Social Work

Back to School and other updates

I did it! I’m back in college after 25+ years.

I had basically given up on the idea that I would ever get to go back and get my degree. Of course, after so long, I’m actually starting completely over. So much so that I’m enrolled in a mandatory College Success Course!

If it wasn’t for the fact that the organization I work for unionized, I wouldn’t be able to attend. If you have a union, and you aren’t really aware of the benefits it offers, please investigate it. You might discover something you didn’t realize would move you forward in your path or help you shift to a different one.

Anyway, I’m super excited to be back in school. It’s going to be a long road. However, if I focus on that, I will get overwhelmed and probably discouraged. Realistically, to get to the level I want to in my career, I have to get my Master’s and I’m at the beginning of obtaining my Associate’s. Standard educational timelines mean six years, at least. Meaning, I’ll be at least 60 yrs old before I would be able to practice as a clinician and 62 before I could have my own practice, independent of immediate supervision. That’s if I were able to go full-time. Which I can’t.

Why can’t I? I am about to be officially, completely single-parenting a 13 year old on the Autism Spectrum while working full-time, and being a fully accessible grandparent to my four grandkids. All of this while managing mental and physical health conditions and fighting to survive financially. Adding full-time college on top of all of that isn’t realistic.

Fortunately, I’m enrolled in a program that breaks the terms up into eight week segments. I’m taking four credits this first eight weeks. I’m registered for six credits for the second eight weeks. That puts me at almost full-time. Depending on how this first eight weeks goes, I may drop one of the courses for the second eight weeks. I don’t want to do what I’ve done previously and take on too much, too soon, overload myself, get overwhelmed, and meltdown. Slow and steady wins the race, yeah?

In the meantime, I’m also needing to file bankruptcy and my car has broken down.

My wages have been being garnished for over a year. The cost of the bankruptcy and hiring an attorney will likely cost close to what I have left in the garnishment and mean making a payment arrangement. However, it will also prevent a few other debts from going to court. I hate the idea of bankruptcy. I absolutely hate it. It’s just that financially I will be barely staying afloat once the fallout from my pay raise happens.

You read that right. My pay raise is going to create some financial difficulties. Why? Well, because the path from dependence on the government and social services to self-sufficiency is set up for people to fail. With the disappearance of the middle class, how easy do you think it is to scramble out of poverty and get a foothold into sinking sand?

The aforementioned health issues have me on multiple medications, including an insulin pen. Up to now, I have qualified for the Oregon Health Plan under the Affordable Care Act. Once my pay raise kicks in I will lose eligibility for that insurance. I’ll be paying for medical through my employer and have to set money aside for the cost of prescriptions. I’m not sure how much all of that will be, but, I’m quite sure it will likely be over $200/mo. I’ll likely lose the full amount of housing subsidy I’m currently receiving. That will be an extra $600-$700/mo. I will lose the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka “food stamps.” That’s another $400/mo. I’m looking at losing over $1,200/mo. support I qualified for, WHILE WORKING FULL-TIME, with a pay raise that will raise my gross income by $583/mo. So, I suppose not having a car to pay maintenance, gas, and insurance on is a good thing.

I’ll be making more than $20/hr. still barely making ends meet. Between taxes, retirement savings (which is losing pace with the economic issues facing our country), and the garnishment, I’m currently taking home half of my gross and surviving on about $1500/mo. plus the subsidies I listed above.

Let’s recap: Back to college – YAY!!! Broken car – BOO!!! Pay raise – WOOHOO!!! Losing benefits – UH OH!!!

Oh, yeah, what am I studying you ask? Social Work.

Yep. That’s right. I’m studying to go into a career to try to help people, like myself, navigate broken and disconnected social service systems, while attempting to navigate those same systems myself.

I’m already learning to be grateful it’s online and that I don’t actually have to interact face to face with the privileged folks who seem to think the English Poor Laws were a good thing and that we should bring them back.

Lord, help me.

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