Vice Presidential Aspirations and Disability

What did you want to be when you grew up? I was about ten and I sent away for career brochures.  I think it was from an insurance company.  I thought lawyer looked interesting and different.  Girls just didn’t become lawyers then.  I also really, really wanted to become an actress.  Also, write books.  My father was a writer so it’s in my DNA.  And I probably couldn’t do it because my father was a writer.  He did tell me before he died that I should write and not let him stop me. It was a gift from him to me.

As I grew, practicality intruded.  I have a facility for language.  I decided to be a multi-lingual secretary.  My mother was a secretary.  She was excellent, well-paid and powerful at times.  I was told in high school that I wasn’t fluent enough;  native speakers would receive precedence; I was that smart that I should have my own security. Reality?  After Hopkins, I applied for a secretarial spot that wanted someone who spoke English, French, Spanish and German, and who studied Latin America and Africa in that order. All checks.  I didn’t get the job because my typing wasn’t fast enough.

Moving on, again with the practicality. OK, if I couldn’t be a multi-lingual secretary, I would major in International Relations at Johns Hopkins and become Henry Kissinger.  Well, that didn’t work.  Economics and I were a nonstarter.  I did attend a job placement interview at Hopkins.  When asked for my aspirations, I said I wanted to wear Vogue clothes.  The counselor was mildly taken aback but assured me with a Hopkins degree I could do anything.  NOT!!  See above for starters.

Attempting to be logical, I determined if I wanted Vogue clothes, I needed to work in clothing.  I had thought  about this in high school but fashion was a trade and I was supposed to be too smart.  And I didn’t draw.  Uh, all work in fashion is not design.  Hopkins?  So, not working.  I was on my second job as assistant office manager in a major construction company when the receptionist turned me on to FIT Continuing Ed.  I was off and running.  Sundays 9- 5 and two nights a week till 9:30 or 10:30.  And I received an A in my art class.  My new ambition?  I was gonna be Calvin Klein.  In later years, I was questioned as to why I always wanted to be men.  Duh, that’s where the power was and is.

I started out as an assistant at Bobbie Brooks.  Why I got the job?  I was the only candidate with personal stationery; I am a Libra and they thought because of Hopkins, I knew psychology.  I decided I wanted to be a merchandiser in my own right.  Five companies later, I did it!  So, then what?  I wanted that VP title but I was just a “girl”.  This “girl” negotiated a licensing agreement with a major French fashion company.  Girls didn’t get to be vice presidents in that company.  The fashion press referred to me as vice president merchandising but not the company. Yes, they  merged with another company and gave my job to a male VP.  I definitely was able to buy and wear Vogue clothes so I did fulfill that ambition.

Back to the drawing board and I started working in financial services from the bottom up.  I had a facility for it.  Who knew that a fashionista could be successful in banking?!  Complications.  I was up for an AVP but was let go.  I came back as a consultant for another 11 years.  Same story – perceived as VP but no title.  I wanted to end my career as a VP.

Unemployed again, over 50, mobility issues, not happening.  In the last three years I have applied and applied.  I  began to realize that I could no longer commute into Manhattan.  If you want to be a VP and a woman on Long Island, you have no life.  I tried anyway.  I was told three years ago to apply for disability.  Me?  I am not disabled.  I just don’t walk well.  I am no longer the woman who wore three inch heels ,carried pocketbook, laptop and projector but disabled?

I finally succumbed last November and applied.  It’s like when I obtained the handicap sticker 5 years ago.  It was a “just in case”.  I thought it was temporary and I would be me in 5 years.  I am worse.  Cane, walker. Everyone said if anyone deserved it, it was me.  I have fought so hard.  I only did it because of economics.  This is a title I do not want.

Last Thursday, I received a letter saying I was medically qualified but the non-medical was still being evaluated.  This makes no sense.  Friday, there is a check in the mail.  I am officially disabled.  It is bittersweet.  The wolf at the door is being held back.  This is not a title I ever aspired to or even wildly imagined. WTF happened!! This was not what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I am coming to terms with the fact that my career life is over.  I am NEVER going to get that title, again, something outside the sphere of possibilities.

It’s reinvention time, Tresswann rising.    What do I want next?  What am I going to do for the rest of my life?  Well, the great Carib-American novel is possible but probably not publishable. I need to walk.  This gives me the opportunity to focus on getting back to walking.  I feel a little lost but I shall regroup.  I did originally want to write so maybe…

What did you want to be when you grew up and what happened along the way?

 

Mourning Clothes

I know it sounds trivial but I am mourning my clothes.  The weather has  snapped and I need heavier clothes.  The way my house is structured there is only one real closet.  We do have armoires upstairs, keyword – upstairs.  I have enormous problems going up and downstairs without having anything in my hands.  I used to work in the garment industry and from time to time in retail sales.  I know how to carry tons of clothing over my arm.  I used to do it without even thinking about it. Now, I have problems hanging one suit in the closet.  Plus, I am dependent on T to get up and down the stairs and carry things.

