If there were a way to go to school and get paid for it, that's what I would choose to do for the rest of my life. I love studying, I love schedules, I love repetition, I love routines , I love learning. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find such a position where I can tap into all of these and be financially compensated.
I've never had any difficulty being a student, but being an employee for some reason has never worked well for me. Maybe its because I find it next to impossible to comply to social norms (you with me? I'll save you a seat). Maybe its my rigid routines, or my difficulty with transitions, extreme anxiety in new situations and other random stimuli. Who knows.
What I do know, is that I went to college for 10 years for the security of obtaining a career in the field of my choice,which would then enable me to support my family. At least that's the way I was told it would be.
EHHHH.....not so much.
I am ,however, proud to say that I have achieved one of my life goals, to obtain a Masters degree. Despite an array of obstacles, I found my way to final destination.
When all was said and done, my excitement quickly faded. Transitioning into the real world was nothing like I had imagined. There are no guidance counselors or academic advisors that could type things into their computer and shift your world around to make you more comfortable. There is no buffer. No safety net. No graceful landing. It feels like a swift kick in the ass after being caught skinny dipping, and the moments following when you attempt to vanish into a rowdy, unfriendly crowd with your clothes and other belongings in your hands...stark naked.
It has been four years and I still have yet to find a position in my field...scratch that... any field. I made the decision to lower my expectations in terms of starting salary, just so I could get a foot in the door. I'm learning things don't always turn out the way we plan.
It's no secret that part of having Aspergers means that I suck at anything social. I probably don't interview well. I wear a fake smile,(that shit hurts), practice looking normal and pretend that I know the rules to the everyday exchange of conversation. Its exhausting.
Let me tell you a quick story.
Not too long ago, a director friend offered to film me performing one of my poems in a natural setting to be put on his YouTube channel. I was nervous because I have always felt weird about listening to my voice on a recording or watching myself in an impromptu home video. I found though, once the filming was done, I felt an overall sense of satisfaction at having completed the project, which was, at times, was clearly quite daunting. But I also noticed with that satisfaction I became flooded with a deep sense of sadness.
My friend allowed me to watch snippets of the video before he completed the edits. It wasn't the planned acting parts that struck me, but those moments on the sidelines where I saw myself , being myself. For lack of a better metaphor, it felt a little like watching the gorillas at the Bronx zoo. There they are, in their space, completely unadultered for the whole world to see. (for the record I think gorillas are awesome so in this instance I don't completely mind being compared to one)
Anyway, what I'm getting at is that I noticed for the first time how others would see me, and how they could possibly see me as different.(I try to use the word “different” lightly. I like to think what separates us makes us unique and gives us an edge.)To be frank, there was something maddeningly raw and honest about watching myself in those moments. Like hey, this is the Emily everybody else sees.
Suddenly I could hear every negative and derogatory comment ever hurled in my direction about my awkward demeanor, and I realized what they meant. I had a good long cry in a hot shower(something I find incredibly therapeutic), along with a firm pep talk from my daughter (she's good for those)and I let that shit go.
Still, when I go on these job interviews, I can't help but wonder that these parts of me shine through and make it difficult for people consider me as an adept professional. Even more so, I worry that if I do get the kind of job I am qualified for, will it be something that overwhelms me completely. Maybe not getting a job right now is a sign.
I try to take things day by day. At least I have time to focus on my writing. But I have dreams. Dreams that require me to move from this page and present my strengths and assets to the real world.
I know where I want to be, and I don't want my differences to be a barrier on my journey, but rather a source of strength. I think having a diagnosis and learning acceptance is a step away from the confusion and defeat I have felt for so many years. I'm starting to understand that what other perceive as downfalls in my personality are actually of invaluable worth. (Some say obsessive, but I'm quite literally the most loyal person I know) Besides, I've made it this far, and that's got to count for something. Lets see where else this journey takes me. Stay weird.