What It’s Like to Kiss the Sun

You’re probably familiar with my one confession.

I’m actually quite good with interviews.

Almost a year ago, I recounted a bit of an experience where I essentially scaled a wall of five rounds of interviews and beat out a couple hundred candidates. Except one. I’ve made an art of getting as close to victories without being able to take them.

So off I fell that wall, back slamming to the ground and heaving the wind out of me. I was sore in defeat, but over time I found what it was to be resolute.

While I’m not sure how neurotypicals do it, my “autistic strategy” is cycling back into routine deep enough to where I can counteract my other autistic routine of self-talk-immolation: where I don’t revisit the regret and rethink what I should have done, but rather unknowingly dig myself into the futures where I’ve failed.

This past year, I scaled the wall again.

In my career, I tend to balance contentment with opportunism, better recently now. So when an interesting opportunity opened up, I grabbed my hat and tossed it into the ring.

What I didn’t realize was that it’d set off a four month crusade, one in which I’d be contending against several hundred applicants. Without getting too far into the specifics, each meeting carried its little share of joys, reassurances, delights. You know, those little things and answers that make even a pessimist (me!) feel like this was it. These were the doors.

One by one they opened. Different scenarios and tracks made this more and more the right kind of opportunity for H2’s next adventure. This wall took me to greater heights.

Ten interviews total. Talk about putting skills into practice! After that point, I feel like they’d have been sick of me. I even lowkey disclosed my autism! That was a huge first.

But throughout this entire excursion, the many rounds, the many faces, for once I felt peace throughout. No major worries. No gut-wrenching concerns. My autistic-tinged skills and prep seemed to be delivering “the big one” for once.

After the ten interviews, we waited.

And waited.

I was not selected.

In my soul I nodded. My fingers let go that same wall, where I’d climbed twice as high as last year. I felt indeed I had kissed the sun and watched it shrink as backwards I fell, bracing my back for that same impact, only more intense, that same breathless feeling of the wind being rushed out of my lungs.

I have made an art of this.

I’ve snapped back, not from being fitter in my old age, but from understanding what it’s like to come this close. Again. These heights are terra firma. I was sad with the heaviness of this long journey that concluded in similar end. And that is OK.

I thought about the comedy of it all, how I have indeed come far, yet feeling it is not far enough. How my interesting path isn’t so much progress, but merely making a long and winding journey of it. How I’m learning that not every good path is the right path.

I thought about my daughters. How we’re ever going to cram them all into one room. Where I’m likely going to have to uproot this office, the place where the journeys begin, and bury it in my basement, like an object lesson — where once this little alcove kissed the sun, but cannot keep trying to climb to such forever. The mounting needs, my futility in expanding the borders, many daunting possibilities.

We don’t quit yet.

For all my prognostication, the hopes were never as I wrote them.

We kissed the sun, fell back to Earth, where that beaming star looks dimmer. But only until the dust settles, when I shake the rest of it off, fix my hair, grab a coffee, and look forward to the next hill — where I’ll aim to do more than touch the light, but find it embracing me back.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, I might not be good at “getting jobs” apparently, but y’know, I interview a lot. These tips may help. And if they don’t, they’re worth a laugh:

The Life Autistic: What Your Coworkers on the Spectrum Want You to Know

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If you work with people, some of them are going to be different. You’ll feel it, sense it, but you might not be able to put a finger on it. Autism doesn’t just scream the kind of difference that anyone would pick up, and chances are, we’re trying hard to mask it.

But we’re concerned about reactions like:

I can’t tell if he’s engaged or not; he’s barely looking at me when we talk.

She gets really frustrated during these brainstorm sessions, so I might have to stop inviting her. 

I don’t know why he feels the need to show off his impressive vocabulary.

We’re pleased with her work, but we don’t know how she’d handle stress like this.

Here’s what your coworkers with autism want you to know:

We love structure

Who doesn’t? If you ask me, people aren’t structured enough! Order is our comfort, so we’re going to feel better in work environments that are run clearly, transparently, where there are predictable cadences. If you throw us in a meeting that’s too long, lacks a clear agenda, and doesn’t have specific actions — we’re not going to enjoy that.

We hate surprises

I’ve told people that I wouldn’t attend my own surprise party, and that’s 100% true. Things happen by surprise, sure, but you can help. If you need to “speak with us” out of the blue, it helps to tell us why. (Don’t: “Hey, can I speak to you for a minute?” Do: “Hey, I wanted to offer you some feedback on that presentation. Can we talk for a minute?) If you’re in a spot to offer context and explain a why, please do!

We don’t hate people

Social interactions are a “high-spend activity” for us. I know — I KNOW — it’s hard to tell if we just “want a friend” to come up to us and save us the trouble of making social effort. Personally? I enjoy that, even if I can’t always summon the energy. Sometimes we can! We’re not sitting off to ourselves because we don’t like you — we’re just careful about our social energy, and it’s hard for us to expend that.

We don’t always see our quirks

Until someone told me that I run my hand through my hair a certain way before making a point, I’d have never known I do that. That’s pretty innocuous. But when it’s using oddly elevated vocabulary, not reacting to something that calls for emotion, or being abrupt in conversations — we’re not trying to be jerks; it might just be quirks.

We care about our work and others, in quiet, different ways

On my latest work trip, I realized that I’m going to be more well-respected than well-liked. That’s ok. It’s a downer, but it’s reality for many of us. We might not be the ones you can go drinking or late-night dining out or enjoy a lot of free time with. Work gives us a framework to show our qualities in a different way: by helping others, sharing our expertise, finding ways to solve problems, or even expressing timely gratitude and lightening tension.

 

 

 

The Life Autistic: How I Survived School

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How did I manage through school?

Easy, I was homeschooled. Next question.

Ok, so there’s a little more to it than that.

Due to a variety of factors that included moving every 2.5 years, cost, flexibility, religious reasons, you name it — most of my schooling ended up being done from the comfort and constraints of my own home.

My parents hadn’t quite cracked the code on my autism yet, but they did find that I took to the setup of this ACE curriculum, something that suited my independence and autodidactic attributes all too well.

“You mean I can just rip through all of this at my own pace? I don’t have to slow down for anyone? SOLD!”

Oh, Hunter, if only you knew.

It explains a lot of where I mined out advantages and ran into disadvantages in The Life Autistic.

Sure, it freed me to flex my skills in almost unimpeded (even if narrow) learning.

But I had to navigate social skills elsewhere.

Would I recommend the experience for others on the spectrum?

It’s hard for me to say.

It would have been nice having friends, even if it meant maybe making enemies.

It’d have been good to learn how to adjust and adapt to others sooner, rather than later.

Perhaps I’d have hated the regular school experience more, but I’d have hit the obstacles then and not later. I might have had a shot at passing as “normal.”

But I didn’t.

I remember the day I finished my last test. I was 16.

That afternoon, I told my boss: “Hey, so I’m like, done with school? Can you flex me up to 40 hours now?”

I was a free man and ready for life.

So I thought.