I have been feeling rather uninspired in the blogging department lately. It couldb e the lingerng effects of #Write31Days, the fact that my mind is too unquiet to write, or both. It could be something else entirely. I started to write a post earlier this evening, but deleted it after I went off on a tangent. The post was on my parents’ jobs and aspirations and how my aspirations growing up were different.
My mother worked in administration at a major science institute for 35 years. She started as a data entry assistant or something in 1977 and worked herself up to project management by the time she quit her job in 2011. When she started working for this institute, she had just earned a low-level high school diploma through adult education at the age of 22. She has regretted her entire life that she never got any more education. In spite of this, she worked herself up to a well-paying position where all of her colleagues had college degrees.
My father dropped out of college sometime in the 1970s. He was a physics major for years, but never got beyond the foundation (first-year) certificate, although he did work as a student assistant for a while. After leaving the university, my father worked various jobs and then was a homemaker for years, doing all sorts of community service while caring for my sister and me. It was through a volunteer job at my high school that he found employment in 2000: he was doing computer maintenance on a voluntary basis and got more and more tasks, until he eventually said he was willing to continue his job provided he got paid. He worked as a system administrator for ten years until he too quit his job.
My parents had gone on a very different path through education and employment. My mother was hard-working, always looking to make up for her lack of formal education. My father was more laid-back. Nonetheless, when I spoke to my parents about my own education and my parents’ decisions regarding it, they assured me they had always been on the same page, expecting me to reach my full academic potential.
I never had a good understanding of my mother’s job. In 2006, when I was myself in college, we had to interview someone about their job for communication skills. I assume I did a lousy job at the interview, because I still hardly have a clue what my mother’s project management duties entailed. With regard to my father’s job, I had a greater understanding, but still I find it hard to explain what he did except for fixing my computer when it was broken.
Consequently, I never aspired to become like my parents in terms of employment. I never understood why someone wanted to work in administration and, by the time my father got his job, I had already figured out I didn’t want to work in computers either. The reason I probably never aspired to get one of my parents’ jobs, however, is probably that neither did they. I don’t think that, growing up, my mother wanted to work in administration and computers didn’t exist when my father grew up. My parents are a great example of what my high school student counselor once said: hardly anyone ultimately gets the job they envisioned for themselves at the end of high school. A possible exception are those growing up among generations and generations of doctors or lawyers, and these are not a small group among the students of my high-level high school. However, in today’s era of flexibility in employment, very few people get to become exactly what they aspired to be thirty years on.
I probably already blogged about my childhood aspirations. Like many girls, I gravitated more towards working with people than objects. This turns out to be a common distinction between girls and boys on the autism spectrum, too. While autistic girls, being autistic, do not have good people skills, they do generally have more people-focused (special) interests than do boys.
I suppressed my interest in people-focused jobs for years. This had to do with my being aware of my lack of social skills, but also with the fact that both of my parents gravitate more towards objects than people. Both have a strong dislike for people in the “helping professions”. This could’ve been parlty learned, because the “helping professionas” weren’t all that helpful when I was growing up. However, I learned in school that children develop a preference for people vs. objects early on and this is a strong determiner of later career choices. Like I said, a common misconception about autism is that autistics naturally gravitate more towards objects than people. This is not necessarily true, particularly in autistic girls. Although my parents, both with some autistic traits, fit the stereotype, I do not.