I'm a 25 year old male with an Undergrad and Master's degree, yet my main job is a minimum wage role most people could have done as soon as they left school at 16. It seems a very weird situation yet I somehow enjoy the job. While it doesn't relate to my degree at all, I find that the life experience side of university actually helped me develop skills needed for the role, particularly as I was lacking in social and practical skills as a result of my autism and spending much of my life in a special school where I was virtually shielded from the harsh realities of life. I've basically lived my life back to front, and while from a personal perspective I feel like I have achieved what I wanted to achieve 5 years ago, the awkwardness of the situation has increased my anxiety levels somewhat and caused me to stop talking to some friends who I worry will ridicule and badmouth me for my decisions.
From a financial perspective, yes I am earning minimum wage but what you've got to remember is that I'm a very frugal person who is disciplined with spending and lucky to have accumulated quite a bit in savings. Apart from the odd month where I went abroad, I generally have around £400-£800 left after spending the rest of my monthly pay check. I live rent free with my parents which helps a lot, and they appreciate the chores I do for them. They have promised to allow me to live with them for as long as I need provided I do my bit in return. As for my savings, I have accumulated around £40,000 so far while I'm about to receive another £50,000 in inheritance from a relative who has recently passed on.
Even with all that money, it doesn't make me any less worried about my future. While my job has been an enjoyable experience so far, I feel that I am going to need to do something else to keep up my credentials, even if I don't necessarily need the extra money. I am working on a couple of freelance projects related to my degree subject, but from a general point of view it's not that much. I've only had two clients since graduating, one of whom has given me a project roughly every 6 months (making that 4 in total), and another which is actually my old school. I offered to do a project for them for free because I wanted to give back to the team who helped me get through my school years and thus go on to achieve great things in my academic life.
Speaking of my academic life, I tend to look at my university life with rose tinted spectacles because I had never lived away from home before or experienced the freedom of being my own person, having been overprotected throughout my school and college years. Even so, I did struggle with the workload at times and had considered quitting, but my family encouraged me to push on because they knew how much I thrived at university and wanted me to make the most of my time there. I graduated with a 2:1 then went on to do a Master's in which I achieved a Merit.
The main issue I feel I have is that it takes me twice as long to complete tasks than the average person, and I feel that this might have a profound impact on my career prospects. I never did anything in the way of earning money while at uni, instead focusing on my studies and having a good social life (although COVID sadly put paid to the latter). I just want to be reassured that I will be in a stable, secure job that gives me enough to live on (which I have for now) while helping me to develop my social skills so I can find my perfect life partner and travel the world together which has always been my dream. The point is, I need extra time and support to thrive, yet it seems that the support dwindles and wanes as you get older, not helped by the fact that you build up more guilt and shame from past mistakes which prevents you from asking for it in the first place. It doesn't help that my circumstances got in the way of finding part time work until I joined a hospitality agency at the same time as starting my Master's. I never imagined I'd cope with that kind of work, let alone enjoy it and go on to find a permanent role thanks to them. I feel proud that I am finally in full time employment, although my inner critic wonders whether I should have just waited longer for a better opportunity to come up.
So the point is, have I completely messed my life up, or is my unique situation actually a blessing for someone on the autism spectrum?