Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stay Determined

I woke up today and it was raining. I suppose that's an appropriate thing since a nation is crying right now.

This morning, I wrote a post on Facebook that I also shared to my Tumblr account:
I slept worse last night than I have in some time, probably because I’m horrified that such a large percentage of our country is filled with bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other manner of horrifying things. I’m a disabled woman (I’m autistic) and I’m now fearing for my safety and rights due to the rampant ableism on display from these people.
 I’m an autistic rights activist, and I refuse to stop fighting to protect anyone who’s marginalized, not just my fellow autistic people. If you need someone in your corner, let me know, because I’ll do my level best to help you through. We’re going to get through this because we’re going to fight back and show people just how amazing humanity can truly be. We don’t take our orders from demagogues, we take them from our hearts. We don’t follow, we lead.
Let’s continue to lead and fight for human rights for all. I’ll be right there on the front lines with you. It’s never been a better time to stand up for what’s right and ensure that everyone can live in safety, regardless of gender identity, sexuality, race, ability, past traumas, financial need, age, or anything else. Everyone deserves to feel safe to be themselves and I won’t rest until they are. You with me?
People have been responding to both of these posts in varying ways, and the one that makes me the saddest is multiple people feeling like they have no fight left in them. These are the people I've always fought for the most because someone needs to keep going and carry them.

In 2013, I watched the Red Sox win the World Series for the third time in one decade, and it taught me more than the wins in 2004 and 2007 did. This particular win came through sheer force of will. The Red Sox were carried by David Ortiz throughout that World Series. One man was able to pick up 24 other men on his back and carry them to a title because he believed so strongly in helping his city heal from a horrible event, the bombings that had happened back in April of that year. He was so motivated that his determination carried the team along. He motivated them and he gave them strength. We need people to be like Papi and stand up and be that determined person who carries everyone else, and I'm ready to be that person now. My friends and family need it. I needed it not long ago myself. I'm actively trying to be the person I needed when I was younger, and I'm realizing now that a lot more people need that person than just me. I have to work even harder now to make sure that people have that person.

I had a panic attack last night as the results of the election came in. I hadn't had one like that since 2011, when I was still dealing with an emotionally abusive friendship. This morning, I quickly realized that my fear had become anger and motivation. I also noticed that not everyone was able to respond this way, and that is why I'm writing this post now - someone has to lead the charge to fight back for those who are unable to, so here I am. I'm angry, I'm resentful, and I won't accept anything less than human dignity.

Think back to about a year ago when an indie game called Undertale was released to great critical acclaim. The messages of that game were simple - be kind to others, especially those who are different from you, and never give up. Stay determined. Stay determined to make this world a better place for everyone, not just the people who are like you.

When you die in-game, the following screen pops up:

"Game Over - you cannot give up just yet." This is followed immediately by the name you chose to play with being told to "stay determined." Sure enough, you're back in the game right afterwards from the last place you saved.

This feels like a game over right now. But anyone who's played video games can tell you that game overs just mean you get to try again. You can always pick back up from your last save point and fight on even harder. And eventually, you do beat that boss or that level, and it's so satisfying because you worked so hard for it and you finally achieved it. Right now, we've got an abhorrent boss fight ahead of us - there's a large mass of mooks who believe in subjugation of human beings who aren't like them. Stand up to them the same way you'd stand up to a boss's subordinates in a boss battle. Make sure they know you're not complacent with their bias, and continue to fight for what's right until that boss, Bigotry, is finally defeated.

The only way to truly lose is to stop playing the game, and my parents didn't raise a quitter.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Case For Eugenicist Reparations

I haven't had a chance to write much lately due to working two separate archival jobs (go me!), but I feel like as a historian I need to weigh in on this issue, even though it's been a few weeks since the announcement.

It's old news now that Autism Speaks changed their mission statement to eliminate references to "finding a cure." In fact, here's their new mission statement in full, right from their website:
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. 
Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.
Okay, so according to this they're not interested in a cure anymore, and that's great! That's a wonderful step in the right direction! However, there are words I'm a bit wary of in here still due to some historical context. There was an event during the Third Reich's stranglehold on Germany called Aktion T4, a move by the government to systematically execute thousands of disabled and mentally ill people. Officially, 70,273 people were killed, although there could easily be more of them that weren't recorded. Aktion T4 was only a test run, however, for Nazi Germany's execution of 6 million Jewish people and millions of other people. That's right, they tested the Final Solution out on people like me. Therefore, seeing the word 'solutions' always makes me a bit nervous because I happen to be a working historian. I'm not sure that it's meant in that way here, but it's still a word I'm very cautious about.

Additionally, if there's no need for a cure, why still look for a cause? Just throwing that out there, too.

With the death of Suzanne Wright, it's possible that Autism Speaks is going to be able to start moving in a new direction since Bob and Suzanne Wright more or less had a stranglehold on the entire organization and were extremely interested in finding a cure. There are now two autistic people on the Board of Directors, and frankly, I'm hoping to see more there in the future because for Autism Speaks to be as legitimate as possible they need to let autistic people themselves do the primary speaking so that people listen and learn from us. It's very possible that they actually are working on doing the right thing and working towards acceptance instead of a cure, and that would be nice. However, I think they owe us an apology for pushing forward so much hateful rhetoric and for their fear-mongering for the past eleven years that has vilified us and cast us as something that needs to be eliminated from society. For this, I propose we take a look at the site of one of my archival jobs, the Riverside Church in the City of New York.

In May of 1969, an activist by the name of James Forman interrupted a service at Riverside to deliver his Black Manifesto, demanding reparations for slavery and cultural injustice delivered to African-Americans by white people for centuries. Not long after, Riverside's pastor, Ernest T. Campbell, replied with a sermon called The Case For Reparations, supporting Forman's notion. It got me thinking - autistic people have suffered in silence for centuries, only to have been suddenly deemed an epidemic in the past twenty years and treated as less than human. Do we not, too, deserve reparations, especially those of us who are routinely dismissed, such as female and non-white autistic people? Do we not deserve to fight for our human rights, as well, and demand an apology from the organization that turned society against us, that caused the condition we identify with to be used as an insult? I believe that until Autism Speaks issues an apology and actively works to undo the damage they caused with their rhetoric, we can't fully believe they are working in our favor.

Continue, therefore, to stand up for yourselves in the face of ableism. Do not automatically expect Autism Speaks to speak for us since it's clear that it was our urging and activism that brought them to make this change in the first place and they haven't spoken for us properly before. Continue to urge and fight for change and improvement in this world - and don't forget that Autism Speaks still owes us an apology.

