I thought that I’d take a moment during all of this chaos that is, generally, just life- to reminisce and reflect on a time where I loved being a working aspie. On
this mission of finding something that shone out to me in all its happy, melt in the middle- kinda warm feeling- glorious way, I realised that I very rarely sit and reflect on the super happy stuff, so it was quite the experience to process my thoughts.. But here it is!
For a beautiful while I had the incredible opportunity to work for a huge charitable organisation within the tourist attraction sector, with land and historical sites all over the UK. Most of their employees were volunteers, and in this particular place they only had 47 paid employees.. And I was so happy to be one of them!! Ecstatic! I’d been visiting this place as a customer since I was a teeny tot in a baby carrier on my dad’s back, and I absolutely love it in so many ways, so in its own way, I applied for the position quicker than I cook my toast (and I like mine undercooked), and it was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. Well let’s forget about the whole interview and acceptance process because to be honest, it was long-winded and FULL of anxiety, but then along came my first day.
I walked in there with a false appearance of confidence, I’d entirely forgotten the names and faces of the people I was meant to meet, but luckily I can pull of an excellent ‘confused young girl’ at the front entrance who made all the calls and had me greeted in a way that I didn’t embarrass myself (thanks to that lady!). My role included letting people into the attraction, amongst many other things (including being Santa’s reindeer at Christmas) and so I thought ‘yeah, I’ve been here so many times, I know it well’, but behind the scenes, where the customers couldn’t go? Boy, was I overwhelmed.
My supervisor I’d just met took me to a back entrance, there was a code for the door (complete gibberish) that ~apparently~ didn’t matter if you push the door in a certain way, there were solid wood doors in every direction with no signage whatsoever, spindly staircases that all looked the same; you literally couldn’t tell an apartment entrance or staffroom door from a direct entrance to a public exhibit. She yabbered on about directions and tips about dodgy stairs and this and that and the other, I just laughed and said “I won’t remember any of this, don’t worry” and she thought ‘haha of course” but little did she know I wasn’t exaggerating.. My next shift I waltzed in, got to the door and froze, luckily an employee opened the door for me upon passing and pointed me to the office on my immediate right (or wherever he pointed), and I was good from there. However when my lunch break came along I was pointed in a direction I hadn’t gone before. My hands started to sweat, I felt my heart thumping, my itchy hives on my neck surfaced, I was honestly just walking from brown dusty door to brown dusty door for at least half an hour. At some point I gave up, I wasn’t going to find my bag in time to eat my lunch, and I certainly couldn’t make myself a cuppa, so I stumbled towards the gathering of voices that found me in the office. My manager was horrified by the state of me and as I explained my little situation she said “OH my goodness Jess! I had no idea! You poor thing, would you like to take another break?” but my work ethic is just too good to abandon my duties like that.
Anyway, so this horrendous experience is actually what changed my whole role for the better! It was like magic, after this nearly every member of staff I crossed was asking if I needed directions, and guess what? I did!
So I arrive for my next shift, pop my bags in the office under my supervisor's desk (she suggested so that she could always grab them for me), and get to work.
When my break came along I asked a volunteer to take me to the office, where my supervisor actually offered me the room to take my lunch break! I said I’d rather be alone in the private (much lesser-known) staffroom on the top floor where any normal person would not hike just for a cuppa- unlike me! She actually put her computer on standby and said she’d walk me directly there, and we actually had an excellent chat on the way; we discussed my Asperger’s Diagnosis, how the job was going, any queries I had, etc, and it felt so nice to be able to discuss these things with an employer like I never had been able to do so comfortably ever before. She learned a whole lot more about me then too.
By having this basic kindness and understanding on her part and my ability to comprehend my own needs (which can be difficult for all of us at times) and seek that help out from the people around me- although it was scary and I was fearful of repeating the bad experience- I was then able to feel calm and comfortable in my working environment, I was able to eat my egg-mayo sandwich and sip on my super milky/kinda cold cup of tea, and even feel accepted by another human being (GO me!), and then return to finish my shift in a much better, well-rested and content state.
Never underestimate the difference that listening to your own needs and comforts and acting on them can make to your endeavours- whether that’s at work, at home, or even while travelling! Remember, it’s a continuous journey of learning and that can never be a bad thing 💛