As an autistic person, I am ultimately an observer. I take in information from all around me (sometimes too much). One of the thing I have observed upon my “coming out” are the random acts of truly radical kindness and connection I have received from other autistic people. Not a single one has questioned my motives or has been transactional by asking me “what’s in it for me?” Instead, I have gotten love and support, authentically curious inquiries and messages of encouragement, genuine interest in what I am up to and how they might help me. Honestly, it has been a little overwhelming at times. It seems it is difficult to get used to trusting people after decades of having to shield myself for my own protection.
The truth is, I don’t really know how to handle these new relationships in my life. I’m still only very lightly considering a potential future in entrepreneurship. I have historically been extremely risk-averse, particularly with finances. All I have ever known is being an employee, trading my labor for money, from which I pay my mortgage, bills, put money into retirement and rainy day savings and spend on normal everyday life-sustaining goods and services. My salary is adequate, but not extravagant. And despite my experience and a number of attempts, I have not moved up to a new position at my company in the last 17 years. I have gone through all the steps and they say they cannot pay more for doing the same job, and I cannot seem to get another job. I’m feeling like I don’t have a lot of options.
But I digress. While I am exploring my options, limited as they may be, I am continually offered gifts of time, mentoring and classes geared toward autistic entrepreneurship and I am trying to take advantage of them. Most of what has been offered to me has been free, which I simply do not understand. Right now, I wouldn’t know what to pay for, what some knowledge would be worth or how to assess the value, so if there was some fee, I would probably just avoid it altogether. But what is the catch? What might be asked of me in the future? How can people make a living while giving their “product” away for free? How am I supposed to behave in order to avoid appearing to be taking advantage of others’ kindness?
If I do end up falling into entrepreneurship in some way, I expect I would have a very difficult time selling myself. It could just be the season now (with the short days and the seasonal-affective disorder), but I’m just not feeling like I have much to offer the world. My WHY has escaped me and remains elusive. I’m not sure I can rely on myself to even ask for money, much less have it offered by others. I simply can’t wrap my head around how that is even done. I too would likely end up giving my product away for free.
It’s really that I just don’t know how to participate in the economy without selling my labor to an organization, an established business or government agency of some sort. Business presents job description and requests applications. I apply and go through process. This is how it worked when I last got a job. Now I know it is much more complicated with more relationships to manage through networking, more hoops to jump through in applying, more bots scanning your resume for the right formatting and buzzwords. All of this is obnoxious to me.
So I really don’t know what is going to be in my future. But I do know that the wonderful bright autistic people I have managed to meet over the last several months will be helpful when they are able, honest when they are not and kind always. The goodness in all of humanity may be disguised as naivete in the autistic brain, but it is so valuable to the others of us who maybe just aren’t as far along on their path and who are still seeking a hand to hold in order to move forward.