I’ve spent most of the last decade trying to make a career in an industry in which, let’s be frank, someone on the autism spectrum like me probably doesn’t belong.
Working in customer-facing roles in hospitality, has pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and at times it’s been a huge struggle. Sometimes I’ve been pushed to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, especially during the extremely busy times in summer, But I’ve never given up – I have kept trying and I’ve worked hard at trying to understand all the subtle social stuff: facial expressions, workplace politics and all the things that your average neurotypical person seems to find so easy to understand.
I am proud to say that during my time in this demanding industry, I’ve managed to hold managerial positions. The thing with being in that type of position is that I find some things very difficult.
One – the hours: I’ve been at work for an average of ten and half hours a day, five days a week, always working evenings and Bank Holidays, and often, weekends too. This may not sound much, but when you’re constantly having to socialise – or to “people” as I like to put it – this can be incredibly draining.
Two – the “Peopling” itself. I pride myself on being able to interact with the public – trying to understand them and the subtle hints they drop about things. It’s another thing entirely to spend all day trying to mask and pass yourself off as neurotypical. It makes it even harder when you find that customers have left reviews commenting on my inability to hold eye contact or taste the beer myself (as I’m coeliac and therefore allergic to wheat and barley).
Three – I find it difficult to understand some rather fluid rules. Normally rules are easy to follow. It’s not hard to understand that if you drive drunk, you’ll be arrested and lose your license. But some rules in the hospitality trade seem to be very flexible, and if you get it wrong, it can be a massive deal. Rules that apply to most customers, don’t apply to regulars, or those who the owners know and like. It’s like saying that on certain days, or in a particular coloured car, speeding is acceptable, but those special days and colours can change, without warning. That’s how I feel when I’m told we have certain rules then I’m expected to be able to know when and who those do and don’t apply to. I think even a neurotypical would struggle with this.
All of these things cause me to realise that maybe I would be better in a role where there are set (but not too many) hours, and the rules apply to everyone and everything. I think I could also do better in any given job if people above me were not just aware I’m autistic, but also know how to manage it and maybe even help me develop. I can show them what qualities and positives someone on the spectrum can bring to the table.
So, in light of the current pandemic situation, and the fact that both Mrs Bob & I are at high risk due to lung issues, I’ve made the difficult & emotional decision that it’s time to call last orders on this chapter in my life. It’s a time I will look back on with great nostalgia and a sense of accomplishment that I’ve managed to achieve things that years earlier I would have never thought possible.
I would like to thank those people who took a chance on me and allowed me to show them (and myself) what I am capable of.
It’s time now for a complete career change, and possibly a return to my science and aerospace engineering background. I’m not sure yet. So stay tuned and above all…
Stay Safe X