Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Happened Then, What Happens Next

Okay, so let's talk about what happened yesterday: To quote myself answering this question for a friend, "It was a first day to end all jobs."

As first days on jobs go, this one was something of a disaster from start to finish. Yesterday began what was supposed to be a full week of paid training to prepare me for a job as an e-tech person for a local company. According to rumor I picked up from a fellow trainee, we were starting in the middle of a pay period, and I would be paid the same day I am to move into my new apartment. YAY!!! I needed that extra money right then. I prepared carefully: I made sure all necessary paperwork was filled out and printed off, went to bed at a decent hour the night before, and got up and out the door on time yesterday morning. The bus arrived on time and dropped me off on time. I made it to the intersection where I was supposed to turn. That's where it all fell apart.

First, I walked a block and a half in the wrong direction. Walking in any direction is difficult for me, because I have chronic back pain due to a bulging disk in my lumbar spine and degenerative disease in the lower lumbar-upper sacral spine. That's the area below the small of the back and above what I lovingly call the bohunkus. I cannot walk continually for more than two or three minutes without the pain ramping up, and once it gets to a certain intensity, there is nothing else for it but to sit down. If I continue to push past this point, I set myself up for the pain to continue for hours after, even if I stop walking and do not do a significant amount of walking anymore the rest of the day. So it was not good for me to walk in the wrong direction.

I had to retrace my steps and go back to the intersection. I stopped there and got water from a gas station before proceeding on my way in the right direction. It was only a block that I had to walk, but along this block, which is rather long, there is no sidewalk on the side of the street where I needed to be, the ground, though mostly covered with grass, was uneven and on an incline in places, and in some spots there were leaves that would prove treacherous in wet weather. Having broken a bone in my left leg at the knee because of a fall after slipping on pine straw after a rain shower, I pay especial attention to tree debris on grass, and I intensely dislike having to walk over mounds of it. I fare much better on sidewalks. Since there wasn't one, and the ground was as I have described, and since I was now in considerable pain from walking, I had to actually stop and sit on a retaining wall along the way. It was the second time I'd had to do this, having stopped on the way back to the intersection from the wrong direction to sit on the side of some steps in front of a building.

It was after I got up from the retaining wall that I then made the mistake that cost me the most time: Seeing a spot where the wall petered out, low to the ground and only slightly inclined upward, I left the side of the road, cut through a parking lot, and went to the side of the building I was trying to enter. The building is very large, with bits that angle in and out, and all on one level. I thought to get into the building from that side, or be able to walk around to the front and get in. Well, between stopping now for longer than I was going, going to every door I saw only to find that I couldn't get in that way, and having to sit down a couple more times, I didn't get through the right door until almost an hour after the training class was to start. Had I stayed on the path and kept going, I would have found the door maybe 15-20 minutes earlier. Looking back, this mistake seems almost a metaphor for what happened next.

I was finally escorted from the security desk in the lobby to my classroom. There were not enough computers for the people in the room, and of extra chairs the only one left was a hard, formed plastic chair, the kind with bolts to hold the seat and back piece to the metal legs. They're very uncomfortable to sit on for more than an hour or two at the best of times, and I sat on one for most of the training day. At the lunch break, when I approached the trainer about something, I discovered the information pretty much sent the rest of the day downhill.

It went like this: When I first went to the company for recruitment and to be interviewed, the recruitment manager told us that the e-tech hours of operation were during a 12-hour span during the day, with shifts to be set sometime during those 12 hours. I'd indicated in writing on a form I was given to complete that I wanted to work no later than 4 p.m. At the time that I interviewed for the position, no mention was made to me of when I would actually be scheduled to work. However, the project supervisor asserted most firmly that the hours were something quite different, and I would actually be working considerably later than I thought. There were day slots that were being reserved for those new employees who were the top performers their job during the first 90 days.

Here were my objections:
1. With my current physical condition and the difficulties stemming therefrom, I did not feel that I would be able to safely navigate the block between the building and the bus stop in the dark.
2. The buses run differently at night, potentially making it more difficult for me to get home if I worked a night shift.
3. I have already researched the area where I will soon be living, and I currently know that the most direct way for me to get home is to walk from a major highway down a street for some distance to my apartment. I do not want to do that at night in my current condition, for reasons of safety as well as decreased physical ability.
4. There was another contract that already had a few day slots, but they required weekend work, and because I play for a church one weekend a month, I need Sundays free, but the choice wouldn't be mine to make.
5. If a few day slots are being held in reserve, that means they exist, and it seemed to me unfair that the work schedule according to their needs was being portrayed has having no day slots available. Either they don't have them, in which case they should have made that clear to everyone, or they do, in which case, it should be no hardship to them to fill them and let me have one.

I pleaded my case based on the first three objections, and the best solution at which we could arrive was for me to hand in my newly-acquired employee badge and hope that they could work something out and call me back. Although I'd like to think that will happen, and I hope it does, I will not be surprised if it doesn't. After yesterday, I feel like a failure; the more I think about it, the more colossal a failure I feel; because I think I panicked a bit thinking about the lateness of the proposed hours. Had I been a little more clearheaded in that moment, I would have instead opted to do some researching and thinking between then and now, and I might still have a job. Feeling like I needed to make a decision right then, however, I took the path of caution and so I find myself back where I started. It's a rather sick feeling. I want it to be awhile before I feel this way again.

