Category Archives: Employment

Searching for the light of the New Year

As the final few hours of 2016 go by, I am sitting here trying to review this past year and make plans for the next year.  This was a tough year. Not specifically for me, but for many around me, and most definitely for anyone living and working for progressive causes and values. I know many who have experienced loss this year—loss of a loved one, loss of an idol who might have helped them through tough times through their music or art, loss of a relationship or job.

For me, personally, as I say goodbye to 2016, I know I’m exhausted. I have been an activist for LGBT equality and progressive causes for several years and seen so many amazing successes in the past eight years. Through this, I have worked on local issues in Portland, Salem, and all of Oregon, and national issues in Washington, DC.  I have long pleaded with those around me to get involved, to call their representatives in Congress, to show up to Town Halls, to even travel to DC to meet with their members of Congress or their staff.  I know that this is the way to get things done, this is the way to move forward. This is how we resist. This is how we get things done.

OK, let me get back to the reason for this post, to look back at 2016 for me and prepare for 2017.

2016 began so wonderfully and peacefully for me. I was in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, ringing in the New Year with the man I love. James and I had brought our dogs with us for a weekend at the beach. As an Oregonian, where I have celebrated many holidays on the beach, walking along a quiet beach on New Year’s day was very enjoyable and peaceful.

2016 was the first time I have lived through a blizzard. For someone who loves the snow and loves storms, this was a great adventure, watching the snow pile up for over 24 hours from my apartment window and then going out in the deep snow once the storm had passed was so enjoyable.

In 2016, I began to explore photography through the lenses of old, vintage cameras. I very much have enjoyed walking around wherever I may be, with one or two of my old cameras and looking for images that might translate well through that lens. I know that exploring new places with different cameras has helped a lot to keep my mind off the negativity around me this year.

I was able to travel a little this year, though not as much as I would have liked. We made a couple of trips to New York City, primarily for theatre adventures and I did make one trip to Oregon in the Spring.  In New York, we saw Hamilton—every bit as amazing as the hype behind the show. I also had front row seats to see John Slattery, John Goodman, Nathan Lane, and many other fine actors in Front Page. Broadway and Lincoln Center in New York; Kennedy Center and Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. So much fine theatre and so happy to have a partner who enjoys good theatre as much as I.

For the first time in many years, I have ended the year working the same job I started the year with, and no thought of needing to renew a contract or search for new employment because my current employment was ending. I am finally able to plan once again for my future, to plan for an eventual retirement in several years. I have been able to begin investing in an IRA and also once again starting a 401K through my employer. Additionally, I have begun some initial investing in a few funds, hoping the market continues to grow in the future, despite the incoming government.

Overall, this year has been a good year for me. I have a good job, a beautiful partner whom I love, and I live in a great city.  As I prepare for this new year, with a new President moving in a few miles from me, and so many unknows, I know it is important to keep these things in perspective, even when I know it might not be as good for everyone else.  I will always turn to photography to help me frame the world around me.

I may be tired, but I know that I cannot stop. I cannot rest. It is the responsibility of every concerned citizen to be engaged, to speak out, and to listen, but question, our leaders in government. Together, we can get through anything that is put in our way. Together, we will make it through another year stronger.

Rough Waters: irregular employment of an Aspie

I recently read that up to 85% of the people with Aspergers do not have full employment. That is a hard number to fully comprehend and accept, especially since, apparently, I am (mostly) one of the 15%.

Thinking about this further, however, and I understand. Even for someone asks highly functioning as myself, I see continual challenges and barriers even when I am employed.

I think back to the beginning of my career, right out of college. I had graduated with a B.S. In Mathematics with a Minor focus on Computer Science. I really did not know what I should do with that.

I knew about a large computer services company that would hire bright people out of college and train them to be even more than programmer/analysts. In 1987, this was one of the best programs around. I saw that they were interviewing in the Portland area, so I arranged an interview.

I was invited twice to interview with Electronic Data Systems (knowing that the third interview was usually the hiring interview). I thought the interviews went very well, so I was surprised to receive a letter after the second interview that said that I was not a fit–and they explained why. Mostly, it had to do with me not asking many questions and generally the recruiter feeling that I seemed uninterested.

I turned around and wrote a long letter explaining that I had already done very extensive research about EDS and their training program, and I knew a couple of people who had entered the program. I knew that this is where I belonged.

The letter worked. I was scheduled for the hiring interview and then I ended up working for that company for several years.

Throughout the course of my employment, there were often one or two leaders who ‘didn’t get me’ and with whom I would have many disagreements. Every year when it came time for my performance review, it was always very mixed. I always excelled in problem solving and usually got good marks on customer relationships, but generally lower marks on teamwork and I would generally find that coworkers were uncomfortable coming to me with technical questions.

Really? My few close friends always told me that I was very friendly and tried to help whenever I could. Why was I not approachable in the workplace?

Despite the difficulties and challenges I faced, generally, it was good employment and I learned a lot and still became one of the technical leaders, one of the handful of people in the entire company who knew the business functions behind the managed care health insurance delivery system, specifically as it interfaced with Medicaid. I had worked on managed care systems all over the country, so I knew how it worked in many States. I had earned the respect of Medicaid IT managers in a couple of States, especially in Tennessee.

Everything came to a head when I was working as the Managed Care functional team lead on a project to replace the Medicaid system for Tennessee, which was entirely a ‘Managed Care’ State. One member of my team did not like me and would bully me and harass me daily. I thought that this was because I was gay and that is what she didn’t like. When I protested one time, she claimed that I was harassing her—and when a woman accuses a man of harassment in the workplace, then that is pretty much the end for the man, regardless of what the reality says. She was a person who was very unhappy with her life and she found someone who was different who she could transfer her unhappiness upon.

While I thought at the time it was because I am gay and she was a conservative Christian woman, I now believe that it was because of Asperger’s. I was an easy target for her daily bullying.

I ended up losing my job as a result of her protests against me and a middle manager who didn’t like me because the Tennessee Medicaid IT director told him directly to listen to me. Yeah, no one told him what to do and who to listen to, especially not the person who is not seen as a team player.
Since that time, more than 10 years ago, I have gone from job to job, unemployment to unemployment. I have a very impressive resume, and I’m usually told that I am the top candidate being interviewed for a full time job. Each time, I thoroughly research the company prior to the interview. Each time, I am invited to interview multiple times, with different managers and potential coworkers. Each time it ends with one manager telling me that I am not a fit for the team or I didn’t connect with the team or the manager when I was interviewing.

This falls in line with a lot of what I read about others living with Asperger’s and it matches my experience in other areas. When interviewing, there is usually one or two people with whom I cannot connect. Whenever I do have a job, there are always one or two people who are there to bully me or to otherwise make things difficult on me since I’m the odd one. I’m the different one.

I used to think that it was everyone else who didn’t try to reach out to get to know me and work with me. I now know that this is ME and part of my neurological makeup and there are things I can still learn that will help me finally find that perfect job.