New Job, Budding Hobbies, and Family Health
Oh god was this long to prep. I started writing this with the intent of it just being a blog update, and then got into getting Mastodon comments into this blog, fixing styling issues, fixing imports and dependencies so I could just use npm to install things...
...it was a lot. Shit. I've nearly forgotten what I was gonna write. At least the subject's still staring at me, so...there's that!
Fair warning in advance, this post will contain talk about outsiders and family having critical health conditions as well as anxiety and depression.
I'll start off as it says in order, new job.
Starting at the end of 2012, all the way up through mid-July of this year, I'd worked for the same company more-or-less -- shifting roles, company acquisitions, etc. I started in call center and eventually ended up a systems administrator for a healthcare software company, AKA, an independent medical review org, part of the reason why insurance sucks so much in the US. I'll refer to them as ShitPro in this post, it's vaguely like their name. For a long time I'd convinced myself that this role was OK, because most of ShitPro's clients were Medicaid (government-funded healthcare per-state, for those outside the US). The idea was that it was "saving them money" by "figuring out if doctors really tried everything they needed for patients", except a lot of times patients had to do the lifting with doctors to let them know drugs couldn't be filled, because doctors didn't think that their licensed practice of medicine would be second-guessed by a bunch of suits, rightfully so, and thus had not started a PA to begin with. I didn't fully understand it at first, but once I did, I think I convinced myself it was fine.
Fast forward to early 2021, early 2022? I don't remember. In either case, I ended up, now a systems admin and handling technology that was used for all of ShitPro's clients (including private health insurance now, ugh) fielding a request about a fax. The provider (doctor or hospital) in question blamed ShitPro for bungling an appeal for halting a hospital discharge. I'm not sure how that's something Medicare (federal-gov-paid healthcare) can do, but they apparently can, or something. Either way, I reviewed the case in question and found the fax was sent to ShitPro before the like, 2:30 PM or 3:00 PM deadline -- I dunno exactly, these deadlines are based on when the case is opened, not a specific time of day, it's fucked up. But it was only started before that deadline, not completed, and because it's all digital, and faxes are a physically-analog process even when transmitted between digital services, the fax didn't complete for nearly 2 hours, pushing it an hour past that deadline.
I was livid. I was talking to a coworker on a voice call who was able to help me track down with what she could see in her application, and she had a verbal shrug, because both of our hands were tied. I tried to reply back to the person entering the case, and they just cared "did ShitPro receive the fax file late due to no fault of ShitPro?" and unfortunately, the answer was a technical yes because the FTP server was fine, nothing had slowed it down other than the time it takes for a fax to transfer. Hell, if it was still paper, I bet they would've had the same fucking response.
I was more upset, it started sinking in how people were being affected. My walf was facing issues with PAs as well, through the other half of who ShitPro formerly was, split off in a merger, and I felt responsible and helpless at the same time. I wanted to make it right, I wanted to make things work, but I had no power to poke anyone who could do anything of consequence, and my role in contributing to the operation of these platforms, even without being the one making the decisions, started weighing very heavily on me. But I wasn't making enough to just leave or find something lower income to immediately switch to because of other financial obligations. So I sulked.
A month later after the fax incident, I had a new ticket. "ManagerName is getting voicemails she's not supposed to get from emailsender". I reached out and had a sample email forwarded. Because these voicemails were to digital systems that transcribed, I was unable to avoid seeing the contents in trying to troubleshoot. It was too close to the areas I needed to look at. Even without playing the attachment I felt like I could hear the helpless voice of a woman trying desperately to keep getting her mother the hospital care she and doctors felt were needed.
Even now this hurts to remember. I was crushed. I couldn't work the rest of the week. I was work-from-home, so no one could see me sitting on the couch all day instead. But the night of that I cried, sobbed in my walf's arms in a park I'd met up with him at to just get outside, get some fresh air at night. It was cold and I felt like the shittiest person on the planet.
