Creating my alternative world

Tony Attwood describes Special Interests in Aspies, listing goals they strive to meet. 

In my childhood, I had a rich solitary fantasy life.  I lived in a cabin-like house on 21 heavily-forested, rural acres.  Although I felt alienated and cut off from a social world I had longed to join, I made the best of what I had, which was a rich, fertile ground for an entire imaginary village.  I built forts at the bases of trees, making optimum use of the natural structures. The forts were nothing elaborate or impressive; they were usually makeshift minimal frames, using rotted out pieces of wood I had gathered from the bonfire pit outside the detached garage, which was more of a machine shop than a garage.  My architectural efforts produced hardly anything at all; a casual passerby would probably not notice much of anything, except for a nest of sorts, without a roof.  Typically, the only evidential clue would be a few stray toys left in the middle that inevitably got rained on (oops).  The principal essence of the forts actually resided in my own mind.  In my mind, they were houses, and imaginary people lived there.  I had names, ages, and personalities for all of them, and an entire intact family structure.  They formed an elaborate neighborhood network.

In this imaginary neighborhood, all walks of life were represented.  There was the sensitive-turned-sullen teenage redheaded female, who lived in a mobile home whose mother was gone (either she had died or left the family) and her father was abusive–when he was around; she was typically left to care for her two younger brothers.  Then there was the elderly gentle Native American/indigenous lady who lived by herself at the base of a grove of five trees, named Welcome-To-See-You; she had a humble garden behind her tree-grove-house, which yielded small bushels of chives and parsley.  Some lived in mobile homes, others lived in dilapidated shacks, and still others lived in “typical” single-family homes.  There were plenty of blended families, plenty of “traditional” families, and lots of children of all ages.  In my mind, I explored the town through the lens of each child-age and adolescent character, attempting to really feel what their individual lives were like from their perspective.

As a slightly older child, I had moved to an “upper-scale” metropolitan area.  Suddenly removed from my forested terrain (which was actually more-than-okay with me), the scraggly breeding ground of my former established colony was replaced with a hipper, trendier neighborhood.  At the age of 12, you’d have thought I might abandon the idea of a fantasy world altogether and attempt to join the “real world”.

But I didn’t. I continued on.  The houses and characters changed, but the imaginary drive remained.  It didn’t make for nearly as colorful writing material, so I’ll spare the mundane details.  I’ll just suffice it to say that there were plenty of “popular girls” and “cute boys”, because, well, even though I was only interested in being one of the popular girls for a year or two, and I only THOUGHT I was interested in the cute boys (I only ever really developed a crush on 2 in school, my first one only beginning to sprout about 2-3 years behind everyone else).

As a teenager, I created another, much different world.  This world was less tangible and more ethereal.  I often mentally transported myself to underground passages of ancient Egyptian pyramids lined with hieroglyphics and secret “warp zones” requiring one to be “in the know” to be aware of where and how to press to activate the mechanism, and I attempted to get in touch with what I believed (hoped) to be a former incarnation of myself from across the boundaries of space and time, to a soundtrack of mystical New Age music.  Depending on the particular track coming through my stereo speakers, that same music could, alternatively, shunt me over to a world of Celtic lore that included fairies and hobbits.  Or a desert caravan between Egypt and what was then known as Persia (the present-day Middle East).  Or the Mexican and American Southwestern deserts, dotted with adobe structures.  Or ancient Roman/Greek metropolises that boasted profound philosophy and intricate algebra/geometry.

In adulthood, I’ve had several alternative worlds, too.  Simply walking around one of my old neighborhoods with an iPod playlist of rock en espanol streaming into my earbuds, I can bring out my Inner Mexican, complete with its joviality and genuine acceptance.  It’s not an elaborate, detailed, flowery world, but it’s an alternate identity just the same.  It’s interesting to me how such an outwardly-apparently “acceptable” pastime could camouflage a hidden current of thought-streams, imagination, and the accompanying pleasure beneath a seemingly-“normal” exterior.

To my profound joy, I realized one day that I can even create an alternate world in my office at work!  In this world, I’m a (biologically) female version of Dr House on the TV series House, MD, the brilliant, quick-witted diagnostician who nails even the most bizarre of patient cases and his gifts and talents are well-known and sought by people around the globe.  All I have to do is stare into my laptop amidst a backdrop of music either featured on or inspired by music featured on the House MD show itself.  In this alternate world, I suddenly feel intelligent.  I feel capable.  True to the characters on the TV show, I swat an proverbial tennis ball back and forth between cynical/sarcastic (House himself), earthy/logical/no-frills and too-aware (“Thirteen”), and caring entirely too much (Cameron).  Sometimes I rapid-switch in and out from one personality to another, and at other times, they all roll into me simultaneously, remaining distinct, and yet swirling together like different colors of mist.

I think that partaking in such a rich, vivid fantasy world has had both positive and negative effects, and I think that whether the effect is good or bad largely depends on whether I’m using my imagination skills for distracting me from my “normal function” or for actually enhancing it.  For example, my forest-town of families and individuals from early childhood would probably not serve me well at the office, but the House MD-themed “team” inside me might actually magnify my self-confidence and sharpen my focus, strengthening my resolve to accomplish and produce (two activities I’m relentlessly driven to do).  Pretending that I’m House or various members of his team might nudge me to enter one more search string into a research database searchbox, which in turn, might deliver the key information that helps me solve a difficult case.

