Before I begin, this particular post is about two nearly completely separate topics, though one bleeds into the other. The first half is about a particular issue I struggle with when it comes to communication, mostly due to my autism, and how you can better understand and help both me and people like me express themselves. The second part is a more general life lament venting session. I don’t blame you if you skip that part, but at least read the first bit: it’s important!
Recently I’ve been feeling…let’s say…a bit down. As a result, at a recent get-together I was a bit quieter than usual. One person noticed, and, a few days later, called me up to see if I was feeling OK. This was a conversation I was not anticipating, however, and my brain decided to short-circuit, saying at first that I was just tired. This was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth. The whole truth was complicated, messy, and had to be extremely carefully worded in order to get across exactly what my issues have been recently. I tried making a few stabs at explaining myself, but before I could really get a conversation going, I was cut off with, essentially, “Well, you know how to contact me if you need help. Bye!”
This past Saturday I turned 40. Usually this is a time for people to take a moment and reflect on their life, where they’ve been and where they want to go, that sort of thing. I’ve already mostly covered the past two decades, however: both my 20’s and my 30’s (mostly; offset by two years, but close enough). Funny thing about that last post, however; it was made in January of 2020, and near the end there’s this line:
“Honestly, both these past years have kind of run together, and I don’t know if the next years will be similar, but they very well might be.”
Turns out that, well, 2020 was not similar. Not similar at all. If you’re reading this in the far future then you may not know this, but there was a worldwide pandemic that year that upended most people’s lives, mine included. I got furloughed from Little America Hotel, spent several months indoors trying to figure things out, ended up taking a tech job at Hale Centre Theatre and not returning to the hotel job once they eliminated my position (but they said I could reapply to try to land a job with twice the workload and no pay raise!). I’ve documented the salient points of that journey in recent posts, and I’ve no wish to repeat myself. Long story short: I’m still in financial trouble and am often scrambling to make ends meet, and am working through a whole host of mental health issues on top of it.
While those situations haven’t been resolved yet (and at least the financial one has worsened) since the last time I posted anything here, mentally I feel like I’m doing quite a bit better. I’m not top-notch, granted, but most days are pretty decent. This isn’t really due to anything I’ve decided or done, at least not on my own, but due to a group of friends that has evolved over the past couple of months that has really helped out. I don’t want to mention any of their names here, as I haven’t asked their permission, but I do want to tell the story.
So the job search has not been going too well. I may do a post in the near future about the specifics, but this post will be a little different. I’ll be making a fair amount of references to a certain previous post where I talked about why this blog is called what it is called, so if you haven’t read that (or played the game Celeste) then some of this may not make sense (also there are spoilers for the game), but here we go.
In Celeste there are seven chapters (not counting bonus levels). The final chapter, where the protagonist Madeline has to climb an entire mountain, is long, arduous, and difficult, but at this point she has started to work together with that Part of Her who was antagonistic before, and with them supporting each other they succeed in the end and crest the summit of Mt. Celeste.
In some ways I can relate this particular job search (and honestly, probably a lot of life’s issues) to this Chapter 7 story. It might be long, difficult, and overwhelming at first, but if you take it one step at a time, with enough planning, skill, and perseverance, eventually you’ll prevail and accomplish your goals. Inspiring, right?
Except this whole time I haven’t actually been on Chapter 7, ready to tackle that mountain.
In the last post I covered my current job situation (long story short: if I continue doing what I have been doing for nearly the past two years, I will be out of money before the end of August). So it’s time once again to examine my options and forge a path. But before I do, I need to get one thing off my chest: the main reason I’m doing this in a set of public blog posts is because I live alone. There’s not really anyone I can discuss this with privately (such as a spouse or partner) who is invested enough in my success to put in the effort to make sure I can make the best decision, so I’m hoping that, through the Internet hive mind of people who at least mildly or moderately care, I will reach a good path forward. (And if you don’t at least mildly care, there’s probably not a lot for you here. Here, go read that prosaic post I made years ago about religion. People seemed to like that one.)
To begin, I want to lay out what, as far as I see, are my broad choices going forward. Some of these choices are more plausible than others, if you take into account my current trajectory as well as how difficult it is for me to make long-term changes in my life (thanks, autism) and how much effort it will take to make it happen. These aren’t necessarily exclusive either; making a multi-pronged attack plan will probably be necessary.
