I feel kind of defensive about this

When I see people talking about positive traits in other people, “ambition” tends to rate really highly. We’re all supposed to have ambition, and lack of ambition is seen as a personality flaw.

Of course, “ambition” always seems to be short for “career ambition.” It seems we’re all supposed to have a goal to advance in our career in some way, and if we don’t there’s something wrong with you. Something *bad* about you.

I don’t know, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s just me being twitchy and defensive, because this is an area in which I do not, at all, fit into how society tells us we are supposed to be. It’s an area that gets me judgement when people learn about it. If I’m lucky, all I’ll get is a “look.” If I’m not so lucky, I get grilled about what I’m doing instead and why I don’t have a job. I rarely want to tell these people that I’m on the autism spectrum or my history with mental illness that has kept me out of work, so it can get really uncomfortable and awkward. I mean, this is why I do not want people to ask me about work as an ice breaker.

So it’s true that I don’t have career ambition. I mean, I don’t have any career. Nor is getting a job anywhere on my short-term goals list (it’s a possibility down the line, but right now? unless something magically falls into my lap, it’s not going to happen). I don’t think this makes me bad. Nor do I think it’s cool to make “ambition” only be about careers.

Sometimes I see people who have greater struggles than I do redefine independence. Instead of independence being about not needing help, independence should be about freedom of choice. Sometimes people need help – that doesn’t mean we should be denying them the ability to have determination over their own lives.

I suppose it may be a lesser issue, but I want to do something similar with ambition. I don’t lack goals, my goals just have nothing to do with my nonexistent career. I am actively working to improve myself in all sorts of ways, and I always am. I have goals about getting more mobile, about finding more ways to contribute to my household, about volunteering at the barn where I ride, about the various crafting things I always have going on, about my writing… Honestly, you don’t get to tell me that none of that counts as ambition. Sure, it doesn’t look “normal.” Sure, things that are “just hobbies” for other people are serious business for me. Sure, I’m struggling with things most people have down by the time they’re my age. That’s kinda how it goes with me.

But it doesn’t mean I’m less than you. It doesn’t mean I’m a lazy layabout. It doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious. It just means I’m not like you, and that’s ok.



Filed under ability

3 responses to “I feel kind of defensive about this

  1. Possum

    Oh thank you for this. Like you I’m not employed. Except for a bad quarterly market research job and the 2010 Census which sent my anxiety through the roof, I haven’t had a job since 1999. At 60 I’m not expecting to be employed again.

    Like you I have my own ambitions, though learning disabilities and other problems make it hard for me to make progress. But there’s another aspect to the whole issues of ambition and self-determination which still make me see red.

    I am strong verbally so I present as intelligent. I also like repetition and “find-a-word” type proofreading and until about 1998 found that type of work, often enjoyed it, often did well enough. Was constantly asked when I was going to try for a “better” job. Nope. Had one. At least until the jobs got offshored.

    Fast forward, 2006, Voc Rehab. I was given no help in getting a job that fit my skills and experience because what I wanted didn’t match what those in power thought I should either want or have. I watched other people get jobs I envied while I was being steered into inappropriate jobs which matched someone else’s ambition for me. Same results as when I applied on my own. The career ambition idea cost me years of my life. Most likely the same for others who had/have this idea imposed on them.

    I advocate a lot about, multiple niches. Infinite niches. No, no, no to monoculture. Hasn’t caught on yet as far as I can tell.

    I realize my responses to your posts tend to bitter and feeling victimized. Interesting. I don’t always feel that way, truly. I think your posts and my responses are a kind of therapy for me. I hope that’s okay, and that my responses help populate a virtual neurodoversity database of sorts.


  2. Agreed. My discomfort with this adoration of ‘ambition’ is that it tends to be ruthless. Ambition to my eye often looks like people being willing to be unscrupulous in order to advance their own agendas (which are very often their careers). A different angle on your point, but I’d love to see people become less interested in ‘ambition’ than in, say, people.

  3. Dan

    The quality and readership of your blog both certainly speak to your contribution to society, whether or not you are actually paid for the service.

    I’m sure you know there are systems that allow bloggers to be paid directly for their contributions. An example (no affiliation; no recommendation – I just heard of them) is http://www.blogher.com/ Apparently, they only handle blogs by females (no “male privilege” here!).

    There’s an old adage about your greatest strength being your greatest weakness, but if the strength is the weakness, then the weakness is the strength. NTs often see aspects of my Aspergers as weaknesses, but the weaknesses are strengths vis-à-vis NTs. One of my “typically” Aspie traits is that I learn things deeply. I’m that way anyway, so I’ve been blessed to be able to harness that trait (and get paid, in my case, essentially for being blessed with Aspergers), providing training to (mostly NT) adults. The hard part for me is turning my interests to something new; the easy part is explaining to others something they want to know.

    You’re using your Aspergers in a positive way, and I commend that! We play the hand we are dealt while helping others along the way; through your blog, you do both.