The Decision

Standard

If LeBron James can do it, I can too.

For those that may be reading this blog for the first time, let me recap very quickly. I am currently on disability and working with the Texas Workforce Commission to create what they call an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE), which is basically a list of what they’re going to do to help me go back to work, and what I need to do for myself during this process. I started working on this in September of last year, and in late December, after several false starts for picking and then deciding against career paths, as well as contradicting information from my counselor, I signed an IPE that would find me education in a field that I hadn’t even thought of before that final meeting. I felt railroaded into making that decision, and recently I approached them to discuss my progress on that initial plan. That’s when I discovered that the counselor that had been assigned to my case was no longer with TWC, and I decided to be bold and mention my less-than-satisfactory experience with my previous counselor and see if I could tweak my IPE from a vocational certificate in medical billing and coding to the next step up, which is an associate’s degree in health information technology. They told me that they wanted to meet with me to discuss the possibility of changing my plan, and during that meeting they proposed another career path. I told them that I was going to insist on a week to think things over and make an educated decision this time, and due to my father-in-law’s death they gave me two. Today was the follow-up meeting.

I was very nervous going into this meeting because I’d been in this situation before, where I went into a meeting with one expectation and walked out with something completely different, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed against the rocks again. This time, I was wary.

I’m not going into too much detail about the meeting today, for now. Until I get written confirmation that the amendment to my IPE that we agreed upon today was officially approved by TWC, I’m not going to claim victory. But today’s meeting was considerably more transparent and productive than previous meetings that I’ve had with TWC, and I remain cautiously optimistic that things will wind up in my favor.

At the last meeting, where I presented them with an associate’s degree in health information technology, the counselors there presented me with the alternate choice of sonography. In the two weeks since, I spent hours researching both fields. I talked with people I know that work in both and got their candid, no-holds-barred opinions of their respective careers and what I could expect from working in each. I weighed the pros and cons and did a lot of soul searching about what was best for me in the long run.

In the end, I chose sonography.

Again, until I see written confirmation of approval, I’m going to assume the amendment that I signed today is subject to change or outright rejection. But the things that transpired in my meeting this afternoon were all in my favor, so I am cautiously and hesitantly optimistic about the future.

Right now, though, I have a lot of work to do to get ready for the fall, just in case things do work out as planned, and there isn’t much time.

More on that when I know something for sure, hopefully within a week.

Advertisements

Getting Nervous

Standard

 

The blog post is going to be short today.’ There are an awful lot of things that look like they’re going to be changing in a big way for us between now and the end of the year, not the least of which is my return to school. I have a lot on my mind and not much time to make some final decisions that will affect me for the rest of my life. I’ve sought counsel from friends and have taken their words to heart. Now comes the intense soul searching that needs to happen before I choose a direction. Am I up to the task?

There’s also a lot of variables that have to happen in order to get the best possible outcome, and I’m not sure how likely that’s going to be. Whatever I choose is going to be an uphill road to climb, starting from the very beginning.

I’ve learned my lesson with Texas Workforce Commission and am keeping my decision close to the chest until I know for certain that the new action plan has been approved and they will cover my education in my chosen field.

And when that happens, the changes are going to come.

Still Looking for Data

Standard

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

Standard

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.

Maybe Tomorrow

Standard

Yesterday I committed to starting my new exercises for my knee. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen today. I woke up early this morning and got my morning stuff out of the way, tacked on my reading and my learning, and fairly soon after that went back to bed. (I really need to redistribute my daily meds to see if I can avoid loading so many meds with drowsiness as a side effect in the morning.) I slept for a while, then woke up and started reading my current novel for a while, and soon after that my wife came home for lunch. Then I dropped her off at her office and spent the biggest part of the rest of the afternoon wrapped up with therapy and the commute there and back. It wasn’t long after I got back home that I got a call from my wife. I needed to pick her up early. The bloodwork she had done on Monday at the ENT came back positive for mono, and her office wanted her to stay home until her doctors cleared her to return. She had tried to talk them into letting her work from home, but in the end they said that they wouldn’t allow it.

We went to the doctor straight from work to go pick up a note telling her she’s cleared to return to work on Monday. And I’ve spent the rest of the evening taking care of her, as it kind of hit her all at once and she’s been exhausted all day.

There will be rest for the next few days. In the meantime, I’ll try to get back on the exercise bandwagon tomorrow.

 

Devastated

Standard

Warning: brief language

For the past two months, I’ve been talking about my experiences with Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitative Services, and how we were working together to come up with an action plan for me returning to work. Returning to school was deemed to be the most desirable choice for rehabilitation, and so I’ve been researching my options to do just that.

Some time ago, I announced that I was going to pursue my associate’s degree in architectural computer aided design. Last Friday, in a meeting designed to finalize my action plan, it came to light that my research on the field and my case manager’s research had uncovered a major discrepancy in the amount of education needed to find work in the field, and so I was given a week to delve into this more and, if necessary, come up with a plan B. It was also made clear that a program with a bachelor’s degree would be viable, though the agency would only be able to cover some of the costs as opposed to all of them, as I was told beforehand on multiple occasions.

My research was inconclusive. Someone in the field informed me that an associate’s degree was sufficient to break into the field, yet every job listing I found statewide – and there were very, very few of them – was calling for a bachelor’s degree. So I started researching plan B.

Plan B turned out to be an old friend of sorts. I was going to pursue my associate’s degree in general studies at the local community college and then transfer to a four-year program to finish out a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. My reasoning was that there were far more doors opened by the bachelor’s degree than would have been with the associate’s in CAD.So with this information in tow, I emailed my case manager to see if it was a viable plan. After a couple of back and forth emails asking for and providing more information, he said we’d discuss it more in our meeting. I was satisfied with this response and I was ready for the final final meeting, which was this morning.

