Health insurance and miracles

Today was one of those days when I realize that growing up poor also means growing up in a different world than the people I know now. Growing up poor means not knowing how insurance works. And today, I was shocked when a doctor’s visit and medicine were reasonably priced for no apparent reason other than a magical new card meaning something somewhere to someone.

Recently there’s been a barrage of bad days at work. So today, was naturally the day my body gave up. I woke up with inflamed gooey eyes and a sore throat. I’m falling apart. Period cramps, cuts on my feet, and a headache, it all piled on me this morning.

The sniffles with the stress and “boom,” go visit a doctor because that’s what you get to do when you have a job that allows for sick days and health insurance.

Actually, that’s nice. It’s a shiny bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day.

Then I think about it and I get pissed off. The conjunctivitis is a severe allergic reaction, but I never had health insurance growing up. One kid got sick and all the kids got the same prescription—there’s one doctor in three towns. And you hope to god he keeps up on medicine and takes care of his patients. Maybe he was a good doctor. I don’t know. I only remember going to the doctor once in my childhood, and then I didn’t make it to the doctor. The physician’s assistant saw me since the doctor was in a different town that day. (And yes, my brother who had the same cold took the same prescription as me.)

I feel lucky I have a stable job with a steady paycheck that allows me to pay my bills (the whole mountain of them) and health insurance, and sick days, because I haven’t had it. However a part of me resents it.

Why do I get that? Why doesn’t everyone? What have I done that makes me special enough to get help paying for medicine? Shouldn’t every job allow for paid sick days? Shouldn’t everyone be able to visit a doctor and afford the visit?

It’s such a relief to be in a position where I don’t have to worry about whether or not I can actually afford to go to the doctor when I need to go to the doctor. And yet that same privilege vexes me.

It’s exactly that actually—that American society thinks of health as a privilege, not a right.

Somehow I have to be “good” enough to have a good job that allows me time off to be sick. And, I’m left to wonder how I was lucky enough to land a job that will let me text in late to take a day off because I woke up feeling icky. I didn’t do anything special, and I wasn’t born as anyone special.

I realize the Affordable Healthcare Act is on it’s way to helping everyone get basic healthcare. But I’m starting to think that’s not enough. And we’re still debating this country’s deplorably low minimum wage. It’s not a debate. Minimum wage is far too low. No one who works a full-time job in this country should be living in poverty, yet millions are.

The realization that just one year ago a day like today would have derailed my budget, set me back a month, and most likely added to my debt, pisses me off. There has to be a better way. I don’t have to deal with that now because I’m one of the lucky ones with those “good jobs” that are in such short supply. So now I can think about how much the system punishes the poor for being poor while I drink coffee and shop for a house.

As an addendum, I have a great job–I love it. I’m usually pretty excited to see what new challenges await me at the office. Today was an illustration of problems within a larger system, not at work.

Second addendum, no photos today as conjunctivitis is disgusting and there’s not really anything else visual to go along with this rant. Sorry. Maybe you’ll get a coffee photo next time. 

Happy spring, cherry blossom!

A blooming cherry treeThe world is so hopeful in the spring.

The grey light melts into the day. The tulips open up, the fruit trees bud, the birds flutter quietly and everything hangs in the cool early morning breath waiting for the sun. Just before the dawn the world is at its most beautiful.

Writing is like that for me. Slogging through the start of a story until the sun comes out and the words flow. It takes some work to see the sun. I slowly type and labor over each word until suddenly a sentence makes more sense than all the others, and fingers fly to record the roar of thoughts.

Perhaps spring is the wrong allegory. Maybe it’s more like waiting for a train.

The sounds start low and distant. If I slow down I may catch a word or phrase.  I can hear the distance closing as the train rushes towards the station. Then the train is there and we’re off! All the words stream through me until…

they’re gone.

Then it’s back to the slow, careful slog of most writing. Wrestling the words out from somewhere deep inside until  the story is finished.

Writing is working for inspiration, not waiting. I must be aware and awake to catch the big moments. Otherwise I’ll miss them.

I quit!

I believe the last time I posted in this space, I mentioned how I was very excited for a not yet named job. Well it turned out I got that job. It was presented as a very exciting opportunity to potentially make a big difference and create change at a local company.

I was thrilled.

It sounded exactly like the kind of professional first step I needed to get a corporate career going. Sure, the pay was a little low, but over time with growth, change and proving myself I was confident I would make more money.

Then I started to get to work. The first day I felt hesitation.

The corporate environment was not welcoming. I had some idea of what I was getting into, and I’m no stranger to hostile spaces. So I went about my business as politely and professionally as possible choosing to “kill them with kindness” with Phil Dunphy-like results. I even baked cookies! (Admittedly that may have been over doing it a bit.)

Over the following weeks the constant barrage of personal attacks, passive-aggressive behavior and lack of support started to wear me down. Actually it did more than that it sent me into a depression. I’ve spent the past several weeks essentially going into work doing my best not to be noticed by anyone and trying hard not to say or do anything that will upset someone. That has also proved impossible.

My other life activities like hanging out with friends, writing and baking have all but ceased. I only see my boyfriend at bed time. I only see my friends at Sunday coffee. I’ve been to the doctor for illnesses that surely would not have taken me down so hard if I were in a better mental state.

Then in a strange moment of clarity between the black out and the coming to, it hit me. I’m unhappy, and this isn’t the life I want.

So when I went to work the next day, I quit.

Maybe I’m not cut out for the corporate world. Maybe I’m just not a good fit at this company, certainly my personal morals and the company culture have clashed several times each day.

While I’m relieved to finally put the final sentence on this brief chapter (paragraph?), it does make me anxious about the future.