Reparations would be nice, too, since I have student loans to pay off.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Need To Matter To Someone

I haven't written here in ages, and it's because I've had an archival temp job that's kept me very busy! It's been really nice to be working, even though it won't be for too much longer - doing what I love and being paid for it feels wonderful.

It's also a bit odd to be working on a blog entry around 3 in the morning, I know. I'm fairly nocturnal as it is, but I'm up late working on NYCC cosplay stuff with a friend (it's a Saturday so it's okay) and I had a realization about myself that I felt like I needed to write about.

As I've occasionally mentioned on this blog, in late 2011 I ended a friendship that had become unintentionally emotionally abusive for me due to the other person's struggles with themselves and things that had happened to them. I know my friend didn't mean to take things out on me the way they did, but it got to a point where I knew the best way to protect both of us was to get myself out of there. This friendship unequivocally changed me as a person and made me grow in ways that have been both positive and negative. I had a realization about one of the more negative things that has happened to me tonight and I'm currently sitting here typing this out so I don't cry as my friend sews next to me.

Growing up, it was difficult to find full acceptance from my peers. People would sometimes hang out with me and drop me or even hang out with me out of pity until I got to high school and developed a set of friends (who are still my best friends today and are amazing). I was able to be myself around my friends in high school and that was so important for me because normally who I was wasn't acceptable to other people. In college, I was also initially rejected by my peers because nobody at the preppy liberal arts school wanted to be around the weird baseball girl. I did find some friends, though, one of whom became my college roommate. She'd lost her mother not long before she met me, and I tried to make sure I was a good, supportive friend because nobody deserves to lose someone they love to cancer. Eventually, though, her depression caught up with her, and she desperately sought to plug the mother-shaped hole that had been left behind. The problem was that to fill the hole, she began to unconsciously use me as the plug. This put pressure on me to be constantly strong and supportive and eventually triggered my 2009 OCD mental breakdown, which I don't think I fully came out of until 2011, when I ended the friendship and had time to mentally recover. Her mental illness plus my mental illness ended up being a really bad cocktail, so being roommates for two school years probably wasn't the best decision for either of us but we didn't have too many other options and I didn't have many other friends at school. We were both trapped until I graduated and slowly weaned her off of me because I knew she wouldn't be able to recover herself any other way. I did what I did to protect both of us, and I hope it helped (a mutual friend informed me recently that she got happily married, so I think I did the right thing for her).

The realization I came to tonight as I was sitting here was that I'm still stuck in a certain pattern that combines my early lack of acceptance from my peers and my desperation for approval that developed during the emotionally abusive friendship. I often go far out of my way for my friends to help them with things and generally try my best to be a good friend (a thing I have to put a lot of conscious thought into to make sure I'm doing it socially acceptably). I'm willing to put my own well-being and even my health aside for my friends sometimes, and that's where things can get a bit dicey because I'm not good at drawing a line between taking care of myself and helping other people. I actively choose to be kind because I want to be kind and help others - it feels right to me to do. The problem is that I also feel this nagging desire in the back of my mind to do as much as I can for others so that maybe someone at some point somewhere will think I'm important and treat me as such. I do so much more than I have to in a desperate quest for validation, and I'm not sure it'll ever succeed because it's self-defeating (the more I do, the more people are willing to ask me because they know I'll do it because I want to help). I want to matter to my friends the way I've rarely felt that I do, and yet I go about trying to earn that importance in a way that's so exhausting and ineffective that it's never going to happen that way.

And yet after all that, I feel selfish saying that I want to be acknowledged in some way, so I don't even tell people that I want to know I matter. I feel like bringing it up is asking for something that I shouldn't be asking for, that it's something my friends feel that they already give me. Implied acknowledgement doesn't exactly work when your friend is autistic, however - I'm going to need occasional blatant confirmation that yes, I'm an important friend, too, and my needs matter just as much as everyone else's.

I just need to break out of this cycle because tonight I realized just how detrimental to me it could potentially become. I'll work my way out of it like I work my way out of everything, but just realizing that I feel selfish for wanting acknowledgement that I and my needs matter to my friends is concerning enough to me because it reminds me that although I've moved on from that emotionally abusive relationship, I still haven't healed all the scars.

Monday, July 11, 2016

At Last, A Character Really, Really Like Me

I'm not sure I've ever related to someone fictional more.
Finding characters I relate to has always been a fairly difficult task for me throughout my life because autistic characters just don't pop up in fiction very often, particularly when it comes to autistic female characters. This is something I've discussed before - those rare characters I click with tend to be male characters only because there are very few female characters who really remind me of myself.

And yet here I am, 27 years old and suddenly relating really intensely to a teenager who flies around in a giant green lion and fights aliens.

Voltron predates me (1989) by a few years; it premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and ran until 1985. It's actually a lot like the original incarnation of Power Rangers in the U.S. in that multiple anime series were mashed up and edited to make a new series entirely for the American market. (Specifically, season 1 was taken from Beast King GoLion and season 2 was taken from Armored Fleet Dairugger XV.) The series had a few U.S.-made sequels, and as of 2016 it now has a reboot that you can watch on Netflix done by Dreamworks. I'm a little more than halfway through so far and it's doing a wonderful job in capturing the spirit of the original series whilst giving the protagonists more characterization and depth.

Specifically, I really relate to what they've done with Pidge. Spoilers are ahead, so I'll put this under a cut just in case you happen to both read my blog and want to watch Voltron without being spoiled.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy #AutisticPrideDay 2016!

Today is our day, everyone - let's celebrate the amazing people that we are!

For more on Autistic Pride Day, check out my friend Alyssa's post on it here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hey, Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation: I'm Not A Monster

Somehow or other - maybe I signed some petition a long time ago - I got on the mailing list of an organization called the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (not to be confused with asdfmovie). Every so often, they send me envelopes hoping I'll give them money even though since I'm an autistic person they should be giving me money. In general, I rarely have money to give at the moment since I'm job-hunting right now, but I'd much rather give my hard-earned cash to ASAN or the Autism Women's Network, organizations that I know are looking out for me and people like me.

Today I got a letter from ASDF trying to get me to give them money again, and this one actually made me angry.

Oh, yeah, this is promising. Calling me my parents' worst nightmare. Great way to start this one off.

So already irritated, I opened the envelope...