However disastrous it was, it was also a valuable learning experience for me, showing me some issues I need desperately to resolve before I begin a new job search, and today I began working on them in earnest. My new plan of action is as follows:
1. I will call my prospective property manager to check on the status of my apartment application and find out if I may go to see the apartment I will be renting. I will attempt to navigate the distance from the apartment to the highway to see exactly how much effort it will take. At some point before I move, I will also ride the route again to be sure my online research matches with actual happenstance.
2. I made appointments today with an orthopedist recommended to me by my chiro and with an optometrist whom I've seen before. When I go to them, I will take with me application forms which I will ask them to fill out and sign confirming visual and other disabilities.
3. The applications are for service through a local transportation program that provides two levels of discounted taxi service conjunctive with the bus routes. I will complete my portion of the forms and submit them to the program manager and pray that I qualify for the total service.
4. For my health's sake, I will continue my efforts in the starch/sugar challenge (which have gone a little awry lately) and the sleep challenge, and after I have seen the ortho, I will begin an exercise challenge as well. Nothing strenuous, but if I must exercise, I find that I like stretches and exercises that are simultaneously relaxing and breath-driven, like the floor work in yoga and pilates. Hopefully I will find some moves I actually like.
5. In terms of employment, it is now time to "push the paradiggum" and "step away from the box" as was said by a nutty professor in a commercial I liked that did not run for very long. Recently, I was (I hope lovingly) accused of selling myself short by someone whom I like a little more than I hope that person knows. I realize that my brain is metabolically scrambled right now, but those parts that are still functional will now be bent toward lengthening my selling points and parleying avocation into vocation. From those who know me well, I welcome ideas, complete with practical points of implementation and suggestions of directions for first steps. These will either be in conjunction with or in place of more typical work-a-day moneymaking efforts. I look to those who love me to gently encourage me and pray hard for me, that I will recognize opportunities when I see them, have the wisdom to know how to work around the sticky points, and have courage to grasp them when they happen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


So it's been a couple weeks since you last heard from me—and boy, what a difference a couple weeks makes!

Some things you don't know about me, as background: In 2005 I was laid off of a job that I loved and through which I felt that I was doing a wonderful service to the public. I was dealing with information of a somewhat medical nature, which appealed to me because I have always been fascinated by medicine and the workings of the body. When the unemployment payments ended, I took the first job that offered itself, doing telephone interviews for surveys. The work was not steady and paid me considerably less than I was making on the previous job. When I was assigned to a survey for which I would work two months and be out of work one month, I decided to apply for Social Security Disability based on my congenital legal blindness and put some time to good use studying to be a medical transcriptionist.

In theory this was a sound plan. I wouldn't have to worry about where the money was coming from while I was studying, and when I was finished, I would apply for a job making good enough money not to need the disability payments. There was only one problem about which no one warned me and which I didn't discover until I graduated from the medical transcription program I'd chosen and passed with flying colors and began looking for work: You have to be very, very careful which MT program you choose. If the one you choose doesn't offer internships or isn't part of a company that will hire its own graduates to give them experience, and you live in an area where most of the local medical facilities have already switched over to digital dictation or dictation via speech-recognition software, then you are going to have a most hellacious time getting hired. Medical transcription companies abound, and they are fighting over experienced transcriptionists, who are leaving the business in droves. However, those same companies will not hire anyone who doesn't have at least one year of on-the-job experience—meaning they will not hire me. Since I cannot get hired, I cannot gain experience. So, reluctantly, I began looking for other work than medical transcription.

Then, three months ago, my finances took a hit when my disability payments were cut by nearly $500! I'd been getting just enough to pay all my bills, buy groceries, give money in church, and have some left to play with if I only played a little bit. Suddenly I didn't have enough to pay the bills, or I wouldn't have had if I hadn't agreed to help out a friend by playing piano at his church one Sunday every month. Suddenly, I not only needed a job, I also needed to cut expenses.

The biggest bill I have is my rent, so it stood to reason that I must look for a cheaper place to live. I needed to find it by the end of this year, because my lease is up, and I must either sign another lease or go somewhere else. One of my uncles having died two months ago, my grandmother lost in him a son, a roommate, and an on-site caretaker, and her house seemed the obvious alternative if I couldn't find housing and a job by the end of this year. I set the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday as my deadline to make a decision and determined that by then I would do the best I could about at least finding subsidized housing by then. I prayed to Father God and began looking.

I hadn't been looking very long by the third week in October when a tip from the office manager of one low-income housing community directed me to the number of the office manager of another such community in a different part of town. When I called, in the middle of the one day that the office manager was available, to inquire about available units, I was briskly informed that one was available, but I needed to come fill out an application for it, as availability was based on first-come, first-served. After ascertaining that she would be there until evening, I immediately went over and filled out the papers right there in the office. Just this past week, I went back with the application fee and the additional paperwork she requested. Pending approval of the paperwork and a couple other minor bits of the process, I now have a new address, just in time for Thanksgiving!

So what about work? Well, two days after I completed the application for the apartment, I e-mailed a cover letter and resume to a local employment agency, just on a whim. The company e-mailed me back the following week to invite me to a job fair, to which I was to bring a copy of my resume and at which I was to be prepared to be interviewed. On the appointed day, I showed up, properly prepared, and I ended up interviewing for two different jobs! I ended up with the lower-paying one, because I wanted to be sure I would still be able to get home after my shift was over, I do not drive, and I live in a city where the buses do not run all night. With my lower stress tolerance due to hypothyroidism (learn about it by searching my archives for the post I did about it), I think that it will be the better job for me. I begin training in the morning!

That's a lot of change in a very short period of time. And of course it will affect my sleep challenge. From now on, to be at optimal performance, I have to make sure I establish and maintain a routine that gets me in bed at a decent time every night so that I can get up in the morning ready to begin each day. Up till now, I've continued to be inconsistent about it, but that all ends tonight. Just as soon as I finish this post.

But I'll let you know how things go with all these changes in my life. Wish me success in handling all this!

A new place to live, a new job, and all by the deadline I set! Thank You, Lord :-).