Autism, Work & Me – Part Two: The Search for Something to Do (Almost)

On Thursday afternoon, 2nd of June 1977, around 3.30pm, I finished my History O’ Level exam and I finally, officially, left school. I had pretty much stopped attending a month or so earlier as lessons had finished for exam preparation, but I was contractually obliged to take this final exam. In a few weeks’ time I would receive an official letter telling me that my academic endeavours had not been in vain. What I actually received, a few weeks later, was an official letter that revealed that my academic endeavours were, in fact, overwhelmingly underwhelming.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I left the exam hall and the school grounds for the last time. If there was something, I didn’t see it; there was no school leaving party, there was nobody there to say goodbye or shake my hand and offer me some advice for the post schooldays ahead. For some time now there had been around me a fog of unknowing and I was left uncertain as to what to do next and the final goodbye seemed empty and, if anything, it was an anticlimax. 

An ardent desire, a strongly held vision both past and present, at times like these, had been to be met with a Divine intervention; someone or something to appear before me and with Immaculate Love, assist me by salving the constant background pulse of fear and distress; but like ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’, it never comes. However, by way of compensation, Paul McCartney’s Beatles song, Let It Be, seemed an appropriate soundtrack,

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be, let it be.’

But in the end, to be honest, it was just bollocks.

As mentioned previously I had no idea about what to do. This nebulous thing called work loomed even though I had no sense of where my destiny lay or what steps to take, even if I had known.  My psychic landscape had been shifting recently. The semblance of permanence that was the routine of school days, with no cares or worries, that gave me a sense of stability was changing. School friends, elemental, we’re moving out of my purview. A cloud obscured any attempt to move forward, the days ahead seemed to be without substance.

Also changing was my musical outlook. The relative safety of the pre-existing rock music that I’d been listening to was being usurped by Punk Rock. Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols was seemingly apt and, though flying in the face of my undiagnosed autism, Something Better Change by The Stranglers was a massive head rush and was beginning to make a charge up the charts. I was drawn in but, though exhilarating, Punk’s turbulence foreshadowed the days and weeks to come; the existing status of rock music was headed by the king, Elvis Presley. At that moment in time, Elvis had but a few weeks left to live. 

Elvis’s death, had he but known it, was something of a symbol of my changing times; similarly, I was all shook up.

Part Two Commentary:

Dr. Luke Beardon, in his book, Autism in Adults suggests the following formula for better living: Increased stability -> Reduced stress/anxiety -> A happier person.

Stability can have a level of consistency in times of change only when change is minimal or if the change is managed well. But what of the major change or transition that come with life-shifting moments such as leaving school to go to work? How could we manage that for and individual with autism? What systems need to be in place so as to minimise the change’s affect on the individual’s perception of stability?

Next time, in Part Three of The Accidental Achiever: The Search Really Begins

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