I’m starting to feel too old for entry-level. I’m unable to get a job that pays more than waiting tables regardless of the level of education and skill required. And honestly, for the lack of responsibility and flexible hours restaurant work is a little more my steady-income thing.

I’ve thought long and hard about quitting. What it means to me, what it means about the way I think of myself as “go-getter, a get things done girl, an ass-kicker” maybe I’m not really those things. Or I was, and now I’m not. I’ve thought about what it means for my personal and professional relationships. I’ve thought about the ways to spin this experience as a “positive” to future employers and even myself. I’ve thought about my work and what I’ve done here.

I’ve concluded that the best thing for me is to go. I’m giving up. I’m done. I’m out the door. And while the pressure feels lighter, the money is much tighter.

I’ve been broke before, and I’m going to be broke again. I’m terrified of what this new chapter will mean. I’m getting tired of these changes, it’s starting to feel like a never-ending cycle of failure. Sure, I learn things about myself with each of these terrible jobs, but it would be nice for something to stick.

I know I want to write, I want to work with people who are nice, helpful and friendly. I want to work in an environment where it’s okay to have a puppy and cake in the same room. I want to be surrounded by creative, intelligent people who are proud of their work. I want an employer who believes happy employees are the best employees and actually pays a fair wage. But even that feels like I’m dreaming too big now.

I’ll do something next. (There isn’t enough TV to fill up all the free time I’m going to have here in a minute.) I just don’t know yet what it is.

First Impressions Are Not Impressive

Things I’ve been wondering about. How hard is it to change first impressions? In the premiere of Next Foodnetwork Star it seemed pretty apparent who the winners will be. And you know what, the top three this week will probably be the top three every week. It’s nearly impossible for someone who is well-liked in the begining not to make it the end. They have to seriously fuck up. Yell, throw a fit, make inedible food. It’s hard work to fail.

How often has this been true for me?

What does that mean if someone fails to impress immediately? Wasn’t that entirely the first challenge?

The best first impression wins.  Make a simple small dish, talk for 30 seconds about your food and self and win. Right?

So cartwheel guy and angry girl, you’re out. Neither of you managed to make delicious food and you both seemed terrified and terrifying. Sure, ROCKERchef will be back next week. But for how long? I don’t think he’ll last; between the soul patch and the mediocre food, Suzy and Bob don’t want him.

I watched the judges discussion of who stays and who goes thinking about how impossible it is for all of us to change our minds about each other (and ideas) once we’ve picked an opinion. (Bob actually said he couldn’t believe how differently he felt about Christy at one point.) Think about it how often do you change your mind about the people you around you?

In my own life, this little episode of reality TV has me thinking about my resumes and emails. Obviously as a first impression, what I’m doing isn’t working. I’ve reached out to mentors, family and friends for help. I’ve taken a careful look around, and I’ve concluded I’m unemployable.

But what if the real truth is I’m just not first impression impressable?

That’s a scary thought.

Especially when I’m working in a word-based industry, and its my own language that fails to get me in the door. That’s humiliating. No wonder I’m waiting tables to make ends meet.

I’m not quite sure what to do to fix this problem. My resume and cover letter have both undergone extensive rewriting, and maybe in the next few weeks I’ll see better results.

Of course, there’s always the name experiment. Perhaps if I appeared male and white, I’d make a better first impression like ROCHERchef.

Career, travel and cocktail dreams

The future has been on my mind a lot lately.

Several of my waygook friends are on their way out of Chungju, gone from Korea and on to the next stage of their lives. It’s got me thinking about how I have absolutely no clue what comes next.

Initially I thought I would pursue career goals after a “gap-year” of teaching, but I love living in a foreign country. I’m not sure I want to give that up.

Korea is a good place to be, but I could go somewhere else.

Increasingly I feel like no matter where I go, even Salt Lake City, will require I start all over–new friends, new apartment, new job, new everything. If I have to start all over again, it may as well be in a different country, right?

When I think about jobs that I want, I focus on things related to my major like television and film production or journalism. However many of these jobs require experience. My own experience seems limited and too closely tied to my university to really count for much in the pile of resumes companies must receive. I do not have the “real world” experience it seems most employers are looking for.

In the meantime, the evidence is piling up that I am apparently unemployable. I’ve been applying for jobs since January. I have applied for over 30 positions at various companies around the US. I clearly indicate I will be available for employment in July or as early as two months from now. I’m always willing to relocate, even at my own expense. And I do my best to sale myself as an amazing rock star production assistant who is organized, flexible and capable.

So far I’ve heard from no one. I can’t get a job. Anywhere.

I even got rejected from a blogging job where I would blog for FREE! I got rejected for a non-paying job. How is that possible? Do you know how shitty that makes me feel?

That kind of success rate has me thinking I don’t want to go back to the US and join the struggling economy.

By comparison getting another teaching job seems so easy. It took just two interviews and a couple of months for me to get a teaching job in South Korea. Sure I don’t like teaching. I hope to never face another classroom again as a teacher after this contract ends. But it seems schools are hiring ESL teachers at every turn and with a year of experience in the US and in Korea almost anyone would hire me. The only trouble is I can feel the ulcer forming already when I think of a future including classrooms, students and white boards.

My dream is to freelance full-time. I’m constantly pursuing new freelance work, however it seems highly unlikely I would be able to pay my student loans and cost of living from this revenue. As I currently struggle to meet my goal of $500 a month. (Just so we’re clear my student loan payment alone is $800 a month.)

This is the point where I always come back to working in the restaurant business. The only solution I can think of is to try and get a job waiting tables in the UK, New Zealand, Australia or somewhere else. Even then, I’m not sure that’s something I want so much as it’s the only plausible next step I can think of.

*sigh*

There are only two things I know for sure; I’m going to keep writing and I will go home for a visit.

What would you do next? Any suggestions or advice?