I’m an autistic woman who’s been continuously employed since 1987. That sounds a lot more wonderful than it is. Actually, if you go back through my university and high school years – even back to middle school – I’ve always worked. I had my first paper route at age 12. I did paid yard work for neighbors and their business as well. And in high school, I had a job as soon as I was allowed to — at 16. I worked part-time throughout my junior and senior years of high school. And at university, I paid my way by working various jobs. I even supported myself with a part-time job, so I could live on my own in Germany for my last 2 years at uni. After I left school (with no degree, by the way), I managed to find work.
I’ve been working ever since.
So, technically, I’ve been continuously employed in at least some respect since 1981.
Yes. I am tired. So very, very tired.
And everyone going all “Woo hoo!” about autistic people holding down jobs, don’t seem to realize this:
Having a “good job” — especially in the corporate world — can be the same as being institutionalized. In fact, it is a form of institutionalization. Every day, I get up and do the exact same thing. I haul myself off to an office building, which from the outside doesn’t look so very different from a prison. And when I get inside, I take myself to a small cell-like cubicle where I have a desk, chair, computer, monitor, workspace, and filing cabinets to store my work product.
I follow the rules of engagement, filling my talk all day with corporate-speak (God help me), abiding by the cultural conventions of the masses, making small talk over things that I do not care about… feigning interest in life problems which have nothing at all to do with me and which I never had and never will have… eating my lunch at the same time, usually during the same interminable conference call at the same time every day.
And then I haul myself home at the end of the day to make supper, watch a little t.v., and crash in bed … so I can start all over again the next day.
Woo hoo! I mean, who wouldn’t want to do this, every single weekday of their adult life?
Well, me, to be truthful. Supposedly it’s so wonderful that I have a good job, that I am making ends meet, that I have a respectable career — like many, many autistic folks do (diagnosed and otherwise). Supposedly, autistic folks are phenomenally under-employed — though that’s news to me, seeing as I’ve worked in the midst of Autism Nation for over 20 years, surrounded by too many cases of Royal Aspieness to count. Supposedly, people like me aren’t easy to accommodate. On that point, I do agree. I’m impossible to accommodate, with all my autistic needs. That’s why I don’t bother asking for accommodations. Because that would mark me as “a problem” and give them a reason to get rid of me — as if being an aging woman in a young man’s industry isn’t reason enough, already.
Hooray for my wonderful outcome! I have a good job with a great company. I own a house (well, not for the next 15 years – I still owe the bank their monthly mortgage payment). I’ve got two cars in the garage, a closet of work clothes, a marriage of 26+ years, and I actually have a safety net of 3 months’ worth of living expenses in the bank.
Yep, I’m doing great. (sarcasm)
And I’m exhausted. (not sarcasm)
All . The . Time . (not even close to sarcasm)
Ah, well. I suppose it’s the price of membership. (resignation)