Well, here we are again. It’s been nearly two years since my last official post on this subject, and while things have changed quite a bit since then, I’m very nearly back to square one, and it’s once again decision time. In this post and the next one or two (or five; however many it takes) I want to lay out where I’m at career-wise and hopefully come up with a tenable path for the next bit o’ life at least.
Shortly after that last post two years ago I ended up landing a job at a local theater (I’m not going to name it just so Google won’t pick this post up if anyone there searches for it and interprets anything here negatively). I was initially put on the deck crew, but I made it clear then that what I ultimately wanted was a transfer to the audio department. I was told that there were very few openings in that department, but I was free to apply if one ever came up.
At the time I still had a pretty decent nest egg saved up from the unemployment/stimulus packages that had come about thanks to the pandemic, and I figured that with the position at the theater I’d be able to either survive long enough until my previous hotel A/V job opened back up and I could go back there, or I’d get that transfer into the audio department where I wanted to be in the first place. The pay wasn’t great, the work was strictly part-time, and at first I only worked in a swing position (i.e. I filled in for the person working the primary position so they’d have a few shows off per week), but at least it was something related to my field.
And the fact of the matter is that working in live theatrical audio wasn’t just a job, but a fairly ideal career path for me. I’d been doing it off and on ever since fifth grade, when our elementary school did Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and I didn’t want to be an Oompa-Loompa so I passed out microphones instead. It was the degree I was ostensibly pursuing during my time at BYU-Idaho, running a few shows up there and working an internship under Omar Hansen, and the only real reason I didn’t finish that degree is that, well, technically, it didn’t exist (at the time, and possibly still — I haven’t checked — BYU-I only offered theatrical education degrees), and at the time I was still interested in a music degree regardless. I’d also run audio for Hunt Mysteries, Poison Ivy Mysteries, a few various community theatre gigs as well as some light DJ work and probably some other live shows I’ve forgotten about. And that’s not even getting into the studio work I’d done as part of my Media Music/Synthesizer degree and brief stint afterward working at a video marketing group before my sound equipment got stolen.
Plus, you know, nearly ten years of A/V work, specializing as the audio guy in our four-man department at the hotel.
The point is, I think I’ve got a pretty impressive resume when it comes to audio, and I thought that, once they had an opening, I’d be a shoo-in for at least an interview.
It’s Pride Month! Which also means that it’s coming-out time for those who feel comfortable doing so. A few months back I made a post about the start of a journey: discovering I’m on the aromantic spectrum. Since then I’ve been doing research and a whole lot of self-reflection, and while aromantic is certainly a general way to describe me, something more specific and helpful is needed.
Hence, I’d like to declare now that I identify as allo-aro! (Not to be confused with the British sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!) For those of you who have no idea what the heck that is (the term, not the sitcom) and want to learn more, this post is for you! For those of you who just think it sounds like one of those “woke LGBTQIA+ terms” that mean that it’s OK to discriminate against me or those like me because my morality is different from yours or something, this post is not for you! Go stick your head in a bucket of ice water!
Please note: I will be talking somewhat candidly about my sexuality. There won’t be anything explicit or NSFW, but if the subject alone makes you uncomfortable, or you prefer to think of me as some sort of childlike sexless imp, then maybe you should stop here. No judgment. Just think of me as you always have, with the additional fact that you might see me wearing that shirt up there sometimes.
I know that a significant portion of my readers are friends or family members who are LDS. If this applies to you, know that a lot of what I’m going to say does not align with things that that church teaches. Please don’t try to preach to me, or quote scripture or doctrine, or tell me you’ll pray for my soul, or any of that. As I am no longer a member of that faith, it doesn’t apply to me any more, and any attempt to steer the discussion in that direction will be fruitless.
I’m going to be writing this post in a Q&A format. Hopefully this will cover most of the basics, regarding me at least. If you want to know more in general about allo-aros, there are resources online (some of which I’ll be linking to). If you want to know more specifically about my experience, feel free to message me!
This is going to be a long one: I’ve been writing and editing it for basically an entire week! But keep with it; if you read to the end there will be a reward! (No cheating!) So without any further adieu, let’s dive in!
The following is part 3 (of 3) of a series of Facebook posts I made in April 2022 (or at least the second half) as part of Autism Acceptance Month; specifically, the #AutisticComicTakeover hashtag that was trending then. While I didn’t create any comics, I posted a bunch that I found and added my own thoughts to them, and I wanted to keep them in an organized place before they were consigned to the depths of Facebook hell. Please click through and read the comics, and support the artists if you like what you see. Enjoy!