I'm so dreaded, you guys. I'm a national emergency. I'm a monster, ooooooh.

Here's the deal: yes, families with individuals on the spectrum absolutely need and deserve financial support to help their family members survive in a world that's not designed for them. We all could use some help with that. Services are definitely needed for both autistic children and autistic adults. But worded like this? This makes autism sound like some sort of death sentence. You know what actually could be a death sentence? Not vaccinating your children. Yes, autistic people - myself included! - and their families can use extra financial support since we often require special services to ensure that we can make it in this world that clearly was made for people who aren't autistic. However, scare tactics aren't the best way to accomplish that. My existence is not a tragedy to exploit. Neither are the existences of all of my fellow autistic people. If people were willing to take a few minutes to listen to us, they'd realize we're not that different from them. We generally want the same thing as they do - to be treated decently and respectfully.

So don't be afraid to donate to help families and individuals with autism - both children and adults need services and support! However, any organization that portrays autism as some sort of menace or an epidemic is likely misguided at best and deliberately using scare tactics at worst. (In fact, autism isn't even an epidemic - we've just expanded the diagnostic criteria and understand the signs more. I myself wasn't diagnosed until I was 20.) For organizations that you can support instead knowing that your money will directly help autistic people, check my resources page out here.

Initially, I went to recycle the letter I got since I obviously had no reason to keep the vile thing around. But then I had a better idea...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pet Therapy For Mental Health: Murphy Is A Movie Star!

Murphy and I made the big-time!

Well, not really, but my friend, documentarian, and fellow Aspie Alyssa Huber featured us in her latest video on her blog. It's all about the therapeutic relationships autistic folks have with their pets, and given Murphy's importance to me when she put out a call for stories I jumped right in! You can see Alyssa's blog post here, and her video is below.

Trigger warning for extremely cute footage of Murphy as a baby.

This cat is the best cat I've ever had the fortune to share my home with, all 22.2 pounds of him. Love you, Murph.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Stuck In A Holding Pattern

It's been a bit since I've written a blog post here, mostly because I've still been struggling with my fear of being unable to survive as an adult on my own due to my lack of a job and nothing new has happened. I signed up today as a protege in SAA's mentoring program in the hopes that I would be able to find a mentor who can guide me as I begin my career in the archival field and help me network better, which of course brings up that old concern of mine again - when, if at all, do I tell this person I'm autistic and need a little extra assistance with certain (generally social) things?

It's times like these that I feel like I don't have control of my life yet, especially as people around me - my graduate school colleagues - are finding jobs and settling in and doing wonderfully. Nothing has materialized for me yet, and as such I'm inclined to feel helpless and pathetic, things I logically know I'm not. I'm not jealous of my friends - I'm very happy for them - but when everyone is getting jobs except me, it does make me wonder if I'm even supposed to have one in the first place.

I'm well aware that success takes time to achieve, and I've never stopped working hard my entire life. However, struggling to find any form of employment in my field when everyone else I know in my field is happily working is definitely disheartening, and so I've noticed that I've gotten quieter on social media and less expressive in general. I'm not entirely certain that I'll fully be myself again until I have a job, regardless of whether or not it's in my field. Somehow or other, working has become tied to my self-worth.

I'm not giving up yet, that's for sure, but it's definitely the hardest challenge I've faced since 2009 and I'm not entirely certain as to how to fully handle this. I don't want to cry myself to sleep every night, but I don't want to ignore how I'm feeling, either - I definitely need to release emotion in some way or another and ensure that I don't bottle it up like I've tended to do throughout my life. I've been drawing a lot more in the past few weeks, at least, which is a good sign all around for my emotional well-being.

I just wish I wasn't stuck in this seemingly perpetual holding pattern. I've been ready to take off for ages now.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Talking Myself Up Career-Wise Out Of Fear

It has become evident to me lately that during the periods that I'm unemployed I live in fear of the world. I leave the house significantly less, wallow much more in depression, and constantly worry about money. Oftentimes, I cry myself to sleep and lay there at night feeling worthless.

I logically know I'm not worthless, of course. I'm a human being and I have value just because I exist and I'm not mean to other people. It's often hard to see that in a country where your skills are often passed over just because you don't always make eye contact with people.

I had a job interview three weeks ago today, and by all accounts it went quite well. The problem is that now I'm waiting to hear back, and the headhunter working as the go-between hasn't spoken to me in over a week. I haven't been rejected yet, but not knowing where I stand reminds me of a more recent job where I thought I nailed the interview and wasn't told that I wasn't hired for over two months (it took me contacting them back multiple times). When I'm in limbo and applying for jobs and waiting to hear back, my anxiety tends to take over. I worry that people search for me and learn about me and see things like this blog and decide that I'm worthless without really knowing me. I worry that they're making a judgment before getting to know me and seeing what I'm capable of.

I mean, let's take a look at this for a second:
  • I have a Master's degree. I got my B.A. in history in four years - the normal length of time for an American college program - despite having a horrible mental breakdown in the middle of it. I then went on to get my M.S. in library science with a focus in archival studies and had no trouble whatsoever academically at any point. I'm intellectually very capable of working in an academic setting, be it a library, a museum, or somewhere else.
  • Archives are quiet places. You don't have to talk to as many people as you do in other places. This makes them a great setting for someone like me to work - I can talk to people, but not too many people that I get tired and overwhelmed.
  • I regularly take initiative and start creative projects and do my level best to see them through until life gets in the way. I start things when I've noticed that nobody else has started them and believe they should be done.
  • I'm very creative and innovative, on that note.
  • I'm great with old technology! I actively take an interest in playing with it and I can adapt to pretty much any computer interface really quickly, and I get really excited when I get to work with analog materials. Old playback machines, old computers, and other sorts of things just make me really happy - yet another benefit to my profession.
  • I'm a very focused worker. People everywhere I've ever worked have always been astounded by my work ethic and just how much I can get done in any span of time. I'm highly productive and yet very detail-oriented so I'm less likely to make mistakes - I'm not rushing, I'm just focused.
  • I'm highly confident in my ability to learn new things really quickly. I'm a sponge. If you teach me how to use something hands-on, I'll never forget how to do it for the rest of my life.
I'm perfectly capable of performing any archival job assigned to me. I've just become so accustomed to rejection either via my resume or after the interview stage that I sometimes settle into this idea that I'll never have any sort of job ever again at all, and whilst that's unlikely to be true I genuinely fear not being able to work in my profession despite being incredibly good at doing so by all accounts so far. I've never had anyone tell me I'm not good at being an archivist. It's come to me naturally. It's what I'm meant to do. So why isn't anyone letting me do it?

