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?
And then there is Catholicism. I will never, ever say that I left the church because of what happened to me, when I was forced out by this priest. That is weak. Instead, the issue was more complex than that: it forced me to reexamine the white, patriarchal structures that comprise my church and even the entire “God thing.” As I tell my good Muslim friend, I’m not sure about God or being Catholic right now. If there is no God, it won’t much matter. If there is a God, He will understand why because, as a woman, the religious thing is complex for us since it is clear church structures are meant for men and used to control women. I get that it’s necessary to pass on the traditions to the next generation. I just worry that, like my relationship with education, it’s another Stockholm Syndrome thing.
So now I work in the training department of a multinational pharmaceutical lab. I am not identified so overtly as a Catholic (though we talk about church stuff sometimes; my boss’ kids are in confirmation, etc. and I have insider knowledge about the trends in the Diocese) and I am not Autistic (at least, not outwardly, yet). I’m just Nicole, the new hire. I have health and dental and vision. I have retirement and days off with pay. I have a 40-hour workweek and will be paid time and a half if we go overtime. I work just hard enough, but no harder.
I am in the process of giving a lot of things up for this change, to try out what neurotypicals do, of putting my family first and not getting wrapped up in my career. It’s just a job, and so far it has been more rewarding for my family than teaching or administrating ever was. And that’s the irony: I was told over and over again how my indentured servitude would reward me in Heaven, but I’ve read the church documents: living a good life includes enough money to go to the theatre or a museum or whatever, and to have health insurance and to take care of our families. The church never gave me that. It never gave me respect, either.
I know that these were just some people. I had others, including a person in the Diocese who kept mentoring me along this difficult two months, who were good examples of faith, and at first, three separate women called me to tell me this was wrong and they were going to tell Father so and couldn’t we just go to lunch or something? But time has passed and they have drifted away. I will be surprised if I hear from them again. The thing of it is, everyone else was playing a different game than the one I was playing: I was following the rules as carefully as I could and while I completely expect failures from myself and from others since we are, after all, human, I really expected that we would all be playing the same game which was making the preservation of the faith the most important thing along with teaching our kids to love themselves the way God made them. We weren’t, though. I was playing that game. I’m still figuring out the game everyone else played.
See, there are fantastic Catholics who have figured out how to focus on their vocations of family and serving the church through employment at the same time. I know this because I met some of them. But in my case I have to do an all-or-nothing thing. When I focus on the faith and my vocation within the church, I focus on teaching and administrating and my family is no longer even really seen as important. It’s probably to do with that ADHD hyperfocus. Regardless, it turns into something that is completely unhealthy. But the people who are healthy in their faith development loved me and supported me and were trying to mentor me to balance. Those who were not so healthy seemed to be egocentric and turned the church job into something they didn’t seem to really care about. It was a nice hobby, but not something all that important and certainly not a real job. And that was the majority of the people I encountered.
So, this long and rambly post is really meant as a letter to my readers to help them to understand why the focus of this blog will be changing. It’s still about an Autistic woman in search of herself, but there will, for a while at least, be little mention of faith and I don’t foresee any talk of education. Those things destroyed me because I couldn’t deal with them in small doses; instead, I had to devour them whole and they made me obsessive, but not in that Autistic “special interest” way; more like in an unhealthy way of obsession.
What will I do instead? First, I’m clearly going to learn how to work at a job that doesn’t consume me. But I’m also going to head back to school in an undergraduate sense (what a change; but it’s cheaper to do a B.S. since I already have a B.A. and so little work in math that I need to start again) to learn computer programming and statistics and probably some marketing to give me some business context. I want to focus on data and not people; I want to learn how to study what people will do based on data and from there, we’ll see where that takes me. The thing of it is, I was chased out of computers and math at a young age, and I’ll blog about the math, at least, later, since it’s an interesting story. I always liked computers and did my math work first. Math had answers. Math was a puzzle. I was not allowed to like or be good at them, though, since I was a girl, so I pushed them away as “not real careers for women.” It’s amusing to find myself stocking glassware in a lab coat and goggles in our training lab and theorizing different metrics with which to measure the effectiveness of our department, but here I am.
And I’m much, much happier this way.