April 24, 2022
This comic is about ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. I’m no psychologist nor teacher, so I don’t have a lot to say about it except that it sounds terrible, and in a way society does this anyway (especially a shame culture like the predominant Utah one), just not to such a formalized degree.
I do want to take this moment, however, to give a shout-out to my wonderful mom, who, despite being frustrated by crazy lil’ Jeff, didn’t ever try to squeeze this out of me, or take me to places like the one this comic describes. The only therapies I even remember from when I was a kid were a speech therapist (because I couldn’t say my R’s right for forever) and a course about improving self-esteem (it had some video series that went along with it that had something to do with freeing the horses? I don’t remember exactly). From her it was almost never “You are wrong and need to change,” it was “You are special; let me help you cope,” which is technically the same idea but phrased in the opposite way. Granted, it did lead to a little bit of toxic positivity (it took me a very long time to realize that, in fact, it was me that needed to change in order to start making friends), but I’d much rather have had that than being shamed or belittled. I got enough of that from virtually everyone else, but never from her.
So thanks Mom! I know Mother’s Day isn’t for a few weeks yet, but have this anyway!
(Note: after I posted this on Facebook, my brother, who has a non-verbal autistic child, commented to say that his experience with ABA has been far more positive. I don’t know whether that’s due to a difference in perspective between an allistic parent putting their child through it vs. actually going through it oneself, or if this particular artist happened to be in an ABA program that was executed incorrectly, but either way go do your own research if you’re considering going down this route for yourself or a loved one, especially seeking out viewpoints from those who’ve gone through it.)
(Also note: according to the Twitter conversation related to this comic, the creator of the ABA method was also the creator of gay conversion therapy, so take that as you will.)
The following is part 2 of a series of Facebook posts I made in April 2022 (or at least the second half) as part of Autism Acceptance Month; specifically, the #AutisticComicTakeover hashtag that was trending then. While I didn’t create any comics, I posted a bunch that I found and added my own thoughts to them, and I wanted to keep them in an organized place before they were consigned to the depths of Facebook hell. Please click through and read the comics, and support the artists if you like what you see. Enjoy!
April 17, 2022
Wanna hear something interesting about me? One of my biggest hobbies is explaining things.
I actually think it’s fun.
I love taking an issue and picking it apart, figuring out how it ticks, and then going on and on about it in lengthy, overly wordy explanations. I enjoy it, as much as someone enjoys their own hobbies, like reading books, or traveling, or playing golf or whatever. Sometimes I explain things to myself, often just pacing around my apartment or driving somewhere talking to myself about a particular issue for an hour or more. Anyone who’s ever read my blog probably knows this already.
Thing is, most people don’t really want that. My “having a good time sharing something I’ve been thinking a lot about or know a lot about” turns into “being a know-it-all who wants to lord my knowledge over the ignorant plebs I’m surrounded by.” But this just ain’t true! I don’t find pleasure being better than anyone else; in fact, I would much rather be accepted by people as a voice in the group rather than exalted above it. And so this disconnect between the joy I feel talking about and explaining things I love often gets smothered by people reacting to it as though I just spit on them, and I end up with teasing nicknames about how much I want to win/be right or how competitive I am, when really I just want things to be fair and for everyone to completely understand the situation.
My point is that this particular comic hits home pretty well. People replacing hostility (this includes teasing) with curiosity when dealing with me would go a long way toward making me, and others like me, feel like we’re in a safe space.
The following is part 1 of a series of Facebook posts I made in April 2022 (or at least the second half) as part of Autism Acceptance Month; specifically, the #AutisticComicTakeover hashtag that was trending then. While I didn’t create any comics, I posted a bunch that I found and added my own thoughts to them, and I wanted to keep them in an organized place before they were consigned to the depths of Facebook hell. Please click through and read the comics, and support the artists if you like what you see. Enjoy!
April 1, 2022
It’s Day 1 of #AutismAcceptance month! Why Acceptance and not Awareness? Because Autism isn’t a disease like cancer! It’s at worst a disorder, and at best just another way of experiencing the world, and either way is part of our identity. You wouldn’t name a month “Women Awareness Month” without some seeeeriously bad and demeaning implications.
I’m going to try to post some positive resources throughout this month on the subject. It probably won’t be daily, but hopefully it’ll help anyone who’s interested to learn more. Due to the nature of Facebook’s algorithm I’ll probably just be preaching to the choir and/or people who don’t really care, but whatever; it’s worth a shot.