I slowly managed to pull something together, but from then on, every day at my job for the next I dunno, year and a half, two years? Every day felt interminable. Every so often some task would come up that would snag that ADHD interest, that burned at the right synapses to engage me, but it wasn't often. I started hunting for a new job, but I barely had the energy to try, and unlike many of my friends, I don't have a specialized knowledge set. My knowledge in technology is very broad, with deeper areas in some places, but nothing like I felt like most places demanded.
I met up with a former coworker, who also hated ShitPro for similar reasons, for a beer to talk about what his employer had available after learning about the roles. I was interested, and applied, but it turned out to be a dead end lead. My former coworker tried to find other ways to get me in, but they'd all require I take a pay cut first for an unknown amount of time before I could be moved to the team he was in. I passed, and started looking again.
Then a furry friend offered to refer me for the same team he was on, same position, at Indeed. It sounded fantastic on paper -- integrating employer talent programs and applicant tracking systems with Indeed's systems in a multitude of ways to make it easier for people to apply for jobs and for employers to review applications. It sounded great. And based on what the recruiter told me, I was the only other one when they selected someone else for the 'lead' role, after almost 10 interviews, due to lack of leadership experience. But I was told to apply again when a senior-level position opened. I kept tuned and attentive, and applied when I finally got notice it was open. I was ecstatic still, and the new recruiter called me and told me he was astounded they hadn't picked me last time based on the feedback he read from everyone who interviewed me. He wasn't sure what all they'd need to do since it was only a few months later, but promised a very high likelihood I'd net it just because of that. But 2 days later I got a call again, informing me that unfortunately the position was removed, no one accepted in, and Indeed was going on a hiring freeze for an unknown amount of time.
Stuck again, I didn't really know what to do. I kept looking around here and there when I found energy. The success with Indeed had weirdly empowered me slightly, and started to make me angry at ShitPro, and want to find something better. Finally, I ended up looking at jobs at the university here, Auburn. I found several job positions I could do, though many I didn't want to do anymore (was exhausted with sysadmin work). But there were a few that piqued my interest, and I applied. Vordex, another local fur and fellow coyote, who works there, told me not to expect to hear back from them for a while, because his A/V role got a callback months later.
I got an email the next week, while at FWA 2023. They wanted to interview for a position that I was genuinely interested in, and I was very excited. That fast despite what I was told? I was really eager, and so were they, interviewing me literally less than a week later!
It was a great interview. I felt really good about things, I was unsure of myself in a few spaces due to lack of experience, but the courteousness with which everyone greeted me and talked to me gave me confidence that I could do what was needed, I could learn whatever I was missing to fill in those empty spots. I think 1-2 weeks later I got an email back asking for an in-person interview on campus, setting up to meet more people. I went in, sat down, and felt really nervous but good in talking to people. I was even asked if, because I don't have a degree, if I'd planned to use Auburn's free hours each semester to take classes while employed. I had no idea they had it, and said I'd absolutely do so because that was exciting too! I never finished, and I wanted to go back and try again, this time in an MIS role instead of engineering.
And about a week later I got a call from my new manager telling me that if I accepted the verbal offer, I'd be sent a written one to sign to become a university employee. I about cried in joy at this. I felt like shackles were breaking free that I'd been trapped with for so long I'd forgotten they were there. As soon as I signed the written offer with a start date, I put in my notice with ShitPro, and anxiety built with a need to leave that place for good.
The folks who interviewed me ended up being pretty direct coworkers. One sits next to me, and I'm working with him closely on building out a new campus portal that's replacing the aging old one. The hiring manager is my direct manager, a guy who does much more work than management because he trusts the people under him, he works with us, and is a generally great guy. The 'exec' who'd asked about the tuition benefit is my boss's manager, also a very nice guy who's friendly each time he sees me. So many folks here know my name just from meeting in a good way early on.
