Jessica Summers


In March last year, I left my childhood home in the north of England and
moved to Montenegro.
“It’s time.” I told my husband. “Put it on the market.’ And in one brief sentence, our whole world was catapulted into a maelstrom from which
there was no return. In one week, our house sold; in two months we were on a ferry carrying us towards Montenegro - a place we had barely heard
of, let alone visited. I thought I was embracing a life as a digital nomad, free from ties; instead I faced the one thing that I had spent my
life controlling or avoiding: relationships.
I was around nine years old when I began intensively masking my ‘weirdness’, or what I now know as autism. Due to my constant work on
myself as a hypno-psychotherapist, I could not only pass through the world unremarked, I was actually thriving. It just so happened that none
of my close friends saw me for more than a couple of hours at a time, and then only a few times a year.
When you have the same routine, it’s easy to convince yourself that you have everything under control. It was only when we moved to a farm in
the Montenegrin countryside, and shared our lives with a family of nine, spanning three generations, that the cracks began to show. We shared
every element of their lives; and this story is about the eventual breakdown of our relationship with them and also the birth of a new
understanding of difference and friendship. Due to the gentle persistence of a group of women, I am now learning to lean into friendship.
I have experienced betrayal; I believe I too have betrayed unintentionally. I have got it wrong on numerous occasions, I have
struggled against Balkan expectations of friendship, and I have learned to live with irreparable damage. I believe my autism has given me a
unique perspective on relationship - already feeling like an alien when I left the UK, it was refreshing to be viewed as that stupid foreigner!
My daughter’s school now sees a daily influx of Russian and Ukrainian children fleeing from the war. They have no policy on how to deal with
their in-school conflict and distress. Based on my new willingness to get really present with the discomfort of conflict, I think perhaps I do.
I’d welcome the chance to talk more about how my story could be developed to suit your readers. I would like empower more people to feel
confident about handling conflict respectfully and with compassion. Equally, there is an interesting story to tell about discovering a new
culture (and language) for the first time - and the wonderful friendships that have developed in the past year.

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