In any case, if you do want to learn more, make sure you’re learning from self-advocacy groups, not groups that mainly consist of non-autistic people “doing what’s best” for autistic people. One such self-advocacy group wrote a book not too long ago that’s free on their website (https://autismacceptance.com/). While it’s a little long, it’s a pretty easy read, and if you’re not autistic, you can at least skip to the chapter on allies if you don’t want to read the rest. It’d be helpful if you ever have to deal with any autistic people in the future. And hey, since you all know me (presumably), I’m at least one autistic person who’d benefit from you knowing more!
Also it’s kind of funny that, despite the book mostly being written in a positive and affirming manner, sometimes it straight up says, “Some people say/believe X about autism. Those people are WRONG!” You could make a drinking game out of it!
April 7, 2022
I haven’t posted much about #AutismAcceptance beyond my original post yet, mostly because I want to help make a difference but I’m far from the expert on the subject; all I can do really is share personal experiences, which is nice and all but not a call to action or helpful for people to understand autism in general. However, there are some activists and community members who are way better at it than I am, so instead of personalizing everything I’m going to share some of their work instead, hoping it will be more effective. This particular artist makes some good comics explaining various aspects in some easy-to-understand ways, I believe.
Or, to explain like a non-autistic person instead of an autistic person: Love this! Sooo relevant!
I haven’t written about relationship stuff on this blog in quite some time. Partly because I’ve learned to be a bit more discreet, partly because there hasn’t really been a lot going on in that department recently (well, OK, mostly the latter one). But recently I’ve had cause to reflect on past relationships, and why they just have never worked out, and I ended up diving down a rabbit hole that I think I need to share.
I’m 99.9% sure I’m on the aromantic spectrum.
I’ve literally never had a serious long-term relationship ever, and the relationships that I have had have almost never been fulfilling for me, even in the early days when you’re supposed to be lovestruck and smitten with each other. During my time in the LDS church I thought I was just not trying hard enough or hadn’t met the right girl or, like, I was maybe too much of a sinner or whatever, but even after I left and I’ve been able to explore other options it still never clicked.
It surprised me that in basically every romantic interaction I had since leaving, whether it was dating someone for one night or a few months, I was almost always the one that wasn’t as invested as the other person was. I thought maybe for a while that I was demisexual or somewhere on the asexual spectrum, but that label never quite seemed to fit, as I’m attracted to women all the time without any emotional connection to them.
So what was it? Was it just the “you haven’t met the right girl” narrative? I mean, that’s what all the songs and movies and stories seem to imply: meet the right person and that lightning strikes! Or get to know someone and those feelings will blossom! And that’s always been in the back of my mind, so I kept trying.
(Note: I’m bringing up some jobs I’ve had here, but this post is not meant to dunk on any particular place I’ve worked in the past, but to point out some trends that have little to do with any particular employer or company. I’m also attempting to be as vague and circumspect as possible when discussing these jobs, just in case they could affect future employment, because capitalism stifles open critique, but that’s a topic for another time.)
A few years ago at a previous job, the department I was working in was offered an incentive by upper management: if we, as a department, met a certain sales quota, a commission would be added to our paychecks. There were four of us in the department at the time, and this offer was extended to 1) our supervisor, 2) the guy who was previously our supervisor but was only a few years away from retirement so was winding back his duties, 3) my co-worker who had been there a year and a half less than me, and…that’s it. I wasn’t offered the chance to make any extra money, no matter how well our department did.
I was obviously confused and a little hurt by this, but determined to be a good employee, so I asked both my supervisor and his boss what I could do to qualify for this program. It obviously wasn’t just a matter of seniority, as my co-worker who had been there for a shorter time was able to take advantage of the program. It wasn’t a matter of sales numbers or similar metrics; our department didn’t measure sales or performance on an individual employee basis (in fact, our department had almost no influence on sales at all, which I’ll come back to in a bit). I asked my bosses if my performance had been unsatisfactory, and no, it hadn’t. I performed my job to the letter, and rarely, if ever, got complaints (certainly none that my bosses could bring up or remember). In fact, many times our department got glowing reviews from clients, as we worked quite well together and were always professional, competent, and friendly. Sometimes the team members were mentioned by name in customer reviews, sometimes it was just the entire team, but either way we almost never got anything negative.