And even with a very slow start building over a few months, I feel useful. I feel wanted, needed here, not out of desperation, but because of valuing me. I'm doing work that makes student lives easier and helps faculty and staff as well. It feels almost like a penance for working for ShitPro for so long, but a penance I'm grateful for the opportunity to perform, and enjoying as well. The university's even queer-friendly as hell; there've been massive diversity and inclusion improvements across all facets since I'd last known what the university had to offer. Once a month on a Friday I go with Vordex to have coffee with a bunch of other queer coworkers on campus, and it's fantastic. Sometimes it feels like a dream it's been so huge of an improvement.
Auburn offers employees of at least a year of service up to 5 hours of courses each semester paid by the university. Given my role, I had to be granted a student role in the application, allowing me to see that there was still an academic hold on my account preventing registration. I'd not been sure what to do, but about 2 weeks ago at queer coffee I heard the director of the pride center talking to someone about care she'd been giving in academic management to students who had trouble with it. Speaking up, I asked if she knew about academic holds, and she said she did, and figured what I was going to ask. I showed her the hold, and she asked for details. As I started to talk at first, I found I could pull up my unofficial transcript.
In the entire... 14 years? It was Spring 2007 when I left. In the whole time, I'd never looked at my grades for that second and final semester I had there until sitting there on campus again with someone who could help. And looking at a column of nothing but F's except for my men's chorus course welled up all those painful feelings I had buried for so long. I choked a little, but showed her. As we talked, I started to choke up more when she started talking to me about ways to address it. She said it'd be easy to work past, as long as I could maintain a per-semester average.
But, given it was so bad for that one semester, she had another idea: retroactive medical discharge. My mental health was in the toilet that year, and I couldn't even bear going to classes most of the time. The combination of welling old pain, and a new sense of hope that I could erase that entire mark on my record and start as if it'd never happened? I don't know how I avoided sobbing from the mixture, I definitely wasn't able to hold back tears. She told me she would help me with the case, needing a letter from me to explain the need for medical discharge. So that's my next task for that, is work on that, to try and undo some of the pain of the past and start fresh.
So that's where I am. You can see a little bit how all of this contributes to that feeling of it nearly being a dream, hah! I'm excited, I'm eager, and I have a drive to wipe out that pain and start anew on something I can better handle. And I want to take the classes, I want to learn more. I can even take them during work hours, why wouldn't I take that benefit? I'm really eager and excited now. 🧡
Now that that's out of the way, besides baking a lot more and having fun, I started getting more into 3D. This is probably gonna be a pretty short section by comparison ahaha.
A couple months ago I started up a Blender course I was gifted. I'd never taken a course, and my previous attempts with Blender had been with that donut tutorial, which I couldn't reproduce for the life of me. It felt like I wasn't capable of learning as a result, but it turns out that tutorial just blows. Turns out GameDev.TV have some fantastic instructors who don't act like they're some whizbang rockstar teaching you to be the same. I'm still working through the course, but he built fundamentals first, navigation, basic tools, and started into editing, starting out with an island and lighthouse. From there, it was on to building a modular dungeon with reusable parts, learning some more-advanced tooling for warping things slightly, for adjustments, cuts, mirroring, learning enough to start figuring out how to make low-polygon shapes and models. It's been incredible to learn! I genuinely feel like I'm getting a better sense of using Blender, and have already begun making minor changes to things, and even modeled myself a low-poly puffy crown to use in VR Chat!
I've never been able to draw because of my dyspraxia, and while I know there's plenty of artists with it who make due, and do wonderful art, it's only ever been a frustration for me. Finally learning in a visual art that isn't impaired by that because of using tooling for changes has been phenomenal. I feel excited as I learn more, I've been able to actually take advantage of what I've learned like I said, and I feel like, with enough practice and learning, that I could eventually make custom models entirely like what folks see, and that REALLY excites me to be able to do! So, I'm continuing to push forward with glee for that!
Figured that'd be a short section. So, family health really concerns only one person: my dad. And again, this gets medically-graphic, fair warning. No one dies but there is mention of death.
