Autism Awareness

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If you don’t know already, the month of April is Autism Awareness Month here in the United States. And seeing how the month is almost over, I thought I’d dedicated this post to those individuals with Autism, my brother, specifically.

My brother was three years old when he was diagnosed, and my family’s life hasn’t been the same since. I can’t tell you how many countless hours my brother has spent with therapists working on his speech and cognitive ability and how many days he was in the Special Education room at our high school only for us to realize that he isn’t so different after all. He’s still a typical boy who has his own likes and dislikes, he just can’t express himself in the same way we can.

For years, my family has gotten stares and weird looks in public places when my brother has cried out, hummed, or even danced near complete strangers. Even tonight, we went to our local YMCA for a swim and a young boy (probably only about 10 or 12) told my brother to hand over the ball he was holding because he was supposed to use it to shoot hoops not hold it! Of course, I glared at the boy and flipped him the bird…in my mind. But, we carried on, business as usual.

When I was younger, I would get so embarrassed half the time because my brother would have to use the ladies room with my mom if my dad wasn’t around so that someone could help him in the bathroom. We even stopped going to church because my brother loves to laugh, hum, and cry out during inappropriate times. Whenever someone looks at him, all they can see is his age, so they’re completely confused as to why he’s behaving “in that way.” Nowadays, I don’t give as many shits. If he cries out, he cries out. If he decides to dance in the middle of the grocery isle, let him have at it (as long as he’s not in anyone’s way)!

I’m not saying that I’m completely fine with his outbursts and that they never embarrass me. Of course, I still get agitated with him every once in awhile. But he’s my brother, and that’s what siblings do. If anything, he’s made me more of a tolerant person. Yes, people mess up once, twice, three times even! But, because I live with a boy who constantly needs to be reminded to wash his hands after he uses the bathroom, or to take his shoes off before climbing into bed, I’ve never gotten into a heated/screaming match with anyone. No one has ever pissed me off that much…because, it takes A LOT for me to REALLY show my frustration.

Like my dad says, “everyone should have at least one disabled child so that they know what it’s really like.” And, I completely agree. There’s too many government officials trying to cut funding for those with disabilities and it brings me to near tears when I think about how much those with disabilities have already been shafted in life, how many limitations they have when it comes to things to do, places to go, or people who will take care of them, and now this? My father actually has a friend who works for the government and has a disabled daughter, and because of that, he makes sure that he knows every law and is able to fight that much harder for her rights. He’s actually helped a lot of families (mine included) knowledgeably advocate for their disabled child. And, never would he have become so involved if he didn’t have a daughter with a disability.

My brother and other individuals with disabilities that I have spent time with over the course of my life thus far have helped me get a better perspective on what really matters in life. Not only that, but they’ve also taught me how it’s important to treat individuals with the utmost respect, say what you feel, and do what makes you happy.

If you’ve never had the chance to spend time with an individual or individuals with a disability, I encourage you to volunteer for the Special Olympics, or for a disabled group home. Even if it’s just for an hour and only one time! Make some sort of interaction with these uniquely talented and special individuals, and I guarantee your life will change for the better.

Granny Smith – over and out

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College Lies and Other Truths

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before in other blog posts…I’m new to this whole “being an adult” thing. And as I come across my four month anniversary in the working world…I’ve started to think about what I wish I would’ve know before entering the workforce. Now, there are many things. But, the number one thing that I wish I would’ve know is that there’s a very big difference between a “job” and a “career.” See below…

College lies to you, and internships lie to you. The real world isn’t anything like either one of them. When I was in college, I was told that maybe classes wouldn’t teach me about the real world, but that’s what internships were for. WRONG AGAIN! I had four internships while I was in college, and not one of them adequately prepared me for the shit storm called, “real life.” And let’s face it. When you’re an intern, companies don’t trust you. And that’s fair! You’re not an actual employee; you’re a temp; you’ll be gone within months. So, what do they do? They give all the “shit work” that they don’t have time to do on a regular basis.

