About Inclusion

 I've spent a long time on this planet. I am not that old, but I ain't that young either. I've seen a lot though. 

I did not stay in my mom's basement playing video-games till my hair fell off slowly sinking into the ground from which I came; I left home young. I slept on benches, I often found partners just because I needed a place to sleep. I struggled. I am not here to say only I struggled. Or that my turmoil has to be taken more seriously than another person: we all struggle in a way or another. Even the guy who lives in his mom's basement. So, I said that just to dramatize and to make you visualize the juxtaposition of my life when compared to others.

I noticed time after time people taking about inclusion, about racism - whatever that means - and sexism yet, I've personally never witnessed anyone taking the hard road when it came to take a stand for what they supposedly stood for. In fact, I've often seen people using other's difference to their advantage to get ahead; I am guilty of that as well. I too have used weaknesses in others to reach up, like a stool, I used people to survive. I like to think it was because I was young and, at least then, I thought I would not be able to make it if I didn't use everything I had around me to move forward. Now I know I would have but now, it is too late.

What I can do, now that I am over the hump, is to use the remainder of my life wisely and try to leave the world better than I found it. It seems like a tall order, unrealistic but, I don't mean my effect on this world would have to be huge, it would just have to be positive. I remember, when I was  a child, I had a fascination with observing people from afar. Unfortunately, as I know the influences this world is under, I feel that I have to specify that I don't mean I stalked not that I spied on people and got some sort of sexual argument from observing their live no, I truly loved imagining their lives. I loved elaborating from the little knowledge I had and create stories in my head about them. I could see, vividly, the places that old man was thinking about while he was on his balcony in the cold southern Italians winters, smoking his pipe. Their houses had an history, Every item in their houses was unknown to me. Where did it come from? Was it passed down from their grandparents to their offsprings and now to the kids who came to school with  me? Who paid for it? How did they pay for it? Or, even better, did they make it themselves?

I don't know why I liked observing their windows at night, from the balcony of my house, while they were having dinner I would wonder what did they talk about. I know it sounds weird but I always tried to find a story in everything...it made life more interesting.

Going back to leaving this world a better one than the one I found, I remember seeing this garden with a few sculptures made of wood set up almost like a scene in the back of this house. I learned the statues were made by the grandfather of the people living in the house - who had died long ago - and that it was what he used to do to pass time. I thought: he left the world a better place than he found it because, that day, I passed by and enjoyed a view that would otherwise not have been there for me to see. So, small things, not big ones.

Back to inclusion, I can't speak much about racism as I am white. Although I have experienced my fair share of what you call racism, it cannot compare not even in the slightest to what others have suffered due to their skin color or beliefs so, I can't talk about that. I can't talk about being discriminated against because of my sexual orientation as I am heterosexual. What I do know about is being different. I don't understand the world as others do. I don't see things like others do. Asperger's, they mentioned when I was too young to understand what it even meant, then never heard it again for thirty years.

I've always known I was different and never understood why. I eventually gave up trying to figure it out and went on with my life the best I could but now, many years later, I can confidently say that I am somewhat on one end of the spectrum - the good end that is. 

So, years ago I was talking to one of my managers and we were talking about these 'millennials' and how weak they are, with all their made up issues etc. I chimed in, I learned it is the best thing to do in corporations so that people don't treat you like a vampire or the Frankenstein's monster: you gotta be one of them, or at least try. A lot of the issues we called 'made up' are issues that Millennials are aware they have because we have studied and researched them extensively. A lot of these issues are behavioral disorders like ADHD and Autism. These are real things, I should know, but the solutions we find for them is more of a 'sweeping under the rug' solution. We try to modify them, make them learn to live in this world - which partly helps - but we are missing the second half of the solution: we need this world to be modified as well. 

This manager kept boasting his bravado and social skills he uses to take advantage of the system. He knows that, if you have finely honed your social skills, everything else you can fake. You don't need to know how to do anything well as long as you know how to get out of situations and make others feel like you are one of them. He is very successful at that. Me, I like to be good at what I do, even just for principle. Often times he joked about how useless was to know how to do something if he knew how to take credit for it. Fast forward years and the guy had three children, fast forward few years and it turns out two  of them, the two girls, are on the spectrum: both of them in the functional side of the spectrum but with obvious severe retardation in development compared to kids their ages. I thought: that was divine justice, poetic justice, whatever you want to call it. Then I hated myself for thinking that but again, it was too late.

I hated knowing that those girls will have a tough life due to their limitations but what I hated the most was that their father would only talk about his vacations, his problems, his life and not once I heard of any sort of plan nor interest into the condition itself or how to try and make a better future for people with his kid's condition.

I have seen him deal with the issues that arise when you have children that struggle to keep up with the 'normal' ones. What I don't understand is that while he does that, he also keeps his practices which, in my opinion at least, nullify his efforts on the other front. Who better than someone in management could show dedication to change a workplace to be more inclusive of people with developmental or behavioral issues? The reality is that a lot of those people could be very good at something if we start changing the narrative of how interviews and even selecting employees goes. I failed every interview I've ever had. Yet, I've been a very good employee. I have been a bad worker too, many times, I am not hiding it but, again, I have been a very good employee even without 'people skills'. 

So, back to inclusion, if you read this and your kids are on the spectrum or if you read this and you are upset about intolerance, racism, gender orientation prejudice etc, do something about. Do something that will change the world in better and not just by donating - that's the lazy way. You know why my manager does not do anything about changing our workplace? Because it is too damn hard. It is easier to just clock in and out and let others worry about the world we leave to the next generation. Then, one day, his kids are gonna grow up and they will have to fight against the current, a current that stayed strong thanks to the effort of people like their father. 



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