So, this morning we go up and I want to bring my winter things down.  I’ve already brought down most of the casual stuff – the sweaters, the cords.  Today is for the business and dress stuff.  Each season change, it’s like running into old friends.  This year,  there are new and different options.   I weigh less so fit into different things.  And since I constantly have to use a cane instead of making the spectral leg visible, I have more options.

I bought some beautiful suits and pieces when I returned to work last year.

I start making a pile for Tom to take downstairs.  “Where are you going to wear all this stuff, really.”  Rub it in.  I worked from mid-February last year.  And the winter before that, I interviewed heavily.

We brought the clothes downstairs.  I don’t want to give them up.  I have always had a definitive sense of style.  I express myself through my clothes.  I do not want to live in sweatpants and jeans.  It’s not who I am.  I miss my dresses! Forget the party stuff.  I left all that black velvet upstairs.  I haven’t been to a party in years.  I was down to one holiday luncheon or dinner a year.  It’s hard for me to navigate.  NYC is out of the question.

People barely dress any more.  It is depressing to see all the faded jeans worn by faded people.  Where’s the sense of excitement?  Where’s uniqueness.  Let me date myself further by saying I sound like Hermione Gingold in both Gigi and A Little Night Music.

 

I have more pants than ever.  I was brought up in a household where ladies don’t wear trousers.  However, I need them for interviews  so I don’t terrify potential employers completely.

Today, I am realizing who am I kidding?  I have had 1 in-person interview since July.

I want to get up most mornings and wear my clothes. I want to preen like a peacock.

This condition is trying to destroy my soul.  It’s tried to take so much from me.  I have to draw a line in the sand, somehow.

Disabilities, Limitations or Issues

I am having problems with the whole disability concept.  I know I really can’t walk well anymore.  Actually, I usually forget until I try to stand or move.  I told my doctor a few weeks ago that I think and feel I am me until I try and stand.  Her response was that I am me.  No, this is so not me.

I have been out of work for a year. People have been saying to me for much longer than that, that I should go on disability.  Why?  I am not disabled. I just do not walk well or fast.  But especially now when it is clear that I have lost out on jobs because of my mobility issues, the disability question is raising its ugly little head again.

In the past when I didn’t have what I call a job-job, I temped or worked  retail.  Those avenues are closed to me now primarily due to the mobility issues.  So, I can’t supplement my lack of income.  It’s getting serious as I am living off my life savings which were not much to begin with.  Most of the time, mobility should not be a factor in what I do.  I am a technical trainer by trade.  I show people how to use technology to do their jobs.  In addition to the mobility, I am a woman of a certain age (double whammy); I was at my last position for 15 years; and I have now been without gainful employment for a year.

Now, I am not going down without a fight.  I have either been blessed or cursed with grit and resilience.  I consulted a career counselor and her advice was to network in my professional associations.  I might be able to find out what other factors might be impeding me from working and of course, I might be able to network myself into a job.

My doctor told me to apply for the disability. This will not pay my mortgage let alone anything else.

So, I am fighting back.

Did you know that October is Employer Disability Awareness Month?  Who knew!  Through the HR society which I recently joined, there was a session this week on Disability Etiquette.  My plan?  Hike my disabled self with seasonally coordinated cane there and interact.  What a perfect opportunity! Wrong!  The attendees definitely did not want to deal.

However, the presentation was very thorough and informative.  He raised the issue that we are people, not disabilities.  In fact, the presenter stressed that we are people that have some limitations or issues.  I love, love this way of identification.  It makes so much sense.  I do usually refer to myself as someone with mobility issues.  I have always maintained I was trendy and ahead of the curve.

I did have a conversation with someone in the elevator on the way out.  She disclosed she had RA.  She loved my positive attitude.  Being negative takes too much time and energy.

And yes, I came up with another Plan B based on this meeting.

And with that group of people, who had the limitations and/or issues?  Me? Or them?

Doctors, Drugs, Disability

Back at the doctor’s Friday.  I was hoping for her to be able to get

Ocrelizumab.  It’s not yet available.    There is a similar drug but it is not approved for my disease:

Rituximab.

It’s a 5 hour infusion and then in two weeks, another one.  Every 6 months.  So, here’s the thing, side effects.  I could get shortness of breath and they slow the drug.  I could get more colds and infections.  Long term use might lead to cancer.  And of course, death though rare.  I HATE  needles let alone I.V.s.  However, I think I am going to suck it up and try.  I looked it up and it’s chemotherapy.  Kinda  scary.  Also, it’s been around for years.  The problem is insurance may not pay as it’s off label so I may have to wait till next year for the Opera.   Has anyone used this?  What do you think?

 

The other thing is Biotin.  I had obtained it just before I was let go and at $148 a month.  It wasn’t happening.  There is a new source and it will cost $60 a month.  It’s worth a try – $2 a day. Apparently, this looks good. Anyone use it?

 

Now there’s other things going on.  I have had a hard week. I got rejected again for a job.  It’s one for which I should have been a contender.  It was exactly what I used to do.  I had to create two presentations for it.  I was notified late on Friday for Monday.  It was my birthday and New Year’s dinner, too.  I put in hours and it was good.  No go.    It was across the street from where I was and it was difficult for me to walk there.

