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As an Autistic Person, the things on my mind often stay there or come back over and over again in a circular fashion. This constantly looping collection of thoughts can be helpful (when the topic or problem circled has a solution).
This rumination is my biggest strength (it’s also a curse). When I can’t let go of a problem, my obsessing can help to find a solution. Still, sometimes I find myself ruminating on big problems with no possible solution (in my lifetime). These types of thoughts plague me, occupying space in my mind.
One thought that’s been eating at me for months now is about how many Autistic and other NeuroDivergent People get trapped in poverty and how the lack of access to funding stops so many of us from pursuing hobbies and even career paths that we’d be much happier (and less burned out in).
For example, growing up, I wanted to be either an artist, a musician, or a writer (yes, I know writing and music are art forms), but was discouraged from an early age by adults around me (who had been artists) from becoming an artist.
“You know the term, starving artist, right? They have that phrase for a reason,” one guardian (who likely thought they were looking out for me) said as they crushed my dreams.
More was expected of me… but what? And WHY couldn’t I pursue a career I loved?
“Work’s not supposed to be fun. That’s why they call it work,” another adult told me a few years later.
I spent most of my young and teen years writing, creating stories, telling tales, and making music and art… but in adulthood, all that abruptly stopped when working for other people took over my life.
The things that I loved that recharged and envigorated me became “rewards” I could engage in only after a day’s work (assuming I had the energy, which I often don’t).
Society had ABAed me out of rest and relaxation, making me earn every joy. Even little things (like food and bathroom breaks) became rewards in my mind I had to “earn” by doing work.
Because I’d been told “work wasn’t supposed to be fun,” I kept taking jobs that made me miserable, feeling as if the punishments and misery were rights of passage necessary for the money I earned.
Only years later, when nothing else was available to me, was I forced to try again with my art and writing.
I was laid off from my dream job as VP of Marketing and Organizational Change agent in an AMAZING HR Consulting Firm due to the global pandemic in the fall of 2020.
I discovered a surprising and painful truth when I lost my dream job (through no fault of my own)- actually, two truths.
Potential employers are Googling potential candidates and looking at their social media activity.
I know this because I was instructed to Google, dig up dirt on, and review candidates’ social media accounts in my previous role as a recruiter (even if the job applicant didn’t provide these links to us).
Anything “surprising” or “questionable” or that “might make our org look bad” or even anything “notable” was a flag for someone higher up than me to “review” a candidate before they could move forward with the interview process.
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Back then, it never occurred to me that being openly NeuroDivergence could be a flag.
The first hard truth I learned is that I cannot take back all the personal information I’ve shared online with the public. As someone with a recruiting background, I knew this but didn’t fully understand the consequences of the types of content and posts I was making online.
Almost seven years ago, I was still blissfully naive in thinking that being Openly Autistic (in every way) was the way to go.
Now I know there are MANY reasons why it may be safer for Autistics and other NeuroDivergent humans to keep their NeuroTypes to themselves.
Living openly and out as a NeuroDivergent Person is risky, and not everyone can (or should) take the same risks I’ve taken.
For the rest of my life, potential employers will Google me, find my social media page (or articles written about me or podcasts and shows I’ve been a guest on), and know that I am Autistic, ADHD, and trans before they even meet me.
Once this happens, my humanity is overlooked, and I am not seen. I’m lost in stereotypes about people like me, disallowed the opportunity to stand on my own as a person.