Snow and Grit

Snow-covered hemlock branches

On days like this I really enjoy working from home. No worrying about when the snow will start, or whether I will be able to get back up my hilly street to come home. Instead I can sit by the window and watch the snow fall, while quietly working on my laptop.

I work part-time as a software tester. Today was a mix of finishing up writing test cases on a new project and beginning actual testing. I always like that transition; I enjoy test-case writing quite a bit, but by the end of writing I am usually a little bit fried and very much ready to switch gears. The time passed quickly today, and left me with energy to work on my own studies and projects.

Not all work projects are like that, by the way. Some leave me completely drained by the end of the same number of hours, with little brain power left for creative pursuits or even reading. That’s one reason I’m happy to keep my hours at part-time levels; I encountered Autistic burnout several years ago — before I even knew I was Autistic — and I still struggle with maintaining my energy levels over the course of a workday, especially if there is any level of stress involved.

This brings to mind something that my therapist and I talked about once. She said that after hearing about my childhood and younger adulthood, she felt that I had approached life with a certain amount of grit. I had pushed through my difficulties in order to get where I wanted to go, sometimes to the point that I hadn’t even acknowledged those difficulties — I had just gone and done it. But after a certain point, I just didn’t have the resources to keep gritting my way through things. That’s when my strategy changed to creating a life where I didn’t need so much grit.

This involved a lot of choices that sometimes felt like failures: I quit a lucrative job and essentially short-circuited any career options I might have had. I moved to an area that was quieter but offers many fewer career opportunities, and chose to work only part-time at a very simple office job I was highly over-qualified for. Eventually even that job felt like too much of a strain, and I again felt like I was a failure, that I couldn’t handle even that.

But what was really happening was that I was building the life I needed. Yes, I have a lot less money than I would have at my old job, but I chose that over continuing to burn myself out. Yes, I am not on a defined career track, but I am free to follow my own creative pursuits and see where they lead me. And yes, I had to leave even that “easy” office job, but that moved me out of an emotionally charged work environment and into a job I actually enjoy, one that I can (usually) do from home.

I’m not where I thought I might end up when I gritted my way through a physics degree at a very well-known university, and sometimes I feel like I should have “accomplished” more — but I love where I am and what I have in my life. If I can’t easily describe that life to others with an easy label, well, then I guess they’ll just have to get to know me as the Eclectic Autistic that I am. 🙂

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