I genuinely fear it's because people find out I'm autistic and let their misguided ideas of what that means lead them to a judgment about me before they even find out what I'm about. It's not fair at all, and although there are numerous companies now hiring autistic people to do various jobs I haven't found a fit for myself yet. I dread that I never will, and so I write this blog to advocate for people like myself to make sure that nobody who comes after me will have to deal with the same prejudice I do with regards to being employed. I want every autistic person after me to have an easier time finding employment in a world not made for us because we all deserve the same quality of life as everyone else. I'm going to do my level best to make sure we achieve that.

Here I am talking about this in video form:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Thank You To Jed Lowrie, Revisted Five Years Later

I was a sportswriter between the years of 2011-2014, spending three years covering the Baltimore Orioles, Stanford baseball, and the MLB Draft for a website called Aerys Sports, where all the lead sportswriters were female-identifying or non-binary. We aimed to push the envelope and bring more women into a field primarily dominated by men, a theme that seems to recur frequently throughout my life. The site is gone now, but using the Wayback Machine (because archivists are great) allows me to access the vast majority of what I wrote. Facebook reminded me that five years ago yesterday I wrote a piece about a former Stanford baseball player who was one of the reasons I chose to keep living when my OCD was at its peak.

If you've known me for a long time, you're probably aware by now of how I feel about Jed Lowrie. I've followed his career since 2007, when he was still in the Minors, and although he's had his fair share of injuries throughout his career he's steadfastly been my favorite since that time. I'm actually wearing the shirt I had customized the second I knew his number when he was called up by the Red Sox for the first time in April 2008. (This shirt is now eight years old.) I've been faithfully following his career for almost nine years now and absolutely nothing has made me love him any less.

Some things have changed since I wrote the piece I wrote in 2011, which was primarily about me coming to terms with my OCD and Asperger's and clinging to the few positive things that mattered to me, one of which was Jed Lowrie. My voice is different now - more confident, stronger, and much more definitive - and there are mentions of my former college roommate (referred to in here as my "best friend" and not by name), who was unintentionally extremely emotionally harmful to me due to her own mental health issues and who I cut off later that year in order to help both of us recover. At the time I wrote this, I was still trying to be on good terms with her and was walking on eggshells, but it was clear to me by this point that she had become outright emotionally abusive, although unintentionally so. I still look back on that friendship with a lot of mixed feelings because whilst it led to the events that brought about my diagnosis and allowed me to clear up my understanding of things, it also was that friendship that directly led to my two-year mental breakdown and immense struggles. 2009-2011 was the darkest emotional period of my life, and the friendship that I briefly tried to justify in the article was a big part of that.

So again, thank you, Jed, because you helped save me from that, too. Even though by the end of 2011 you were off to Houston and I was briefly heartbroken before realizing you'd actually get regular playing time there and remembering that I had an account, you were one of the reasons I wanted to keep living, and so I got out of that friendship for both her sake and mine.

I've never been able to write personally to Jed and tell him any of this because I'm a big chicken, but if anyone who can get this information to him sees this, you're always free to pass it along, as usual. I wish I was able to say these things more freely to people, but anxiety tends to get in the way of me telling anyone how much they really mean to me outside of family and friends.

Below the cut is my 2011 article:

Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Fear of Dating

Cute, funny, but perpetually single due to my own fear.

I have a major fear of dating that primarily stems from being bullied mostly by boys as a kid. I was repeatedly told I was "ugly," that I "looked like a dog" (not a good insult because dogs are ridiculously cute), and that anything I liked was "stupid." Men my own age now terrify me - I fear their automatic rejection because it was all I saw when I was younger.

I also fear being seen as nothing but an object, a common experience for women that happens all too often. Yes, I'm cute. No, I'm not here to just be a disposable vagina. That's not how this works, and if you treat me like that, I'll be sure to reverse it until you realize why it's dehumanizing.

My biggest fear, though, is having the dreaded Autism Talk that I know I'll have to have with any man I date. I never know when it's something to bring up with people who I'm not dating as it is, but if I were to meet a guy and we hit it off romantically, I'd be especially wary. Dating often involves physical contact, something that I'm not particularly good with, and it often happens fairly early on in a relationship (hand-holding, light kisses, etc.). Would I mention it then? Would I mention it further in, when sex potentially came up? I'm genuinely worried about not being good at sex because of my physical contact issues. Would I be valued less by a partner if I wasn't good at sex (presuming my partner wasn't on the asexual spectrum)? Would my need for direct communication and no hint-taking be an extra demand on my partner? Would he be able to handle my disability, or would it drive him away?

Obviously, a man who can't handle my disability (or my existence as a disabled woman) isn't the sort of man I'd want to date, period. It's the fear of opening up and revealing this information about myself, that dread of being vulnerable, like I was when I was a kid and I was bullied for existing as myself. I still get nervous around men my own age that I don't know very well because of it all, and it's starting to really hurt me emotionally because I'm now 27 years old and still haven't been on a single date in my entire life. I see my friends getting married and starting families. I see people younger than me finding love all the time.

It really hurts to be paralyzed by your own fear.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

And All I Know Is Guilt For Being Different

When I was a kid, Chumbawamba's Tubthumping became a surprise one-hit wonder in the US. My mom found the song catchy enough to warrant us buying her the album (called Tubthumper), and as I got older I actually came to appreciate the entire album, especially during my teenage years when I, like most people of that age, began to become upset with the status quo and realized change was needed.

As an adult, I actually have all of their albums on my iPod. (I swear I'm not an anarchist, just someone who believes in making the world a better place.) The song I find myself going back to over and over again, however, is on Tubthumper, the first album we bought. It's called Smalltown, and it really reflected how I felt during my high school years - afraid that everyone knew I didn't belong here and that it was only a matter of time before I was driven away.

The line that struck me the most then - and still strikes me now - is "And all I know / Is guilt for being different." I was more than aware by the time I was in high school that I was different from everyone else, but I wasn't entirely certain as to exactly how, just that they liked certain things and I liked certain other things and that I found a lot of their social rituals tiresome and unnecessary (the song, incidentally, says, "There are unwritten rules, unspoken words"). Of course, when I was diagnosed at age 20, I found my answers, and more than ever, I felt guilty for being different. Although I was relieved, I had to sort myself and my feelings out, and for a while I really did worry about being a burden on people who knew me.

