The last day of a recent road trip started with a singular craving: a Breakfast Crunchwrap from Taco Bell. Little did I realize, I could turn this seemingly simple desire into a mental tightrope walk, teetering between immediate satisfaction and FOMO – the fear of missing out.

Irresistible temptation

As I pulled back the hotel curtains, an unconventional breakfast choice took hold of my thoughts—a Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap. Fast food breakfast isn’t my usual go-to, but the thought of that perfect combination of flavors in a hand-held, driving-friendly format just tickled my taste buds and put down roots in the front of my brain. The part of my brain that says “Everything you do now points to this one thought at the front of your brain. It is your guiding thought. You will not divert your attention from this thought. Go directly to this thought. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.”

You know those thoughts?

Determined to make it a reality, I checked out of the hotel, loaded up my car, and fired up the Maps app. I searched for “Taco Bell near me” and my tastebuds did the happy dance when a location appeared just half a mile away.

Not so sure about this!

Arriving at Taco Bell, the parking lot looked deserted. Maybe I was too early? Surely they would be open at 8:15 am? I decided to pull into a nearby parking lot where I could see the Taco Bell, so I could check the app. I saw a couple of cars pulling through the drive-through, so knew it must be open! A glimmer of confidence emerged, and I could taste my Breakfast Crunchwrap!

The cruel twist of fate

As I approached the speaker, rehearsing my order in my mind and the conversation I was going to have with the cashier, the voice from the crackling speaker shattered my optimism. “I’m sorry, our systems are down, we can’t take your order.” A dagger pierced my heart.

A wave of disappointment washed over me, like in the cartoons where the color is washed out by black and white, and my neurodivergent dilemma intensified. I faced a critical decision—should I settle for an alternative breakfast venue or risk waiting for the elusive Taco Bell experience?

The mental battle commences

Seeking refuge in a nearby side street (because who wants to sit in the parking lot of a restaurant that just told you they can’t serve you?), I sat in my car, wrestling with the tormenting choice before me. A bag of Siete Mexican Wedding Cookies tempted me from the passenger seat, but I resisted, fearing they would spoil my appetite. Ten minutes ticked by as I debated whether to find an alternative drive-through restaurant to immediately satiate my hunger or continue the quest for the coveted Breakfast Crunchwrap. I looked at the alternatives … Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mcdonald’s, Dairy Queen, and many others, but I now had an image of a Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap in my head and nothing else was going to satisfy my breakfast craving. The problem was that time was ticking.

The highway of reflection

I headed to the highway, detouring through McDonalds drive-through to pick up coffee while resisting the temptation to order something that would count as breakfast, I started on the journey homeward, the landscapes rolling out before me, flat like my home state of Illinois, but somehow different. The lush greens seemed like they had been intensified by the thunderstorms a couple of nights previously, and the now-clear skies stirred up something in my mind. Thoughts about why people choose country life versus city life, memories of past experiences, and the joys and challenges that shape us. I’ve lived both in the middle of a big city (Sydney, Australia) and in the country where we pulled water from a well and had minimal comforts (both in Bringelly and Milton – both in Australia) and everywhere in between. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both suited me at different points in my life.

The solitude of self-discovery

I’m an introvert. Alone on the open road, I loved the solitude. I love driving, and the seven-hour drive became my sanctuary—a traveling university where I caught up on my backlog of podcasts, absorbed insights on many topics from industry professionals, and also took time to reflect on life’s intricacies.

This time allowed me to appreciate the joys of introspection and the tranquility found within my own company.

But the Crunchwrap …

My quest for a Breakfast Crunchwrap unearthed the struggles unique to the neurodivergent mind.

The battle between immediate gratification and the fear of missed opportunities is intense. The internal dilemma of settling for an alternative breakfast haunted me because I knew deep down that if I settled for a different restaurant, the next “Food” sign along the highway would inevitably show a Taco Bell logo, leaving me disappointed despite a full stomach.

Neurotypical individuals might brush off this experience, saying, “You can just get Taco Bell tomorrow.” But for neurodivergent individuals like me, it’s not that simple. The craving, the desire, and the mental turmoil are immediate and urgent. The prospect of waiting until tomorrow feels like an eternity, a missed opportunity that lingers on our minds, and tomorrow I may have no desire to eat a Crunchwrap.

I did get my Breakfast Crunchwrap! I profusely thanked the cashier for being there, at a little Taco Bell in the middle of nowhere, and she probably thought I was a little bit kooky, but that’s OK. And now I probably won’t feel like eating one for another year.

Maybe by sharing my story, I can shed light on the profound mental anguish experienced by my neurospicy peers in seemingly mundane situations. The decisions we face carry a weight that may go unnoticed by others.

Can we please embrace the complexities of our minds, celebrating our resilience and strength as we navigate a world that often fails to recognize or understand our struggles?

To those who share my journey, remember that your experiences are valid. In the battles we fight within our minds, we find courage, determination, and a unique perspective on life. May this tale ignite empathy and deepen understanding, fostering a world where neurodiversity is celebrated and supported.