I haven’t been spending as much time on this as I’ve been wanting to. I have a lot on my mind that I’d like to read and work through here but I started a new job recently. I am really excited about it! It’s my first real leadership role where I will be single-handedly responsible for all of the strategic planning and execution for an entire function. It’s the work I’ve been doing for the last ten years of my career and I can’t describe the relief I feel at having found a position where my job is to essentially show up and be myself. How many times have I fantasized about how I would do things if I were the one making the decisions? And now I have my chance! But underneath the excitement is a not insignificant tension that’s already wearing on me.
Aside from my doubts at my ability to be organized and motivated enough to keep track of everything I need to get done, plan out how it’s going to get done, and then actually do it, I’m finding the interpersonal communication really exhausting. The culture here isn’t want I’m used to. The industry necessitates some work to be done in person so they’ve been slower to adopt some of the technology I’m used to across the board, specifically around working remotely. In short, everything is done in person. At first I was excited to be leaving my house again, after working from home for the last two and a half years. The lines between work and home became too blurred for my liking and as someone who was already prone to procrastination and executive dysfunction, I was really looking forward to the structure of having somewhere to be. Sometimes half the battle is having accountability outside of myself to actually bring my physical body to a different location. And so far that part has been really great, but I’m also exhausted.
I start my day already anxious because my work station is in a different part of the building than the rest of my department so I imagine I should be stopping in to see the team at some point but I’m not sure when. So I have been getting settled in and then stopping in to see them shortly after, which feels fine, although I do find myself standing around awkwardly not really sure what to do with myself.
Then the conversations are stressful. Two of my new coworkers aren’t very expressive so I can never tell how I’m coming across. I am trying to share enough about myself so they can get to know me but trying really hard not to overshare and not really sure even where that line is. When I was younger and a little more naive, I would say I’m an open book and not hesitate to share any number of personal details if they were relevant to the conversation. I’ve since learned that there’s almost a sequence information has to be shared for people to be comfortable. Some things are safe to share but just not too early in the relationship or before other “foundational knowledge” is shared. I’m also trying to be warm but not insincere and making sure the pitch of my voice is not too monotonous and laughing a lot and then wondering if I am laughing too much or if I’m laughing at things that aren’t actually funny. And then I’m trying to make sure I’m translating my thoughts into the corporate words they’re used to hearing but then I have to check in with them to make sure I actually understand what the words they’re saying mean because while I understand the concepts, I can get lost if the conversation is too indirect or abstract. And I’m also thinking about what my body is doing. My undershirt is too long and keeps bunching up around the waist band and my button-up keeps coming untucked. My feet start to get sore if I have to wear the same shoes for too long and sometimes my ankles and lower legs get kind of a headache feeling if I have to wear socks for too long. And I’m trying to be comfortable while seeming natural and leaning in and not doing anything strange or off-putting with my hands and I am just so tired.
So then I come home and all day I’ve been thinking “oh I can’t wait to tell my boyfriend about this” and when I see him I just feel annoyed because I can’t think of any of the things I wanted to tell him and even saying hello and asking about his day just seems like so much work and I feel awful that I am not giving him the attention and affirmation he deserves and I worry I’m too cold and I wonder if he wonders about me. And I can sit here for half an hour and type all these words out about my experience and my feelings but as soon as I start to speak I run out of steam.
Part of me, the part who’s spent hours watching autistic people on TikTok describe their experiences which sound so familiar, thinks that this is related to my self-diagnosed-but-questioning autism and maybe I need to seek out accommodations for other modes of communication, which would basically entail an entire culture shift at this organization, not to mention contrary to my new boss’s vision for my role. Then there’s a part of me that wonders if everything I think is neurodivergence is just trauma. I know there’s a co-morbidity but what if, for me, there isn’t? What if I just want to be autistic because it makes me special in some way and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted, right? To be special? What if all of this is made up and, just like a muscle, the more I socialize with these lovely people whom I really like and appreciate so far, maybe it will get easier over time.
Here’s my brain wanting to throw things into an either/or binary when things aren’t that cut and dry. Autism is a spectrum and logically it’s likely I’m somewhere on that spectrum. Having to communicate with these people will probably get easier and less stressful as time goes on and we get to know each other more and I can worry less on how I’m coming across and just be myself. And maybe I do have a quota for the amount of speaking I can do in a day, like the “spoons” described in the disabled and chronically ill community. I just don’t know. It could be any of that or none of it. All I know is I’m tired and I think my relationship is in trouble unless I can figure out how to keep showing up when it feels like so much work.