Monday, January 25, 2010

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Ten years ago today, I returned from Beijing, where I'd taught for the fall and winter. (The food is great, but don't drink the water and don't breathe the air! And do bring your rain and winter gear.)

This was the first full-time job I'd ever had that required so much as a college degree. And I fouled it up seriously...I only realized how seriously in the weeks and months to come.

In the year 2000, I first learned how much my personality problems could cost me. Suffice it to say for now that it eventually became clear I would probably never again work full-time in the field I had studied (Economics).

I tried to come to terms with why - and how - I was having so much difficulty getting along with people and why I kept getting rejected, especially in jobs. Not knowing (as opposed to conjecturing based on projecting my own motivations) just how most people actually operate, I worked from a very bad map...and my efforts to make the terrain conform to the map of course came to nothing.

Only three years later, when Emily first told me about AS, did I have any idea that I was in effect trying to drive an English car (with the steering wheel on the right-hand side, made for driving on the left side of the road) on American roads (where you drive in cars with steering wheels on the left-hand side, on the right side of the road).

AS destroys relationships in such a way that the Aspie - without already knowing s/he is one - does not know what's going on or even that s/he sees the world very differently from others. Other people, frustrated at his/her seeming inability to empathize with others, to "get" things without being told or to use tact, blow up at the Aspie and accuse him/her of being lazy, rude, even sociopathic. Meanwhile, since the Aspies doesn't know what is going on, and only sees people blowing up with little apparent (to him/her) rhyme or reason, may come to think the world is a hostile place, full of irrational people.

Knowing and acknowledging, at first to yourself, that you're an Aspie is the all-important first step to reversing this vicious pattern.

What do you think?


Mama Coyote said...

*giggle* What does one breathe in Beijing?

Your paragraph on how AS destroys relationships is pretty awesome, and I know at least one Aspie I wish would understand and internalize that information.

Although I hope that other Aspies can believe as I do that /we are not bad/, we are not broken, we are not sick. We are just different from NTs, as they are different from us. All of us need coping mechanisms.

Corrie Howe said...

I'm glad that you were able to discover this. It is a very brave thing to start looking at ourselves to see how we might be part of the problem.

I'm glad that we were able to find out about Jonathan so young so that we can work on these things with him.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Mama Coyote,

I think *cough* *cough* *choke* reflects the Beijing experience a bit better. =|8-}

In answer to your question: Coal dust, fumes, maybe some fecal particles. Once in a while it gets tainted with oxygen.

You know those pictures of Chinese wearing surgical masks during the SARS epidemic? Well, that had nothing to do with SARS - people wore them when I was there back in 1999 and 2000, and now you know why.

You are absolutely right in that everyone needs coping mechanisms. Among other things we (that is, all of us) need to cope well with other people's common coping mechanisms.

(Arguably, cultures and systems of etiquette are ways to harmonize people's coping mechanisms as well as possible, at least within a given workplace, locale, country, etc.)


Please give Jonathan my best wishes; my fingers are crossed for him.

Jeff Deutsch

Jackie Savi-Cannon said...

I took a candid view of your blog and took particular interest in what you stated. That you saw the world differently and was not able to adjust and those around you found life difficult as well.

We find that the more we learn about our condition we are able to adapt and so can the people around us with the right information