Right now, I teach as an adjunct instructor and work as a tutor on campus at a local community college. I have a master’s degree in English. The feedback I receive from students and my supervisors indicate that I am doing an exceptional job. I love my work. I find helping students to write and communicate more effectively to be deeply satisfying. I love explaining things and answering questions.
Here is the problem: my husband and I are moving because he got into graduate school, and the school he was accepted to is the only one anywhere near our new apartment. That college is not hiring right now. I have Asperger’s, do not drive, and am an INFJ. I have multiple chronic illnesses (MCAD, PTSD, POTS, CFS, Fibromyalgia, suspected EDS) that cause food allergies that can change overnight, severe pain, exhaustion, and other symptoms. These illnesses can be managed, but they will likely never go away. My husband is also an INFJ, and neither of us
I have multiple chronic illnesses (MCAD, PTSD, POTS, CFS, Fibromyalgia, suspected EDS) that cause food allergies that can change overnight, severe pain, exhaustion, and other symptoms. These illnesses can be managed, but they will likely never go away. My husband is also an INFJ, and neither of us wants to have kids. His siblings already have kids, and my siblings will have kids, so we don’t even have any meaningful pressure from either of our families to contend with.
I am trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Prior to getting severely sick a few years ago, I was a workaholic. I love school, and I love working. I had three jobs in grad school and graduated with a 4.0 and a publication in a major journal. I graduated undergrad early by taking overloads, and I worked and was heavily involved on campus and still graduated summa cum laude. My professors encouraged me to be a researcher and talked a lot about my potential.
Despite my Asperger’s, I do care a lot about people, and I like how the formality and purpose of school lets me keep my interactions with people semi-scripted, warm, professional, and useful. I am able to connect and to be useful to others. Since I got sick, working part time is challenging. I might be able to work full time if the job wasn’t intellectually or physically draining, which is why I have considered an office job.
However, I fear I would be wasting my potential, my degree, and the time my professors invested in helping me. In addition, the pay for a secretary is mediocre. That’s not all bad, and my husband doesn’t care how much money I make (obviously, as he is also an INFJ, and we care about our values more than anything).
We are very good at being happy and meeting our needs with very little money. I am 26, and we have been married for five years. Our income has been below the poverty line all five years, and I would still say we have the best relationship of anyone we know, and we haven’t ever had urgent needs we were unable to meet.
I have considered becoming a speech pathologist, but that would mean getting a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s, which would take about three or four years, a lot of work, and cost a great deal of money. Working part time as a speech pathologist, I could make more per hour, but I fear that that potentially higher part-time income is negated by the student loans and time lost to getting additional degrees.
I have worked as an editor in student positions in the past, and I have loved that work, but again, there aren’t editing jobs where we are moving. Even if there were, it seems unlikely that I would be hired because I only worked as an editor as a student. I worked at a library when I got sick, and again, I loved the work, but the position I held was high energy and full time, and I couldn’t physically do it once I got sick. The part-time jobs at libraries often pay even less than secretarial positions.
I have been working since I was fifteen, and I have gotten to try a lot of jobs and get a sense of what I am good at. The longest I have ever lived in one place in my entire life was four years, and my husband’s five-year program will ground us and give us a chance to put down roots. I don’t want to waste that opportunity.
Ultimately, I want a job that allows me to answer questions and help people. Because of my Asperger’s and illnesses, that job needs to be low stress, and it can’t be physically demanding. I would rather find full-time work so that I could afford insurance, but I’m not sure I’m physically capable of it anymore.
I don’t know if I should feel guilty about wasting my potential or not, and I don’t know if I should make a serious effort to earn more money or not. I have been reading you blog for several years now, and I’ve read your fiction and non-fiction. I know you have Aspergers so you understand me. And I trust you and your opinions. What do you think?