Monday, March 23, 2009

The Future


That damn font just won't stay changed. But I digress...

I guess you have to begin a thought in order to digress but I had lots of thoughts before I started to write so for me it was a digression. You'll catch on shortly.

My writing is mostly about my kids. My kids provide a lot of fodder. They also make me think alot so that's a plus. Other people and their kids make me think alot too. I also tend to read. A lot. I mean scary amounts. My husband has been bugging me to read to "better myself". Now he doesn't mean that in a malicious way. He truly believes in me and truly believes I could be doing more career wise. He is quite enamored of my crazy ability to read and would like me to channel this superpower for the good of all. In his way, it is a compliment. So I've finally started to listen. I've read books on different careers. I've read books on how to find the job that would fit my "renaissance" personality. Honestly, the book was called "The Renaissance Soul". I've read books on how to write. Well, I've taken that one out of the library and flicked through it at least. But the last book I read was quite by accident and has given me some ambition to get moving. It was "How Starbucks Saved My Life" by Michael Gates Gill. Sounds like a pretty catchy title eh ? Think you know what it's about ? I was surprised to find it wasn't what I expected at all. I won't spoil it for you but needless to say, it has impacted my life.

I grew up with a father who defined himself by his job much like the author of the afore mentioned book. Everything was about getting ahead and judging those that didn't. I have therefore never felt completely satisfied in my jobs as they have never given me the prestige or lifestyle I thought I should become accustomed to. My hindrance is that I have this inner need to help people. I love to teach. I love to show people how to do things and get them to be successful. My two years teaching college were some of the most challenging and rewarding working years I've ever had. I loved the job but hated the college. My other inner need is to be honest and conduct my life with integrity. Now I can swear like a trucker and fart like a pony but I will not lie and I will not cheat people. This college wanted me to do both which put an end to my teaching career. Another part was when asked what I did for a living I would say, "I teach the medical office administration program for a college" and I would get looks of admiration. Then I would get asked, "Where do you teach ?" and when I answered those looks changed to looks of "Poor you". That broke it for me. When I got more looks of pity than admiration, I knew it was time to go. Great hours, pretty good money, a chance to teach and change people's lives and this college had to go and be a bunch of low lifes. I see myself as representative of whatever place I work for and when people start associating me with the amoral practices of some pseudo-college, I am done. Most people can suck it up for the bigger picture. They can lay their souls down and barter with the devil if it means a fancier car and snazzy shoes. I cannot. It's the same as when people ask me what I think. My response to them ? "Do you really want to know ?" At least I give them an out before I let loose. Whether they choose to take it or not before it's too late is up to them.

Needless to say, this inner need to teach and be honest does not open a lot of corporate doors for me. I cannot bend my life around any employer who wants me to anything other than what I am. I cannot condone people getting ripped off. I cannot knowingly say to someone, "Yes, you need to lose 10 pounds and shots in the ass with some odd vitamin concoction and starving yourself is the best solution" as I had to do for one job. I lasted there less than two weeks. First job I walked out of and never walked back. Still gives me shivers to see these sorry looking women paying hundreds of dollars when all they had to do was go for a walk.

This puts the progression of my career in a bit of a holding pattern. I look to my future and I don't see a clear path. I don't see "the job" that I just have to do for the rest of my life. The thought of doing one job for the rest of my life just makes me queasy. Even teaching, which I love, would have to change and evolve in order for me to stay focused and involved. I need to switch it up.

Now as my kids are the reason I started writing in the first place, I cannot completely leave them out for my future involves them. My future, short term anyway, is helping them find their future. I often wonder about the amount of time my husband has had to waste finding his path because his parents couldn't get it together and help their kid sort himself out. Apparently kicking him to the curb at 16 seemed a reasonable solution. That's a whole other chapter right there. Had they actually pulled their heads out of their behinds and taken a look at this kid, he might be so much further along. Instead, he has to get married to a wife who won't back down from nothin' for no one in order to feel supported enough to go back to school. My husband's future is starting to look pretty bright. At 41, he has been an apprentice millwright for 5 years. It is his calling. This is what he should have been doing from the get go. He is able to build just about anything. He is fantastic with his hands (hubba, hubba). He can visualize and construct the weirdest things. This is where he should have been 20 years ago had his parents recognized his potential and supported their son.

This gets me thinking to my kids futures. What do I see them doing ? What are they interested in ? What are their strengths ? What do they need to work on ? Funnily enough, my daughter wants to teach. She comes from a long line of teachers on both sides of my family. We won't get into my husband's family - that's a whole other book. My son wants to do something with kids or cars. Mostly he wants to be a dad but as that doesn't pay well, we are trying to get him to broaden his scope. He has many possiblities but tends to like building things. He is also good with his hands and seems to like the ladies so he may have his own wife one day who can give him the "hubba hubba" complliment.

It is our job as parents to monitor our kids and support their present in order to secure their future. It is our job to expose them to different ideas and different experiences in order to give them a diverse frame of reference for career choices. It is our job to talk to our kids about the importance of school. It is our job to talk to them about the realities of running a house. It is our job to explain what happens if you don't have a good enough job to support that household because you didn't go to school. We have taken the time to discuss with them where they see themselves career wise and what they want for their future. I'm hopeful that they will see us as a resource on their career path rather than an obstacle to be over come.

