Take away the business attire, and this was me in the workforce much of the time, especially my last six years there. Photo courtesy of iamexpat.nl
ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM MY SOON-TO-BE-(SELF)-PUBLISHED BOOK DETAILING MY LIFE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM IN A NON-AUTISTIC WORLD
My pronounced lack of success in the workforce – specifically working for someone else – was so large and varied that I had to write two chapters in my upcoming book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, in order to properly describe all the incidents.
These following excerpts cover the failures I had as an employee from 1999 to 2008, when I quit my last job and left the workforce for good after having what (I think) was my third nervous breakdown.
Here’s the first excerpt:
The autism spectrum part of all this was that due to my need to do my own thing and my not being able to humble myself and see bosses as just that – rather than equal partners – every one of the six jobs that I subsequently had over the next six years would end the same way that it did at Farragut, with me either being fired or forced to resign.
This especially manifested itself in the next major job I was hired for, a place called Westside Bay School*, located just a few miles from my house that ended up really affecting me negatively as I became more disillusioned from my experiences there than any job before or since, for one particular reason:
It was a non-public, special education school geared toward children with Asperger’s and other parts of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In other words, Westside Bay School was geared toward kids who behaved similarly to me as a young-un.
This led me to having a big sense of optimism upon getting hired as a PE instructor (technically an aide, like at Farragut) there in August of 2003, because this was a place where I cold be a real role model, where I felt I could have a positive impact on the students.
I had no way of knowing that my ten months at Westside Bay School would be almost nothing but a nightmare.
And I also had no way of knowing that it would end up being the overwhelming reason I would not be comfortable around autistic people or other Aspies for a while after my time at that school; I grew SO bitter with that place that as I walked through the front doors on my last day, June 11, 2004 (I remember the exact date!), before I hit the sidewalk I turned around, faced the school building, and stuck my middle finger high in the air.
It wasn’t the most mature or professional thing to do, and of course I regret making that obscene gesture, but I hope you understand why I couldn’t help it after describing my experiences there, the feeling that led to me flipping Westside Bay off.
This next excerpt details the trauma I suffered while working at this particular school:
If I’m going to describe everything that went down between me and (my supervisor), I’d better not refer to him by his real name as despite everything that happened, I have enough respect for him to not do so.
I’ll call him Gary*.
I vividly remember the first time that I saw that Gary’s and my relationship was far from what I assumed – it was after classes one afternoon.
Gary came into the little office that we shared and said, “I need to talk to you.”
“High school PE,” he replied.
At that point I knew something bad was going to be said because my ninth and tenth grade PE classes were going terribly, the 9th grade class, consisting around fifteen boys, in particular.
But in my warped mind, I expected Gary to commiserate with me.
Say “Hang in there,” or something like that, like I would do if the situation were reversed.
But instead, he pulled out a piece of paper and read what seemed to be an endless list of “suggestions” to make things better in those two PE classes.
As I write this over a decade later, I completely recognize that Gary was only trying to do his duty as a supervisor.
But back then, here’s what my mind was telling me as he was saying what he was saying:
“This guy’s viciously insulting your intelligence AND your experience!”
“This dude thinks you suck as a teacher and are an inferior human being – why else would he interact with you like this?”
“Who in the hell does this jerk think he is, talking to me that way?!”
All of which led to feelings of sheer humiliation, which in turn led me to see him as an oppressor and an enemy, especially after I mentioned that I had Asperger’s and should be cut some slack and left alone with the mindset of “Oh, he has Asperger’s so anything he does we ought to overlook (which was wrong, I know now), and he answered in what in my mind was quite the condescending tone,
“Well, regardless…” which I interpreted to mean that he didn’t give a fuck about me as a human being.
I felt he was blatantly disrespecting those twelve years of experience, that because I was a “veteran” who had been through the wars I had more than earned the right to be left alone to run my classes my way and to be seen as a completely equal partner in every possible way.
Which I now understand was wrong to think as I failed to see that teaching special education students is not the same as teaching neurotypical students.
This last excerpt is kind of graphic, as it describes having suicidal thoughts:
It was also one of those times where staff would get those “State of how’re you doing” evaluations, which in my view was nothing but a way for the supervisor to tell you how you sucked or, as they put it, “needed to improve” in certain areas.
Which although I have to be fair and say that he did start by listing my good points – was exactly what Gary was doing that afternoon after all the obligatory BS meetings were done, as we sat in the new workout room which doubled as our new office.
I wish I could tell you the precise things that Gary was telling me, but what happened that mid-winter day was so traumatic that my mind has blocked it out.
Except for when, as my brain was screaming how vicious he was in his criticisms, how it was so insulting on an epic scale he may as well have been calling me a “dumb n-word”, he was emotionally hurting me that much; after I said “I’ll try”, in an attempt to placate Gary and concede defeat, he replied in what I felt was the most viciously condescending, drill-like sergeant-like tone that anyone had ever took with me in my entire work life:
“Don’t try, do it!”
I don’t remember what exactly happened immediately after that exchange, but I do remember what I did for what I believe was the rest of that week: stay home and lie in my bed in a deep depression, wanting to commit suicide.
I know this is such because I saw the school’s principal and Diane*, who I had mentioned as one of the leaders, in the principal’s office upon my return a few days layer and either told them I wanted to kill myself, or had blurted it out to Gary during our confrontation and he told them. Diane even asked me how I would go about “hurting myself”, and I answered,
“You know that bridge over Overland Ave., crossing Ballona Creek? I’d jump off of that.”
Apparently I had given this a little thought as I can recall thinking how I wouldn’t shoot myself because it would be too messy.
The overwhelmingly predominant reason those suicidal thoughts were prevalent in my mind was because I was feeling so hurt, humiliated, and oppressed with a dash of condescension by Gary over what had been five months to that point, that I really felt I needed to hurt someone.
I couldn’t hurt Gary, nor did I want to, because I had no desire to end up in prison as part of the proverbial black male statistic, so that narrowed things down to one person…
* = Pseudonyms, not their real names
A decent illustration of how I was feeling for much of my time in the workforce. Photo courtesy of sg.theasianparent.com