Fortunately, I broke free from that and know it's just propaganda designed to make organizations like Autism Speaks more money, but every so often I have intense moments of guilt. I wonder if I wasn't an autistic child if I'd have moved out of my parents' house by now. I wonder if they're feeling financially burdened by me still living here. I wonder if I'll ever have a job, if I'll ever be financially secure on my own, if I'll ever amount to anything - and there I sit, staring off into space, feeling ashamed and pathetic...and guilty.

I know more than guilt for being different now, but I definitely still know it, and it's not necessarily something that's easy to unlearn since it's so ingrained in me from growing up my entire life being seen as some sort of social "other." I sincerely hope it's something that someday I can finally fully unlearn as I continue to take pride in my differences instead.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Autistic Employment Concerns Part The Nth

Yesterday, I was volunteering at a book fair and discussing my lack of employment and how frustrating it was to me that finding a job was so difficult. As if acting on cue, my Google alert for 'autism' came up in my inbox and linked me to this article, which didn't help me feel any better:
Although awareness of autism is growing, people diagnosed with the disorder are still having difficulties finding work, the Economist reported. 
About 80 percent of those diagnosed with autism do not work, the United Nations estimates. A survey by Britain’s National Autistic Society found that only 12 percent of high-functioning autistic adults work full time, and only 2 percent with more challenging forms of autism are employed.
Great. Just great. In the current world, I have approximately a 12% chance of becoming employed full-time, if these statistics are anything to go by. I live in the United States, where autism is well-known (but not necessarily well understood because Autism Speaks is a propaganda machine), but I'm not necessarily sure my employment chances are better here, even though as a woman I'm not often recognized as autistic and I've worked as a tour guide and learned to disguise my traits well enough, a technique we call "passing." I have a Master's degree and have enough experience to reach the interview stage occasionally, but despite my interviews going well I'm never the candidate chosen as of late and it makes me feel like there must be something wrong with me that they're noticing and not liking. Considering how I've felt in the past about getting noticed, this is an idea I've internalized, and in a way, I wonder if I project this aura of "I don't think I deserve this job" or something or other to potential employers.

Except I absolutely do believe I deserve a job in my field because I've worked incredibly hard and become incredibly skilled, and I pick up new skills really easily, to boot. I'm perfectly capable of being an absolutely phenomenal archivist.

I'm actually starting to hope that my potential employers find this blog and see what I've been writing here about my intense desire and determination to obtain employment. I hope they see my dedication here and realize that I'm just as capable as anyone else applying for the job and that my disability is actually an advantage in the archival world because my intense focus on work means I can blow through archival backlogs like nobody else. I want them to know how much I care and how important archiving is to me, and I want them to see just how good I can be if they take a chance on me.

I am an archivist. I happen to be an autistic archivist. It shouldn't make a difference in whether or not I get paid to do what I love and what I'm trained to do, simple as that.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How My Own Characters Helped Me Normalize My Autism And Accept Myself

Coping with my diagnosis was initially very difficult for me. I didn't know anyone else who was like me at first, and I had to learn how to cope with it and accept myself for who I was in order to ensure I took care of myself. Everyone comes to terms with things in their own way, so I had to find my way to acceptance on my own.

A little bit after I started my freshman year of college in 2007, a little less than two years before I got my diagnosis, I started doing some character designs for a fictional college baseball team. I named their school Slumberwood, a pun on Wake Forest, and plopped their campus down in Rutland County, Vermont. I then began fleshing out the team and adding new members for each successive school year, planning to turn the project into a full-scale webcomic at some point. The webcomic never came into fruition, but working on the characters (and even jokingly giving the major ones Facebook accounts and having them interact with each other like normal college students) helped carry me through bleaker moments in my college career since it was fun and I loved college baseball.

The most important of these college ballplayers turned out to be Sheridan Travers, Class of 2010, born April 16th, 1988. Sheridan was chronically addicted to Pixy Stix and nearly always had one in his mouth, even when batting, and played shortstop left-handed, which, if you're unfamiliar with baseball, is very unusual. (His double play partner, main character Justin Pedrotti, nicknamed 'Drotti, played second base left-handed, which was also unusual, but because they both played the middle infield left-handed they worked very well together.) As I developed the cast of Slumberwood more and more, I noticed Sheridan was becoming more and more like me, and when I was diagnosed in 2009 it occurred to me that he had actually inherited a lot of my autistic traits. I figured I might as well go all the way with it and gave him the diagnosis, too.
Sheridan Travers, as drawn by the author on 4/13/16.
Giving my diagnosis to a character that I had created turned out to be amazingly therapeutic for me. As I further worked on the story and incorporated Sheridan's teammates learning to be supportive friends and accept him for who he was, it enabled me to build up more confidence in myself and accept myself for who I now knew I was, too. I was able to draw on my own life experiences to write his - Sheridan's search for belonging was both personified in his Asperger's diagnosis and the fact that he had grown up in an orphanage and was raised by the woman running it since he had seemed "too strange" to adopt. Although I'm no orphan and have lived with my birth family my entire life, I wanted to emphasize that Sheridan was trying to find somewhere that he really felt he belonged since his diagnosis had made him feel like he wasn't good enough for the rest of the world since society loves to tell those of us on the spectrum that we don't belong.

By the time he graduated Slumberwood in 2010, Sheridan had a ton of friends through the baseball team, had more or less become a part of second baseman 'Drotti's family, and had graduated as class valedictorian (due to obsessive hard work, not just intelligence) and had a full ride to MIT for grad school to pursue robotics and try to use robots to make people's lives better. (He also had a mild weeaboo stage in middle school, which led him to study and become conversationally fluent in Japanese because he developed genuine interest and respect for the language and culture, so I suspect that in his spare time he was going to try to build a Gundam, too. I wouldn't put it past him.)

I actively forged a place in the Slumberwood world for Sheridan because he deserved a perfectly normal place in the world, like all of us do. His teammates were accommodating when they had to be, but they didn't place him on a pedestal or treat him differently once they all knew about his autism. They just saw him as Sheridan Travers, the starting shortstop, and their only concern was whether or not he was hitting. To them, he was a person, not a disorder.

Looking back on all of this, I realized the other day that it went a long way in helping me accept myself. Accepting and really caring about a character I had crafted who had something very major in common with me had led me to begin accepting those same traits in myself, and over the years I learned to view myself as a whole person again, contrary to society and Autism Speaks telling me I had pieces missing. I don't have any missing pieces. I'm just who I am. If it took me creating a fictional character who also had those traits to embrace myself, then so be it, but people like Sheridan and myself aren't going anywhere.

