A script for my #Autistic Monday morning

three abstract people figures talking to each otherI am not looking forward to going to work today. I worked from home all week, last week, and it was wonderful. I didn’t move as much as I should have, and I ate more than was healthy, but I got to rest when I needed to, and I wasn’t subjected to inane interactions, like I’m about to be, in a little over an hour.

I detest vacuous social interactions that serve no purpose other than to make other people feel less lonely. It’s a distraction. But I’ll do it.

The good part is, I’ve figured out how to do it without investing a whole lot of energy. If I just follow this script, I’m all set.

This is how it goes:

First, I see someone approaching me. It’s always best if I acknowledge them first, because other people are very reactive. They like having someone else set the tone of the interaction so they can just follow along.

Me (smiling and looking in their general direction): Hi! How are you today?

Them: I’m good, thanks! And you?

Me: I’m great! How was your weekend? Did you have a good one?

Them:  Something – something – something – something – something – something

Me (depending on their response): Oh, wow – that sounds great / frustrating / exciting (sarcasm used, if they had a terrible weekend)

Them: Yeah. Something – something – something – something – something – something

Me (whatever they happen to say): Oh, I know… Right?

Them: Laugh / meaningful look / some comment

Me: Tell me about it…

Them: Okay, well, have a great day!

Me: You too! Happy Monday!

 

And we’re done. That’s roughly how it goes.

Generally, I can get away with a few exaggerated expressions of “Oh, I know!” or “Right?!” that indicate I’m listening (maybe I am, maybe I’m not), and that I care. I do care. I actually do. But it’s a lot of energy, which I often don’t have, to get all invested in other people’s lives.

Especially when I fundamentally disagree with what they do with their free time and money.

I try not to belabor my interactions with judgment. Non-autistic people don’t understand, and it’s not a good use of time.

So, anyway, Monday awaits. I have to go in to the office today — Big Day for a project I’m working on, plus there’s some staff meeting I have to attend. Whatever happens, it won’t be boring. That’s for sure.

Although sometimes, boring would be fantastic.

Okay, off I go…

Refresh connection with Facebook? Hmmm…. maybe…

Message from WordPress to refresh connection with Facebook
This message comes up, every now and then, when I’m on WordPress.

Before you hit Publish, please refresh the following connection(s) to make sure we can Publicize your post:

And again, I need to consider whether I actually want to reconnect with Facebook.

I’ll admit, I’m reluctant. For all they’ve done (and not done) in the area of privacy and protecting their users, part of me just wants to drop them permanently and walk away.

Then again, I don’t really spend much time on FB, and it lets me get some of my writing out to a broader audience. So, it serves a purpose. It certainly does that. And I have so little actual personal information on there — nothing that I don’t already put on WordPress and Twitter — that whatever they may want to do with my info… good luck to them.

I think I may be Facebook-inoculated, because I’ve been in the high tech / online scene for so long. I worked in financial services for years, building websites to let people manage their money online, and I still, to this day, don’t think it’s a bright idea to do any of that stuff online. The fact that more people aren’t robbed… well, that surprises me daily. I’ve worked in online marketing, have built websites intended to be super-secure, and I know how the stuff is put together behind the scenes.

It’s never been nearly as secure as they say it is, and it’s always been a bit of a fools’ paradise (note the s-apostrophe, meaning all of us fools), so I’m not overly rocked by all this. Plus, it’s not like anyone didn’t already know Facebook’s “default mode is sharing”.

D’oh.

As in D’ohn’t come crying to me, when you finally realize that we weren’t just whistling in the wind about your life being up for grabs on social media.

Oh, is that mean-spirited? Non-compassionate? Maybe so. But seriously, it’s time to put the big-kids pants on and take responsibility for all this. Not just wail and gnash our teeth over crap we’ve been warned about, but chose to ignore.

Sigh.

Well, anyway, I’m having a lovely Sunday inside, looking out at the crows trying to unhook the suet cage from my bird feeder. They figured out how to get it off before, so I used a carabiner to hold that sucker in place. And since then, they haven’t been able to do more than perch on the top and peck at the suet. Frustrating for them, I know, but the woodpeckers thank me.

Yes, a lovely Sunday… I’ve got my fuzzy blanket thrown over my shoulders, and I’ve got my music on. Cozy, warm, and relaxing with some really wonderful reading I’ve been doing. An old, long-lasting interest of mine has cropped up again — iconoclastic Zen practitioners of the 16th and 17th centuries in Japan — and I’m digging into old Samurai stories with a gusto I haven’t felt in quite some time.

