I challenge myself over what my biggest employment fears are. I have to ask myself this question several times because my real fears may not be what the average person fears.
I fear getting fired more than anything else. I do not fear that I won’t be able to do the work. I know I can do many jobs that are out there, especially many menial ones that require minimal training. I fear that once they find out I am blind, they’ll be very closed-minded and they will not give me a chance at all. I can’t hide it. It’s obvious. I’m afraid they will disregard the ADA, as my employer in January did, completely lie and find any excuse to get rid of me.
Many jobs do not require perfect visual acuity. One is psychologist, which is a highly paying job that usually requires a PhD or PsyD. You can be completely blind, meaning you see nothing at all, and be a great psychologist. People who do not use their eyes make up for it by using their ears and other senses very well.
People who see partially, like me, can work many jobs that do not require seeing things in the distance or seeing exact details. I have basic color vision but not good color vision. I see close up if I take my glasses off.
Unlike most people my age, I have no hearing loss whatsoever. Yesterday, I heard a high-pitched squeal coming from my computer equipment that bothered me so much that I had to shut it down! I have not heard that awful sound since. I am not sure what caused it. The average adult, certainly someone my age, would not have heard it, but most teens would indeed have been bugged by the noise. Teens have excellent hearing. I have heard that your teen years are the prime years for auditory ability.
Due to brain plasticity, I believe people who use their eyes less and are forced to rely on their ears have enlarged areas where their hearing sense is used by the brain. It’s not better ears, it’s just a well-tuned brain. We don’t have better ears or better eardrums. Our brains get more use in the hearing area, so that’s why we hear more, and are bugged more by noises such as the one I heard yesterday.
Still, I doubt a discriminatory employer is even going to care. I fear being fired due to discrimination more than I fear anything else.
I have already met this employer in person and eyeballed one of the female employees who appeared to be older than me. I highly doubt, though, that she is a new employee, just trained. Simply seeing an older worker on the job does not mean they hire older workers as she may have been there for decades. The manager I interviewed with appears to be older also. This, too, is no safeguard against age discrimination, especially since he is male. After all, he may be on the lookout for young, sexy-looking female candidates for various other reasons I don’t need to mention here.
Do I fear sexual harassment on the job? If I were younger, yes, I certainly would. And did! Now, no. I have no clue what it is about me but maybe sometime in my 50’s I developed a MEN STAY AWAY shield and it is mostly effective. A Bug Off shield. I do not have to say or do anything at all. It works in the background, quietly pushing those unwanted advances away before they even start. (If I could package and market this to other women, I would make a fortune, but unfortunately I am unable to do so. Shucks.)
Fear #2. Being fired because I am too smart for the job. This is totally embarrassing for me to admit. I am starting to learn about the pitfalls of being gifted, and why gifted individuals have a hard time “fitting in.” It is a sad commentary on the state of our Mental “Health” System that gifted people are mis-labeled with every mental dx in the book. Being smart is usually not an advantage if you are working a subservient position at a low-paying job, especially if you are dealing with inequity, complex hierarchy, worker oppression, gender bias, and perhaps the lack of unionization. I can credit my high intelligence as a major factor in my getting fired in the past. These workplaces do not like smart workers who speak up. And we will!
It isn’t a disorder that we dislike unfairness. It isn’t a disorder that we are smart enough to notice human rights violations. I’ve been learning more and more about why I’ve always been the one to speak up, and why this infuriated whoever was in charge.
You bet it infuriates the boss. It infuriated the boss at McDonald’s during the summer of 1976 when I challenged the policy of throwing out perfectly good food. I offered, as alternative, to bring the food to my neighbors who were struggling to make ends meet. They had five kids and had gotten a bad divorce deal.
I was fired.
Why? For wanting to feed poor people? For wanting good in the world? However, it was against McD’s policies. Period. You were not allowed to speak out against the gods. Even if you had a smart idea.
I learned to feel ashamed of being smart. To hide it. Even to lie about my college achievements or what I hoped to do. It was shameful because it had gotten me fired several times.
I don’t know which year this was. I was maybe 18. Likely not older than that. I was walking back to the dorm carrying some books and my trumpet case when some students came up to me, a number of them. They stopped me, wanting to speak with me. I’ll re-create the conversation….Even now, I don’t want to name them, and I cannot recall exactly who, anyway.
“That test that’s coming up?”
“Okay, the one in a couple of days?”
“Yeah, that one. That one, Julie.”
“What about it?” I didn’t like their tone.
“We know you will do well on it.”
“Do you want to study together? I can give you some tips like I did before.” I figured offering might get them off my back, but I knew this was not what they were asking for. What was it? Then I added, “You know I can’t let you copy off of me during the test. That wouldn’t work.”
“No, that’s not what we want. This test will be scaled. This means whatever grade you get will push our grades lower. Do you see what we are saying? You always do well and it makes us look bad. So we want you to make sure to make some errors on the test.”
I want to ask everyone out there if you would be offended by this.
To this day, remembering this event makes me cry. Not because it was traumatic. It wasn’t. I cry because of what it symbolizes. It symbolizes, for me, the deep hatred in our society for intelligence, often even more deep-seated for female intelligence. We cannot hold down a job because we challenge the status quo out of moral obligation.
We cannot even exist. This is why the mental health system denies us our personhood.
Well….off I go, fearing getting fired. However, if they hire me, it’ll be a job, anyway, till they do.