Academia can seem like a natural harbor or haven for an Aspie to embrace, a place to hide out against the buffeting and stress of the day to day working world and adult social world. And it can be for a lucky few, especially for those whose talents lie in the natural sciences, engineering, or mathematics.
For those of us lacking in those areas, seeking to forge our way ahead in the liberal arts, things can take a different, less favorable turn.
It is only now, years later, that I better grasp how my Asperger’s played an enormous role in my being unable to socially relate to my academic peers and academic superiors in graduate institutions. There’s a morose joke, too, that “The Humanities—aren’t very” (humane, that is). In other words, despite the humanistic subject matter, the actual social world of professional, scholarly academia is very competition intensive, cut-throat and arbitrary, and all about putting out the best sounding jargon-laden B.S., etc. I’m not so cynical as to suggest it’s all a con game, but it would be naive to deny there’s not at least an element of conniving that goes with the territory. Academic degrees are first and foremost about credentialing, about obtaining the sheepskin and putting a valid, verifiable line on one’s C.V. or resume with respect to one’s formal education. At times it is only merely coincidental to one’s intellectual growth…it’s nice when it does coincide, but it doesn’t inherently do so. As I said before, the faculty at my graduate institution managed to take a topic I loved…modern German culture & history…and suck all the joy and life out of it for me. Instead of pursuing my own quirky passions within this field, I was tied down to following the approved reading list, the accepted Canon, yada yada, and I balked. I played hookey from class and read what I wanted to instead of what I was assigned and assumed that I’d still get credit for all the intellectual growth and fulfillment I was feeling and experiencing, the sheer exhilarating joy if it.
Reality of course came crashing down on these naive notions and I shat out an academically acceptable Master’s thesis after a long period of mental constipation. A sheepskin was grudgingly conferred, then I was booted off the campus, barred from further academic advancement in my original chosen field of German studies or from any further fellowship funding.
For a time I harbored fantasies of “storming the Ivory tower” once more and wresting from it a PhD. But then I read a series of books on the actual collapsing nature of the academic job market by Cary Nelson and Michael Berube and these sobering books gave me great pause. Sure, I could go and get a PhD, but to what end, with prospects of securing an actual academic position so exceedingly rare? The route of obtaining an Master of Library Science along the way before getting a PhD, or perhaps one day earning a PhD in Library Science itself, seemed a more prudent course to follow. In the end I feel as though it has all been mostly folly.
I don’t know–if I’d known of my Asperger’s sooner and the difficulties I would face in trying to make headway in Academia and in Librarianship (both of which ended up being bitter disappointments), maybe I would’ve been more amenable to more radical lifestyles (teaching English in Taiwan or Korea, say, or the former USSR) that I shied away from and could not resolve more firmly to do because I still maintained vain hope of finding success in a more safe, sane, dependable “mainstream” job/career, etc, preferably one where my parents could not harp on my being employed in a company or profession that was “beneath me”, that I was “too smart for”, etc. I still wonder what it would be like to teach English in Taiwan and maybe eventually move on to teaching English in Japan, say…in the meantime, I don’t mind my library job that I have, but I’m overqualified for it and also underpaid. But it’s better than being jobless.
I don’t know if I’ll ever remarry, but I would–I think–like to give dating another try. But it’s not an urgent priority either.
In the meantime, I stay devoted to my active reading life as best I can, continue to consume lots of Anime & Manga, and stay on top of current events, depressing as they often are. I also welcome the times when I’m inspired by my personal muse to do things like write for this blog. I’m no expert, just a dude with Aspergers, writing down his thoughts and experiences. Your Mileage May Vary, even if you are also on the spectrum.