How pleasant. How incredibly pleasant.

And then, because I did so much yesterday and got a lot of errands out of the way, I can lie down and take a long nap this afternoon without needing to set an alarm. My favorite kind of nap — also good, because if I don’t set my alarm, then my mobile won’t be beside my bed, so I won’t spend an hour scrolling through Twitter, when I’m supposed to be resting.

I’m spending less and less time on social media, these days, including Twitter. It’s all turned into a cultural battleground, which is tiring. Seriously, they need better filters. I support the changes taking place, and I support the people standing up for their lives, but sometimes I just need a break, and social media has provided me with that in the past. Breaks are coming fewer and farther between, though, which is unfortunate.

Or is it? I need to unplug more, these days, anyway. I’ll just treat it as a great opportunity to chill and give all the fight-flight a rest.

Oh, you know what?

That got me to thinking… Maybe my decreasing ardor for Activist Twitter is due to my decreasing hormonal inclination to give a damn about stuff that used to drive me. Menopause seems to be cutting me a break.

That could explain a lot, actually.

But now it’s time to retire again to my cave-y little corner of the world, ensconce myself in a heady enclave of histories, myths, legends, and conjecture about what was going through people’s minds, on the other side of the world, 400 years ago.

Fun!

Catch you later.

Maybe on Facebook 😉

Social Incompatibility: Yet another thing that’s not true about this #Autistic individual

crowd of cheering people at an outdoor concertSupposedly, because I’m Autistic, I’m incapable of interacting with non-autistic people the way they want me to.

Untrue. I wish it were true, some days. ‘Cause all the interacting with neurotypical people just gets so exhausting. I’m bone tired, starting around 10:30 a.m., every single day I have to go out into the NT world. And I just get more tired, throughout the course of each day. The nonsensical decision making and priorities are just so wearing

But what’s an Autie to do? I’ve gotta make a living, and that means I have to get out in the thick of things, figure out how to navigate it all, and just get on with my life.

I also need to interact with other people on a regular basis. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I don’t get out and interact with the world every few days or so, my thought process starts to get pretty “out there”. I get a little suspicious and paranoid, actually. And my mind starts telling me all sorts of things that aren’t entirely true. I need people around (in person, not just online) to provide details I’m overlooking in my very rigid thinking. I need them to keep me grounded.

It helps me.

But it’s not easy. Oh, no. It’s not easy at all. I mean, I’ve figured out some tips and tricks and whole lotta hacks that will get me through social interactions without offending everyone in sight and pissing off people who misunderstand me. But it doesn’t come naturally to me.

And therein lies the “rub”, as they say.

Because my hacks work. My clandestine stimming, concentrating on a place on someone’s face that isn’t their eyes, nodding periodically, using a finely tuned prosody and cadence to my speech… it’s all very effective. It’s attractive, even. Which means people want to interact with me. They love to interact with me. They seek me out. They come looking for me at work. They look me up online. They ping me on social media. They hang out with me at the 2 parties I go to, each year. They say they want to see more of me. They invite me to their homes. They invite me to events. They want me around, and they love my company, because I can offer them something they can’t get anywhere else — compassion, empathy, focus on them as the center of my world when I’m with them, interesting trivia (yep, got lots of that), laughter, relaxation, acceptance.

People love me. They can’t get enough of me.

In the words of the Talking Heads, “My god. What have I done?

It seemed like a good idea, to develop all these coping mechanisms over the years. And they have all helped me to get good jobs and keep them and provide for my household at a level that most Autism researchers would probably declare impossible for someone “with my impairments”. But it comes at a cost. It all comes at a cost.

And that cost is exhaustion.

Well, fortunately, I’ve figured out some ways to get through, even if I am worn down to the bone. I keep going. I focus on the task at hand. I amuse myself periodically throughout the course of each day. And I have my early mornings to myself, as well as part of my evenings. I manage to wedge in things I really love, here and there, punctuating the interminable slog that is my life in the non-autistic world with moments of sheer bliss.

So, that’s something.

And it makes the rest of my life possible. Which is good. Because nothing truly worthwhile comes easy, I believe. And I can’t expect the rest of the world to accommodate me. Other people have their own problems, and my challenges are not even on their radar. If I want to keep a job, stay out of jail, keep a roof over my head, keep the cars in the garage, save money for emergencies… basically, have an adult life, I have to make choices and sacrifices. That’s how the whole adulting things goes, and our current climate of hyper-customization and convenience and being catered to and accommodated at every turn is not helping people cope with the inevitable challenges of just living a responsible and rewarding life.

