Oftentimes people on the spectrum tend to become fixated on things which to others would seem odd. This level of interest can often be misconstrued as obsession. When that fixation is on a particular outcome or individual, it can push people away.
Many with Autism and Aspergers become hyper-focused on things which captivate their imagination. There is almost no moderation for those on the spectrum because life for us is defined quite simply in black and white. We are either disinterested in something or passionately interested in something. We pursue our passions with an uncommon tenacity that makes us very successful in the workplace and in industries where specialities align with our interests.
In the case of professional aspirations this can be a sort of double sword. Take for example my frequent musings about an old mentor. He was sort of my first mentor which makes him particularly special versus more recent ones. Most importantly his career is one I admired since high school. He worked for my favorite production company; a company who’s film I could not get enough of and would do anything to work for. When he was promoted to CEO very young, I told myself “that’s someone I want to learn from!”
When friends of mine worked with him and forwarded me his information, I made the rookie mistake of reaching out in an unsolicited matter. In my enthusiasm, I mistook his initial replies as an OK to continue to seek conversation. Throughout the course of three months, I’d try to reach out, assuming he may not have gotten my messages. I couldn’t even consider his POV, that his lack of reply was disinterest. I could only consider my enthusiasm and desire to work for him one day.
This is the problem with those on the spectrum. Oftentimes in our own enthusiasm, we fail to consider others POV. When we do this, we push people away. And push him away I did! While eventually through a round about sort of sequence of events he would come to be a brief mentor of mine, this interaction would always frame our interaction at a subconscious level. He refused to meet me in NY because of that initial interaction.
The truth is those on the spectrum respect and understand boundaries. Unlike obsessives who harbor legitimate mental illness, we would never cross the line. I would never stalk this person or try and find out where they live or currently work. For example, a friend of mine attended the premiere and after party at the hotel of this man and other above line professionals. I never went there, despite dropping off a drawing to his assistants hotel at this mans request. Why? Because I respect boundaries. I live in LA. I never have tried to find out where he lives. Why? Because I respect and understand boundaries. A key distinction between those on the spectrum versus those who are genuine obsessives is the understanding of boundaries. An obsessive would try and stalk him, go to that hotel or try and find out where they live. Someone on the spectrum would never do that because their interest is not personal but rather professional! Even where it may be personal, they would still respect boundaries.
Nonetheless my frequent tweeting about him may still prove unsettling. All I’ve wanted since moving here is a chance at a general meeting to prove to them in person that I’m who they grew more comfortable with: a gregarious and intelligent young woman with many common interests, a talent for writing and a sarcastic wit. Yet I’ve again failed to consider their POV in my enthusiasm.
I’ve learned a great deal about how to conduct myself in this industry. I would never make the same mistakes I did at 22-23. I’ve also improved considerably with my spectrum tendencies, as is common with age and experience. Sometimes I fall back into that trap. It’s important to understand this is not obsession, but wanting to work for someone we know we’d feel comfortable with. It’s a desire for a particular outcome but nonetheless the degree of stubbornness is odd.
This level of persistence is therefore a double edged sword. On the one hand it shows a level of work ethic unrivaled by others. I know he’d never find an assistant willing to work harder, be more loyal or respectful– not to mention a better fit based on genre interest and lingual ability. On the contrary this can also be misconstrued as obsession and make the person uncomfortable. I have to respect that is why this outcome may never happen, no matter how much I may still try and wish it so 😉