Finally, it All Added Up

 
I didn’t do well at school, and I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. It wasn’t until after my diagnosis (at the age of forty), whilst reading the list of suggested professions in Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, that I finally realised what I could have been. I wished someone had suggested [I'll tell you in a minute] when I was thirteen…

But back in 1983, I was taking a revolutionary careers-assessment test… on a computer! The idea was that this computer… thingy… (controlled by a specially trained operator) would assess your answers to pre-designed questions, chunter away for several days, then spit out what it thought would be your best career choice. I remember struggling with the questions – it was a load of nonsense as far as I could tell – and I could only mutter at the end that “I don’t want to work with people”, and “I quite like animals”. The answer? – I waited days for this – that I should be a animal-testing lab technician. I can tell you, it took me a long time to forgive computers for that.

So, after spectactularly failing to be a Customer Service Advisor for the Nationwide Anglia Building Society (how’s that for inappropriate?! Lasted 13mo – my only ever ‘proper’ job), an electrical-components assembler (16mo), a gardener (1yr), a groom (2yrs), a car mechanic (2yrs) – some of these concurrently – I knew what I didn’t want to be. I should have looked more closely at what I did with my spare time.

I had forgiven computers when I discovered The Spreadsheet. How could I not, when suddenly I could generate colourful, accurate, gorgeous tables and graphs of everything and anything, in an instant: from the progress of my diet, through kakuro tables, and on to tracking the kids’ temperatures during illnesses. It should have been obvious all along, but it took until I saw that one word in the back of Tony Atwood’s book… Statistician.

It wouldn’t have been an obvious choice at the age of thirteen; I hated maths at school, thanks to the singularly uninspired droning of a woman whose name I have mercifully forgotten: drone drone sine theta over drone divided by drone drone all to the power of drone drone drone. Enough to make you rip your ears off. The following year we had some bloke who wrote so quickly it was all I could do to catch the notes – as they came back under the bottom of the roller blackboard – before he wiped them off again. And wrote down some more. Never had time to actually listen.

So, with my youngest now at school, I started a part-time OU-degree last month (BSc in Maths & Stats), and am pleased to report that – having watched my kids in a sweet shop a few days ago – I am as happy as that. Perhaps it has become my new obsession, to spread out the workbooks, sharpen my pencil, and dive into linear recurrence sequences, but it’s been a long time since I felt this content. Now I have the pleasure of my own (silent) study, with the Venetian blind swivelled to ‘closed’. I have coffee (latte, with chocolate sprinkles, no sugar), and a supply of almond slices. The room is devoid of vicious boys trashing my stuff, and bitchy girls (stage) whispering behind my back. Speedy-writing man died many years ago, Mrs Drone* isn’t here, and no one will give me detention for forgetting my homework (again). All is calm, and I am finally loving my education.


*I remembered her name, and Googled it, finding this comment about her: “…she got me threw my O Level.” Says it all, really.

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10 Responses to Finally, it All Added Up

  1. Leigh Forbes says:

    Thank you, Anouschka.
    I envied my sister for always knowing what she wanted to be, but she hated her very first work experience, and went on to do something completely different!
    Good luck with your studies too :o)

  2. Anouschka Schutte says:

    Reading this, I realise how fortunate I am to have always known that I needed to be a translator. From the age of 12, that’s what all the aptitude tests told me. However, I failed 3 other study attempts before I started formal education to become a translator at the age of 23. After graduation, I started my own company (because the thought of sharing an office with other people filled me with dread and horror).

    I still love studying, but I study at home….currently finishing my Intercultural Communication course; education in a classroom would be way too challenging for me.

    I am happy for you, that you’ve finally gotten to where you want to be. Good luck!

  3. Leigh Forbes says:

    Thank you John. I had seen this link floating around on twitter. Matching aspies to jobs that specifically suit them is a inspired initiative – a win-win for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing the idea develop outside Denmark!

  4. John Whitehead says:

    Hi Leigh, I think you’ll find this website article interesting
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,817166,00.html

  5. Adriana R. says:

    It’s a degree in languages (english)
    Its basically oriented to teaching, what can be a problem due to my social problems but who knows? i may like it…:)
    I can choose to change after have completed 30% of the curriculum so i’m thinking that, if i dont adapt, i’ll change to library science or information science (the are two separated disciplines here)

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      I have an aspie friend who is also a teacher, and she loves the classroom environment; not for its noisiness ;o) but for the structure and for (the age she teaches) the honesty of the children – she always knows where she is with them.

  6. Kath says:

    I loved maths, hated stats, barely cope with spreadsheets. But now it seems I have a friend who’s a spreadsheet expert – I’ll be calling on you for help!

  7. Leigh Forbes says:

    I really hope you do too. I’ve been loving it.
    What will you be studying?

  8. Adriana R. says:

    I was kind of the opposite: I wanted to be many things (archeologist, biologist, historian) but was never really able to acomplish any of them.
    Going back to school next month and, well…here’s to hoping i’ll find the old spark of enthusiasm :)

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