I feel like I have to talk about personal stuff today. If you're here for autism-related rants, I guess this qualifies, but it's much more personal and less theoretical.
So... let's see. You probably know I am a college student and that I'm an incredibly nerdy person who loves learning just about anything. Recently I went to a social psychology class whose professor happened to be my academic advisor. I'd never gotten to know him before, but this time I met with him a few times to discuss the subject, and he even gave me some interesting journal articles and let me summarize them instead of doing the boring book chapter summaries that the others in the class had to do. Anyway, last time I met with him, I learned that I had maybe five or six classes left until I graduated, finally, with a bachelor's degree in psychology. He says that I am likely to do well in graduate school.
So this sounds like good news, which is because it is
good news, but it made the following events feel even worse. In January, I ran out of financial aid, and I thought I was going to have to drop out of school, but they hired me at the disability services department technology center--a student job, and what I earn can go straight to my school bill. I've always had trouble working, but this is different because the job itself is within my area of interest (disability accommodation and technology), and my supervisor is willing to tailor the job to my abilities. I took to the job right away and by all accounts was performing quite well. I was even becoming a particularly useful worker because I understand math and science and speak German, which is necessary if, for example, you're going to turn a statistics book into a format which can be read by text-to-speech software.
Enter the villain, WSU financial aid bureaucracy, stage left. I had been unable to make the first payment for winter semester and had accepted that I was going to end up paying a late fee. But that's not what happened. My first paycheck came too late to pay the first payment, and instead of a late fee, I found myself completely kicked out of school, dropped from registration. And because I was no longer a student, I could no longer have a student job.
The upshot is that I'm now once again unemployed, unenrolled, and living on disability payments, which are enough for rent but not enough for utilities. (I am not in danger of having said utilities shut off because that's illegal in winter, and I'm on food stamps, so I won't go hungry. No immediate danger here. But it is frustrating and frightening nevertheless.)
(I may be unemployed, but I'm not unoccupied. The technology center still lets me work on a volunteer basis, which is what I'm doing now. They need me--they have a shortage of math/science-savvy students. I'm working on a discrete math textbook right now, which is cool because it's a subject I've never had, so I am actually learning discrete math for free. And as always I am turning out blankets for the women's center blanket project. So you needn't worry that I am getting depressed and feeling useless; it's not that bad.)
Well, here's the plan... I just have to hold on until May. In May, I'll be able to register again. And I'll be able to work again. Well, for pay, anyhow. I'll be able to slowly pay off my utilities. I'll be able to get my degree.
BTW, if you guys are wondering, here's how the job thing works: I have what they call a PASS plan, which is an exemption that lets people who are on disability put aside money that they can use only for education or job training that will eventually get them off disability--never for personal needs, just for school or work. It's not very well known, but if it's available in your area, look into it; it might be your ticket off welfare. But naturally, it's no good if you can't work.
My greatest fear right now is that I won't be able to stay in my apartment. My lease lasts until April, so I can't really move without losing money I haven't got, and if I move I'll be too far away from school to make it feasible to get to class, because I'd either have to walk for two hours, or use the bus system regularly, which would cause overload and eventually shutdown (I know this because I've tried the bus thing before, and it doesn't work... at one point I was banging my head against the bus window, and I'm not even much of a head-banger). Losing my apartment would mean losing my chance at schooling, probably for good.
So yeah, that's what's been going on. I'm scared. On the other hand, I've gotten through a lot of crap in my life. I survived abuse and bullying, got myself out of a cult, survived a summer without a home (but not without a couch to sleep on), recovered from depression multiple times, and adopted two wonderful cats. I have friends who have literally told me I can sleep on their couch if I need to.
I'm always aware of just how close I have come to ending up on my own memorial. I recently added Mark Wood
, a man who starved to death after his benefits were cut. He had Asperger's. When they found his body, they discovered a stack of unopened mail, just like what tends to pile up in my own mailbox when my executive functioning starts to slip. He didn't have help; I do. Without the people who are helping me, I'd be in the exact same situation he was in. Maybe I might survive it, since I've got stored body fat, a willingness to scrounge, and no particular tendency toward eating disorders. But that's just luck, isn't it? I've been hungry before. Not recently, but it's happened.
People keep helping me. I'm a cat who lands on her feet. Maybe that's part of why the memorial is so important to me--because I feel like it's just luck that I'm not in the same situations that many of those people found themselves in; that because I'm at risk, too, I can understand how important it is that they are remembered, how important it is that we keep such things from happening.