Either way, creating alternative worlds all my life has been relaxing and enjoyable.  As a child, it was a much-needed escape route; as an adult, it amplifies my performance in my professional role.  I see it as a variant manifestation of meditation.  I don’t see myself putting my imaginary toys away any time soon.  🙂


(Image Credit: Daniela/Clanaad)


  1. yer a dreamer, harry…

    i appreciate the (probably accurate) notion that this pertains to aspies/asd specifically. but imo its just one more category of dreamer. im a dreamer too, and some of the worlds greatest people are dreamers. im not saying you and are some of the worlds greatest people– but its a nice thought (anythings possible?)

    actually, if you turned out to be one of the worlds greatest people (by my criteria) i wouldnt be too surprised.

    the world needs dreamers– if for no other reason than i wouldnt enjoy it as much if there were fewer of them ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much! You are too kind ❤️ I agree, the world needs dreamers – the world needs all kinds – it’s so much more fun and interesting that way 😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can live in an imaginary world half the time. I absolutely love it.

    Its great reading where you shared some of your daydreams. Its another feeling of ‘oh, I’m not alone!’ (I forget that constantly).

    I’ve had a few boyfriends, friends, time travelled, run businesses and created family dynasties/ legacies.
    I’ve one mind reading and been invisable (how else was I supposed to know what people thought of me?).

    Again, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very, very much for sharing your thoughts! Yep, I frequently forget that I’m not alone as well 😊 It’s incredibly interesting to me how so many of us share similar experiences and thought patterns! It’s really fun and reassuring ❤️

      Again, I humbly thank you 👏🏼❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Finding it hard to imagine House wearing high heels, a dress, and with make-up on his face 😀
    Funny thing about my ‘day-dreaming’ is, it’s nearly always the same or similar thing I immerse myself in, my virtual reality.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah, yes. I used fantasy to escape harsh realities growing up. My grandmother’s house would be a 19th century steamboat I was traveling on filled with assorted characters-the rakish gambler, the bad girl with a heart of gold, the rich couple with the bored daughter and kind son. I was always the poor servant girl the kind son fell in love with. And, then, of course, I played with my brother in his games-we had as many as 60 plastic baby dolls at one time. ( mom had this way of buying us stuff at the thrift store after one of her tirades. Guess it relieved the guilt.) Anyway, all those dolls were little boys in his world. Messed up orphan boys in gangs. I couldn’t persuade him to let one be a girl for anything. But, it could be fun, though. We acted out whole movies and music videos with those dolls. I think all that stuff is why I was set in fiction writing for so long. Sadly, rejection slips and self-doubt took over. It’s been a lot of years since I really let myself run free with fantasy. Worries tend to take over. Sigh. Thanks for reminding me of an interesting part of life. I may have to indulge myself more again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re amazing, you know that? 😊 You endured a chronically traumatic situation with your imagination alone. Not to say that the pain doesn’t linger and everything’s a-ok now, because it often does linger and leave lasting impressions. ❤️ But I love your imagination and how you used it. 👏🏼

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I long for a world in which dysfunctional dynamics are nonexistent. But I look back on some of my own family’s dysfunction and remind myself that I wouldn’t be quite the same without having had those experiences. But then I also wonder who I would’ve turned out to be had I not had them. It’s a conundrum 💞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! 😊 Yes, I face that conundrum a lot. In the end, though, I figure there is a reason for everything. I know I would not appreciate all I have now if things hadn’t been hard in the past. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Truth, luv! I reckon we’re stronger for having been through our difficult times. It still sucks that we had to endure them. But like you, my belief that everything happens for a reason, whether true or not (although I think it is 😊), is comforting to me.
      Hugs offered to you, dear one ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As another commenter already said, it’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one living in fantasy worlds. The neat thing is that you can live a fantasy and be someone else without anybody around you noticing. You wouldn’t know it if you saw me sitting here typing stuff, but I’m actually a genius FBI profiler…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg you too?? 😊😊. I’m probably at the next cubicle/office over, in the Behavioral Science Department!! 👏🏼👏🏼. When I’m not being House MD or “13” (the earthy female doctor from Season 4 on up), that is 💙💜

      I love your comment, by the way (!) Yes, indeed it’s so nice to know we’re not alone! 🌟💖


  6. Hello there! (waves over cubicle wall)
    If I’m not there, I’m probably at Harold Finch’s library (from Person of Interest).

    I’ve been floating around in my invisible fantasy bubble my whole life, and I’ve “been” so many people. Never occurred to me that it could be an Aspie thing…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe me neither! For me it’s one of those things that make Asperger’s/autism fun ❤️❤️. Aren’t those discoveries and increasing self-awareness awesome sometimes? I believe I would totally hang out with all of your Selves! 😘🌟💞


  7. My daughter, Kitty, is almost never herself: she’s a crow or a cat, she’s someone she’s met, she’s a character from a book. She is always assigning new roles to my mom and me, too, which can be very fatiguing. I remember having a super rich fantasy life when I was younger and I’m still always imagining new worlds and new ways this world could go. My mom, too, has a very detailed, rich fantasy life, with about a dozen fully imagined personae + worlds that she continues to enjoy (she is aspie also).

    Reading your post led me to remember how much joy my fantasy life/lives brought me and how important imagination is in most endeavors. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

Please feel free to add your thoughts! I do my best to respond to each comment (even if it takes me a bit sometimes) :)

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s