When I had my internships, I thought I received extreme value from them. The companies that I worked for really let me “take the wheel” and provided great mentorship. But the fact of the matter is, when you’re an intern, you don’t have that “weight of the world on your shoulders” feeling like you do when you’re out in the workforce. As an intern, you step in for a bit, arrive early, do whatever they ask you to, and after a few months, you leave. So, if a problem comes up that you feel can’t be solved, you take it to your internship supervisor, and they deal with it.

And, of course, that’s not how the real world works. In the real world, the main reason your boss hired you is because they have a problem that they can’t fix, and they want YOU to solve it. So, if you’re constantly going to your boss saying “I don’t know…” they may let you go.

And that’s the unfortunate thing about internships, college students are never truly on the other side of the table. When I was at my internships, I remember thinking, Yeesh! I wouldn’t want my boss’s job. All I would ever do is worry.” I never actually experienced the kind of stress that any of them had to deal with on a regular basis.

I think that another part of the reason I never fully understood what it was like to have a “real job” before I actually got one, was because of the word, “job.”

In a lot of the career courses that you take in college, and even in regular courses, when you talk about the “job” that you’ll have after you graduate, that’s what it’s always referenced as, “a job.”  When I went to school, it was rarely referred to as a “career.” And when you hear the word “job,” what do you think of? For me, I thought: you work from 9-5, go home, eat dinner, exercise, watch some TV, go to sleep, wake up, do it again. And then the weekend would come, and you get to spend it however you wanted. You’re freer than a bird.

WRONG AGAIN! What they don’t tell you in college is that the definition that I just described is the definition of a “job.” And a job is probably a place that you won’t stay at for awhile. An example of a job is working as a cashier at a department store. When you graduate from college and start working at a “bachelor’s degree level”…you don’t have a job, you have a career. In a career, you wake up early, you arrive an hour before you’re supposed to, you work through lunch, you leave an hour after you should have, you take your work home with you, and on weekends, you’re checking your work email and working on work related projects..BIG DIFFERENCE.

When you have a career, you need to be devoted to the company that you’re working for. Kind of like when you’re in a relationship. You can’t just be in a relationship from 9-5, Monday-Friday. You’re in that relationship 24/7, 365. And this is for every higher level position that you have after college, even if you start out as an entry-level individual. You’re going to need to be there for your company like you would for your significant other.

So, after all this negative talk, what’s my advice for someone approaching their college graduation and looking for their first position?

DO NOT settle! Just don’t! Before I graduated, I was applying for anything and everything under the sun. I wanted to start working right after I finished school because I wanted money and at least some form of experience. WRONG! Don’t just take any job off of the street. So you’re unemployed for awhile, or you have to resort to picking up some hours at a department store. Take some time to really look through positions and make sure that you are going after what YOU WANT.

Take me for example. Now, I like my position, and I’m getting used to it more and more every day, but do I wish that I had calmed down after graduation and taken more time to look at other opportunities? I’ll admit it, yes. When I was interviewing for my current position, I had my final interview with my current supervisor and the head of HR. My supervisor made me feel like an idiot during the interview. Now, she was being harsh because she was testing me to make sure that I would be able to stand working in their type of environment, and under pressure; which is understandable. But after the interview was over, I ran to my car and balled like a baby. I felt like I just been slapped across the face and screamed at. And when they called me a week later and offered me the position, I was in shock. But, I accepted it anyway because all I saw were the dollar signs attached to the job description. I didn’t know what the company culture was like, and I didn’t know my benefits. All I knew was who my supervisor was going to be, a rough idea of what my duties were, and how much I was going to be making.

Looking back, I feel like a complete idiot, and since then there have been other opportunities that have popped up that I almost wish I could take advantage of. Although, on the brighter side, I am learning a whole lot, and the people that I work with are too good to be true! 

And, there are going to be ups and downs in every position. But before you accept an offer, ask about the company culture, even ask them to take you on a tour of the facilities and meet people that you’re directly going to be working with. Ask what a typical day looks like for someone in the position that you’re applying for, and ask the company what a successful candidate would look like and bring to the table. ASK TONS OF QUESTIONS and don’t be afraid of asking those questions. Because if it’s a good fit, you’ll wake up every morning satisfied and your “work” won’t feel so labor intensive.

So, to my college grads, happy job hunting!

Granny Smith- over and out