Posted in Autistic Identity, Social Rules, Vocation

What Putting Yourself First Looks Like for Me

I blogged earlier about a rule I’m learning from watching Survivor: that people do, in fact, put themselves first.

I had a conversation with my trusted mentor, in the wake of leaving my principalship early.  I had remembered that he used to teach in public schools, himself.  Here’s a little of what I learned.

Put Your Own Family First

[Image: a businesswoman wearing a white dress shirt and black blazer is balancing a Scrabble-like rack with tiles spelling LIFE on one side and WORK on the other on a wooden dowel. LIFE appears to be weighing more heavily.]
The thing about vocations is that we have potentially many.  We have the one where we’re a nun, a monk, a priest, a wife, a mother, a husband, a father, a consecrated virgin, or whatever.  There’s that one.  And there’s also the one where we hopefully align our job to what we’re called to do for our work.

Two vocations.

I have been living my life as if I were called to the sisterhood, yet living as a wife and mother.  That’s a no go.

Instead, because I have more degree combinations than my husband and the greatest likelihood of lucrative employment, I am called to be the primary breadwinner.  When I carry the health insurance, traditionally, we have had good insurance.  When he carries it, it is not great and we pay out a lot for a very little.

I typically also make more money than my husband.  When I was at the university, I carried professor-like health insurance for me and my family.  I put that job with two other jobs and made more than he did.  It’s almost always been that way in my marriage.

This time, I put all the eggs in one low-paying, no insurance basket.  My retirement is now almost gone, and we got taxed substantially because we had to pull money from it.  We are spinning around in circles financially because I took this risk.

The risk I took made sense if my family vocation was that of nun.  I’m not a nun.  I’m a wife and mother.

My mentor talked about how hard it was to leave the Catholic schools for the public schools.  He talked about how people laughed at him when he said that, that they didn’t understand how hard it could possibly be to take a job that paid better with better benefits.  Also, public schoolteachers have a very protective union.  They are much safer than other types of teachers.

But he had to give up some major things.  He could no longer talk about faith, nor could he hug kids if he felt they needed it.  He said it was always awkward to know a kid needed the hug and it would be better if he did it, but to not be able to do that.  He talked about how sometimes kids need love more than they need curriculum, and when he was in Catholic schools, he felt empowered to take a break when the student needed it.

But he had to put his own family first.

Continue reading “What Putting Yourself First Looks Like for Me”

Posted in Passing as Neurotypical, Social Rules

Looking Out For Number One: Even Nice Guys Do It

I have blogged before about watching old Survivor episodes and finding it interesting to learn about human nature within the context of a game. I strongly believe in the power of games to teach Autistics about social skills. While we’re doing something (not merely socializing), we can also look around and listen to other people and learn what they’re like in a context that makes some degree of sense to us. In watching Survivor, I think I’m finally starting to understand neurotypicals better. One big lesson is that neurotypicals always put themselves first.

The Central neurotypical Rule: I Am Number One

I suspect this should be obvious because when I say it, it seems so, but really, it hasn’t been that clear to me. Part of the problem, I think, is that I had internalized a lot of social rules about sharing and what is expected of me as a woman (girls are nice). But when I watch Survivor, I see being nice as a game. Strong game players will use niceness as a way to manipulate people, but they are always thinking about what they need.

I watched a lot of this play out in my principalship: the priests and pastors would always be thinking of their schools first. If one of the rest of us had it harder, and they had it easier, that was a-okay. I felt alone in my desire to grow the pool of students for all of us so that we all could win because I really didn’t believe in a zero-sum game. Meanwhile, everyone else was playing a different game: we won’t hurt you, and we might help you, but if and only if your helping yourself can in no way (even tangentially) impact us. Whenever I tried to grow the pool for all of us, it was attacked as possibly hurting the other schools.

Had I learned this lesson sooner, I would have done things differently. I would have recognized that, because we were in crisis, we needed to focus on ourselves first and exclusively. We might have still closed, but I would have gone farther and had a better chance at staying open had I focused on saving us any way possible including directly competing with the other schools.

And yes, that would involve breaking the rules I learned about how to get along with other people. That would have been directly in conflict with the rules I learned from the Catholic church, but when I observed priests breaking these very rules themselves, I realized they weren’t real rules.

Everyone else puts themselves first.

Continue reading “Looking Out For Number One: Even Nice Guys Do It”