I got let go from one of my two jobs yesterday. At just a few hours a week, it wasn’t my main job and it has tapered back in terms of hours and responsibilities over the past several months due to restructuring in the company. I had repeatedly asked if there were more tasks to take on, but there were fewer and fewer as more in-person team members were hired and my position was remote. The responsibilities I did hang on to were, for lack of a better descriptor, mindless work that anyone could handle: simple, not stimulating, and cursory. Still, I enjoyed being part of a company with a mission and purpose that inspires me. It wasn’t really about the money for me, because even though our financial resources are certainly lacking, this job was so few hours at a quite low pay grade that it didn’t contribute much more monthly than a small grocery bill.
I saw all the signs that this job was on its last few breaths and frankly, I was nearly as inclined to initiate the inevitable conversation, but something had me hanging on: routine, complacency, the small hope that they’d need me more after this extended lull, and most likely, pride in my association with the company and satisfaction with the minimal time and energy requirements if the work. After all, my primary job is cognitively intensive, busy, and enjoyable. And this job was almost a perfect compliment to that one, an easy way to give my mind a short break from my other work while still earning a bit of money. However, I must admit that lately, it was almost more of a hassle to log in and do the few minutes of work on autopilot than it was worth, particularly because transitions and shifting gears is not one of my strengths. It was almost such that the mental energy drain to find a good stopping place in my regular job and get myself to redirect my attention to the little bit of work for the second job canceled out the benefit of this second job’s breeziness.
All this said, when I got the call yesterday, I was surprisingly emotional. I’ve never really been “let go” from a job before and even though I was assured it had nothing to do with my skills, performance, or personality, it’s hard not to take cuts personally. I think this was especially true for this job because I had disclosed my autism diagnosis within the first couple of weeks and felt personally responsible to the autism community to ensure I was not only an outstanding worker but as contradictory as possible to all the common stereotypes that might make someone on the spectrum a poor employee to dispel any secret concerns of my superiors once privy to my diagnosis. I imagine most all of this perceived pressure was self-derived, as everyone I worked for there seemed like the most open-minded, compassionate people, but it still holds that I wanted, more than ever, to prove my value, capability, and normalcy. I guess part of my disappointment and sadness from losing the job is attributable to feeling like I must have failed in this regard. The loud low self-worth voice in my head raises doubt that it was just an in-person versus remote prioritization and restructuring and not my “autisticness” making me less desirable or suitable for the role. This voice tells me if I were “normal,” this would not have been my fate.
Of course, one day removed from this conversation, my rational mind reemerges and helps quell the power of this low self-esteem. With this bit of time passing and separation from the emotional, almost guttural, response, my perspective is more accurate and rational: I’m still sad about the loss of the opportunity and connection, but I’m not as sad about my personal attributes and their role in the decision. Unfortunately, it just seems to be my nature that the voice of self-doubt never totally disappears; she whispers words of inadequacy and ways in which my character is responsible for my “failure.” That said, I’m in a place where the rest of my brain helps me rise above and (mostly) ignore these criticisms and fears. And hey, I’m am almost always on the hunt for interesting opportunities; something else will come along in due time.