Job-related social woes – now it starts again

group of people with one figure a different color than others
It’s hard to not feel like I don’t fit in.

Oh, God… spare me. It’s starting again.

The job-related social woes.

I’ve been in my job just a little over a year, and it’s actually going well. That’s part of the problem, because now as more people are getting to know me, and they see that I haven’t fled the building from being overwhelmed and not up to the job, they’re warming up to me.

Which means I interact with people a lot more on a daily basis.

Which is tiring, taxing, and sometimes exhausting.

I mean, it’s encouraging that I’m being accepted more widely, and that people actually want to come to my cubicle to chat. But it also means I have to work harder, each day, I have to expend more energy. And I don’t get as much done as I’d like.

It also means that I’m more susceptible to distraction because A) more people are interrupting me, B) getting worn out by the excitement makes me more prone to seek out relief in the form of passing distractions, such as social media and surfing the web, and C) being tired just makes it all-around harder to get my attention back to what I was working on before I was distracted

Arrrgh! It’s wild, how this goes. It’s disorienting, frustrating, disorienting, and it puts me on edge. Oh, anxiety! And it’s all because of positive developments.

For about a year, people pretty much kept a curious distance from me, watching me, observing me, and it’s been kind of weird and isolating. But as soon as I passed the one-year mark, with no sign of wanting to leave, it’s like a starting gun went off, and now everybody’s all “Hi! How are you!?! We need to catch up!”

And that makes my skin crawl. Not because I don’t want to be around people. I do. It’s been kind of lonely for the past many months, I have to say. But it’s also been quiet, I’ve had my place to myself, my schedule to myself, and I’ve been able to go at my own pace. Now, though, suddenly my time is at a premium, and woo hoo! everybody wants their piece of my schedule. Especially women, who feel comfortable with me and who are really excited to hear that I’ve got a technical background, so I can explain technical stuff to them in ways that they understand without making them feel stupid or inferior.

It’s a double-edged sword, for sure. And I need to figure out how to handle this. Because it’s no good to keep hopping from job to job, every year or so. That in itself is exhausting, and personally I’m now finding it easier to stay put, than gussy up my resume and go out looking all over again. I do extremely well in interviews. I can build a killer resume. I know how to present well and get in the door. But once I’m in, and I have to “build relationships”, I tend to hit the skids.

Office environments are incredibly challenging for me, from the lights… to the sounds… to the feelings of the floor shaking from people walking by… to the walls shaking from the HVAC systems… to the air blowing on me from the vents overhead… to the smell of people’s lunches and their perfumes and colognes. It’s taxing, as it is. And then I need to interact with other people?

It’s hard enough, some days, just to get up from my desk. But I’m also supposed to interact with people and build relationships?

Please.

The good news is, I’m in an uber-Aspified environment, where every other person around me is clearly on the autism spectrum, and the others know how to deal effectively with those of us who are. So, I’m not alone.

I just have to figure out how to do this. Because social anxiety and avoidance has chased me out of jobs many times over the years. That’s cost me, in terms of earnings, savings, and job advancement. And I’m tired of it chasing me around.

I’ll figure something out. One thing I’ve been doing is getting in a good break in the afternoons to work out, think things through, clear my head… And come up with better ideas about what I’m working on. It lets me discharge all the stress that’s built up from the morning, wear myself out, and get me back in my cubicle around the time that most people are leaving for the day… so I can work in peace and silence for several hours after everyone has gone.

That’s helping. A lot, actually. And I’ll keep doing it. Because I’ve got to figure something out, so I don’t have to keep changing jobs every couple of years. If I do that, I’ll have to launch another 10 or so job searches before I retire. And the thought of that is just … daunting.

So, I have my work cut out for me.

But at least it’s in an uber-Aspified environment, where I can be my completely odd self and not be out of place. I don’t have to work overtime to mask and camouflage, like I have in other situations. I realize that now, the more I just let myself “do my thing” around others, and they don’t bat an eye. And for every Aspie moment I have that stands out as weird (that’s really the only word for it – I’m not ashamed), there are three other people down the row who stand out even more than I do.

So, I’m in good company.

That’s something worth fighting for, something worth working to preserve. Because it doesn’t come along every day, now, does it?

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