[First off, before I start with the actual content of this post, I want to offer a sincere apology to my readers and followers who may have wondered why I haven’t updated or written anything of value in months. My most thoughtful piece recently has been those two posts on Sesame Street’s See Amazing and that was months ago. I took a job about a year and a half ago that was intense and spoons depleting. My energy to deal with real life things was diminished if not completely depleted at times.
Last week, I began a new job full time. It’s at an amazing company, where I am almost my own boss and work mostly alone. They’re very accommodating to my schedule and my needs. I have the time off I need in order to spend time with my kids and to cultivate my own interests.]
I want to write today about expectations. I feel like a lot of us have parents or caretakers who have an idea of what we’re supposed to do with our lives, or some idea of what we can and cannot do. When we fail to meet those ideas of what our lives should look like they’re either concerned or feel we’re failing to live up to our potential.
I have parents who didn’t expect I’d be able to graduate high school or drive a car, but once I did both of those things, figured I was “normal” enough to meet neurotypical standards and that whatever I had going on with me as a kid was probably just temporary and could be overcome. They were obviously wrong, but I don’t think I need to tell my loyal readers that. I managed to hold down a job and finish college (perhaps not quite on time or on the first try for several of my classes, but I did finish nonetheless). They expected that I would go into my career field as a writer somewhere. I found the writing field of the early 2000s extremely daunting, and so I went into education instead. I somehow managed to obtain an interview and eventually, a position as a language arts teacher. It took me years afterwards to come to terms with being ultimately a failure in a school where I was literally expected to be a miracle worker with zero experience and even fewer resources.
After that experience, I thought I had done something wrong. Why couldn’t I get a job that didn’t drain me physically and emotionally? I had a degree! This was not supposed to be this hard! This is what I wanted to do!
And yet at the end of the day, I felt helpless and exhausted. The person I was married to didn’t understand. I realize now that I literally cycled through meltdowns and shutdowns constantly during that year, but I didn’t have the resources or information to identify that as such.
I spent about a decade after that spending a few years in one retail or food service job before moving to the next, all sensory and social hell for me. All the while, I wondered what I was supposed to do. I had a degree, after all! And my spouse kept telling me I was throwing it down the drain by not using it. I felt constant shame and guilt. I didn’t tell many high school or college friends where I worked because it was humiliating to me.
So here I am in my mid thirties and I’m finally finding something that I don’t need a degree for, but which I’m good at and I enjoy a lot. I no longer feel the need for a job in my degree field, nor do I feel like my degree in English is being wasted (it’s plenty useful with regards to my hobbies). I am adjusting my expectations of what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m finding that I’m doing really well with a structured job with clear expectations where I am mostly in charge of everything I’m doing. It’s amazing and I can see myself doing this for a long, long while.
In a similar way, I had relationship expectations that I attempted to fit into and failed. I’m now single and fairly happy that way. I know I’m supposed to want a partner, but mostly I wouldn’t mind just having a roommate.
So this is what I want to tell other autistic people and parents of autistic kids – don’t cling to your expectations so tightly . You might miss an opportunity because you didn’t think it a possibility.