Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Goin’ back to colli’ to colli’ to colli’…goin’ back to colli’, uh, no I don’t think so?

(F)reddy’s world is, once again, in a transition. I ain’t crying, nor am I looking for “ohhhhs” and “ahhhhs”. To steal from a well known parable, “It’s in my nature.” I’ve always been in a world of transition. I think transition is where I feel the most comfortable.

Now some of you know about my past work lives, some of you don’t. I have to say, for never having had gone to college in the past (GASP!), I’ve done very well for myself. I’ve been, in a word, lucky. I went to nursing school in Oklahoma right out of high school to get my nursing license. The good thing, for me at the time, was it was a means to finish something quickly and gave me the opportunity to make bank quickly. The bad news was, in Oklahoma, the nursing program wasn’t “college level course-work”.

19 was a weird time for me. I had graduated the nursing program, had a great job making very good money for “kids” my age. I was handing out narcotics to patients before I was even able to drink…legally. I was fortunate in my networking to have become friends of the director of a nursing home that I had done an internship in, and he gave me my first big break immediately after graduating from nursing school.

A year and a half later I decided I couldn’t “LIVE” in Oklahoma anymore. I was watching an episode of Oprah (BEFORE she “discovered her spirit) in which she referred to Austin as “The San Francisco of the southwest” because of it’s very large, open gay community. I decided to leave my friends and family behind and move to Austin. I knew one person, Kay, that lived here, so the thought of coming to a new place with no friends, no family, and no support wasn’t all that scary to me. Kay left Austin 3 months after I arrived, and wouldn’t return for another 5 years. By that time, however, I had already fallen in love with my new home.

Not knowing anything about the city when I moved here; where the ‘good’ places to work were; where the ‘good’ places to live were, I decided to A) get an apartment, as opposed to buying a house, and B) get a job with a temp nursing agency, as opposed to getting a full-time job and hating it later. One of the places I worked with most frequently was a spinal cord injury/closed head injury rehab at one of the local hospitals here. The director of the unit, Pam, liked my work style so much that she eventually offered me a full-time gig, and I continued working there for the next 8 years. Pam, as Kay did, left the hospital 3 months after I started.

After 8 years of working with my beloved spinal cord/head injury patients, I decided it was time for me to move on. On a whim, I woke up on a random Sunday morning and read the newspaper, which I NEVER did. I flipped to the classifieds to check out the nursing opportunities. The third ad I read, I’ll never forget, said, “Tired of working weekends, nights, and holidays?” Yes, yes, and YES! “RN with spinal cord injury/closed head injury experience” HOLY SHIT, FOR REALS? “needed for busy downtown law firm. Interested candidates should forward their resumes to Pam ____.” WHO GETS A WANT AD LIKE THIS? The ad was fully intended JUST for me. I was tired of working weekends, nights, and holidays. I had 8 years of spinal cord injury and closed head injury experience. And, the kicker, PAM was the same Pam that loved my work the full eight years prior and offered me a full-time position at the hospital.

I picked up my little phone and called Pam up at home. We had managed to stay in contact over those 8 long years. I said, “Hey Pam. I couldn’t help but notice an ad in the paper. However, I also noticed that it said “RN”, but as you know I’m just an LVN. Does this person need to be an RN?” And she said, “It would depend on the LVN. Do you happen to know someone who might be interested?” And I said, “I DO!”

Now, I wasn’t GIVEN the job. However, I was GIVEN an opportunity to come in and interview for the job because of Pam’s recommendation. I STILL had to meet with the attorneys, I STILL had to impress. Pam had told me that the firm was a very conservative environment, and she mentioned that one of the things that I would have to do if I was serious about the job was cut my hair…which I hadn’t done since I left Oklahoma City. As you might imagine, after 8 years of no haircuts, I was GOREGOUS. I went out THAT DAY, and got my first haircut in 8 years. Surprise, I was STILL gorgeous!

The interview, while lasting 3 hours, wasn’t the most fantastic interview I had ever been on. In case you don’t know any attorneys, they’re not big on time or conversation. Pam assured me I did well, and told me to keep my chin up.

A week went by, I touched base with Pam and she informed me they were still interviewing. I thanked her for the opportunity, and told her to keep in touch. A month went by, no phone call. Nearly two more months went by when I got a call from Pam and she let me know that I had “nailed it”. She then said, “Now about the salary. I don’t know how much you’ll be needing, but unfortunately all they’re willing to offer you is x”. I shit my pants. Literally. No, seriously shit my pants. “X”, was exactly double what I had been making at the hospital. And I said, “Well, if that’s all they’ll offer, I guess I’ll have to deal with it.” Two weeks later I started with the firm as a nurse/paralegal.

It’s now been some 10 years later, and I’ve really had a great time at the firm. I’ve made some really good friends here. There’s a nature of a firm wherein the work ebbs and flows. I’m not nearly as nervous about it today as I was 4 or 5 years ago when the work slowed down. However, since January the work has slowed down so much that I can’t help but feeling nervous. It’s my opinion that firms of this size aren’t in the business to hemorrhage money! The problem with finding a job for me now is I couldn’t possibly go back to the hospital setting and lose half the money. I can’t get a job as a “paralegal”, cuz I never went to “college”, thus I don’t have the degree they’re looking for. (SERIOUSLY FOLKS, doesn’t work experience count for sumpthin’?)

(F)reddy realizes he’s no longer a spring-chicken. 9 times out of 10 I’m in bed by 915 in the evenings. But it’s time to do something. So last week I went up to my local community college and cold-called their entrance exam. I was actually quite proud of myself. For having been out of school for some 20 years now, I did okay. If I’m being honest, I really wish I had paid more attention to that new-fangled math that I swore I’d never need.

For the first time in 20 years, well, really, ever, (F)reddy is going to college. I’ve gotten myself enrolled for summer classes starting later this month, and I’m a bit nervous. I spent, literally, 4 and a half hours yesterday registering for 2 classes. Here’s how my morning panned out:

0700: Log on to college website and enter my eID, no record of such student.
0705: After repeated attempts in various styles of upper/lower case letters, I call the help desk.
0758: A LIVE body finally answers. I explain my situation, they say, “Oh, I see whomever entered you forgot to refresh you. I’ve refreshed you, please wait 10 minutes and try again.”
0808: Try again, no mas. STILL no record of me.
0809-1015: Rinse, reuse, repeat.
1017: “WELCOME TO ACC REGISTRATION HOME PAGE”!!! Yippee, free at las, free at las, thank god almighty, I’m free at las.”

I pick the two classes the student advisor recommended for a “person of (my) advanced age.” I click “submit”, and it says, “Academic classes do not match enrolled academic level.” WHAT?

So I go back through the entire process again, same message. I then go through the entire process again, but this time, rather than pick the “academic” plan, I pick the “continuing education” plan. The message I get this time is, “these courses not available for continuing education plan.” WHAT THE EVER-LOVING-HELL? There are only two options for enrolling…Academic Plan, and Continuing education plan.

So at 1045 I send an email to the student advisor I met with and said, very simply, “Could you please let me know what kind of student I am. I’ve tried to enroll for the two classes you advised me on and for both type plans it tells me I’m ineligible for those classes.” She shoots me off an email some 30 minutes later and tells me that she’s, “maintenanced (me), and that I should be good to go now.”

So now being “refreshed” and “maintenanced”, I try one more time. And a mere 10 minutes later I am officially enrolled…with serious doubts about whether or not I’m going to be able to pull this off at my “advanced age.” I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but keep me in your thoughts, regardless.