Noticed on a certain social network that an old friend of mine from my North Texas days, an educator who joined up with the Atheist Meetup that I founded up there, is coming to terms with being on the Autism spectrum. After I announced my own DX, this person revealed to me that they had taken a few online quizzes that indicated they probably were also in the High Functioning Autism range. This person was resistant to the idea at first, thought it must be a fluke. I tried to tactfully reassure this person that there was no shame in it if true, that it was better to know than not know. They remained defensive, so I just dropped it and didn’t bring it up again. I’m glad to see this person on their own sought out a relevant corner of said certain social network related to ASD’s. I’m glad they took the initiative to get diagnosed–or are perhaps now self-diagnosed at the very least. That’s an important step. Alas, what this person had to convey by way of news in their postings to this ASD group page pertained to their current difficulties on the job with co-workers and a supervisor.
It definitely was painful and a little wrenching to read about, because it reminded me so much of how my last professional Librarian gig ended unceremoniously, and reading this friends current travails evokes not only deja vu but along with it some PTSD-like anxieties. I feel a need to write this down but I’m being deliberately opaque on specifics out of respect to my friend and their privacy. I ask our readers’ indulgence on that. There is a quite lengthy thread on this ASD group within this certain social network, some of it quite good and insightful. I tried to contribute some helpful links and advice in the open thread, and even sent an (i hope) encouraging private message via this social networks’ messaging system.
Right now we live in a world where if you are an ASD person but work in an office space dominated by intolerant NTs who simply don’t like you, they can more or less legally gang up on you socially and there’s nearly f*ck all you can do about it. The boss may let you go because you’re just a “bad fit” for the company, regardless if you perform your job x10 more competently than the next person. I don’t think I had anywhere near the understanding of how much I was actively disliked by certain persons at my university job. I evidently stressed out one of the more technically skilled librarians to no end to the point where she felt like I was impairing her ability to do her job because of my lack of technical know how…but was always smiles and kind and always willing to help to my face, all the while evidently bitterly complaining to our common boss. I would much rather the person tell me to f*ck off to my face and RTFM (geek speak for “Read the f*cking Manual”) and be done with me than pull that false friend back-stabby shit. GAWD it still pisses me off to recall it now. If I’m being a burden just goddamn say so; just goddamn tell me to heave to and pull my own weight. Make your expectations clear!! That is the hell of working in majority NT environments. Because nobody ever does tell you these things, they tell your boss, who then drops a virtual anvil on your head seemingly from nowhere.
I feel horrible for my friend and I hope it turns out for them better than it turned out for me in a similar situation. At least this person has a confirmed diagnosis in hand. When I was fighting to save my most recent university library gig, I was completely ignorant of my Asperger’s, and fumbling around in the dark, so to speak. I was grasping at straws like gender differences, or perhaps introvert vs. extrovert, but the YAWING CHASM was the ASD vs. NT divide that I fell into and didn’t even know was there…not unlike the two dimensonal creatures of Flatland being baffled and mystified by 3D visitors they barely comprehend in that famous work of experimental fiction.
I also redacted, scanned, and shared (privately) via this same certain social network one of my final HR “warning letters” from said institution of Higher Learning with some of my fellow Houston Aspies. It’s still painful to read, but also instructive. It’s maddeningly vague on suggested paths to actual improvement, mainly just a laundry-list litany of complaints about me, some just, others unjust. It purports to be a “Letter of Corrective Action”, but doesn’t specify what specific corrective actions are expected, only broadly worded, glittering abstract generalities like “improve leadership & communication”, etc. I can see now–indeed saw at the time–that the letter was just a formality, a required institutional “next step” before I would be terminated. I flailed about helplessly, at my wits end, trying everything I knew and could muster to present proof to my boss that I was trying concretely to improve, all of which were curtly dismissed each and every time, with no constructive feedback. The die had been cast, or so it felt. The bullying atmosphere was just too much for me, and I felt essentially coerced into resigning against my will. It was the one and only time I’ve gone through a public (rather than written) meltdown. Not my finest hour. Have subsequently endured even worse and for even longer duration with the penultimate boss in the current work-site. But managed to outlast that holy terror, thank goodness. I still horribly miss the Corporate gig I had before library school where I was not only accepted but revered and admired for my good work. Maybe one day we’ll have greater autism acceptance, and horror stories like mine and my friend further north will be a thing of the past. But that is not our world today, sad to say.
I can say as a bit of a positive note that I did start a new project today that actually taps into some of my actual intellectual ability and training as a (former) Librarian/Cataloger. It’s a good deal more interesting than a lot of the grind work I have been doing and is actually more mission-critical to the current workplace. It’s nice to feel valued and recognized, even in small ways like this. It may be naive to hope this will lead to bigger things, but I can at least take satisfaction in that it’s a step in the right direction, however belated.