My spring semester starts on Thursday of this week. I’m taking two in-person classes this time; I didn’t really like the experience I had with an online class last semester, and I found two I wanted that meet back-to-back on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m really looking forward to both of them, for different reasons.
The first one is Introduction to Human Services. I’ll admit this initially sounded a bit bland to me, but it’s the prerequisite for most of the other degree-specific classes I’ll need, so I wanted to take it soon. And I figured that at the very least it would give me a wider overview of the field I’m potentially looking to move into. But after I met with the professor and saw the syllabus, I started to get really excited about it. He’s got some very interesting projects incorporated into the coursework, and I think I’ll really learn a lot.
The second class is Social Psychology. After falling in love with sociology last semester, I was psyched (hah) to see this on the schedule, because it feels like a logical complement to that. (Does it make sense to say something “feels logical”? Makes sense to me, but it just occurred to me that it’s an odd formation. But anyway.) According to my preliminary understanding of how they relate, sociology focuses on the large-scale social structures that exist outside of the individual, while social psychology looks at how the individual navigates that social world. Both are particularly interesting to me as an autistic person, because the social world has never made intuitive sense to me, but studying it analytically has helped me understand it better.
I also think that being autistic is actually an advantage in this area of study, because I think I take less for granted as “just the way things are.” The “way things are” often strikes me as utterly bizarre and nonsensical, and therefore I treat it as something that needs to be analyzed and explained, rather than taking it for granted. I think most people navigate social norms like the proverbial fish in water—it’s a comfortable, familiar environment, but also entirely invisible. In that case, it can take some work to learn to see the details of that environment, much less question why they are the way they are. But I feel like I’ve been questioning aspects of social interaction all my life, which is why the systematic study of social life has really appealed to me.
That’s got me seriously wondering which direction I want to be moving in. I went back to school with the idea of eventually getting a Master of Social Work degree, with the aim of working with other autistic adults in a professional capacity. There is such a disconnect between the lived experience of autism and the attitudes and beliefs about it held by most clinical professionals, and I am interested in helping to bridge some of that disconnect. But there is also a disconnect between the autistic experience and the attitudes and beliefs of autism researchers, and that is also a possible direction for me. My previous scientific training would assist me in that realm, too.
But, for now, I am continuing onward with these two classes. I think they will combine well as a way to continue to test the waters to learn what I might like to do; one will give me an expanded sense of the options available in the human services/social work field, and the other will continue my education in the social sciences to see if my education should bend in that direction instead. To be honest, I kind of expect I’ll end up with some hybrid approach; I never have been able to decide “what I want to be when I grow up,” mostly because I have never wanted to be just one thing. I’ve gotten to be comfortable with that, though, so for now I’m willing to just keep studying and see what happens.