Reconsidering Self Employment

There’s no doubt that employment is always a challenge for individuals on the autism spectrum. I read some statistic somewhere that said as many as 4 out of 5 autistic adults do not have full-time employment and those who do are often over-educated and otherwise under-employed. Whether that is due to a lack of education on the condition or people just being willfully ignorant or even in my case discriminatory government regulations it’s a rampant problem.

Of course, for me my issues are twofold: not only am I autistic but I have tattoos (and soon to have piercings) and, as my post from yesterday demonstrated, there are still a very vocal minority (and in some places it’s actually a majority) who are anti-body modification. Between those two things, yeah, it’s difficult to find fulfilling employment and more often than not we wind up stuck in rather unfulfilling jobs such as the one I’m in now.

As such, I’ve considered a number of directions I could go but self-employment always comes back as the best option. It’s just so hard to get started and I still have bankruptcy on my credit history (and will for another about 2 and a half years – I had a near-fatal heart arrhythmia back in 2009 that had to be corrected surgically but was only discovered after I was revived from cardiac arrest) so this is still at the minimum of a few years down the road. It’s a tough road but the most seemingly worthwhile roads are a little rough and curvy.

Alas, it’s not totally new territory for me – I was self-employed in a limited capacity for the couple of years before I landed my current job. I did some clock/watch repair and was a wedding/funeral bagpiper but neither one of those fields has anywhere near enough demand to support a full-time business. Alas, I had just written it off as any sort of future, but it’s starting to look like an attractive option again.

Some time ago my ex suggested that we should go into business together and for a little while I was on board with that, but with the immediate aftermath of the election it became very obvious that we are no suitable business partners due to our differences of business philosophy as well as stark differences of political and religious persuasion. Of course, we could not function together as a couple so why she even thought for a second we could function together as business partners blows my mind. Well, I imagine she is still young and naive so maybe she was having another one of her young and delusional moments (we’ve all had them when we were younger after all).

So then I got to thinking one night what I could do. If I had an artistic eye and hand I’d have considered becoming a tattoo and piercing artist but I don’t have an artistic bone in my body so that wasn’t going to be an option. Not only that but I can’t even use chopsticks so I could I possibly handle a tattoo machine or piercing needle? It does seem like it would be fun but not everyone is cut out to be a tattooer or piercer and I most certainly am not.

Then one night as I was sitting on my back porch engaging in my evening ritual of a Scotch and a cigar it just hit me. I thought “I love Scotch, I love cigars, business idea!” So my idea for a business was born.

My business would be part lounge/bar and part retail store. I’d have a large walk-in humidor full of a huge selection of cigars that could be purchased as singles or by the box and stored at the proper temp and humidity as to be ready to smoke as well as room with fine whiskies of all varieties (Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, you name it) for sale by the bottle.

In addition to those two main focal points, I’d have some smoking accessories (lighters, cutters and humidors/storage), a selection of pipes and pipe tobacco and a selection of microbrew beer and fine wine. For those who do not drink alcohol, we’d have a selection of coffee and tea to choose from.

The lounge portion would be classy yet modern (almost a speakeasy feel) with a state-of-the-art ventilation system. There will be no TVs or WiFi and maybe just some soft background music. I’d have plenty of comfortable chairs (and maybe couches), a couple of chess/checker tables and maybe a pool table or two but the point would be to slow down and enjoy a great smoke, a stiff drink and light-hearted conversation. The point would be to unplug yourself from social media and the demands of day-to-day life and actually get back to being human again. I want it somewhat classy but not overly so as to attract people from all walks of life and not just well-dressed business people. Everyone of legal age would be welcomed regardless of sex, social status, race, religion, sexual orientation/gender identity, disability, body mods or anything else really (and a statement of inclusivity would be part of the business model).

Now, by default any tobacco or drinks consumed in the lounge would have to come from the retail store portion but the point would still be to get people talking to each other and keeping them around for awhile (instead of just simply getting what they need and getting out) as that often times leads to them buying more anyway.

