Still Looking for Data

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I have my meeting with Texas Workforce Commission regarding a potential new action plan for my return to work on Thursday, and I’m still trying to find more data to make sure I’m making the right decision.

It’s a lot easier to find sonography data, since there’s pretty much only two titles to look for, diagnostic medical sonographer and cardiovascular sonographer. The money is just slightly better for the former, but that includes a couple of specialties that I can’t realistically expect to find work in, since they deal with women’s reproductive health. It’s much more likely that I’ll find work in CV sonography, and working for a couple thousand less a year is better than not finding work at all.

Health information technology is a little trickier, since there are several job titles that are in the field. I’m picking my way through them, but I need to keep digging for that data.

I’m pretty sure I’ve reached a decision as to what I’m going to do, but given that TWC has managed to change the goalposts on me on multiple occasions previously, I’m going to wait until I know any new action plan is approved before saying “I’m gonna do this!”

There’s other stuff that happened today that will likely be a Good Thing ™ when all is said and done, but again, until I know for certain, I’m keeping things close to my chest.

Let’s just say that things are looking up, and I’m excited about the potential the future seems to have in store for me.

Hyperfocusing

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Today I spent nearly all day in Secret World Legends. I did everything my checklist requires of me, but kept it to just those tasks, not adding anything to my to-do list on purpose. Everyone needs a day to just be every once in a while, and today was that day for me.

I was so engrossed in the game, however, that I was losing track of what was going on around me. My wife and I were in voice chat on the station’s new Discord server for the better part of the afternoon and evening, and while I was trying to wrap things up in a particular zone in the game, I was barely speaking to anyone. It wasn’t a slight on them, far from it, I was just buried in the game to the point I couldn’t really look up from it.

There are times that I have issues with hyperfocusing. My wife has to point out that I am doing so when I do, because I’m oftentimes not aware of it until told. So this week I’m going to see what I can do to minimize the instances that I hyperfocus on anything. I will make one exception, however – my follow-up meeting with TWC is Thursday and I need to have completed my research on my options before giving them a decision. Here’s hoping that I make the right one.

Well, That Fell Through

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I had plans to come back today and tell you about the wonderful adventures we went on today, except that when we woke up neither of us had much energy, and our plans would have completely sapped us on a show day, so in the interest of doing the show we’d already programmed, we stayed home.

As our listeners discovered, the plan was to go to the Bullock Museum downtown and see the “Pride & Joy: The Texas Blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan” exhibit that’s only there through tomorrow. My wife is a tremendous SRV fan and the plan was to go see the exhibit this morning and then do an all-SRV show this evening.

She’s fine with missing it, so I’m okay with it. But I wish we’d have known about this sooner than the final weekend so we could have planned better.

The SRV show went on as planned, though, and we had a good listener count for doing a single-act show.

The station is in the process of testing a Discord server as a chat client, and so we were in there as well as the station’s IRC channel tonight. Neither one of us had ever used Discord before, but so far we both seem to like it. Not sure what this is going to mean for the station in the long run, but for right now, we’re inviting listeners to join us over in Discord and let us know what they think about it before making any decisions about its future place with our station.

I really hope to do as little as possible tomorrow. I’m pretty drained from today, even though I didn’t do much. The heat is such that our air conditioning unit struggles in the later afternoon and evening to keep the apartment as cool as we like it. At some points it got up to 78, which is very warm for us. I think the heat has got us pretty worn out, even though we’re not out in the middle of it very long.

All Quiet

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Not much to report on the college front today. I sent an email over to my TWC counselors asking whether they’d be willing to put things on hold for a theoretical move into district, but didn’t hear back from them. At the latest, it’ll be the 27th when I go in that I will hear something.

Not much happening at home either. Spent the morning getting stuff on my checklist done then the afternoon in Secret World Legends doing what amounted to nothing whatsoever, as I had to stop and put the game on pause to program my radio show before I could finish with the map, and logging out without completing the mission erased any progress I’d made. I’ll tackle it again tomorrow if I have time.

I’m tired and ready for the weekend. Looking forward to going to bed, and might even get there early tonight.

College Roller Coaster

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Today I went to go deliver my sealed transcript to Austin Community College so financial aid could start working on my FAFSA. Everyone I talked with was helpful and easy to deal with. Hopefully this is a good sign about starting my education.

However, I did get a dose of reality when I learned the difference in the tuition for a three credit hour course between an in-district student and an out-of-district student.

In-district students will pay $255 for that three credit hour course. Out-of-district students will pay $1,089 for the same course.

Naturally, I am out-of-district.

So this has thrown a monkey wrench into things right now. Even with the generous assistance of Texas Workforce Commission that will only cover about half of my tuition at that rate, leaving me on the hook for the rest of it. If I were in-district, their assistance would cover it all, and I’d be going to school on what would amount to a full ride.

