Returning to routine


God, I hate that word. All my life, it’s haunted me. You need a routine so you’ll have control in your life. That’s a lie. Routines offer predictability, not control. You’re a captive to the routine, conditioned to believe it offers you control when it really offers you chains.

I should know. I’m autistic. They drill this into your caregivers like trying to explain it to you will go over your head and you’ll never understand it. Your family will spend countless occasions accommodating your routine and ensuring nothing upends it. Then you have to move, and before you know it, you’re moving every two years because your step dad fucks everyone over and you’re just collateral.

One day, you’ll have to adapt to shit happening if you’re to be a good, well-functioning human being on this planet.

Fuck that. I’ve found a way to balance routine and spontaneity: routine in the evening, taking chances in the daytime.

Of course, my days will soon unravel into a new schedule, as I will be going to Apparel Cap 1, which is 4am to 1pm, but at least I will have some hours during the day to get shit done. My sleep schedule can vary between going to bed around 7pm and the time I get home. If I get home early, I can awake early, like maybe midnight, at which point I’ll just wait until it’s time to leave for work. 🤷‍♀️

But until then, I can still put forth the effort to fall back into a routine so I can actually get some sleep.

Selfie taken while laying down; hand facing palm-up over face

Sleep, sleep — ah, but lately, I’ve been resting in my car on lunch. I need to refill my car snack stash with stuff I could potentially eat in my car I lay down in the backseat in attempt to fall asleep, despite my struggle to fall asleep in strange, unfamiliar places. Yet, it’s the lull my 2005 PT Cruiser makes when it’s on, lukewarm temp blowing, Instrumental playlist on Amazon music — featuring modern-day instrumental versions of songs and classical music — low-key bouncing off the speakers that rock me to sleep ten minutes before I’m to be clocked back in.

But then, I’m skipping two meals instead of just breakfast. Like, I need my meal break to be used for eating food and not not eating food, because then I’m just lapsing back into self-starvation

I had to park further from Garden Center than usual a few times because the spots were filled, and once, I saw an SUV running with no one inside and was like, “WTF?!” but then I saw someone in the backseat laying down with a sweater over them, and I understood then that my co-worker and I are not the only ones sleeping in a car on our meal breaks.

It does make me wonder what passersby think, if only out of curiosity — not because I care what they think. Like, what if I want to use this in a book scene?

So routine. I don’t wish to spoil myself with stability. I think there’s enough of that out there, especially with all the job security bullshit floating around since the pandemic — can we not gaslight people feeling stuck in unfulfilling jobs just because their workplace has been classified as essential, even if it means all the Karens and Beckys and Kevins of the world are gonna be Karens, Beckys and Kevins respectively, just because essential workplaces mean open for business??

Because there’s something called at-will employment, which means

  • you can quit at any time, for any reason, without notice and/or explanation; and
  • they can fire you at any time, for any legal reason, without notice and/or explanation.

And it’s for that reason that I will never feel the comfort of “job security” at my current workplace. Because I have no control over my employment, my income, my schedule, etc. where it counts the most — where I can create stability in my life, permanently. Job security is not viable in that kind of environment.

Nonchalant selfie while sitting in Walmart aisle on Black Friday

If I ever stuck with retail, I’d want to be in charge of the mods — the merchandising structure/layout on a display. I think retailers need to work with influencers to design the structure for most of their mods, because something is just not working out. There is no aesthetic. It’s all a mess, all the time — but I’m going to digress because I still work there.

Back to stability and job security: This is the #1 reason I’m keen to work for myself, whatever that means whenever I get there (shhh). Because until I do, I’m always going to be on someone else’s schedule, time and money. I’m not going to be the boss in my life.

So once it’s all said and done, isn’t the idea of sticking to a routine just another myth? Things change. Maybe you’re exhausted when you get home from work and decide to spray yourself with aerosol disinfectant and nap on the couch awhile before finally dragging yourself to shower — and by then, it’s way too late, way past your routine.

Or your two-hour reading session was cut short an hour because you finished the book, but don’t want to start a new one just yet because you like taking in the contents of the book in question. TF do you do??

In my experience, the routine never sticks. Professionals like to say autistic people need strict routines, but it’s more of a case of needing consistency and the allowance for adaptability. Instead of swift changes, teach autistic people how to transition between activities, how to actively try new things, and that it’s okay to decline social affairs in favor of recharging. Teach autistic people to value themselves and know — and own up to — their worth, rather than conditioning them to change themselves so as to be accepted by mainstream society.

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