Years from now an interviewer will ask me about the humble beginnings of my blog. I’ll tell her how it all began back in 2020, during the Coronavirus outbreak. She’ll comment on the oddity of having started a path that fundamentally required travel and getting into unfamiliar situations during a time when everyone was being told to stay home.
“Well,” I’ll say. “It was always going to be a leap of faith. I guess the universe wanted to make sure I was really committed.”
“I’ll bet it was a strange time,” she’ll say.
“No,” I’ll respond. “But it was definitely WEIRD!”
COVID-19 is affecting everyone, and it’s creating some truly weird situations. Stores are out of hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol, toilet paper, even milk and aloe gel. Amazon, the king of mega-stores, has a wait list for these things. Everywhere you look click-baiting, so-called “news” sources are psychologically profiteering from fear. So, the first thing I want to say is, relax. Relax doesn’t mean get complacent, it just means don’t freak out every time the infection numbers jump.
Don’t rely on news websites, YouTube channels, etc. They have agendas and their number one priority is to get clicks and views, this blog included. That’s why I’m not going to go on at length about COVID-19 – I’m just not qualified to do so. The only advice I’ll to give is to stick to good sources, such as the four listed below. You’ll stay informed without all the fear mongering and anxiety profiteering. I’m in the United States, which is why they are U.S. centric.
- The US Center for Disease Control
- The World Health Organization
- Individual State Health Departments
- The Mayo Clinic
That’s my PSA. Now, let’s get to the blog.
Making things has always been a passion of mine. I’ve recently been making boxes for tarot cards and decorating them using pyrography. Pyrography (wood burning) is such a beautiful artform. Personally, I enjoy making simple designs – which may also be a function of my skill level – but the works of some experts are just amazing, almost photographic.
It’s not uncommon for autistics to enjoy some form of art and/or craft. Assembling something whether it’s a drawing, an engine or what have you, is often extremely calming and allows the autistic mind to hyper-focus without the stigma associated with “zoning out” or “daydreaming”. It’s entirely natural for an autistic to hyper-focus. But doing so has long been considered a negative aspect of autism, something to be “treated”.
Recently, forward-thinking companies have begun to recognize the intrinsic value of employees who can hyper-focus. The quality control industry especially has recognized the potential of autistics. Unfortunately, there are NTs who think it’s their job to tell businesses that they shouldn’t “take advantage” of autistics for profit. While I prefer to think that these protestations on our behalf are well-intentioned, they are not required or even asked for.
Let me tell you a story.
Decades ago, there was a popular form of entertainment called the traveling freak show. Essentially, a freak show was exactly what the name implies. People with some form of physical deformity, conjoined twins, dwarfism, something that made them abnormal, were put on display to be gawked at by the paying public. Sounds terrible, right?
So, a bunch of “normals” began protesting the freak shows, petitioning to have them banned. And it worked. Freak shows across the country were told they could no longer exist. But here’s the rub. While of course there were exceptions, the majority of freak show owners treated their stars reasonably well, at least as well as any other employee, providing a home, a community and gainful employment for people who otherwise had nowhere else to go.
While the good-hearted normals enjoyed their warm, fuzzy feeling of having “helped” the poor weirdos, they never bothered to come up with an alternative form of employment for them. Most of the former freaks simply couldn’t do a normal job, either because they were physically unable, or because none of the normals would hire them. What happened to these “rescued” weirdos? Most became homeless, ended up in asylums or prisons, and died alone, abandoned and forgotten.
The situation may not be exactly the same, but the moral of the story is this – autistics are more than just a cause for good-hearted NTs to get behind. We’re people. We have faces and dreams and goals and hopes. Sometimes, if we’re very fortunate, we find a way to transform our autism into something useful, like I’m trying to do with this blog.
But such a confluence of circumstances occurs so rarely that it can be like trying to win the lottery. If I am very, very lucky it will still likely be years before I can actually make a living as a blogger. If it weren’t for my wonderful NT wife, I don’t even know where I’d be. Probably just another forgotten and abandoned weirdo, homeless or in an institution. So, if a company is willing to employ autistics because they are autistic instead of in spite of it, don’t take that away from us.
Speaking of my wife, she is going to be working from home for the next few weeks on orders from her employer. Lots of people have been ordered to do the same. For decades companies have been slowly moving away from the physical office model toward a tech-assisted system in which people work in relative isolation from the comfort of their homes. Do you think that COVID-19 will be the thing that finally tips the balance? Will we become a majority telecommute economy? Even more interestingly, will NTs have to adapt toward a more autistic way of thinking? How weird would that be? If you’re an NT and you find yourself having to suddenly handle a new work paradigm, just remember…
EMBRACE YOUR WEIRD!