excess fear. Mind you, at my best, I only managed this kind of over-stimulating environment for three hours, and I had all kinds of socially semi-acceptable stims and exits going on:

  • slide-dancing through the park, and spinning as I do it, “looking confused,” rather than walking (shaking my hands out would be more convenient);
  • comfort eating of whoknowshowmany churros;
  • lying to my ex I needed to pee whenever I had to hide in a stall and breathe;
  • etc. etc.—autistic people can be socially creative, when we have our wits about us.

I have fond memories, and I plan to go back.

In the Meantime

My therapist (he’s a good one, or I wouldn’t need to mention him in my storytelling twice) suggests I set small goals that feel achievable,… thus gradual exposure therapy for social anxiety and phobia…

But all these books I read about how I’m going to become an awesome entrepreneur someday—then pay to fill these potholes in my neighborhood streets,—and maybe pay off my crippling student loans,—all those “you can be successful” books keep telling me to dream big, to aim high, to plan like a 10/10 Sega Genesis RPG Strategy player would do, and to take some damn risks, which I’ve been prototyping in simulations and blogs and I’m getting ahead of myself—

Here are places to help me get to Knott’s Scary Farm…

May’s Travel Goals

All of these locations are in Clovis because I’m teaching at their community college in the fall semester; so I’d like to get acquainted with our neighboring city for the next half a year. If I can succeed at these four trips in May, I’ll expand my bubble a little more in June.

Maybe Chase and I can even go moonlight paddle-boarding; or better yet, I could go paddle-boarding surrounded by friends so, if I need a moment, I’m not driving rando-strangers crazy (like a gigantic glowing paddle-boarding bridal shower) (or baby shower) (or birthday party) (anyone’s birthday, really) (who doesn’t like glowing paddle-boarding photography) (writers do strange things “to feel the story”);

The Cognitive Leaps of Disjointed Storytelling

The last time I went paddle-boarding (okay, the only time I went paddle-boarding, and I was goaded into it…) (Natalie, if you ever read this: it was fun!) (Ashley: it was like that awe-inspiring kayak through the jungle) (the whining included) (I’m a person-in-progress) (with no fear about punctuating readers to death, clearly) (you still following me?) (of course you are, you 💃🕺), the paddle-boarding instructor-slash-guide-slash-pep-talker taught me how to navigate standing, as well as navigating on my knees, to help with my balancing issues—and this was super-thoughtful, given I had no idea I had autism; but damn, I knew I belonged to the Clumsy Club; like, I practiced yoga for a year specifically to strengthen my sad state of a core, after haunting memories like:

  • As a child, I couldn’t cartwheel (and my mom used to spend time in the front yard trying to teach me, doing grand strides across the grass in front of me) (that was when we still had a front yard) (later we got the front yard back, and that was 👍);
  • I spent my hours-and-hours practicing underwater somersaults—which included many nosefuls of chlorinated water—because I visualized, in my storyteller’s eye, that I was a mermaid, and damn it I needed to be able to do mermaid maneuvers like underwater somersaults;
  • One time, in elementary school, I swung awkwardly on the swings, letting them playfully hug my stomach, so I could pretend I was a dog, (I had a dog then named Chewy,) kicking and even imagining the ruff-ruff in my head, though I’d longed learned not to actually ruff-ruff, if I didn’t want the other kids to hand my ass to me during recess;
    • but I think I pushed the swing a wee too far, given my legs were longer than my arms (but just barely) (short people problems);
      • (one time, my mom and my grandfather tried to convince me I was part neanderthal) (before you cringe, they had no idea how I took things; and though I’d figured out I saw the world differently, I had no idea how to express my experiences in a way they’d understand; so from my family’s point of view, they jested in honest fun and games, and though it felt sometimes scathing, especially through the eyes of my Inner Child—this kid just trying to navigate the whorls of a witty family dynamic, with a socially impairing developmental disorder no one honest-to-God had any idea existed, like part of her never existed, this girl who was trying to get by day-by-day without killing herself to escape from the soul-crushing feeling of invisibility (suicide attempt #1: 14yro)—I’ve learned to not only forgive this, but see the light in it; today I have what I consider an A+ sense of humor, and though some of the childhood stories are rough, the adulthood is a good one, and I can’t wait to get my negative thinking patterns in check so depression, anxiety, and phobia can join me in the car of life without making me freak out);
    • so I pushed the swing a wee beyond the scope where my arms could catch me, and as I came tumbling to earth, I fell face-first into gravel, dirt, and those desert bees that burrow bigger holes than the red-and-black ants in their separate little playground anthills, and I genuinely felt horrified;
    • and because I felt horrified, I broke into a shutdown—as many overwhelmed autistic children are known to do—and they brought me to the front office to calm down. They called my mom to pick me up. I had a gross scab on my forehead that I wanted to pick off all the time, which of course, made it take a little longer to heal.
  • And by releasing these stories, even in this disjointed form, I take another step towards feeling like my voice is stronger, more authentic—

The voice I need to champion autism properly.

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Author:

Kourtnie McKenzie holds an MFA (Fiction) from Fresno State and a BA in English (Literature Studies) from Cal State Fullerton. When she isn't writing novellas, she's moonlighting as a professor at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. To read more of her writing, visit Kourtnie.net.

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