Posted in Autistic Identity

Coming Home

So, yesterday I blogged about going back to church.

I would love to tell you I “felt something” at the Mass, but I didn’t, not yet, and maybe not ever.

But some things happened that were significant.  Other than when he had to spend the time with his family in the pew at the actual Mass part, my 8th grader stayed glued to me and no one seemed to find this odd.  He arrived and headed to the pew with his family, settled them in, and then made a beeline to me until the Mass started.  We talked quietly.  After it was done, right back to me as his family socialized with several different people.  When it was over, I made nice.  I said I was well when people asked how I was, and people did, in that superficial way.  I was not shocking.

Okay, at one point I said, sotto voce to my 8th grader I hoped the church secretary, who had betrayed me, didn’t come over.  She didn’t.  I said I would have a hard time not starting any conversation with her with, “Did you come to get your knife back?”  He found this hilarious of course.  He doesn’t know exactly what happened, but he’d also put things together, eventually, and come up with the same answer I did: she was the Judas in this story.

One of the Spanish-speaking parishioners, one of the few who attends English-speaking Mass, came up to me to chat afterwards, just glad to have someone who could talk to her in Spanish, I think.  We hadn’t officially met, but she introduced herself and we talked and I introduced her to my 8th grader and his little sister, who had come back to bug him because she was bored with the waiting around.  My friend who had given me advice back in the beginning of all this and told me to get a job just like the one I got was there, too and she was happy as was her husband to see me back.  They were thrilled I got a job where I brought nothing home with me.  She told me I looked much, much healthier.  At the end, we talked and laughed with Father.  It was as if I’d never left.

I did notice this later morning Mass has dwindled.  There are now really more people at Spanish Mass than there are at this one (before it was a tossup which had more people, and it would depend if you could count all the kids at Spanish Mass since there are so much more of them).  They will eventually need my help to volunteer to be able to do things, and I’m one of the bilingual people there.  But now, I can compartmentalize better and help a little, but then just go home.  Also, any of the old-time gossip that goes on in that place won’t affect me in the same way.  It’s kind of funny now, since it’s not a financial decision when they gossip and it blows back on me.  The generation that hated me has either left, or continues on like nothing happened.  Father may have proverbially set fire to the church (and not in the “burning for Jesus’ love” kind of way), but the people who remain seem over things a lot faster and less bitter, so it’s making things less difficult for my return than I thought.

Whatever happens, I’m back now and I have the spoons to go.  That in and of itself is considerable progress.  And I can help the church continue to tell its story, for as long as it ekes out its existence there.

Posted in Identity

Trying Again

This week, I received a text from my 8th grader’s mother inviting me to his graduation.  They had apparently moved the date completely and no one had told me.  Why should they?  Out of sight, out of mind, right?

At any rate, he has been blaming himself, thinking that for some reason he did something to make me leave and she’s been trying to get him to invite me himself, but he couldn’t, so she finally did.  Because I overthink things, I said I’d have to think about it and yes, of course he could call or text me whenever, as long as she’s good with it.  I had been planning to explain what happened to him, but not until after the school year was over and all of this was moot.  I knew he’d need the explanation, but I also knew that I couldn’t just tell him and start the gossip.

So, I emailed Father to ask if he minded.  It’s his house, and his rules.  He said it would be great if I came.  So, I said I’d come.

But that opened up a whole lot of other thoughts.

See, now it’s at Sunday Mass, and I was not going back there because I don’t believe anymore, right?

And I surely did not want to go back to that place with that man.

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Gossip

The priest across town who, at various intervals seemed to support me or at least seemed to NOT unsupport me, has been ousted.

The congregation never “took to him.” He does have a tendency to use allusions the working class can’t follow and he doesn’t always lay a clear transitional path in his homilies.  Actually, he also has this tendency to never change register and talks to kids with the same, unfiltered version of what the Catholic church teaches that he does to adults.  The little kids actually like him a lot; the big kids, who have been socialized to learn you don’t hurt feelings with the truth, are suspicious of him.  It doesn’t help he followed a very loved priest, who died unexpectedly who really only seemed to focus on eldercare and, in our experience when we were there, our son was summarily thrown out of the school because of his Autism, because the late priest neglected the school.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, Burnout, Career Change, Self-Care

Regret: Learning to Unmask

This is a bit rawer than I usually write, but it explores what I’m feeling and where I am now.

I am finally beginning to get back to the way I was before I ever entered that school.   I’m working around what used to be my home office and I am finally able to pick things up and am trying to figure out where they go. I have listed books for sale that represent my academic and professional life. I have thrown a lot of things away, and for a pack rat it’s very difficult to throw things away because I might need them in the future.  I think now that I see that my life will definitely be very different. I realize I no longer need to hold on to the clutter.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, Social Rules

Revealing My Identity: What Happened the Last Day I Was at School

I suspect I knew that Tuesday was going to be my last day at school.

We had been having some trouble with a student whom I’ll call Ellie.  Ellie was pressured to leave her Catholic school and, over time, we pieced together why.  She had been placed in a rather catty class, but most of the biggest bullies had powerful parents.  This was the class that was trying to date people in third grade, which is unusually early in Catholic school circles, so it was no surprise that by fifth grade, when this other school always had catty girls, this class was wretched.  Unlike those girls, though, everyone seemed to act like Ellie was the problem, because likely of her developmental delay.