Now, there’s a reason that this was the final final meeting. The agency’s consumers only have a 90-day window to create an action plan, and I was rapidly approaching the end of my window, so whatever came of this meeting was what we were going with.

I went in, told my case manager what my plan was, and then we started looking about how we could make this possible. He took notes, he asked questions, he agreed with me on this being a viable option. I was excited. And then I said the thing that drove the train off the rails, over the thousand-foot tall cliff, and into the rocky rapids of the river below. I mentioned that I was likely going to have to take remedial math courses, which I’ve been working on, and I was told then that I needed to have taken and passed the state assessment test for new college students by this point.

Today was the very first time that I had heard that there was a deadline on taking this test.

My case manager then left the room to consult with another, more senior co-worker of his, and after a good ten minutes he came back into the room, with the senior employee in tow.

The senior employee pulled no punches. The action plan that I had suggested, that my case manager was working on with me, was in no way, shape, or form an acceptable one to the agency, and then proceeded to give me several reasons why they would not accept it. He asked me what the initial plan was, and I told him, and explained why I was looking in a different direction, and then the senior guy asked me what my experience was in, and I told him. The vast majority of my experience is working temp jobs in entry-level clerical positions, although there was a period of time that I worked as a pharmacy technician, but couldn’t do that any more because of back pain from prolonged standing.

And at that point, the senior guy explained to me the various scenarios where college would have been an acceptable alternative, and my situation didn’t fit any of them. So he was willing to see what we could do with a background in clerical work, and he lit on medical coding. He asked my case manager to bring it up on the computer, and explained how it was a good career choice for me and why, and before I knew it I was agreeing with them because I was honestly feeling overwhelmed and desperate for any help I could have gotten. If they’d have suggested that I work in a zoo cleaning up the cages I would have taken it, anything that would get me further than what I’ve been able to get myself in my life so far. I was just so desperate for any help that I just blindly accepted the one thing that they suggested.

The senior guy left the room at that point, satisfied that he’d resolved every issue that I’d ever had with the job market in just a few minutes of conversation, and left my case manager and I to work out the details.

And that’s when my case manager, who point blank told me at one point that I could pursue an education at “zero cost” to me, told me that his agency wouldn’t even be able to cover the cost of the two-semester certificate program that had been decided for me and that I would need to pick up part of the tuition and all of the books and other expenses out of my own pocket.

I have never been the victim of a bait-and-switch before, but that’s the only words that come to me to describe the situation that had unfolded before my eyes in a matter of minutes.

So that is how my dreams of a college education, even at the associate’s level, had been dangled in front of me and then ripped away at the last minute, and how I’ve now committed to a career path that I hadn’t even thought of until earlier this morning.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with medical coding. My understanding is that there’s good money in it and that there are plenty of opportunities for getting a job in the field. But I had to take someone else’s word for that – I have done zero research into what is now my career path and I know nothing whatsoever about what the job entails, what the job environment is, or how many jobs are realistically out there.

And now I have to tell everyone that I won’t be getting a degree after all, and that’s the part that hurts the most. I’m coming across as a wishy-washy, indecisive individual who has no clue what he wants to do with his life even in his late forties, and I really despise appearing that way. But at this point, I have no choice.

When I was younger, my best friend from high school and I were talking about a new job that I was pursuing and he asked me “so how long is this one going to last?” That killed the friendship right then and there, and I barely spoke to him again, and haven’t done so in well over twenty years. I hate that my life has been one short-term thing after another, and that I can’t seem to pull my shit together long enough to accomplish even the most modest of goals.

I have a new career path in front of me, but it’s not even 24 hours old and I already resent it, and I really have no choice but to follow it through.

This really, really hurts.

Faster Than Expected

Standard

Earlier this week I got a call from Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services. All the requested medical records had come in, and I had been officially approved to receive their services. I was expecting that to take three months, not the month that it actually took.

So now I have an appointment on the 22nd of November to determine what my plan of attack is going to be. I really want to go back to school, but I don’t know if TWS-VRS will cover the expenses. However, my case manager told me of a situation where they not only paid for someone’s education, but their living expenses while at school since their chosen field of study required them to move to another town to attend classes. This gives me hope.

I would prefer not to move, so I’ve been looking at degree programs at Austin Community College-Northridge, which is literally down the road from my apartment. They offer one program that interests me, Architectural and Engineering Computer Aided Design. It’s an associate’s degree as opposed to a vocational certificate, but it looks like the typical entry-level positions require only an associate’s degree, and the pay is solid, plus it’s mostly desk work, which will be good for my back. The outlook isn’t splendid, as they expect a 3% reduction in available jobs between 2014 and 2024, mostly due to more efficient work processes due in large part to improved software, so I’m a little apprehensive of getting a degree and then floundering trying to find a job locally. But the market here in Texas is better than most of the rest of the country, and the pay scale is slightly higher than the national average, although it’s the oil industry in Houston and Dallas that’s skewing those numbers. I called the college and requested someone to call me back with more information. I plan on following that up with an email by the middle of next week if I haven’t heard anything, followed eventually with an actual visit to campus to try and get some time with one of the advisers to get some more information about the career and the program.

I did something similar to this at one point in time – I was a well planner for a small engineering firm that was eventually folded into Halliburton. I enjoyed the work, but the atmosphere was very toxic to me and I went on short-term disability to learn how to cope with the situation. By the time I made it back, the merger had happened, and my position had been considered superfluous and so I was laid off.

I’m working on how to deal with toxic environments in therapy, so hopefully that will coincide with the end of this degree program, if it can come to fruition. Keep your fingers crossed that my questions are answered to my satisfaction and this works out to be something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.

One more step toward the goal …