This is why I encourage all creative autistic people to share their stories and continue writing, drawing, and doing whatever it is you like to do. We need more autistic voices in the media, and more autistic characters created by autistic people can definitely go a long way in helping those of us who come along later realize that they, too, are supposed to be here and that they're part of the world we live in and deserve to be.

Never, ever stop creating. You never know whose life you'll touch and improve.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I Am Not Broken

My hair looked nice.
I like to think I clean up fairly nicely. I was at an archival event on Wednesday (which turned out to really be a talk and not much of a networking opportunity even though I'd mentally prepared myself for networking for about a week) and I made sure to look presentable in case I met anyone who could further impact my career. I actually looked pretty damn good, I think, despite the wind making it difficult to keep my hair in line!

I always wonder when I'm dressed more formally if I'm somehow more "acceptable" to the public that way. I wasn't particularly fashionable when I was younger due to just wanting to wear loosely-fitting T-shirts and jeans all the time (function over form), something I imagine probably contributed to the bullying I dealt with as a kid and teenager. I tend to spend a lot more time than I should wondering if my existence as a human being is socially unacceptable or not, and that's not something I should be wondering at all.

I actually look good in this dress.
I read a great piece on The E is for Erin earlier today about the phenomenon of "hiding" oneself, and I related to a lot of the things she said with regards to feeling this need to hide your true self in order to be relieved of social stigma. As I said in an earlier article a week or two ago, I have a sort of "false self" that I present to the public, which has gotten so sophisticated at this point in my life that not even my closest friends get to see the "real me" 100% of the time. I really only trust my family with "real me" with the exception of the internet, where it's easier for me to reach out and find like-minded people. I've internalized this idea over the years that "real me" is somehow socially unacceptable and shouldn't exist in the world that I live in, so I've gotten really good at hiding her from society and instead putting on this sort of false front. Whenever people do see cracks in the facade, they get confused at best and have rejected me at worst - a classic example being my college roommate, who was unintentionally emotionally abusive to me because I turned out to not be the carbon copy of her deceased mother that she had projected onto me. For the longest time, I genuinely believed that "real me" was somehow broken, and although getting my autism diagnosis gave me relief I also battled feelings of inadequacy and this idea that maybe I was somehow "sub-human" according to the rest of the world.

In the article from The E is for Erin, Erin writes,
Humiliation and shame. Those are recurring themes in my social life over the years. The life lesson learned is to hide. Hide everything you care about, hide the things that matter, hide all of your feelings, hide your true self, because letting people see you is dangerous.
Hiding is an early instinct for autistic people, I think. Because it only takes a few rejections and betrayals for us to note the pattern: expose yourself and you may be hurt. Because we have an intense drive to protect ourselves from pain. Because we often can’t tell which people, places, and situations are safe, so it’s best to just avoid risking it, and to hide our most valued things, our most intimate selves, out of sight.
I'm tired of having to hide. I want a world that sees me the way I see myself - as completely human, as acceptable, as not broken. I am not broken. I am a human being. I shouldn't have to hide the person I am just because I don't fit into a society designed by people who didn't have people like me in mind, only themselves. I feel like I still have to, though, and it exhausts and hurts me every single day of my life. Somehow, I'm just not good enough for society when I'm myself. That's not okay.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April Is Treat Autistic People Like Humans Month

I spent my World Autism Acceptance Day out with friends celebrating a friend's birthday. It was nice to be out with people who understand why I am the way I am and ask me questions when they get confused. I've had my current group of friends since high school and it's been really great to have them around for all these years since we've been able to grow up and support each other over all these years. They, well, accept me!

It's especially important for me that I have my friends because they make me feel like less of a failure at life. I was rejected from yet another archival job this morning, so it's a small comfort to know that at least I have a social life, even if nobody wants to give me a work life (whether it's because they genuinely don't think I'm a good match for the job or if it's because they find out about my disability by searching for me is beyond me). I'm going to an archival networking event tomorrow night, though, and whilst these always make me nervous I'm going to try my best to talk to some people and hand out the new business cards I had printed recently.

In the meantime, my 27th birthday is in 20 days, and I'm both looking forward to it and feeling slightly frustrated about it at the same time. Every time I hit a milestone age-wise, I feel like I'm behind on certain things, namely social things (i.e. I've still never been on a date and it really stings as I get older). On the other hand, I love my birthday because people actually acknowledge me and all I've done for them over the years, and given that I didn't feel valued much by my peers as a kid this really means a lot.
My birthday last year. [Image is of a young woman wearing a Red Sox hat and shirt and smiling with a birthday cake with candles in the shape of the number 26.]
The month of April tends to be pretty up and down for me these days because despite my birthday being in April, I also have to endure the so-called "awareness" campaigns that dominate the airwaves, although I like to think we're about to turn a corner as more and more people realize that we're just human beings that are somewhat different and don't fit into this society's rigid expectations of what humans should be. "Neurotypical" really just means "fits into society" and isn't really something, well, typical since the human brain has so many variations as it is. It's unfortunately the best term we have right now to explain things, but, as a friend and I were discussing on Saturday, it's definitely lacking since there's no real "typical" brain to be a benchmark. As it is, right now "neurotypical" just means "not struggling with mental illness or having a disability," but we probably need a better word to describe this.

Murphy. [Image: a cat on his back on a bed.]
It's honestly very difficult to spend an entire month being told you're somehow lesser or broken, however. In general, that's what April is like for me nowadays because autism "awareness" is everywhere you look. I'm reluctant to shop at some of my favorite stores because they're taking donations for Autism Speaks this month. The television tells me I'm a burden on my family. The radio tells me that I'm somehow incomplete as a human. There's no escape from the deluge of campaigns hammering me with this negativity. But it's also my birthday month, and I'm glad to be alive and be who I am. I do have to stand strong in the face of all of this propaganda every time my birthday comes around, but in a weird way it also reminds me I'm alive and there are people who are genuinely upset that I'm alive so I have to keep going to spite them.

Also, I met Murphy in April 2009. Can't be all bad if I met my best friend this month.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Standing Out Is Hard When You Had To Blend In To Survive

I'm currently working on a cover letter for a job I'm applying for and I had a realization that really hit me hard. I've never been particularly good at writing cover letters since I don't like talking about myself in that context since it feels like bragging to me even though it's just being honest and talking up your good points instead, and I'm pretty sure I've just figured out why.