Life as I experience it is a series of challenges which involve to varying degrees a regular influx of frustration, pain, anguish, sadness, disappointment, disillusionment, betrayal… you name it. But that’s how it goes. And if I want to have the life I need to have, I’ve got to figure out how to manage it all.

Which I do. Including the social stuff.

That being said, I have to get myself ready for work. I’m going in to the office today, after being home yesterday (I had nonstop meetings on the phone from 8:30 – 4:30, which is its own particular brand of misery for me). I’m going to be around people who are unrealistic, insecure, demanding, politically devious, clueless, and socially needy. That’s the deal. And I voluntarily engage with these people, learning tons about myself in the process, and making a living at it, too.

I’m not a fan of it all. But they love me.

So, that’s something.

Employable Me looking for #autistic folks to profile about #employment

This showed up in my comments section the other day. Check it out, it might be a good opportunity.

Hi there!
I am the casting director for the American version of the award-winning BBC television series “Employable Me.”

The TV series I cast, “Employable Me,” follows people with Autism, Aspergers and other neurological conditions like Tourette Syndrome as they look for meaningful, long-term employment. The job-seekers selected to appear on our documentary series will be encouraged to unlock their hidden talents with the help of experts, doctors and neurological specialists so they can at long last find the job that best suits their unique skill sets and strengths and creates a sense of purpose in their life.

I am reaching out to you both with the hope that our current search for people who have neurological conditions and that manifest incredible intelligence that has not been appreciated properly by potential employers, might be shared with people in your social networks that might be interested in our series?

We’d love for our search for jobseekers to be mentioned there in the off-chance that people in a situation where their condition has been employment-prohibitive to date, but who have talent to offer and who could benefit from being a part of our series, will learn about it and apply to be considered.

A summary of what we are hoping you might be able to circulate for us in an email blast is below my signature in this email.

I highly encourage you to view some highlights of our courageous series as first launched in the UK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09hlpl8
Liz Alderman
Casting Director, Optomen Productions
Liz.Alderman@OptomenUSA.com
http://www.OptomenProductions.com

JOB-SEEKERS WITH NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS SOUGHT FOR AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY SERIES, “Employable Me”

Documentary producers at Optomen USA are looking for people with neuro-divergent conditions such as ASD & Tourettes who would like our assistance finding employment on the documentary TV series EMPLOYABLE ME.

A diverse workforce can be great for a business and EMPLOYABLE ME wants to dramatically shake up the system to prove it.

The job-seekers selected to appear on our documentary series will be encouraged to unlock their hidden talents with the help of experts and specialists so they can at long last find the job that best suits their unique skill sets and strengths.

Contact Liz.Alderman@OptomenUSA.com for more information on how to be considered for this opportunity.

Optomen Productions produces hundreds of hours of television each year for many of the major cable and broadcast networks including Food Network, Travel Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery and Bravo. Our most successful series include Worst Cooks in America and Mysteries at the Museum.

Visit http://www.optomenproductions.com/ for more information about our company.

Employable Me Episode 1: https://vimeo.com/165440168/eeef45ba00

Employable Me Episode 2: https://vimeo.com/194704968/f29ee23b44

Employable Me Episode 3: https://vimeo.com/165440167/911b02b210

#WomenInSTEM – #POC in High Tech – July, 2018 is the time to find a new job in Massachusetts

red glass and metal skyscraperIf you’re like me (not a white, heterosexual male, but still working in high tech in Massachusetts), you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a subtle form of discrimination that’s systemically ensured that a lot of us can’t get paid the same as white men with the same amount of experience and qualifications.

That discrimination is the standard-issue question, “So, what are you earning in your current position?”

It might not seem so horrible, but if you consider that a lot of minority folks start out at lower rates of earning, then over all the years of moving on, if we’ve been compensated at roughly the same rate we were before, we’ll inevitably end up making less than our majority counterparts — some of us significantly less. I know that Salary.com shows I’m making 15-20% less than my market value, and that burns. But up till now, I haven’t been able to do anything about it, because employers have always copped out by using my prior earnings as a reference point.

But that’s about to change — well, in another 7 months.

