In my life I’ve been fortunate to have two roles I really enjoyed.
The first was as a Court Clerk in two big Crown Courts. Swearing in juries, taking verdicts, advising the judiciary and basically being in charge, was pretty good for someone on the spectrum. It required planning, organisation, thinking ahead; all qualities that those of us on spectrum might have.
I handled some very big trials. One or two are quite famous. I enjoyed the interaction with the bar and the high ranking members of the judiciary I was able to clerk for. I even clerked for one member of today’s U.K. Supreme Court in, I think, their very first sitting in criminal work.
I liked the sense of team I had with my ushers. I know that a few of my clerking colleagues looked down on the ushers as being some sort of skivvy as they did the boring stuff of delivering papers, arranging the courtroom, putting out the water etc.
But I never saw it like that. I saw us as a team and Karen, Alan, Lorna, John and Fred, amongst many, remain firmly fixed in my mind as being more than ushers but friends, team mates and good people.
I was popular with the judiciary. Even hard to please judges seemed to like me. Getting praise from a judge is quite hard as you are normally invisible to them until something goes wrong but my organisational abilities and somewhat cynical humour seemed to appeal to them.
I’m sorry if this sounds like boasting but I’m not, I’m just pointing out an environment in which being on the spectrum was pretty useful.
The secnd role was born out of the first.
Part of my clerking duties involved assessing solicitors and barristers costs in criminal cases. So when I got married and had to move I was head hunted and offered a job doing that on a full time basis. It’s another Autism friendly job.
I worked out of a local court but then half there and half at home. My work was portable so I could sit in my own environment and determine costs at my leisure. I enjoyed the application of rules, the detective work, the sniffing out of fraudulent claims, the back and forth argument as to whether I paid too little. I enjoyed writing reasons for the costs judges to assess and the fact that my interaction with the rest of my team only needed to consist of six team meetings a year and the occasional call to get a second opinion.
It was pretty much ideal.
Unfortunately redundancy put paid to that job. Easier to pay everyone the same rather than look at each case on its own merits. Why have qualified assessors when a machine can just issue a cheque ?.
And now I’m a tax advisor. I work in a crowded, noisy office. The phone rings, people talk, filing cabinets bang, chairs scrape, noise from the garage behind us interrupts train of thought. Each call is unpredictable. Will it require shouting ? A different accent ? Somebody crying ? Or someone who wants to blame me for something I haven’t done ?.
It’s an unhealthy, soul destroying atmosphere. Communication in an office of 21 people is appalling. We are under appreciated, under recognised, poorly paid and, often the atmosphere is tense and deeply upsetting.
My colleagues are lovely. The four ladies I work with on my team are all warm, generous and humourous. I often feel sorry for them because I see the frustration they feel, I hear it and I get that sense of utter despondency they exude.
And if I can see it then it must be obvious. And if they can feel it then, with my heightened senses, the effect on me is magnified tenfold.
But what do you do when you need money to live on ?. When there are so few alternatives ?. When you don’t cope well within change and your biggest fear is that, no matter how bad it is now, what if the next jobs worse ?.
It keeps me awake at night. It causes me deep anxiety and physical issues. My IBS flares up every Monday morning. I’m exhausted and collapsing every Thursday when my working week ends. It stresses me out so much. It’s unpredictable, chaotic, noisy and there are no prospects. None. Nada. Zero.
No promotion. No advancement. Yet we have to be appraised on a yearly basis. Same old thing. I’ve done well. I’ve done a lot. I’ve been helpful. That’s not a criticism of my team leader with whom I get on really well (we often find ourselves singing the same line from a song or thinking of the same pun at the same time when opportunity presents and you just have to let the humour out before you go crazy ) but she gets as fed up as I do…we all do, when it’s all so meaningless. It’s utterly futile. Utterly pointless.
I dream of other jobs. I dream of jobs in which I’d be happy. I dream of jobs in which my talents (I saw them the other day in a carrier bag. I can’t quite recall where I saw them though) could be used or I’d be happy. A job in which my interests were catered to, a job in which I found purpose, a job I wanted to get up for, that I looked forward to, a job in which I was happy.
Autism friendly work.
I think that finding it and keeping it is a real problem!