Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Neurodiversity

Ableism, Underemployment and Disabled Guilt

Yesterday’s post about not feeling great at work (or at life, I guess) was bleak, and I apologize for that.

Today, I guess I just want to write a little bit about how all that negativity about the limits of being Autistic has to do with the Neurodiversity movement, which I strongly support.

In our “outside” circles, I guess, we Neurodiversity folk get a bad reputation for focusing on the positives about what it’s like to be Autistic (or otherwise Neurodivergent) and I generally do try to do that.  In fact, I firmly believe that what’s happening to me right now has nothing to do with me as a person or even the employers of the world out there as much as I believe it has to do with society; society Disables me and because I’m privileged enough to be white, raised middle class, and can hide my Disability if I want to (or, at least, I can try to hide it; it takes getting to know me before people might see it).  Because I am so privileged, I end up acting sometimes like I don’t have the sense to realize the ableism around me and how it impacts my life.

But I am very aware of it.

If anything, I’m more aware of it because I still have that “manifest destiny” thing inside me (as racist as that is besides).  I firmly believe I should be able to author my own fate and change everything.

But then I realize that despite it all, I can’t do it.  I will always be less because my view of the world impacts me considerably.

Continue reading “Ableism, Underemployment and Disabled Guilt”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Career Change, Passing as Neurotypical

Still Fighting

I had a dream night before last where I went back to teaching online.   But I can’t do that anymore because teaching takes too much out of me and I can’t get a “good teaching job” anyway.  I spent the whole way to work fretting for two reasons: one, that dream seemed to have really gotten to me, and two, my knee hurts quite a bit.  The knee is a bit of overwork mixed with arthritis.  I’ve had bad knees since I was a kid and have one leg shorter than the other so weird leg things aren’t unusual, but damn, it hurts to drive right now (even though it’s my resting leg, not driving leg; it’s the sitting in one position too long thing.  Whatever the reason for the pain part, the combination of events was so freaking hard.

As a child of the 80’s (born in 1975…Gen X all the way!), I really believed in all the crap they taught us about women being able to do anything and how if we followed our dreams, everything would be GREAT!  But my town was run by teachers in a town with no educational competition.  No doubt they believed that we could, in fact, follow our dreams if we just got educated enough (etc.) and followed the prescribed path to college.  They never did teach me when to get off the path of education, but regardless, with as much education as I have, I should be freaking set right now, right?

But I’m not.

Continue reading “Still Fighting”

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 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.

Continue reading “Regret: Learning to Unmask”

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.

Continue reading “Revealing My Identity: What Happened the Last Day I Was at School”

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 Autistic Identity

Ancestry: Tracing Our Autistic Past

My grandma and I like to do genealogy.  I work on it when I have time as a way of figuring out just who I am, and how I fit into my family.

I found, after my husband realized that he was Autistic, just like our own child, we could make a game out of it and try to trace the “Autistic line” in the family, to see where the other Autistic ancestors were.

Oh, fair warning, before I do this: it is never, ever cool to start speculating on whether random people are or are not Autistic or any other Neurological difference.  But when we Autistics do it, we do it without judgment; we’re actually excited about it, since it helps to anchor our own existence and helps to prove that we are not just some freaks of nature broken by a vaccine (does anyone with any sense still believe that?).  Instead, we are here because our gene got carried through the lines; inevitably if we Autistics look around in our family trees, we’ll find some Autistic qualities.  In speculating on this, we are not trying to “diagnose and fix,” but to find ourselves and to justify our existence in a family we may or may not have felt a part of.

Here’s what I’m speculating about.

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Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality

Dear Late Diagnosed Person

To the Late-Diagnosed Person–

I hate that term, Diagnosis, since it sounds like someone had to validate your very existence.

I prefer the term “awareness” or “validation.”

Awareness is when you knew your brain operated differently.

Validation is when someone said, “Hey, your brain works differently” and they didn’t mean it as an insult.  It just was a fact.

How do we ever know what it’s like in our heads, as compared to someone else’s?

I think one of the interesting things about finding out that we’re Autistic in particular, though this really goes for any Neurodivergent quality, is we get to actually think about what other people see inside their heads, and then we encounter a whole lot of interesting information when we realize that everyone is not doing what we’re doing.

Continue reading “Dear Late Diagnosed Person”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, intersectionality, leadership, Teaching

The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero

The thing about being Autistic, I think, that can be really detrimental to living a functioning adult life, is that we believe a lot of what we’ve been taught.

Think back to all those posters on the walls at your schools.  Think about all those heroes they made us read about, so that we could learn to cultivate all those virtues “they” wanted us to all have.  We were supposed to be honest, hardworking, and compassionate.  We were supposed to save the world!

But, as we Autistics have found, we aren’t really supposed to be too honest.  Being too honest doesn’t work out so well for us.

A lot of people can hang out at the water cooler (literally and metaphorically) all day long, and yet they seem to get ahead at work.

And when you give so much that it hurts, all that happens is you’re hurt.  There is no reward.

And yes, it’s all possible for all this suffering we go through on this earth to be rewarded in the afterlife, but we see so many people flagrantly ignoring the rules we were overtly taught and internalized, and they do, in fact, get ahead on this earth.

If they meant that honesty, diligence, and compassion would mean not a danged thing now, but might or might not in the afterlife (if it exists), why the heck didn’t they just say that?

Continue reading “The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero”

Posted in Autistic Identity, leadership

Perseveration and Derailment: the Path to Burnout

Yesterday was one of those terrible days.  It started at 8:30, when I had fallen asleep.  My teacher who has a public-school run classroom who has been instructed to get a district sub now, told me she had a sick daughter, but somehow could only find a sub who could stay until 2:00.  I woke up to this text around 10:30 and replied we needed a full-day sub (of course we did) and no, I wasn’t available to just cover that hour because 1) I had a meeting all day and 2) why would I get a sub for “most of the day”?  She never did explain why this was the sub she’d obsessed over.  There was an option to cancel the afternoon class, so I said if that was really the only sub she could find, I guessed she’d have to cancel the afternoon.

So now, of course, I’m up all night waiting to hear what she decided and how badly this would mess up my day.

And so it all began.

Continue reading “Perseveration and Derailment: the Path to Burnout”