So, at this point, it appears that I am no longer going to be able to work in corporate America again.  I have hit the trifecta – woman, older, disabled.  This is so wrong.  I can’t even begin to address this.

 

The doctor is also in NYC.  I couldn’t do it without my husband.

I have collapsed recently in the bedroom without hurting myself but scary.  My balance has also been wobbly.  The doctor says that’s due to my weakness, not the drug I take.  My fingers are weaker,  My walking has gotten worse.  My theory?  Not going out to work every day has taken its toll despite the gym.  And she agrees, stress of not having work is negatively impacting me.  She’s finally admitting stress can be a factor.  I deal with extraordinary stress.  I have just started counseling.  In terms of stress and we are only up to 2004, she thinks it’s a lot.

I asked my neurologist about going out on disability.  I expected her to pooh pooh it.  NOT!  She said who deserved it more? I have worked for decades.  I don’t want to do this. I am going to have to think about this.

On the upside, my brain is fine.  She says that will be fine and she’s never seen it change. See, when I am sitting down I feel like me.  She tells me this is me.  I think NOT!!

I need to reflect and move forward.

Out of Work Summers – Beach and Bleach

I am writing this from my laptop in the backyard.  I am sitting in what we call our screen house so I am protected from the sun.  There is a delightful breeze.  I have been unemployed for 9 months; second longest period so far.

In periods past, I would be just returning from the beach.  Due to this condition that has been closed to me for now.  I can no longer tolerate the heat nor can I walk on the beach.  I used to find solace, peace and joy at the beach especially when I was out of work.

I started my unemployment  career in the garment district.  I went in and out.  Then I ended up at a major company and wa there for almost 9 years.  I loved what I did and was excellent at it.  The 90’s happened as did a merger.  I was treated in a textbook/case study manner.  I stopped getting invited to meetings.  My work was taken away from me.  I was let go with severance.  It was the end of May.  All my associates were let go after me.  I was grateful for this as it angered me and I would have been fired.  They let go a woman who had been there for almost 20 years.  She was paid less than what I used to expense for lunch and dinners weekly.  Ah, that expense account.  For nearly 10 more years, I didn’t make as much as my expense account.  I’d clear out my files and cry as I shredded the expense stubs that were larger than my current pay stubs.

When I lost that job (and I hate that term, I didn’t lose it, it was taken away from me) I was depleted.  I headed to the beach and spent so much time there my naturally dark hair bleached.  I also decided that I was going into business for myself.  I wanted a company that would never treat people like my low paid friend that way.  I have a great sense of what  is going to be popular fashion-wise and I had made connections literally all over the world.  I reached out to my network and received enormous support. What can I say? Great idea.  Wrong time.  Poor capitalization.  I showed merchandise to Brooks Brothers and was told it was too forward; try Paul Stuart. I had an existing relationship with Paul Stuart and was told it was too conservative; try Brooks Brothers.

I became seriously depressed and got married.  Bad, bad choice.  It was not convenient.  I made more money on unemployment than he did working.

I fought my way out and up and ended up part time at a financial services firm.  I was over a thousand hours and forced  to take nine weeks unpaid leave.  It was summer.  I hit the beach and the want ads.  Again, I bleached out.  I had an interview with a company that wanted someone who could do what had been done for my fashion employer.  Uh, that was me.  I came up with a portfolio of designs to show them, arguing the whole time with the late Joebe who wanted to impose his personal taste on the process.  I arrived at the interview deeply tanned from my beach time.  The interviewer took one look at me and said “Obviously, you are not seriously interested in working.”  He wouldn’t even look at the hours of work I had put in.

Fast forward, that  company made me permanent but I left after almost 7 years for the monolithic Bank. Finally, after 10 years was making a little bit more than those old expense account checks.   After 4 years, I was let go.  Back to the beach and back to bleaching out again.  And I married, again!  But this time I knew I would be working in the fall. It was a dream job at a major retailer making more than I had.  I also started moonlighting at the Bank.  What could go wrong?  Chapter 11 at the end of May.  For the 2nd time in two years, I was off for the summer.  Yup, beach and bleach.

Except for the first time at the end, I  was optimistic.  I had ideas and possibilities.

This time, I was let go in the fall after a total of 15 years.  I didn’t have the same hurt I had had with fashion.  My associations were different.  I was optimistic and calm.  I didn’t want to do my own business as I had done previously but actively look for work.

What’s different?  The Internet and my scads of experience.  Even if I was able, no beach and bleach for me.   I spend hours daily sometimes including the weekends looking for a job.  Today is one of the only days I am taking a “break” and writing.  What’s also different this time is that I am getting really good interviews.  What’s the problem?  Well, I am mature.  Experience costs money.  “We want you do but with someone out of college.”  Good luck to ya on that.  Didn’t you hear “You get what you pay for.”  And then, the elephant in the room.  My mobility.  There is nothing wrong with my brain.  I participate in research studies and I can remember the answers I missed the previous year!

It’s summer.  I HATE this condition.  It is taking so much away from me:  no beach and bleach, no walking, no gardening, no JOB!!  I need to channel that sense of optimism and possibility again.  I need to recharge without the beach.