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.

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