So why then, I asked? Why was I specifically the only person left out of this incentive program, if I had done literally nothing wrong, had done everything I was asked to do, and often more (for example, I volunteered to help with some office work after my old supervisor had his responsibilities scaled back). And more importantly, what, specifically, did I need to do in order to qualify?
It’s been almost a year since my official autism diagnosis (with a side order of social anxiety), and in that time I’ve had the chance to use that diagnosis to more clearly define some of my particular obstacles and difficulties. I’ve come up with three issues that, in particular, have come to dominate my approach to social interactions, and I’d like to get those out here in writing, both so they’re more clearly defined for my own sake, and so those who care to can understand me a bit more, and perhaps make some accommodations that they otherwise wouldn’t think of.
However, before I get into the meat of that exercise, I want to take a moment to address the neurotypicals that might be reading this. I don’t really like the term “neurotypical”, as it basically means “normal person” and normalcy is usually a social construct, but in this case I especially mean to address those who don’t have the same issues I or those similar to me do, and can’t understand why we just can’t get over these things, either by sheer force of will or by the magical “go to therapy” button (therapy is good to build coping skills and form plans to deal with a difficult or hostile social/emotional environment, but it’s rarely a catch-all cure for mental health issues).
It’s difficult to properly convey how debilitating some mental blocks are. When a person with a mental illness says something like, for example, “I literally cannot make this phone call to the bank,” someone without that illness might be like, “Yeah, it sucks. I don’t like talking on the phone either. But man, you gotta call the bank, or your interest rate on your current loan will go up by 30%,” (or whatever; I’m not a banker). However, the first person isn’t saying, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this,” they are saying, “I cannot do this, and if you force me to try then my brain will shut down.” That’s something that is difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it. But I’m going to try to express it anyway.
I came up with an analogy that is possibly tasteless, shocking, and maybe triggering, but it is the best way I can think of to properly convey the scale of the mental blocks that I have to deal with on a daily basis. This has been your content warning; buckle up!
Last December I was finally able to see a professional psychologist and was officially diagnosed with both high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) (not to be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is also SAD. And also sad.). In addition to being a nightmare to distinguish between if I was also dyslexic (which I’m not), these diagnoses have coalesced a lot of who I am into recognizable patterns. I’ve wanted to write a blog post about it for some time now, but I’ve been a little nervous about it. Now that I’ve got labels for these things I have the responsibility to be a voice for others with the same condition, and I don’t want to accidentally misrepresent or cause difficulties for others due to my interpretation or experience. But, at the same time, I do wish to convey my experiences for those who don’t understand, and commiserate with those who do. So I decided to just kinda wing this post, with the caveat for the reader that ASD is a spectrum, and everything I say could be way off base for others with ASD.
Having these two conditions has been a weird mismash of social awkwardness on both ends of the scale. One of the issues with ASD is that it’s really hard to get outside of one’s own head. A lot of autistic people just assume that everyone sees the world in the same way they do, not because they’re narcissistic or self-focused, but because they’re literally incapable of seeing it otherwise, at least not without a lot of thought and active reminders. Avoiding others is just easier and less stressful, hence the SAD.
Also, one of the symptoms of ASD is the inability to read/predict social cues from others, but one of the symptoms of SAD is the abject fear of crossing social norms. So, in any given social situation, I’m deathly afraid of saying the wrong thing, but I don’t know what the wrong thing is until I can see people’s reactions. About 60% of the time, I say something that’s normal (or normal enough) that the conversation continues just fine. About 30% of the time, I say something that might be a little awkward, earning some mental side-eyes from others (or actual side-eyes), but I don’t realize it until I think about the conversation afterward (something I do constantly about virtually every interaction I have, from those with strangers to those with the closest friends and family members), analyze it from the other viewpoint, and come to the conclusion that it was probably a weird thing to say. And about 10% of the time, I say something so awkward or inappropriate that I get an immediate response from others (usually a big pause with an “Uhhhhh….so anyway”) and then I want to go die in the corner.
You might think that that 10% is the worst part of having these two conditions, and that’s probably true. But the 30% of times when I don’t know whether or not I’ve done something wrong until afterward is probably more agonizing in the long run, because people don’t give feedback on this kind of thing, or at least feedback in a way that would be recognizable to someone with ASD. It’s not that I can’t recognize social cues at all, but more that it takes a more conscious, active effort to do so, and that takes time, like learning any new skill does, only in this case I’m not mentally able to eventually do it subconsciously. It will always be like learning a new skill. This sounds weird, but I’d like to illustrate with an analogy.