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH PAY EQUITY goes into effect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 1, 2018.

This law is supposed to even the playing field, in terms of compensation. The part(s) of it I like the most are:

   (c)  It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to:
     (1)  require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages, or about any other employee’s wages.  Nothing in this subsection shall obligate an employer to disclose an employee’s wages to another employee or a third party;
     (2)   seek the wage or salary history of a prospective employee from the prospective employee or a current or former employer or to require that a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria; provided, however, that:  (i) if a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information, a prospective employer may confirm prior wages or salary or permit a prospective employee to confirm prior wages or salary; and (ii) a prospective employer may seek or confirm a prospective employee’s wage or salary history after an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated and made to the prospective employee;

That means, I can ask what potential employers are paying others who do my same job. And they aren’t allowed to ask me what I was making before.

So, that means I’ll be free to change jobs next year, without worrying that I’ll be blocked in by my past. It’s been a rigged game against me and others like me for far too long, and now that’s changing.

Who knows how much it will fix, but in any case, at least that’s one less thing I need to contend with. Being a 50-something high tech veteran is challenging enough in this youth-loving world. I can use all the help I can get. Plus, it will be nice to get paid the market rate.

For once.

25+-Year #Autistic tech veteran – completely left out of the #WomenInSTEM movement

three human figures in the background with one solitary figure in frontHa – that title sounds like a personal profile… maybe on a bulletin board or forum… Funny. It sounds a little sad. A little upset. Too much? Whatever. At least, it’s true.

So, there’s all this amazing new movement on fostering the inclusion and career growth of #WomenInSTEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine. It’s so encouraging. And it’s great for the soul, to see it taking shape and maturing.

Back in 1992, when I got into high tech, women were few and far between, and when I went into web development full-time, there were even fewer in that space. Of course, there have always been women in computing (women were “computers” before the machines came along). And there have always been at least some women in science and engineering. But not nearly as many as men.

Once upon a time, it didn’t actually bother me. I’ve always been gender-non-conforming, and it was a relief to be able to work in an environment where my gender wasn’t made much of. If anything, it was downplayed. And that was partly my doing. Because the whole highly gendered “woman” thing has always been… well, problematic for me. And I just didn’t want to be bothered with classically gendered man-and-woman stuff.

I just wanted to code. I just wanted to build cool stuff and launch it and see the world change as a result.

These days, there’s increasing focus on including more women in the STEM space, and that’s great. I’m in the tech space, so I’ll talk about that portion of the whole STEM thing. There are meetups, hackathons, trainings, networking events, code-and-coffee sessions, and so forth. There’s a lot of activity going on, getting young women connected with each other and with the tech world. It’s awesome.

And I would love to participate. I would love to go to these events, network, connect with other women — especially younger women who may be waffling about whether or not to bother with tech… or who are grappling with a particularly sticky algorithmic conundrum and the could use an “old salt” to bounce ideas off.

The thing is, that’s just not gonna happen. Not in person, anyway. Not even online, really. ‘Cause I’m tired. I wrote earlier about how I’m fully employed, and I’ve been that way for about 30 years. Yeah, it’s been good. But I’m also exhausted. And in pain. All the time. To the point of disability, really. To the point of desperation, some days. The fatigue never really goes away, it just subsides and lurks in the background, till I either collapse or get a good night’s rest and manage to put it out of my mind.

All of my effectiveness and advancement has come at a steep price for me, as well as my family. I basically “leave it all on the field” each day. And when I’m done for the workday, I’m done.  Over and out. I’ve also got a handful of personal projects I’ve got going, and they get the majority of my “extra” energy (first thing in the morning before things “heat up” for me, and then on weekends and any parts of vacation days I may have).

The idea of dragging myself into a nearby city (or even town) to go to an evening meetup or coding session, let alone networking with total strangers, whom I have to make an extra effort to relate to… yeah, I just don’t have the discretionary time and energy for that. Even if something happens on the weekends, it’s rare that I have the discretionary energy to do that. I need my downtime — very much so. If I don’t rest enough on weekends, I suffer for it the following week. And so does everyone around me.

I’ve found a fine balance between keeping up with the rigors of everyday life, the responsibilities of my full-time job, being the primary carer for my partner, as well as volunteering on a town government board, attending a couple of autism support groups a month, and keeping myself healthy. And yeah, I do feel left out and excluded by the whole #WomenInSTEM thing. Because it seems to be only for young-ish, able-bodied, luxuriously time-rich women, who have the resources (time, energy, money, interpersonal support) to network and do this stuff.

