This blog post is about Asperger's and working.
I have always been ashamed of my work history. When I was younger the only thing I wanted was to be a music teacher. I went to university, got my degree with little fuss, and went on to teacher training. There were a few little incidents during training. One time during a lecture I felt a huge yawn come on and thought nothing of letting it out very loudly in the middle of the lecture. Everyone looked at me, and I was like "What?"
Later, the lecturer took me aside and told me off for being so rude. I was confused. I felt a yawn coming, I yawned. It didn't mean I was bored, or being rude, or trying to make some kind of statement, as he was saying. I just felt a yawn coming on. I didn't realise it was rude to yawn loudly in the middle of lecture.
Another incident involved another trainee teacher called Jane Walker. It was during my first placement and there were several of us there from the same college. I didn't particular much like this girl, but when we were assigned to do a team-teaching lesson together I just had to put up with it. But the more I worked with her, the more she annoyed me. I was sitting in the staff room one break time, just enjoying the peace and quiet. There were other people there, but I was sitting by myself, my eyes closed, trying to make a little island of peace around me. In comes Jane, sat right next to me, yapping in my ear, wanting to go over some stuff. I tried to tune her out, but she just banged on and on and on. In the end, I lost it so badly I stood up in the middle of the staff room and yelled at her, "For God's sake, will you please just shut the f*** up!"
My mentor immediately came over and all but frogmarched me into his office. I tried to explain that she just annoyed me, but he told me that in my chosen line of work I would meet many people who annoyed me, and I had to keep things together.
I know now that Aspies have a deep need for solitude at times, and now I have a diagnosis, that is something I know to ask for if I need it, but back then i didn't know what it was. All I knew was that this girl was so irritating I wanted to smack her.
I'm surprised I didn't get thrown off the course for that, but I stayed on and, amazingly, I passed. But I continued to have problems with interpersonal relationships, especially with the older pupils. It seemed the older they got, the more I struggled to get on with them. The Year 10 and 11 girls in my second placement in particular hated me. I don't know why, or what I did to antagonise them so. It must have been something.
But when I finished training, I struggled to get a job. I managed to get interviews, probably because I was young and cheap and we all got coached on how to write an application letter as an NQT, but not a job came my way.
I'm now 40, and I have never, in my entire life, managed to get a proper, permanent, full-time employed job. I've managed to get seasonal jobs, part-time jobs, temporary jobs, supply work, which I loathed, and self-employment work, but never what I would call a 'proper' job. My proudest moment came when I had done a term of work at a school teaching a Year 6 booster class and they offered me a one-year contract for the following year. Finally, someone actually WANTED to employ me. And even better, someone who actually knew me wanted to continue to employ me. But even that was only five mornings a week, and after the year was up, I was told that my contract would not be renewed, and I was strongly discouraged from applying for any other jobs that were going at the school. When I asked why, I was told "Do I have to tell you?" Um, yes - I had no idea. I thought I was doing well. I got the results, and the kids liked me. But the Aspie curse had struck again.
The longest 'job' I did doing full-time hours was as a taxi driver. In fact I did more than full-time hours, regularly working 10 hours or more, six days as week.
Right now I am working as a writer/editor/proofreader for an online publishing company. I enjoy it, but the money isn't great. Ironically, one of the things that is starting to bug me is precisely the thing I thought I would enjoy most about working from home - I never get to see other people. I do enjoy my own space, and I do enjoy my own company and a lot of the time I don't have a need to be with other people, but it's been nearly two years now.
So over the summer I applied for a job as an enrichment tutor at a local sixth form college. I offered several different courses to do with my speciality of music, and also a novel-writing course. The only one they were interested in was the novel-writing course, funnily enough. It's only an hour a week, but it gets me out of the house.
This morning was the induction session. I was nervous but also excited at the thought of meeting new people. I really made an effort. I sat with people, I talked to them, I made eye contact. I did look around the room one time and realised I was the only one hair-fiddling and swaying, so I stopped. Luckily the woman I talked to most was a chatterer so there were no awkward silences and I didn't have to work too hard to keep the conversation going. I'm quite looking forward to starting, but it would have been better if it had been more hours.
I've stopped telling people I'm applying for jobs as they get that "not again" look on their faces, and then they keep asking me if there is any news, and I have to keep telling them no. It's embarrassing. I am applying for another job as a minibus driver for an old folks' home. It's three afternoons a week so again it would get me out of the house, and I could still carry on what I'm doing now in the mornings. I left some details and they are shortlisting from what little they asked me over the phone (driving experience - yes; experience with old people - only my parents and in-laws). So, they said they'd be in touch if I make the short-list.
9 to 5 - Dolly Parton