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.