I've spent my entire life trying to blend in, so I don't know how to purposely make myself stick out anymore.

Think about it - I was bullied for most of my life (from kindergarten up through my senior year of high school). I formed a friendship where I felt initially accepted in college only to be rejected once that person found out that I wasn't a carbon copy of the person they were trying to use me to replace. I'm not even sure that I've been "real me" in public since maybe the first semester of my sophomore year of college. I don't even seem like I've changed much over the years to my real-life friends because they've only gotten to see "fake me." In actuality, I've changed a lot, but I've been putting the same happy-go-lucky front up for everyone outside of my family for a really long time now. Sometimes, my friends see cracks in that facade, but for the most part they've gotten a consistent "fake me" over the years that I've used to protect myself. "Real me" can really only be seen these days on the internet, where I'm less prone to judgment by people and am more acceptable since it's easier to find people like myself.

Writing a cover letter, therefore, is really hard for me because it forces me to do the very thing I've been trying not to do my entire life to protect myself - stand out. My fears of rejection flare up every time I send out a new job application because it means I have to be noticed and I could potentially be torn to shreds again, just like I've been my entire life. The only place I've never had this problem is with school - I applied to one college and one grad school and was accepted to both. Socially and career-wise, my entire life just feels like one giant rejection letter a lot of the time, and that fear came out today as I crafted yet another cover letter with my job coach. Standing out goes against all my survival instincts that I've developed over the years. I know I'm potentially the right person for each job I apply for, but trying to get myself noticed is something that genuinely scares me because of what's happened to me upon being noticed in the past. I felt at my safest when I was invisible and went about my life without anyone noticing me and saying something mean. (City life works well for me since in New York there are lots of strange people so it's easy for me to blend in going to and fro.)

I deserve to feel safe to stand out, but I've never felt that safety anywhere off the internet, and I really wish I could. If I wasn't an ostracized object of ridicule as a kid and teenager, it might have been different, but here we are. If only I felt safe to be myself in the real world.

Monday, March 28, 2016

If You Love Me, Wear Red On April 2nd!

April starts on Friday. April used to be a month I looked forward to since my birthday is April 25th and I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Once I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in 2009, however, it became a month where I was relentlessly barraged with hateful rhetoric telling people that I was something to be feared and hated. It's now a month where autism organizations claiming to "help" us promote our eradication instead.

On April 2nd, Autism Speaks, the worst of all of these organizations, does something called Light It Up Blue where they try to "cure" (aka eliminate us) by reminding people that we exist and that we're a horrendous burden on society. In response to this, autistic people have started wearing red on April 2nd, too. Initially, the movement was called Walk In Red, but as not everyone can walk the movement is also referred to as Red Instead. All you need to do on April 2nd to help us out is the following:
  1. Wear red instead of blue. Even if you don't wear red, it's fine as long as you don't wear blue since that's Autism Speaks's color.
  2. Amplify the voices of any autistic people you know. This month is about us, not organizations that claim they know us better than we know ourselves.
  3. If anyone you know is blindly supporting Autism Speaks, explain to them why this is a horrendous idea. I've got some resources to help you out with that right here. They're right at the top of the page.
  4. Instead of donating to Autism Speaks and other organizations that promote hate and fear, support organizations like the Autism Self-Advocacy Network, the Autism Women's Network, and other groups that allow us to speak for ourselves and give us the support that we need and deserve. These groups, especially the latter, also focus on intersectionality in our movement, which is important.
  5. Listen to us. This is supposed to be our month, but it's really easy to get the wrong idea about us since we can't afford expensive TV spots on major networks whilst Autism Speaks can. Our opinions and experiences are far more valuable to learn about than the stuff they're telling you, so listen to us over them!
Best of luck to all my non-NT friends in the upcoming month - we can weather this annual storm together, as we've done in years past. Let's shift the conversation and make sure there's nothing about us without us!

Update: I also hashed all of this out in a video for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thank You, Robert DeNiro, For Doing Right By Us

I really don't normally care much about what celebrities do if they're not baseball players or deceased comedians, but I'm feeling a strange sort of relief that I can still like Robert DeNiro today.

Everyone's probably heard about it already, but Andrew Wakefield (who I won't even call a doctor because he thankfully lost his medical license over his fraudulent study) directed and wrote a film about, well, vaccines and how he still somehow is convinced that they cause autism despite the fact that it's evident that autism is a genetic disorder given how it often runs in families. In fact, a genetic study was recently released making it clear that autism, like pretty much every other neurological disorder present at birth, is caused by - shocker - genetics. So guess what? It's as natural as not being heterosexual or not being cisgender, other things people have decided are something that somehow happens after birth. Considering the prejudice LGBT people face every day even now (look at the utterly asinine thing North Carolina did recently to transgender and non-gender conforming people), I highly doubt anyone would willingly choose to endure that sort of undeserved treatment. Autistic and other neurodivergent people are the same way - we're treated almost as second-class citizens and aren't even listened to when we try to explain things ourselves. Instead, organizations like a certain money-mongering one that we're all going to have to deal with in a few days for an entire month but I don't feel like naming decide to talk for us.

In this case, however, we were listened to, and it feels amazing. Autistic people, scientists, doctors, and some of our other allies spoke out, and yesterday DeNiro posted this on the Tribeca Facebook page:
“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for. The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”
It's honestly such a relief to know that DeNiro, who has an autistic son himself, realized the film would do far more harm than good and pulled it from the Tribeca schedule. And it's in no small part due to autistic self-activists, as the author of the article linked to above, Tara Haelle, points out:
But DeNiro listened. He listened to the many autistic individuals disappointed about the film’s initial inclusion, he listened to the thousands of doctors who care for children, and he listened to the scientific community. It appears that he viewed the film himself and decided that flaws in its information and/or execution did not meet the high standards that Tribeca demands.
But he’s definitely been correct about one thing along: we do need a conversation about autism in this country. We need an honest conversation about what autistic individuals experience in their everyday lives and about the support their families need and often are not getting. We need a conversation about the stigmatization, discrimination, poor employment opportunities and poorer health outcomes facing autistic individuals.
This is exactly it. As an autistic adult, I spend a lot of my time every day explaining what I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I struggle to find the perfect job and go through long periods of unemployment. Making friends is often difficult for me. I've never been on a date and I'm turning 27 in a month. I still live at home with my parents (like many people my age, neurotypical or not), but haven't been able to find a job that pays for my student loans yet. Every day, I worry that people judge me based on my disability, and every day, I face anti-autism rhetoric on television, on the internet, and even in person (heard as I'm walking down the street or in advertisements I see whilst driving or on the subway). These are the sorts of things that adults on the spectrum would love to see addressed - we deserve better - and yet we're frequently denied a platform for our voices. It's time that our voices are amplified and we get a chance to speak about the issues that really affect us instead of a debunked fraudulent vaccine study from 1998 that's already hurt us enough.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Feeling My Friends' Problems As Intensely As If They Were My Own

I have an alarming tendency to absorb my friends' problems and make them my own somehow. I suspect it has something to do with the specific sort of empathy autistic people are reported to have - that we feel things more intensely than neurotypical people - but it's been happening as long as I can remember getting involved and trying to help friends out.

