We have to be our own hero

There is a scene in Spirited Away when Chihiro has to face her fears and use a massively steep flight of stairs. It is old and rickety too, so every move she makes feels like she will catapult herself off the edge and to certain death.

When she first uses the stairs, she sits on her bottom and tries to shuffle down, one by one. This is safe but she is still petrified. Later she is forced to run down them: she doesn't intend to run, it's just that once she's on her feet, momentum gets the better of her and away she goes.

Once she starts running, she has to speed up or fall, there are no other choices. She runs faster and faster, little hands in the air and hair flying out behind her, going almost too fast to know if she is succeeding.

At the bottom she is on a wider ledge and feels safer, but then has to move on to the next unknown part of her journey and face more challenges. Throughout Spirited Away, Chihiro is constantly challenged, physically, mentally, emotionally and has to grow and adapt to survive and to save her parents.

By the end of the film she has progressed so much that she can save her parents without doubting herself. She has finally cast off the shackles of who she was and is ready to embrace her new life. She has also learnt to appreciate what she had before.

Yes, I feel this way on public transport too

This is what so many of us aim for, to be able to get past all the hurdles and be there, at the triumphant end of the movie when it has all turned out well, we have saved the day and now understand ourselves and our place in the world. It sounds like a human version of perfection, to have this sense of knowledge, composure, belonging.

I admire Chihiro in this movie. I like that she isn't afraid to show her fear, that she isn't a go-getting hero who faces death and never quavers. She just keeps on trying: resolutely and with as much confidence as she can muster, she pushes herself towards every obstacle and hopes it will be all right in the end.

I really hate lifts

That is how it really is, as the heroes of our own stories. There is no magic pill or fairy godmother. There are people along the way who can help, but mostly we have to help ourselves. And there are many challenges which feel like a long, rattling, angled staircase which we have to use or die.

I know many days as an aspie feel more like the middle of this film and not the end. How often I feel like I'm on that staircase, hair flying out behind me, hands raised to keep my balance as I catapult myself into the next unknown. The only control I seem to have is to run or fall, and sometimes they turn out to be the same thing.

Other people are always the problem

Readers, here's to all those times when you felt the stairs move under your feet and had no one waiting to catch you. I salute us all for still having the courage to run down them, even if it was a forced choice and not a decision.

In the end, if you are running for your life, it doesn't matter where you started. You are doing it and hoping for the best. Heroic finale or not, every challenge is worth appreciating, and so are we.


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