In my last post I talked about the first step in overcoming and/or integrating my weaknesses so that they become strengths. I also promised at the end of that post that I would soon make another one about the next steps, and while the answer is still probably “get a therapist”, since that’s not currently an option, I’ve been doing the best I can otherwise. I’ve been reading up, listening to podcasts and lectures, doing some research (layman research, granted, but still), and listening to feedback on the stuff I’ve written over the past month. And do you know what the true answer I’ve found is?
And I don’t mean nothing like, “I haven’t found it yet,” I think the actual answer isn’t out there. Or at least, it’s not something simple where I can say, “This are the things I need to do to find true happiness, and these are the obstacles in the way, now let’s tackle them all and that’s my life’s work.”
After last night’s venting session, I got thinking about the game Celeste, since apparently all my epiphanies come from video games now. In case you don’t know anything about it, Celeste is a platforming game where you play as Madeline, a young woman who has made it a personal goal to climb Mt. Celeste (based on an actual mountain in British Columbia). The difficulty level is stupidly hard (unless you turn on Assist Mode), but the game is always supportive and encouraging, which is a nice breath of fresh air from games that are either too easy, or mock you for not being an expert (for example, one of the loading screens states “Be proud of your death count! The more you die, the more you’re learning. Keep going!”).
Surprise! You thought this series was over until I was gainfully re-employed! Turns out I’ve got more to say!
Job hunting has, of course, been pretty difficult, for many reasons (bad job market thanks to pandemic, lack of currently marketable skillsets, basically everything I’ve already written in this blog series, etc.). But through it all I’ve been grappling with a problem that has increased the difficulty exponentially. I don’t know how widespread this issue is, but it’s one I’ve been dealing with for far longer than just this job search, though its manifestation here makes it more crucial that I push through it. And that issue is this:
Phew! Job hunting takes a bit o’ effort, in most senses, especially when you didn’t plan on doing it, the market is in such a weird place, and you don’t know whether you’re looking for a quick temp job or a whole new career. I’ve written this series of blog posts partly to answer that question by exploring my different options and finding out which one has the most appeal. We’ve talked about music jobs (not a good money/passion ratio for me), we’ve talked about tech jobs (I have the experience but it may not be the path I want to continue on), and we’ve talked about my actual passion (media analysis apparently). I do want to reiterate that this doesn’t mean all the time I took pursuing music and/or tech ended up being meaningless or pointless. I am proud of the work I’ve done musically, and my technological experience is something I’ve enjoyed building and will continue with regardless of career path.
But now let’s take some time and examine other options that people have brought to me. Would one of them be a better fit?
Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! In the last post I waxed on about my passion, which is apparently media analysis (who woulda guessed?). I could potentially turn that into a career someday; possibly even before the end of September, though that’s unlikely, as I feel like I’d need to either get more education or know the right people to fully embrace that career path.
So instead, let’s leave that alone and turn to career paths where I do possess a measure of trained skill and expertise: tech! I mentioned in the first post in this series that I had posted on Facebook soliciting career ideas, and while I asked people to try not to suggest tech jobs, a lot of people did so anyway, because hey, that’s what I’m known for (other than music).
Technical stuff isn’t something I necessarily have huge amounts of passion for either, though I do find working with tech enjoyable and am decently good at it.When I was younger a lot of people thought I would grow up to be some sort of computer programmer, because even at a very early age I was making programs on our old Atari 800XL. Truth be told, however, I wasn’t making new programs as much as I was copying programs letter-for-letter out of my dad’s old computer magazines, then adding dumb childhood jokes to them (like the “guess the number I’m thinking of” program that inexplicably gained a 10-year-old’s interpretation of a British accent if you got it right, or the rock-paper-scissors game that was obsessed with talking about math homework). My point is that, like with music, people saw what I was doing and came to inaccurate, though understandable, conclusions about where my real passions lie.
Fortunately, unlike a career in music, you don’t need to be passionate, or devote your entire existence to technology, to get a good job in the industry. As long as you know what you’re doing and you talk to the right person/company you can probably find something that’ll fit you. And tech is something I do have a fair amount of experience in professionally, even though most of that tech lies on the A/V side of things (I have no idea how to, for example, set up an office network, or, like, code anything).