This brings me to my digression. I have been thinking alot about writing as a career. I think I write quite decently. The odd spelling mistake and questionable grammar are unavoidable but overall I have a unique perspective on life that apparently most people don't share but do appreciate. My current boss, who is fabulous and likes me just the way I am (well mostly) tells me she appreciates my unique perspective and reassures me that it brings a wonderful quirky element to the office. I believe that is PC for "You are a bit freaky but we like you all the same". This has caused me to start looking at my career path and wondering do I continue to follow the current trail of bread crumbs or get off the trail, bake my own damn bread and drop my own crumbs where I want ? Do I continue to take jobs because they present themselves or recognize that I have some control over where I end up ?
Michael Gates Gill undergoes a monumental shift in his career, life and thought processes through no fault of his own during his story. While he has not control, he takes his experience and grows from it and accepts that his future isn't what he thought it would be. He finds that it's better. I don't want to wait until I am unexpectedly forced to write. I want to be able to start to do it and make some sort of a living at it. I want some control over my future and what it will bring to me. The question is, which path do I follow to find my future ? The one I am on or the one I make ?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is it MY turn yet ?


I've spent the last 10 years or so doing stuff for other people. Ok - actually more like 20 but we'll focus on the kid years as they tend to be more obvious suckers of life. I love my children completely but as my grey hairs will attest, they wear me out. I also have a small issue with guilt about being "selfish". Having said that, if you encroach on what I consider "me time", I will get very pissy. This usually involves reading which does not require me to leave the house. The problem is - my children expect me to be around all the time. They expect me to be at their beck and call. When I take time to go to a weekend conference or out for a night, I get guilt. I get grief. I get crap. My response is usually - hey now, what do I do for myself ? They can't usually come up with an answer but that doesn't seem to matter. If my fella and I go out for a night with friends, we are evil incarnate and abandoning our offspring. This though we leave them with movies, gummies and kisses. Ugh. So sad.

Now that brings up another point. Am I somehow adding to this situation by not going out more ? My husband doesn't mind. In fact he encourages it. He recognizes far better than I do that I need time out by myself. Yet when I want to go, I want them with me. Ugh. So sad. I love being with my family. They make me feel safe. I also can feel guilty if I go without them. Ugh. So sad. I've also had to put a lot of things on hold for my husband although not because he has asked me to. His apprenticeship training has been the main focus of our lives for the past four years. It is the ticket to a relatively secure future. It gives him a feeling of security and confidence which is worth every night of staying in. I am proud of him and will continue to support him as long as he needs it. Having said that, there had best be some kind of sparkly thing at the end of this adventure and I don't mean some knock off cubic zirconia.

My children get to go out. They get to have adventures. They get to go to their friends houses and play and yuck it up. I don't guilt them or give them crap. Hell, I drive them and wave nicely ! Why can't I be allowed to go play with my friends and not feel like Mommy Dearest ? Ugh. So sad.

So that brings me to the title of this little constructive catharthis. When will it be my turn ? When can I stop giving up my life to accomodate school and guides and scouts and whatever else needs to be done. When will I be able to go out and not feel bad that I'm not doing something for someone else ? Quite frankly a little foot stomping full out tantrum might be in order. Ugh. So sad.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

He Looks Me in the Eye

I keep looking for info to understand my boy. I've read the technical books. I've signed up for websites. I've attended the Walk for Autism. I've traded emails with a parent whose child was suspected of having Aspergers. But so far none of these methods has offered an insight to how my son functions. How he feels about things. How he might perceive the world. Then I read John Robison's book "Look Me in the Eye". The title immediately caught my attention as we had spent years saying the same thing to Thomas accompanied by two fingers directed at our eyes so he had a visual. Initially, we just thought he was being rude when he wouldn't look at us. We thought we were raising him properly. As Mr. Robison alludes to in his book, people who don't look you in the eye are generally perceived as shifty or up to no good. Seeing how we started our little "eye training" at the age of 1 1/2 or so, it's doubtful Thomas was up to serious trouble. However, the fear of him growing up to be a future juvenile offender was in the back of our minds.

Since then, I have learned that this was Thomas' way to cope with stimulus. We joke now that we were inadvertently engaging in IB therapy before we even knew we needed it. He does, however, now for the most part look people in the eye when he meets them and during conversations. He has to gaze avoid now and then but hell, so do I depending on who I'm speaking to and the state of their breath.

My son is easier to speak to now. He can express more about how he is feeling or how someone makes him feel. He is quite expressive and is free from the monotone, inflexionless voice that can characterize most Asperger people. He is funny. He loves to tell jokes although the ones he makes up are for his sense of humor only. He loves to tell stories about his day or what he saw on TV. He is very empathetic to all types of situations. I mention these things because before reading Mr. Robison's book, I did not appreciate these characteristics. I did not appreciate that these things can be difficult for most Asperger's to master. I'm hopeful that we have done all we can to help him avoid some of the social pitfalls that Asperger kids can fall into. He gets bullied occasionally. He is perceived as weird or odd by some people. But overall, the feedback is that he is a polite, caring, nice little fella who is welcome in most people's homes. That's more than I can say for some of the little buggers on the playground.

My boy causes stress. My boy causes grey hair. My boy causes shouting and upset. In other words - he is "normal". Whatever that means ....