Back to square one?

I didn’t get the job.

I feel like it’s best to rip that plaster off as quickly as possible.

To say I’m devastated would be an understatement. When I found out on Friday, I immediately tail-spun into what can only be described as the biggest meltdown-panic-attack-combo I have had for a very long time.  My diaphragm was quickly in violent spasm, and I was finding it excruciating to talk and even breathe. My body felt like it was completely out of my control – a reflection of how my life and my career felt in that moment.

It absolutely felt like a trapdoor had opened, dropping me down into a cage from which I couldn’t escape. Where should I go now? This is the third role I have gone for internally, and the third I have failed to get. Yet again, it felt like I was being propelled back to the ominous square one. This was the most logical next step. Was I destined to be super-glued to square one for the rest of my life? Am I stuck in a destiny I desperately do not want? What more can I do? Volunteering and internships were suggested in my feedback – but how can I when my working day (including commute) is 6.30-17.30, and when relinquishing some of this full time work is not financially viable?

Add to that the fact that I have a list of people I have now tell that I haven’t gotten it – people who are so excited for my prospects, for whom I have to develop a script that can be repeated again and again. It would be enough to make anyone feel as though they are banging a head against a brick wall – take that and add it to the level of anxiety that I operate at every single day, and you have a recipe for disaster.

My work coach and I had discussed this scenario, in what we termed my ‘Contingency Plan’. The main bulk of it consisted of beginning to look for personal development opportunities outside of the charity I work at, with the view that I could return once I had built up my experience and was able to take on a role that was closer to the career I wanted for myself. However, now that this scenario is a lot more than just hypothetical, my heart feels like it’s being split in two at the thought of leaving.

As I am currently on annual leave for two weeks, I ended up calling the head of my current department, who has also taken it upon herself to be my mentor (personally and professionally), and she spent up to twenty minutes talking me through normalising my breathing. We then spoke briefly about my upcoming options; however, the main focus was on getting through this weekend so I could speak to her next week with a clearer head. I am incredibly lucky to be in a team that has my back in that way, even if it is not necessarily in a role I want to continue for much longer in.

And that’s where the difficulty lies.

I have been in my current role for almost eighteen months. It was always acknowledged that this role (a customer facing role, something which is inherently quite difficult for an autistic person!) was a stepping stone for me, a way to use my current minimum wage experience and build upon it in a sector and organisation that I could be passionate about. My feet are so itchy after eighteen months that I can barely stand still. I couldn’t be more restless if I was tap dancing beneath my desk (which sometimes if feels like I am). So, after three failed attempts at furthering that career, it makes sense to perhaps look elsewhere for that opportunity.

On the other hand, I am so unbelievably well supported in my current organisation – their focus is on autistic people, so I feel like they overwhelmingly understand and have been willing to put so much in place to further my personal development. And furthered on a personal level I have been. I have been given so many opportunities – getting involved with campaigns, being listened to on autism issues, being able to share my experiences with the public, media opportunities, etc. – and these have bolstered me to a point of absolute pride in my identity and achievements. The thought of moving away and losing this support, and also the opportunities that have come my way, is something absolutely terrifying.

I have no idea what I am going to do. This is something that is going to take time, and some serious conversations with a variety of people. My friends have been wonderful, my manager has been wonderful, my mums have been wonderful (even though they are currently on their honeymoon in Mexico). I am very lucky to be surrounded by people who understand, who care, and who can give me insight that I may have lost in the depths of my despair.

There is one thing, however, that I am absolutely certain of in the wake

My dogs are amazing. The eldest, who is nine, stood over my protectively, making sure that he had a paw draped over my arm. The youngest, who is three, immediately took it upon himself to start chasing his tail and playing loudly with his toys, trying to make me laugh and distract from the seriousness and sadness. Even after I had calmed down and made the decision to go to bed, they stayed by my side, making sure I was okay – even if this did manifest in sitting on top of me and digging various elbows/knees/whatever they are on a dog into my kidneys, ribs, and other sensitive body parts.

I have to remember that, no matter what job I have or what job I lose, one thing remains constant.

My dogs? They thing I’m freaking awesome.


Author: QueerlyAutistic
Erin Ekins is a queer autistic writer, speaker and attempter of activism. She has an interest in all areas of autistic social justice, but has a particular passion for improving understanding and acceptance of the intersection of autism and queerness. She runs the blog and is the author of the upcoming book 'Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens on the Spectrum'. By day, she works in campaigning and influencing at a disability related charity, but, by night, she is inhabits a busy space between angry internet person and overly-excited fangirl.

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