A few months ago, I got a message from my mom on a Thursday talking about the weather, and then as nearly an aside at the end, telling us (my sister and I) that dad was in the hospital, but don't worry! Both of us replied in shock, hospital is a big deal for a stay, why didn't she tell us? "Well your dad didn't want you to worry and didn't think it was a big deal." Chat, I think you can imagine what came next.
By that Friday night, my mom texted us to say that the doctors were keeping him because his pneumonia was so bad, and his O2 was so low, that they had to intubate him. He was put into a medically-induced coma to let his lungs recover. But over the weekend, each day the news was worse and worse. That Monday morning my mom texted us to say that the doctors weren't sure why he wasn't responding to medications, but were going to give him steroids, as... a "last ditch effort". I like to hope it was not that dire. I don't know the reality, and likely never will. And I'm kinda glad for that. But that night, my mom voice-called myself and my sister to talk more about it, and tell us that because of everything, that we might have to...make plans.
I know my sister well enough to know she was just frozen in shock the same way I was. We both re-iterated about the seriousness from the end of the prior week, that we wanted to know about those kinds of things, and had to talk about the possibility of bereavement leave and similar in a weirdly matter-of-fact way. I just kinda felt like I was nodding along. I was already in the new job, but I'd only been in it for about a month. I don't know how I would've reacted if still with ShitPro.
I had to see walf after. It's so hard to process in talking about it like that. I don't...I can't even remember everything I felt. It kinda felt like a blur after that that night. I didn't drink, I just...it's hard to remember.
Thankfully, by the next morning, my mom texted us to say he was showing improvements! Throughout the week he slowly recovered more and more, and they were able to take him out of the medical coma, though I don't remember if it was under or over a week when they did. He slowly recovered, and the process of his lungs regaining strength was a long one for another couple weeks, working with doctors and my mom to try and regain oxygen carrying capabilities in his lungs. He's been through a fair amount of physical therapy, but after an issue the week before, he had go back to the hospital for a couple days because he caught COVID, again, and has pneumonia unrelated, again, but it's being treated. His initial pneumonia was also not from COVID at the time, but given he'd had it months prior and was coughing since then, I wondered if it was related. I even told my mom about ME/CFS at the time because I wondered if that's what he was suffering at the time of the intense period.
But it's forward, slowly. He's on supplemental oxygen, and likely will be for the rest of his life. He's having a very hard time adjusting psychologically to the limitations his body has now. Maybe some he had for a while but could power through, but now he can't, and I know that's gotta be tremendously damaging for him. He I think turns 80 in April, and I think was imagining no problems til he was 90 even. I sure hoped so. I wanted to see things improve for him. But I don't know how much better they'll get, and doctors this past weekend told him if he has another major incident within a month or two, he should consider end-of-life care. Reading that was crushing to me. But I'm grateful I'll be able to see him at Christmas and still enough strength and warmth to greet me as he always has when I've gone home for Christmas. I'm tearing up writing this, because I don't know how many more that'll be, now, and that scares me. Despite the roughness and frustration I had growing up with him and his anger management issues, he was still always a very loving dad and very caring, and he loves seeing both my sister and I passionate about the things we enjoy, he loves hearing us talk about things we've learned.
And I can't imagine not having that anymore. Fuck, I was trying not to outright cry. Fuck.
Hard to write now, but... that's a lot there. There's obviously tons I'm omitting. But I will try to be more active in writing this now that I've really made huge strides with this site. Domain might change, I dunno. I'm excited for a new refsheet at long last that really represents me! I'm learning more, building more, and most things are pretty good and empowering-feeling. I guess my dad's health was the trade-off for all that's going well. But if you made it this far, thank you for reading. I don't normally open up to this degree, and this has been a long difficult write for the past hour+. But I've wanted to share a lot of this in this level of detail, and now I can.
Thank you all 🧡🎈
Maybe I'll edit this later to break it up with things like Soatok x3
EDIT 2023-12-14 11:27 AM CST: added context, dad had COVID.