Ellie was making great strides in our school and it didn’t hurt that we were trying to overtly teach social skills, but not in a pre-prescribed kit kind of nonsense.  More like real life, breaking ideas down and testing them out in ways that made sense to our kids.

So the day I left was the day after she’d been trying to tell all the girls about some very PG-13 things that happened to her.  The trouble is, these things didn’t happen to her; she’d read about them online and really thought she could make friends and bond over telling these much younger and less mature girls about them.  At the same time, she could cement the idea she was older than they (though developmentally, they were nearly identical in age).  We had to get it to stop since it was starting to freak out one of the girls and her mother was growing concerned.  These parents were patient, but at a certain point, it was getting too hard.  The trouble is, this was the “rule” Ellie had learned about fitting in from that class of girls where stories like this would be normal and so would bullying and dividing girls into “best friends” and not friends.

So when Ellie arrived in the morning earlier than usual and she and I were the only two at school, we had a talk.  A long talk.

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Posted in Career Change, Identity

Math and Me: An Odd Relationship

So, I have this weird relationship with math.

That’s really the best way to describe it because I have told myself I’m bad at it, and maybe I am, and maybe I’m not.

Regardless, here’s my math story.

So, in elementary school, I was always reasonably good at math, but my major issue was my poor handwriting.  Now we know that Autistic people often have trouble with fine motor control and we can take a lot longer to develop those skills.  You can either yell at us like we’re trying to torment you with our bad handwriting or you could be a reasonable person and let us type things for a while.  One, typing develops fine motor control and two, it means our work is legible in the meantime while our bodies catch up with those of our peers.  It’s literally no big deal.

But back in the 1980’s, that was not an option.  Instead, every report card and parent-teacher conference embarrassed you about your poor writing.  Your teachers even might give you extra credit if you voluntarily submitted yourself to handwriting practice because you definitely needed it.  So, if you know anything about math in the age of “no calculators allowed until Algebra,” you’d know that poor handwriting was a significant problem in math class because you would mess things up a lot.  The thing of it was, though, my fifth-grade teacher saw that I was more than competent at math and somehow he made sure I was placed in the top math class when I got to Middle School.  I think he noticed my attempts at working on my handwriting, and I was getting older, so it was getting better.

That was the peak of my mathematical career: getting placed in that class.

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Posted in Blogging about the Blog, Career Change, Identity, Vocation

No longer a Catholic or an educator; I’m just me now

The details of why I was asked to leave the school early don’t much matter, but I did see it coming.  I had become unnecessary and was no longer this year’s “flavor of the month” so I needed to go.  Add to that a jealous coworker who, I have, over time, realized that her own job security was threatened if I stayed around too much.  She made sure to tell our boss I wasn’t loyal, so I got exited.  We negotiated a settlement and I left.

I had no choice in the matter, really.  My savings had already been decimated based on the dream that was making this school a reality.  I desperately needed my income to continue while I searched for a job.  If I had done the “I don’t quit, you fire me” thing, I would have had to take unemployment, which would have been considerably less and unreliable, too.

I ended up with a two-month vacation, paid, during which point I searched for work and began rethinking my own identity.  I started my new job just in time so there would be no real gap in my income or even, officially, my employment history.  While illegal to pay a settlement over time, that’s how my school does it.  You have to pay a lump sum at dismissal in my state, but they never do and no one ever complains since we’re afraid to say anything and lose the settlement.

Anyway, the thing about being an Autistic female is that we are so very chameleon-like that, over time, we have little idea who we are really.  I realized, during this journey, that I did a lot of things that only make sense given that I am Autistic.  Who makes these grand sacrifices, at the expense of her own career and her relationship with her family?  Well, an Autistic woman does, if she has internalized the societal rules of what a “good girl” does and what a “good Catholic girl” is like.

On the journey, I realized that, as usual, I don’t even want to be a teacher per-se or ever administrate a school again.  The fact is, I’m good with data and not great with people, assuming those people are largely Neurotypical and assuming those people are adults, besides.  Neurodivergent kids?  I’d love to spend time with them.  I always have.  But the thing is I have more in common with a Neurodivergent tween or teen than I do with a neurotypical adult.  That breeds a kind of closeness that can be unhealthy, so it’s not per-se ideal to spend too much time around tweens and teens for me.

Beyond that, why am I in education at all?  School was where I have historically been treated badly by everyone involved, except when a few teachers who were kind to me.  Everyone at the school I just left was trying to stab me in the back last year (and continued for a few beyond that this year).  And yet, I kept going back.  Who does that, unless she is feeling Stockholm Syndrome?

Continue reading “No longer a Catholic or an educator; I’m just me now”

Unhidden posts and other fun stuff

If you’re curious, there were a fair number of hidden posts that went unhidden.  Some may not have been published at all yet, and others may just have been hidden to be doubly safe because I can be a bit paranoid.  So, if you’re wondering about that, well, that’s what happened.

I now work for an employer who even says in the policy manual that blogging at work or on work machines a personal blog is fine on my own time, so long as I add the standard disclaimer.  I know full well that if I do that, then it can be “discoverable” in a lawsuit so I’m not going to do THAT, but it does lessen the burdens on me that I faced as a teacher-administrator blogger.  It’s just one of many new perks I have now that I no longer am in Catholic education.

So, I’ll be back as I have things to say, and hopefully we can get to know each other again in a new way.