With that said, let’s look at that Facebook thread and discuss some trends. I’m not going to mention anyone by name for privacy’s sake, just in case.
Last time I wrote about a potential music career and why that is no longer a good option for me. Long story short: I don’t have the passion for music that one would need to succeed in that business. But before we get to talking more about career options, I want to examine the question: if music isn’t my passion, then what is?
One thing that this pandemic has given me is a lot of free time. Getting furloughed in March, expecting that I would be going back in May (then in the summer, then in September, then probably next year, then who knows?), as well as everyone being cut off socially, and my current single living situation, meant that I had little that I had to do. So I was able to explore the situation that, for most, is hypothetical: given the ability to do whatever you want (time-wise, at least; I couldn’t spend a million dollars or, you know, go anywhere), what do you end up doing?
What do I do all day, when I don’t have to do anything?
It’s been about a month since I was informed that my furloughed-since-March A/V job was not going to be coming back, at least not anytime soon, and while I was placed in an “on-call” position, it was more to keep me on the books during the pandemic in case I wanted to return afterward; my boss was pessimistic about the amount of work they’d actually need me (or most of the department) for until next year at the earliest. At first I wanted to just hang on until then, drawing unemployment until my job came back, but it has become increasingly clear that that is an untenable option, at least not if I want to keep my current independent living situation.
I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my options since then, both in terms of my career and just my future in general. Getting another job like I currently have (working A/V in a convention/hotel setting) is virtually impossible: the entire industry has been killed by the pandemic. Most other obvious crossover jobs with my skillset (tech theatre, for example) are also dead in the water. So I’ve got to start broadening my sights to discover where I will go next.
Almost everything will come to a head by the end of September: that’s when my rental contract is up (renewal will lock me in for another six months and be increased $20 per month to boot), and is also when my on-call status at my “previous” job will be official, which has the added side effect of kicking me off my health insurance plans (thanks America!…). I could get a low-paying entry-level temporary job just to make ends meet until my old job comes back, but that won’t cover all my bills, it will make me ineligible for unemployment insurance, and plus…I, uh, don’t really want to.
Thing is, though, this may end up being an opportunity disguised as a garbage situation. My original plan was to stay in my A/V job for about five years and then get something more professional and better-paying with that experience under my belt. This never ended up coalescing, though, as I got settled into a bit of a rut, staying there for close to nine years (longer if you count the time I’ve spent furloughed), being able to stay afloat financially but living paycheck-to-paycheck, never being able to save much for the future (I do have some retirement plans, but I’d only been putting in about half the recommended contribution just to be able to cover my current living expenses).
There was a lot about my job that I enjoyed: the ability to make money with a skillset I’d been working on since elementary school (I handled microphones for our school production of Willy Wonka in 5th grade because I didn’t want to be an Oompa-Loompa), the chance to meet a fair amount of famous and influential people, pin microphones on them, and show them how to plug their laptops into our projection systems, and the opportunity to work in a diverse setting (a huge chunk of the employees at the hotel are first-generation immigrants, and as I’m a white cishet male raised in Utah, it helped broaden my perspective beyond my privilege).
But all things considered, this is an unexpected chance to be forced to reinvent myself. There’s nothing tying me to A/V anymore. There’s nothing tying me to, really, anything anymore. I don’t have kids or a spouse. I don’t own a house or any property. Heck, there’s nothing really tying me to Utah. I could move anywhere, do anything. Change is hard, but when it’s forced upon me, I don’t necessarily want to take the first, or easiest, or laziest option so I can work in subpar conditions for another decade. The only limits I have right now are financial (I saved a little bit with the extra $600 unemployment payments that ended in July, but not a whole lot) and situational (the entire economy is suffering under the pandemic, which limits job opportunities in certain areas).
All of that preamble leads me to this: I can do anything, be anything, and now (or at least before the end of September) is the time to make that decision that will shape who I am and what I do, potentially for the rest of my life, or at least until retirement age.
I asked on Facebook for people to throw out career suggestions for me. I stipulated that there were no wrong answers, though I did ask people to limit it to career options instead of unskilled temp work, and that they try not to focus on music or tech, since that’s what had led me to this. Half of the respondents brought up both anyway, which says a lot about how I’m perceived, I believe, and got some of my other, self-analytical gears a-turning.
So in this series of blog posts, I want to look at two things: if these job suggestions are good fits for me, and what people’s various suggestions say about what they know about me and how I’ve presented myself to the world.
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