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2017 Year In Review

by Aaron Tanner

· 2017,New Year's,Reflection,Improvement,Challenge

I hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday season.

The year ended much better for me than it started. Several changes happened at the beginning of 2017 that were difficult. In January, my grandpa died. Although he had been in declining health, it was still hard seeing him go. About the same time, my sister moved back with my mom and me. This was a lot of change that happened very quickly.

At work, I was unable to keep up with the demands of packing orders. Unfortunately, I had many meltdowns as I was very frustrated. It was to the point that I seriously considered quitting as I knew that remaining in that particular position would eventually lead me to being fired I felt.

The death of my grandpa made me re-evaluate my life and what I was doing. It hit me that my original plan of working in the field of Geographic Information Systems was not going to happen. I was miserable in my then current work environment period. I knew that changes needed to be made if I wanted to be happy.

One step I took towards being happy and keeping my mind sharp involved getting back into writing after a hiatus. After ordering the latest edition of The Writer’s Market, I discovered Alabama Living magazine and that the publication needed freelance writers. I contacted the magazine about writing an article about a rural restaurant east of Huntsville that I always wanted to try. The magazine approved my idea, and my freelance writing journey began.

There were still issues at work. However, I convinced my doctor to write the company a note saying why I needed a shift change. Although I was hesitant to switch shifts, I was successful in being able to work during the morning instead of the afternoons and my supervisors were very helpful and encouraging.

Things started to improve at work almost immediately. My mom and others at work noticed I was less tense and happier.

Do not get me wrong; there were still challenges at my regular job. For example, the floor supervisor was not familiar with Aspergers and as a result, would stick me in situations where I would not feel comfortable.

Instead of whining about it, I used my executive functioning skills to take care of the problem by speaking with this particular floor supervisor and the head supervisor. What I believe was happening was a clash of personalities and me misunderstanding this specific person’s communication style due to the Aspergers.

As the year went on, I became more comfortable in my position during my first shift along with writing for Alabama Living. However, I was ready for a new challenge at work. I went to the marketing department and asked if there were any tasks in which they could use extra help since I always wanted to work in Marketing and my hours are part-time. They agreed on letting me work on the company newsletter.

By the fall, I had jobs running work in the shipping department, working on the newsletter in the marketing department and writing for Alabama Living magazine. This load is almost a full-time position. My skills were being used and I felt much more fulfilled.

Another thing that I learned is that part of what kept me back was my negative attitude. Having OCD exacerbates the situation when I have unpleasant thoughts. For the first time in my life, I decided to apply what I learned reading the Bible and start talking and thinking positively. The chaplain at work told me he noticed a change in our conversations for the better with learning to control what goes into my mind and learning to speak less pessimistically.

Although things at my job may not be perfect, people are friendlier with me and want to talk with me. This gives me self-confidence. I also am less isolated at work as now I interact with different departments more than I used to. Thankfully, I have people at my job who encourage me whenever I am down.

I have received tons of praise from co-workers about the employee newsletter. They were able to find out things about the company they did not know. The newsletter is sent out via E-mail along with on our company’s private Facebook page. My only work weakness now is sometimes I take the newsletter too seriously, and the marketing supervisor has told me to relax as the publication is an extra perk for those working with the company and that there is no set timetable of when it is published.

As far as my articles with Alabama Living, I have received positive feedback. For example, the owner of Joe’s Pizza in Woodville, Alabama plans to have my article on their restaurant framed and put on the wall in their restaurant. On another article I wrote about Stevarinos of Scottsboro, Alabama, the owner said he saw an increase in business since the article was published.

For the Christmas season, I was invited to three different parties. Although I did have issues with sensory overload at two of the parties, I was able to work through those difficulties to have a good time.

If I could summarize what I learned in 2017, I discovered I need to loosen up and go with the flow. Being open to change can be difficult for someone with Aspergers as they often require schedules to be oriented correctly. I will continue working on this goal in 2018 along with thinking more positively. More importantly, I am glad I stuck with my job even though it got tough. I hope my life experience will teach those with Aspergers not to give up when things get hard as often things do work out for good.

I hope that 2018 is bright for you. If you would like to share your reflections on 2017 or goals for 2018, comment in the section below.

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