I decided to leave school at the first chance I got. I was 16 years old and my first job was working in an office, doing basic office type things, I won’t bore you with the details. You might be thinking why I would choose such a job if I don’t like being around people and have trouble socialising and you'd be right to do so. When I think back now it sounds crazy that I would ever choose such a job but at that age I still didn’t know myself very well and I was trying different things hoping to fit in somewhere. I had become obsessed with computers during high school and had a vague idea that I was gonna carve out a career in the tech industry. I lasted less that a year in this office, I could tell that my colleagues were nice people and I really wanted to fit in, but I never did. There was just too many people and personalities that I struggled to engage with. The friendly but sarcastic guy from accounts who would always be cracking jokes some of which I got and others that went over my head. Sarcastic people make me nervous, even though I can identify when someone is being sarcastic, or at least most of the time, I find it impossible to converse with them in any way other than nodding in agreement with what they have said and giving a small chuckle, actually this is my standard response to anybody when they chat to me. Or walking into the sales office with 20 people all looking up at me as I enter. I hate being the centre of attention. I could never figure out the office etiquette of entering an office either. Do you knock the door before entering the office? Do you knock the door and wait for a response before entering the office? I suspect this is wrong but if you don’t need to wait for a response then why knock at all, why not just enter, what difference does it make. I also lived in fear of the telephone, I can really only use the telephone if I know the person on the other end of the line, like a friend or family member, as I know the kind of things they would say and how to respond to them but in an office I was expected to answer the phone to whomever, as well as greet them with an announcement of my name. I know it’s weird but I have always felt awkward using my own name.
I never managed to hold a job for very long, a year to 18 months being the average, so as you can imagine I’ve had a lot of jobs and a few periods of unemployment. The most common reason I would leave a job was because of the stress. Now I know all jobs are stressful, stress is practically what defines work but I seemed to get stressed at all the wrong things. As a 17 year old I worked in retail and I would get stressed because I needed to speak to customers. I’ve always had a fear that people are going to shout at me if I cant understand what they mean when they ask me something. So I lasted about a year in there mostly working before the store opened and therefore avoiding the customers. It’s worth saying that, up until this point in my life, even with all the social issues I’ve been describing, I never once considered that there was anything wrong with me, I just assumed I wasn't very good at that sort of thing. I was envious of my peers who seemed to take socialising in there stride, even enjoying it. I thought my social confidence would grow as I got older and I would pick up the skills as I went along, but as the years went on my confidence dropped and it actually seemed to get more difficult.
I was still optimistic about my future, I just figured I hadn’t found anything I was good at yet, I had only just turned17 after all, so after that I applied to joined the Army. I wanted to train as a mechanic which was probably the first time I realised that I wanted a job I could do on my own and not have the need to work with customers but as you might have guessed the Army was not for me. I actually didn’t even make it into the Army, I made it half way through the training before I quit. I can’t blame my failure solely on AS of course, maybe I just wasn’t Army material. I almost never made it to basic training at all as I failed the pre-entry selection test which was a surprise as it had been described to me as being idiot proof. As far as I remember it was basic maths and logic questions, I tried to get the best score I could as it determined what type of job I could do, my mistake was taking to much time on the difficult questions, as time is a factor in the final score, I failed. After realising my mistake I retook the test and got a really good score. My memories of this time are mostly about the other recruits, it was like being back in school all over again. Instead of getting to know these guys, all I could do was watch and be utterly bemused by some of their behaviours. There were guys from all over the world who were trying to join the Army, most of them were from England, there were a few Scots and several from various Common Wealth countries – all of them full of youthful bravado. I’ve always seen bravado to be very transparent, it’s essentially a lie, and I’ve got no time for people who are not presenting themselves honestly. There was about 30 or 40 of us at the beginning all in one dorm which was miserable, thankfully there was a shortage of beds and we spilled over into a second dorm and I ended up sharing it with just 4 other people. If this hadn’t happened I don’t think I would have lasted a week. Most of our time was spent doing physical training but when we had some down time I struggled to have any meaningful conversations with anybody. I chose to study mechanics because I found the internal combustion engine to be fascinating, the timing of all the moving parts working in synchronicity was very interesting to me, and I would have been happy to talk about that but it seemed that most of these guys hadn’t put much thought into why they wanted to study mechanics other that the association with fast cars, which I wasn’t really interested in talking about. It was a very frustrating time, surrounded by people but feeling very much alone.
After I was finished with the Army, I did many part time and full time jobs, with all the same issues arising at some point. After about a year in any one job, I would start looking for excuses to quit, it was just exhausting dealing with the stress and anxiety 5 days a week, and looking into the future would make me depressed. The easiest thing for me to do was always to enrol in a college course, this was the only acceptable reason to give to my parents to quit a job. I found college courses easier than school for some reason, it just seemed easier to keep to my self and do my work. But college is expensive and inevitability I would need to find a full time job at the end of each year. I knew that I needed to find a job that didn’t require much social interaction and that’s why I eventually became a truck driver. Truck driving seemed at first to be the answer to all my problems, I would spend most of my days behind the wheel and so I didn’t need to worry much about talking with and getting to know people but this is when other problems started to arise, problems that I hadn’t noticed before.
Generally I like to have well defined rules and boundaries, I like to know what my job is and what my responsibilities are; I like for every day to be the same. I dislike it when these things change, it’s just very annoying, in-fact it’s more than annoying, it’s scary, I feel lost and powerless. Truck driving seemed to offer this stability and repetitiveness as there are legally only so many hours you can drive on the roads and there are only so many hours you can work in a day and there is only so much weight you can carry on the back of the trailer. I however, found driving so very stressful because what I hadn’t considered was that most companies like to push these boundaries. If the maximum amount of driving I’m aloud to do in any one day is 9 hours, then being asked to push beyond 9 hours, even by a few minutes, is very annoying. I really don’t like breaking rules. I keep using the word annoying, but this is only because I don’t really have the proper word for how I feel in these situations but it’s much more that just being annoyed. I’m a stickler for rules and when I'm asked to break them, it hurts. I also remember a few times when I would get very frustrated at road signs as they made no sense to me. I would follow the instructions on the signs very literally and they would take me in circles before i realised my mistake. One time when following directions I had received on the telephone, I was asked to take the first turn off a roundabout, which was just a farm road, needless to say my boss was annoyed as I drove up the farm road instead of taking what apparently was the obvious road. It wasn’t obvious to me, the direction was to take the first turn off the round about. Why say take the first turn when it was actually the second turn I was supposed to take? I used to have an almost perfect truck driving job, I would do the same deliveries everyday. But every now and then I would be told things have changed and I would need to cover a different area and do deliveries that I had never done before. I lived in fear of this on a daily basis, it would destroy my whole day because I would never know if the next delivery was going to go smoothly or if it was going to be a nightmare.
Do I have Asperger Syndrome
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Undiagnosed - Part Two