Me? I can’t even imagine what it’s like to go to monthly meetups — or even quarterly — or just pick up and go to a hackathon on a moment’s notice, if it sounds cool and fun to attend. A lot of things sound cool and fun to attend, but I haven’t got the ability to do so.

I need to plan ahead of time. I need to make arrangements for my responsibilities — both for myself (so I’m confident they’re met) and for those I’m serving. I’m not complaining, I’m just observing.

And it’s kind of a shame.

Of course, I could do something online, I suppose. I could start a blog about my coding experiences, talk about different approaches, talk about the most effective ways to work with tech guys, when you’re the only woman in the vicinity. I could talk about all kinds of harassment, all kinds of positive experiences, lessons learned, and so forth.

But again – Time. Energy. These things take both, and I’ve already got my hands full.

It’s not for myself, that I’m most concerned. It’s actually for the others I could benefit, but never will because I’ve wrung myself out for the cause in the past 8 hours. Me? I’ll be fine. I’m perfectly happy doing my thing. But I’ve been in the technical trenches since the early 1990s, and I’ve got a wealth of knowledge and an eagerness to share it. Others could definitely benefit from it, I’m convinced.

Except the #WomenInSTEM movement is not totally accessible for someone like me. If anything, it’s just a bit exclusionary, as it presumes the ability (physical, economic, time-based) to join in the movement, just like all those other smiling women I see on my Twitter feed. I’m happy for them.

Well, it’s not really my concern, if the movement doesn’t have room for someone like me. The thing is, I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m sure there are other autistic tech women — or older caregiving women who are bogged down with domestic responsibilities — who are in the same boat as I. And we’ve got a sh*t-ton of experience that others could benefit from.

If they could get to us.

If they even knew we existed.

But they can’t.

And they mostly don’t.

So… it’s their loss.

And for that, I’m sad. 😦

Ah, well. Back to work.

A little #AutisticAwareness about #autistic #employment

picture of two men on a handcar, riding down a railroad track
You have to do the work that will get you where you’re going – no matter how humble, no matter how less-than-ideal

Increasingly, I’m seeing articles and videos about hiring and retaining autistic employees… as though we’re an exotic species that needs to be courted, wooed, accommodated, enticed… and employers need to be “sold” on our capabilities.

Huh. That’s funny. In 30 years, nobody’s gone out of their way to accommodate my personal requirements, although plenty of people have seen fit to employ me — without needing to be “sold” on me, aside from the skills I bring to the job. I have really suffered in some jobs. And for years, I was in a daily state of stress and distress because of working conditions that were just about unbearable. But I had to bear it. Because I needed the job. And I needed to stay in the job long enough to not look like a “jumper” who flits wildly from one situation to another without any loyalty or long-term commitment. The perception that you’re flighty will really work against you in the competitive job market. Employers frankly don’t want to hire you, if they’re not going to recoup their investment. That’s basically it, from what I can tell.

So, I’ve stayed in some pretty miserable conditions, over the years. Some jobs were so grueling, I was melting down on a regular basis. But I had to keep working. Didn’t have a choice, that I could see. So, I stuck in there. And here I am, ~30 years later, with a record of continuous employment that gets people’s attention.

I’ve heard statistics bandied about, that autistic folks are vastly unemployed or at the very least underemployed. Per an 2015 article in Huffington Post:

In total, the combined unemployment and underemployment for young adults with autism is estimated at 90 percent nationwide. People with ASD were said to have a worse “no participation” rate of unemployment than any other disability group tracked in a separate 2012 study from Washington University in St. Louis.

So, that’s dismal. And it also seems … not entirely accurate. I’ve been working for money since I was 12 years old, when I had a paper route. I worked all during high school, working in greenhouses, doing yard work for neighbors, washing dishes at a local restaurant… and delivering newspapers. I worked my way through college (my family wasn’t poor enough to qualify for full aid, but not wealthy enough to pay my way), and I got a job as soon as I left school (I dropped out, because I ran out of money, and I had a host of other autism-related issues that snowballed into legal and interpersonal dramas). Aside from a 2-month meltdown/shutdown in the fall/winter of 1987-88, I’ve always supported myself (and my household) through full-time jobs.

I’ve made my way through life as an autistic person working in a neurotypical world. It has rarely been easy. It’s been pretty damn’ tough, much of the time. But I’ve toughed it out, I’ve put in my years, and it’s paid off in a very big way.