So now we’re looking at what our options are. The most obvious answer is to move somewhere in-district, but moving is a real pain and certainly not something we’re prepared to do right away. (Especially not in the heat of an Austin summer.) But will TWC let me put my action plan on hold long enough to make that happen? That’s an email for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, therapy was today and things are going so well that my therapist asked me if I would be available to answer questions that another client of hers has about the process I’m going through. I told her I would and she arranged a meeting, where I answered what questions the other client had and what they could expect in going through the process. She’s really happy with how well things are going for me, and she’s excited to see how I handle the stress of school. So am I, for that matter.

Needing Advice

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To briefly catch everyone up: I am on disability for mental illnesses, have been for three years now. I am improving somewhat, and so to help prepare for my eventual return to work I have gone to the Texas Workforce Commission for vocational rehabilitation services. I started this process back in September of last year. TWC has a 90 day window with which they can create an action plan for a client. My action plan is centered around me returning to school to get educated in a new field. I met with my counselor a few times and was in touch with him through phone calls and emails for a handful more, and throughout the process things seemed to be in flux. My initial direction, an associate’s degree in architectural drafting, was dismissed early on because of the lack of job opportunities and the fact that the program I was planning on taking would not educate me enough to hold positions in the field. After that, I started looking at a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. I have radio experience and thought this would be an interesting way to go. However, when I presented this it was dismissed by TWC as being too broad in scope. This happened on day 83 of my 90 day plan, so at that final meeting I was more or less given the option of medical billing and coding or nothing, and so I signed my name to an action plan revolving around getting a certificate in that field.

Subsequent research on my part revealed that there was an associate’s degree in health information technology available at Austin Community College – where I was planning to go for medical billing and coding – and that it could transfer over to a bachelor’s degree program at Texas State University. So I called my counselor to set something up, and was informed that my counselor was no longer employed by TWC, and that I had an interim counselor handling my case until someone could be permanently assigned to it. I called the new counselor and presented my situation to her, that I was in the action plan because it was the only option I was given at the end of the window, and that many things that I learned from my former counselor were eventually corrected very late in the process, so I wasn’t really given much of an opportunity to think anything over. In light of that, she said that she would be willing to take another look at my action plan.

When I went in to meet her, I showed her the award plans for both the certificate program in medical billing and coding and the associate’s degree in health information technology. I explained that I wanted to do a job that required the higher education. She went to consult with another counselor there and eventually asked me to join the two of them in the other counselor’s office. They told me that they would be willing to look at changing my plan, and because of the way that my former counselor wrote it up, it would be an easy administrative switch and nothing more, but they explained that it would be an uphill battle finding work in the field. They presented another option to me: sonography. I told them I wasn’t prepared to make a decision that day, partially because I wasn’t about to be railroaded into yet another field that I had had no time to research on my own and partially because I was going to head home from that meeting, grab my luggage, and hop on a flight to Phoenix for my father-in-law’s funeral, and they gave me two weeks to think things over.

During that most recent meeting, I was told that regardless of whether it’s a certificate program or an associate’s degree, TWC would only pay out $173 per semester. I filed that away for a time when I could discuss it in depth with my counselor, and so today I sent her an email stating that if the assistance was truly only $173 per semester, there’s no way I could afford even the certificate program. She wrote back and told me that this was the case, so I asked her what my options were. She told me that she wanted me to wait until I had heard back on my FAFSA application before making a decision to opt out of school, and then she forwarded me another series of emails that she’d had with TWC’s ACC liaison, wherein the liaison said that the assistance was either $3,000 maximum for a certificate program, or $173 per credit hour, plus books. I wrote back telling her that $173 per credit hour was a lot more reasonable and that I’d do my research into sonography and get back to her at our follow up meeting later this month.

So here’s where I’m at with this decision.

Pros for health information technology: the action plan already lists health information technology as the direction that I’m going; the associate’s degree easily transfers to a bachelor’s degree program.

Cons for health information technology: jobs are scarce; there’s almost no opportunity to sit down; while employers can’t discriminate by law, the vast majority of people in the field are older women with 30 years experience.

Pros for sonography: the pay is significantly better than health information technology; the job outlook is phenomenal; I have had a passing curiosity on how sonography works for some time; the field was recommended by a senior counselor based on his knowledge of the job market.

Cons for sonography: while it’s not as bad as health information technology, I would still be on my feet a good deal; changing the action plan to sonography requires a rewrite and separate approval, which may not come despite a senior counselor saying that if there’s any problems in the approval process to send the decision makers his way; shift work may have me working nights and/or weekends.

Given this list of pros and cons, I’m leaning in the direction of sonography, but want to get your take on it. If you have an opinion, please let me know either here, on Facebook, or on Twitter. My follow up meeting is on the 27th, so I’ve got about a week to mull this over.

Let me know if there’s something that I’ve missed. I look forward to hearing from you.