Now here’s where I’m not 100% sure what I want to do. I don’t know if I’d want to operate as a bar (so those hanging around would purchase by the drink) or if I’d just allow alcohol bought from the stash to be consumed in the lounge. I’m sure it’s one of those things I’ll have to consider with local ordinances and whatever but I do know that in addition to the dry coffee and tea we’d sell I’d want ready-made coffee and hot water for steeping tea (ready-made coffee/tea would be sold by the cup with unlimited refills).

This all sounds fine and good but what about a business name and where would I eventually set up shop? Well I don’t know where I’d open by business but definitely not in Abilene, Texas; such a concept would definitely require a much more progressive, open-minded location. Also, what about an attractive name? That’s even harder, but man oh man I had a bagpiper friend from Canada come up with a great name that both fits the theme of the business and is a play on my initials (L.B.) – Leaf and Barrel. I thought it was absolutely genius and will probably wind up using it.

I dunno, maybe I am dreaming again but at the end of the day that would be the real American dream – have your own business and make money engaging in an activity you love. They say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m 30 years old and I feel like my work days just keep getting longer and don’t think I can handle another 37 years of this nonsense so it’s almost time for me to transcend my day job. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. It’d be nice to take my love of these things, marry them into a business venture and not ever have to worry about a boss criticizing me for my autistic shortcomings or worrying about having to cover my tattoos or piercings or even a work dress code. I could do whatever I wanted to (within the confines of the law of course) and just kind of soak it up. If only I could find a way to make it a reality.




Rejected Op-Ed: Tattoo Acceptance

Just before I got my puzzle piece and dagger tattoos, I had penned an op-ed to my local paper concerning the issue of tattoo acceptance in both social and professional circles. The powers that be rejected it even though I can’t understand why. It was not edgy or anything. Actually I’ve written many more edgy op-eds that were published. Maybe that’s what they like from me? I don’t know.

Whatever the case, I refuse to be silenced on this matter and if the paper won’t publish my op-ed I’m going to publish it here. I think this needs to be said and we as inked, pierced and other body modified folk need to continue to advocate for change and acceptance. I am fortunate to work for a company that has no rules against piercings and tattoos (in fact one of our upper management is sleeved out on both arms (at the very least – he probably has more) and has large gauges in his ears. He couldn’t get away with that in some other places.

At any rate, enjoy.

Though great progress has been made with acceptance of tattoos in mainstream society, it saddens me that tattoo rejection is still an issue in both professional and personal circles. I think there are multiple reasons for this, but none of them are really valid when you think about it.

Probably the most common objections I hear to tattoos are religious in nature. Although there are many Christians who sport tattoos, when you really look at it the Bible is pretty clear on its stance of tattoos: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:28. I am not as well-versed on the Qur’an but my understanding is that the Qur’an has similar provisions forbidding tattoos. Whatever the case, this goes back to the freedom of and freedom from religion doctrine: you are free to practice your religion, but you are not free to force others to conform to it. To expect those of us who reject religion to conform is highly misguided.

In the workplace, tattoos are often thought of as “unprofessional.” I cannot speak for anyone else, but personally all of my tattoos are very personal and symbolic to me. I refuse to just get ink on a whim. The permanence of the decision requires careful thought. Virtually all employee dress codes allow jewelry. Many items of jewelry (most notably religious jewelry and wedding rings) are symbolic to the people wearing them. If such pieces of jewelry are not unprofessional, then how are tattoos somehow unprofessional? How is a tattoo any different from a piece of jewelry in that way? It does not seem any different to me at all.

Some associate tattoos with criminal behavior. The reality is that about half of all adults have at least one tattoo nowadays. Are you seriously going to tell me that half of all adults are criminals? The reality is that most of us “inked” folk are normal, law-abiding citizens. It seems to me this fear is pretty much analogous to the fear of gun owners. You will never convince me that the majority of gun owners are criminals.