I need to say a number of things about living and working as a decidedly autistic individual who’s had to work for others to make a living. There seem to be a lot of dismal figures making headlines, along with a combination of wretched prognoses and somewhat “pie-in-the-sky” solutions for autistic folks who need to support themselves.

  1. Self-Employment Isn’t A Magic Elixir for Autistic Folks. I’ve heard a number of people singing the praises of going it on their own, and I applaud them. But not every one of us can do that. I’ve tried going freelance a number of times, but it never “took”. Executive function issues got in the way. The stress of not having the right insurance. The stress of having to put my own schedule in place and enforce it. Also, the need to constantly promote myself to drum up business… yeah, that didn’t work at all. I work much better in an “institutionalized” situation, where somebody else has created the structure and rules, and the rest of us follow along with those common agreements, and Big Things happen as a result. There’s no shame in working for a big corporation. In fact, for people like me, it’s actually one of the best solutions.
  2. Being Under-Employed Isn’t A Sin. Never — not once — have I ever held a job that used all my talents and abilities. Never. Ever. So, technically, I’ve been under-employed my entire life. And yet, I have made a good living (some years – or decades – better than others). And my resume has a continuous string of positions that aren’t glamorous, but they’re there. And even in the most demeaning, lowly positions, I’ve managed to parlay the situation into something better — doing work that suited me, in addition to my daily slog tasks. The idea that under-employment is a horrible thing that should never ever happen, is patently ridiculous. If you’re working, period, and you’re making ends meet, that’s something to be glad about and proud of. Screw anyone who says differently. Anyway, it’s all part of an ongoing process of change and (hopefully) improvement.  So, everybody needs to Get Over the dread specter of “under-employment”.
  3. Job Interviews For Permanent Positions Are A Useless Horror For Me. And sadly, I’ve always gotten the job. Not once. Not twice. But at least five times. And I regretted nearly every single time I got a job through interviewing. I can never for the life of me figure out if I should take a job from an interview. Every single time I went through the traditional interview process, each position seemed like a great opportunity(!) And they nearly all turned out to be huge mistakes that I couldn’t get myself out of easily or cleanly. Oh . My . God… when I think about how terribly I misjudged those situations, based on a handful of discussions with hiring managers and future peers. How awful. I still twitch, when I think back on them.
  4. Contract-To-Perm Positions Are The Magic Ticket For Me. That is to say, I do best in a “try before you buy” arrangement, where I get to check out an employer before committing to them, and vice-versa. Frankly, when I tell people what I can (and will) do in the position, should I get it, nobody believes me. The performance bar is set amazingly low for employees, apparently. Either that, or they just assume that — like so many NT applicants? — I’m lying through my teeth and making big claims I can’t back up. What they don’t know, is that I can back it up. I always do. They have to see it to believe it.
  5. Trading Up Is The Way To Go. Say you identify a company you want to work for, but (according to them) you don’t have the experience or qualifications to do what you want to do. You can get a lower-level job and do that for a while — a few months, maybe a year or two — then move up in the company. I did that at a little publishing company I worked at, after I left university. I got a job as a lowly administrative assistant (1 of 3 admins doing boring-ass paperwork all day). I showed initiative, jumped into some impromptu projects for the boss — one of the VPs — got her attention, and got a promotion after a few months to run part of their direct mail marketing program. I grew the program from 3 mailings in the US, to 4 mailings in the US and 2 additional ones in Canada. We made a lot of money in the process, and I got to be part of something pretty cool. It never would have happened, if I hadn’t taken that lowly job as someone at the very bottom of the food chain and given it my best.

Basically, I think people are incredibly rigid and narrow-minded, when it comes to getting and keeping jobs, as well as moving up in the world. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of work, focusing mostly on technology since the late 1990s. I’m still in it, and I’m earning enough to keep a roof over my head, put food on the table, and actually fix up some stuff around the house. We can take vacations, too. Not a lot, and nothing too extravagant (cruises are way over budget), but one or two a year — long weekends help, as do business trips that have extra “play days” added to the beginning or end.

So, all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about autistics not being properly employed… that’s worrying. And I fear that unrealistic expectations and pie-in-the-sky over-the-top standards for what constitutes “decent” employment are getting in the way.

No, my career trajectory hasn’t been perfect. But I’ve not been out of a job since 1988. And that’s something.