A common “personality trait” of people on the spectrum is the feeling that many things are a terrible imposition on them. I certainly feel that all the time.
I feel like having to deal with other people driving on the road at the same time as me is a terrible imposition on me. They are all in my way, they are all driving too slow or taking off from the red light too slow, or driving like an idiot because they are on their cell phones (you’re not that important, people!), etc. I hate everyone in a vehicle on the road at the same time as me. Every road trip of even the shortest length makes me full of anxiety.
Having to do anything at all that is not exactly what I want to do at that given time always feels like a terrible imposition on me. I feel like I ought to be able to work on what I want to work on and that I ought to be able to make a living at it. I feel like there should be no barriers to entry for anything I want to try to do. I feel like I should not be made to work at jobs that are not completely interesting to me. I feel like when I am working that everyone ought to leave me alone to let me do my work. I feel like all bureaucrats ought to be fired because their only job is to annoy and harass people who have actual work to do. All of these things feel like a terrible imposition on me.
I suppose much of this comes about from a combination of things, such as my need to work/focus on my obsessions as well as a need for order and things to change more slowly than they typically do.
Also, I suppose this is related to my need for any and all expectations to be met. If I am told that something is going to happen (or not going to happen), and my expectations are not fulfilled, I feel as though I’m being imposed upon. And it’s not just big things.
Here’s a small example that I know logically doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but which mattered a great deal to me anyway. My wife declared early one morning that we were all going to spend all day Saturday watching movies, TV, or otherwise just relaxing at home. Come 6 p.m. or so, my wife says she’s going to Walmart. First, she’s only taking Daniel. Then she suggests we all go. Naturally, the kids are all for it. But I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go because and only because she had said earlier in the day that we wouldn’t be going anywhere all day long. Had she said nothing of the sort, I would have almost certainly agreed for us all to go. I knew that, but knowing that could not overcome the way I felt. Going felt like an imposition on me. And so Melina and I stayed home and Anna took Daniel and Dylan.
A bigger thing involved my attempting to get alternative certification one Summer in order to get a job in a public school that Fall. The idea of teaching itself doesn’t feel like an imposition. But being forced to get teacher certification when I have a Ph.D. does, and having to deal with all of the administrators when I am hired somewhere most certainly does. If I knew that everyone would just leave me alone to do my job, I’d be extremely happy, and I’d do my job, and do it well. But the very existence of administrators in the world causes me anxiety and they all feel like an imposition on me and my doing my job well.
So what wouldn’t feel like an imposition?
Having expectations met. Having people always follow through on everything they say. Now, when I say “always,” that doesn’t mean things cannot come up that people can’t help. That happens. I’m talking about the casual way most people don’t actually mean to follow through on their small commitments they make throughout the day. When I tell you I’ll do something, you can guarantee I’ll do it. Unless, of course, I just plain forget. Which is, as anyone who knows someone with autism knows, a distinct possibility.
Another thing would be to be allowed to work on my obsessions. In my ideal world, at least, that would mean being allowed to work on my poems, plays, short stories, novels, and scholarly work. And having someone who would send all of those things out for me. In my less-than-ideal-but-still-pretty-good world, that would mean a job doing creative work of some sort, being constantly mentally challenged in a job where creativity and innovation are what matter more than anything else in the world. Or proofreading. I love proofreading. I can just sit and do that for hours.
I can’t speak for anyone else in the specifics, but I would be willing to bet that the first sentence of each of the two paragraphs above are true for everyone on the spectrum.
It’s probably impossible for someone on the spectrum to go through the day without feeling that something is an imposition. So long as there are people disappointing our expectations, we’ll feel it. So long as I have to drive on roads with other drivers, I’ll feel it. I can think about it, stand outside myself and write about it, as I am now, but it seems impossible for me to not feel it. So when I’m annoyed and sighing and rolling my eyes, it’s because I’m feeling imposed upon. Trust me, if I could help it, I would do away with it in a heartbeat.