My One Weird Autistic Interview Trick

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I’m not a quick thinker. But I am a slow thinker.

Yet I’ve found that the quickest thinking in the moment comes from the slowest thinking over many moments.

In college, PL 304 American Government loomed large in the minds of many History and Political Science majors because of a daunting assignment: the independent study. 

It wasn’t just a study; it was an event. When the day arrived, you had to produce what amounted to an entire novella written from scratch, in class, off the cuff — like writing an entire research paper from start to finish within 45 minutes.

This wasn’t something I’d be able to do well within the confines of the class. So I used the one thing I knew I could do to produce this independent study essay.

Brute force.

In the weeks preceding the “event,” I wrote the entire essay beforehand. All 45 minutes worth. Six times.

After six times, I’d pretty much memorized—via brain, manuscript, and muscle—the entire paper that I’d be asked to produce.

So when the time came, I didn’t have to think on my feet to write out a A-worthy essay. I just used all that slow, laborious thinking and action to recall it on the spot.

That is my interview trick.

I know I’m terrible at interview scenarios. It’s a process not geared for those of us on The Life Autistic. Instant recall of narratives, scenarios, needing to act personable and often formidable in the slices of instants of moments. There are unknowns within unknowns.

It’s hard!

So I prep like a prognosticating, predictive madman, on par with Borgesian characters whose memories would construct entire plays within frozen moments or the turns of leaves on the trees throughout the day.

People love to ask “Tell me about a time when . . .” 

So I write down and speak to all the possible, nigh-infinite times when . . . anything would have happened. All the conversations, failures, learning opportunities, actions, strategies, emergencies.

Anything.

It’s an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting strategy.

But it works.

Even when it comes to the hypotheticals, the “what would you do for . . .”  — that’s all a matter of planning, plotting, speaking to all the scenarios: change management, steering a ship, unfurling a business plan, and then some.

Exhaustive. Exhausting.

Know what else is exhausting for us though?

The quick thinking. The stress. The answers on the fly. Eye contact. Not using big words.

I’ll take the exhaustive approach any day.

I don’t always get every position I interview for. Yet apparently, I do much better than expected? More often than not, I’m getting further than I should be – like a super middleweight somehow holding his own against heavyweights.

And in fact, I just missed a position – where it came down to the final two people out of four hundred people. That’s not a bad achievement!

I brute forced it the best I could. 🙂

 

Don’t Assume, Do Specify – Breakfast with Autism

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When my mom orders a dozen of something through a drive-thru, she’ll say “a dozen [whatevers] . . . TWELVE.” 

That’s all because of one order a long while ago, when my parents ordered a dozen biscuits from a Hardee’s. The cashier paused for a second too long, then asked:

“How many is that?” 

We all laugh. Then I remember.

People kinda have to do similar with me. 

Just the other day, Mrs. H2 asked for

  1. two slices of toast
  2. with homemade jam
  3. that we just got as a gift

Ok, that’s easy. So I

  1. toasted two slices of bread
  2. applied the homemade jam
  3. that we got as a gift

I bring it over. She asks: did you butter this?

Let’s look over items 1, 2, and 3 again.

Toast. Jam. Specifically, the gifted jam. There’s no butter.

“No, I didn’t butter it?”

My best (also breakfast-related mishap) was when I was sent to get “plain old Maple syrup” — here were my options:

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Did I pick the wrong “plain old Maple syrup?”

Of course I did.

This is why The Life Autistic is just hard. There are so many assumed, unspoken specifics we just miss. 

We can try. It’s a learning process, bizarre as it sounds. But in the meantime:

Don’t assume; do specify!

We’re working on this, and it’s ok for y’all to be specific, spelling things out, and making sure you’re coming across as unambiguous. It’ll help!

 

The Next Decade in Autism

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I came across a ranking of someone’s best albums of the decade and realized “Wow, decades are long, and there’s no way I remember all of this.”

It’s the frame with which I’m going into these new Roaring Twenties: If I can barely recall the events of the last ten years, I’m probably not going to predict the next ten years any better.

Ten years ago I’d have guessed I’d be in management, living in a modest home, likely sans kiddos, and writing fiction books.

End of decade: I’m in data (which would SHOCK my math-averse younger self), with two lovely gals and a third kiddo en route, in a home I’ve come to love, and not writing fiction at all (unless you count my wild rural satire ventures).

Guessing and predicting are fools errands — but there’s a better way to play the long game. 

What helped me most the last decade was growth. Growing in skills, understanding, kindness, advocacy, introspection, and transparency. The challenges also grew, but I felt I grew in ways to meet them better.

This next decade, I’m hopeful that The Life Autistic will get better. Not just mine, but those of others.

Not many years ago, an autism diagnosis was considered a death sentence. A grim judgment. A daunting challenge.

I remember a random church visit, meeting a mom who introduced her son, worryingly adding that he had “Asperger’s syndrome.” He must have been five. I could just tell it was at the forefront of her mind, like she needed that out in the open to justify and help explain whatever behaviors he might demonstrate.

I wanted to talk to her, reassure her somehow, assuage that lingering fear that she aired so openly. I didn’t. And I wonder what became of that boy, who seemed nothing but curious and focused and perfectly fine. 

There’s still a long way to go, but kids with autism today have it much better. There’s “awareness” now, so at least it’s in the aether. Organizations offer support. The ripples of empathy have emanated further into the pond of understanding. We’re getting there. 

It’d be awesome for the rest of us—the ones well cloaked, adapted and masked to the rest of the world—to enter and exit this next decade supported, understood, and appreciated even better.

Where our need to decouple isn’t seen as aloof.

Where we can use a big word without being deemed snooty.

Where our occasional directness won’t erase goodwill or be seen as rude.

Where our sensory needs and preferences aren’t onerous to others or detrimental to us.

Where we can stim, flex, and warp in and our of normal and be welcomed back.

Where our difference goes beyond tolerated to celebrated.

Where we can be us, only more so. 

Here’s to where we end up by 2030.