As of now, a few of my friends are going through really, really rough periods in their lives, and I've been doing my best to listen to them and help out and give advice when I can. I put a lot of time and effort into being a good friend to the people I'm close to because I remember not having friends and I'm extremely defensive of the friends I have. I really, really don't like it when someone thinks it's okay to hurt a friend of mine. It sometimes takes everything in me to not give people a piece of my mind when I'm not involved in a situation at all.

The downside to caring so much is obvious - because of my emotional investment and how intensely I feel everything, I spend a lot of time being anxious. I go about my days constantly worrying about how my friends are doing, getting angry to the point I can feel the adrenaline in my body on behalf of them, and not sleeping very well. I'm fairly sure this is part of what led to the situation that caused my mental breakdown in 2009, in fact, because I felt a sort of responsibility for my then-future roommate's safety since I was the only one who knew that she was severely struggling with depression in the wake of her mother's death. Because I felt responsible for her, I plummeted downwards into a horrible state of anxiety of my own, and the seeds for the OCD to thrive had been planted.

I'm sure I can't be the only autistic person with this problem due to the way we feel things so intensely, so I doubt I'm alone in feeling this way. It's a bit of a difficult concept to put into words, but I'm trying my best here.

At any rate, I also have a bad habit of prioritizing my friends' problems over my own that I'm trying to break, which is a story for another time. I just felt that this feeling was something I ought to try to vocalize.

Friday, March 11, 2016

CareerQuest Continues...

I had my first job coaching session on Wednesday. As this was my first full session, a large part of it consisted of my coach getting to know me and my situation better, and so I recounted my backstory and explained why I chose the field I went into in the first place. The problem for me, as usual, is that archiving is a highly specialized field - it's very specific work, and as such there are less available jobs than there are candidates, which is really frustrating, especially when you don't really have the budget to relocate for your career yet.

Of course, there's the second problem of being autistic and as such having issues with networking at events. I enjoy going to archival talks and taking notes. I learn a lot about the industry just by listening and absorbing information since I'm very observant. That will only get me so far, though, because like any other field I have to know people. My social anxiety kicks in when the events reach the networking portion, however, and I often find myself leaving early or hovering around the few people at the event in my age group (who likely don't have many contacts themselves). My career coach suggested that I try one-on-one networking, where I can contact people privately and ask if I can meet with them to get advice about breaking into the archival field, and this idea really resonated with me. I do get scared about meeting new people in general, but if it's one-on-one, there's less sensory overload, and since it won't be a job interview it'll be a lot less stressful since I tend to put way too much pressure on myself during job interviews.

I think this is definitely something I can manage, too, since I'm trained in conducting oral history interviews. If I treat it like an oral history interview, I can ask questions that allow the other person to elaborate in depth about things as I listen and take notes. You can learn a ton about people and history if you know how to ask questions that give them a chance to really explain things and tell stories, and although I haven't done an oral history in a few years I definitely still remember how to do it. I think I can adjust those skills and use them in an informational interview setting.

In the meantime, I'm officially doing some work at a film repository packaging films to be sent off to AMPAS and their archives in the city (it's paid training, too!), so I'm staying sharp and actually archiving things. I should be starting next week barring an NJ Transit strike, so hopefully they reach a deal and I can get started right away. (Side note: as someone who's used NJT for many, many years, I don't blame them for threatening to strike.) It feels really nice to be helping preserve things again - not only is it absolutely what I want to devote my life to, but it's also helping indie filmmakers and making sure their work endures!

Also, I got to go inside a nitrate vault, and if you know what else I blog about in my spare time you'll know why I was so excited about that.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Job Coaching? Job Coaching.

I haven't written in a while again, and that's because I'm once again unemployed due to my library gig being a temp position. I'm back in the job hunt again - as of now I have nothing and I'm really hoping I get something soon because my student loans terrify me and I have to pay for my health insurance - and it's been very difficult. I can't exactly bring myself to write when I'm this stressed out most of the time. It just doesn't come out right.

I'm actually starting to work with a job coach who specializes in helping people on the spectrum acquire and retain employment. I should be starting in the upcoming week, so I'm really hoping that this is what helps me to succeed since I often find myself reaching the interview stage and then not being the one who gets hired. I never know what I'm doing wrong, if I'm doing anything wrong, and I suspect that people aren't getting the idea that I'm incredibly confident in my skills as an archivist.

In the meantime, I'm doing some volunteer work again in order to keep my aforementioned archival skills sharp and it feels so nice to be doing what I actually went to school to do. Being an archivist is absolutely what I was born to do with the way my brain works - I'm good at it, I can focus on it, and I'm both efficient and accurate. It's the job that was meant for me, but I just don't seem to be able to convince anyone else of this. I wonder if I feel like I'm bragging and sell myself short - I've never been one to talk too positively about myself because I always feel like I'm bragging, so it's very possible that I hesitate to sell myself in interviews, too.

I find that when I write about these things I start to get teary-eyed and choked up. I'm very hard on myself, and I often find that I tend to equate my own traits with failure. It's a horrible habit, one that's likely a combination of high standards I have for myself and social rejection as a kid, and it's one I need to break considering that it's those same traits that have gotten me this far - my determination, my work ethic, my natural inclination towards archiving. These things are who I am, and they're going to help me succeed, but I just don't always project these things in ways that people can connect to and it's really frustrating.

So here I am, volunteering in my field because it's nearly impossible to get hired (and even harder when you have the obvious social struggles I do) until something turns up and someone takes a chance on me. Because believe me - it's a chance that people really ought to take, because I've got the potential to be the best damn archivist they've ever seen. I just don't know how to show them all.