Other miscellaneous objections to ink come in the form of potential regret, how tattoos age with the person and other silly stuff. None of these are really valid arguments in my opinion. The same thing could be said for a lot of things in life. They do not work there, they do not work here.

Obviously I am not calling for acceptance of vulgar or obscene tattoos in a professional setting, much like I think it is perfectly fine to disallow vulgar or obscene t-shirts, jewelry or other articles of clothing. Tastefully done tattoos, however, should be perfectly acceptable. There are just no legitimate grounds to forbid visible yet tasteful tattoos in a professional setting.

By the time this op-ed is published, I will in all likelihood have gotten my third and fourth tattoos. Just as with my first two, each one will be symbolic to me. They will be expressions of who I am rather than things that define me. I can assure each and every one of you that I am the same me now that I was six months ago when my entire body was a blank canvas. Nothing has changed as far as my work ethic, my good moral character, my core convictions or anything else about me.

As always, societal paradigm shifts begin with individuals. I think of the era before my time in which interracial marriage was frowned upon but is now largely accepted. In my lifetime, the parallel of same-sex marriage comes to mind. All of these life choices were once considered unacceptable or taboo but have gained much more widespread acceptance in modern times. Just as we have made great strides in these areas and have made great strides in the mainstream acceptance of tattoos, we still have a long way to go.

The reality is that tattooing is a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization. It is nothing new. It is not a “fad.” Why, then, do we treat it as such? It makes no sense. It is beyond time we wised up.

Random Rantings For Today

Well, this isn’t a tattoo post (though I will be going under the needle again tomorrow at 10 AM for a Scottish-themed tattoo on my outer right calf – stay tuned for pics!) but I just have a couple of rants for today, so thanks for entertaining them.

First off, it’s fucking hot here in Texas, alright? We’re talking upper 90 degrees. Quite frankly I’m also very, very hot natured. Naturally I am going to do what I have to in order to cool my body as much as possible.

I’ve never really liked the shorts they have for men these days. Those baggy long things do nothing to cool your legs and they weigh you down. Nah, I’ve always been one to opt for the vintage short shorts (if you couldn’t tell from my Gravatar). They actually keep your legs cool and let’s face it, legs are legs whether they belong to a guy or a girl.

Nonetheless, do I ever get some heat (pun intended) for it. I’ve seen people snap pictures of me with their cell phones, laugh or snicker under their breath, whatever. I even had a server at a restaurant make a smart remark under her breath (that I think wasn’t intended for my ears but I heard it clear – needless to say she got no tip and a nasty note). It doesn’t bother me as that just says more about them than it does me, but it does make me wonder: why do they care so damn much? My fashion choices, although passé, don’t affect their lives any. I also know a lot of people have been put off by them at first sight and thus have passed over getting to know me.

I’m more than just the clothes I wear or even the ink on my body for that matter. I’m a person with a story to tell and a heart full of love to give and not enough people to give it to. If people looked past my image and got to know me they’d see that although a bit weird, I’m a nice, fun-loving, easy-going guy.

Secondly, it’s allergy season. I have horrible, horrible allergies and have ever since I can remember. Combine this with chronic postnasal drip and as a result often times I have this non-stop throat clearing nonsense. Funs stuff, let me tell you.

Let me tell you what else: I’m just as well aware of it as you are, dear lady in the next office over. You don’t have to go out of your way to point it out to me. I know damn good and well that the whole grinding “ahem” sound and/or the sound of mucus moving around is annoying and gross. Trust me, it’s probably more annoying to me than it is to you! I try to keep it as minimal as I can (and especially since I sing and throat clearing can damage one’s vocal cords) but it can’t be helped.

I know it might be bothersome, but cut me some slack. What do you expect me to do? Choke on my own phlegm? Yeah, like you’re going to enjoy the sound of that!

Anyway, I just needed to vent. For those who read to the end, thanks. I just needed to get this off of my chest. I appreciate my newfound blogging friends and hope our friendship can continue to grow together.