New Job…. Who dis?!?
Transitioning from an entry level job to purpose filled career and how to adjust mentally, spiritually, and navigate office life in a wheelchair.
At the start of 2018 I knew that I wanted to see my life change in a dramatic and beautiful way. I was very unfulfilled in both my personal and professional life and I did not want to continue that same pattern going into the 2018 year. I decided that if I wanted to see a change I needed to make some real choices about how I wanted the rest of my life to be lived. So right there, in my bed on December 31, 2017 I decided to activate the change. At the time I was very lost when it came to identifying what my true purpose was on this Earth.
Whether you believe in God or in a higher power, we all are on this Earth for a purpose and until you truly tap into what you were sent on this Earth to do you haven’t really tapped into your greatness; at 32 I really wanted to figure out what God put me on this Earth to do.
I’m so use to playing it safe, planning everything out, having itineraries and to-do list/checklist, but for the first time I had to let all of that go and just pray.. pray that God would show me what his purpose is for the life he created me to live.
During this time, I was approaching my fifth year working at Los Angeles County and although I was very blessed to have a job that was stable and provided full medical insurance, because we all know THAT is not easy to get in 2018 especially when jobs today are barely covering the rent, let alone paying for full medical coverage and paid days off — even with this I was still very unhappy with my current career progression.
I dreaded waking up at 4 am every morning, commuting for an hour and 20 minutes (one way) via two trains. I dreaded staring at a computer for nine hours of the day knowing that I was not making a difference… because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do while on this Earth?? Make a difference…leave a legacy? Let me tell you, I was not leaving any type of legacy at the County of Los Angeles serving in the position I was in.
Even if you put all that aside, for over 4 years I worked at an office that was not ADA accessible. The entrance into the building was not accessible and LA County refused to purchase an accessible “push button” so their reasonable accommodation was to have the security guards, who patrolled the buildings onsite let me in and out of the building, but of course the security guards were never there when I actually needed to enter or exit the building, which meant that I had to wait for someone randomly walking by to let me in and out of the building, or call a co-worker from the 11th floor and ask if they could come down just to let me in.
If you can, just imagine you just traveled over 20 miles on two trains, you’re exhausted and once you arrive to work, there are drug addicts and homeless individuals wandering the entrance, and you have to just sit outside the doors (sometimes over 10 minutes) just waiting for someone, anyone to let you in the building at 7am.
Of course I filed formal complaints to office managers, division chief’s and HR but even after years of complaining nothing ever changed. My manager at the time was completely lacking empathy skills, and she clearly didn’t know how to appropriately handle an employee with differently-abled circumstances in the office. So it was no secret from many of my friends and family that I was constantly looking for new employment, especially after receiving my graduate degree in 2016; I was on a full mission to promote out of the office, whether it be in another department of LA County or outside of LA County. I begin looking for jobs in California, outside of California, even outside of the country, when I tell you I was looking to get out of my current position by any means necessary, I meant it!
Unfortunately, nothing quite panned out and I was still at LA County two years after receiving my degree. I watched many of my co-workers promote, receive salary raises, and I begin to question God “why am I still here?”, “why haven’t you decided to move me?”, “what am I doing wrong?”, “what am I not understanding?”, “why am I still stuck here?”
I’ve always been raised to never question God because if you’re questioning him you have no faith in him, so I immediately had to change my perspective and start questioning myself… “how can I prepare myself for when it’s my time?” I was so quick to be upset or frustrated when I saw someone else being blessed that I could no longer see my own blessings, and that is a very dark place to dwell in.
I once heard someone say “don’t get upset when you see someone else being blessed, just know God is still working and he has not forgotten about you” and every single day of those final two years at LA County I had to repeat those words because I knew my blessing was coming… and let me tell you, you can ask anyone that knows me, I am not the most patient individual but I’m a very firm believer in the scripture “walk by faith; not by sight” … you have to believe in God’s blessing even when you can’t see it, even when it seems so dark and destitute, you have to believe that God has not forgotten you and that what is for you no one can take.
Well on March 19th, 2018 God was ready to move me; on this day I saw a job posting on governmentjobs.com for a job at Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) that was solely focused on the betterment of the homeless individuals in both the City and the County of Los Angeles. I’m not sure where you live or your surrounding neighborhood but as many of us have seen and felt, the homelessness crisis in California is at an all-time high, you are encountering more tent encampments, less food and medical attention services, it’s really become an outcry for immediate attention.
After reading the job description, which explained how I would purchase services such as shelters, food, mental health, and case management services for the homeless community, I quickly applied for the position. When it’s God’s plan, he doesn’t delay, within a month of applying I received an email requesting a phone interview, that 20-minute phone interview led to an hour in-person interview, and finally in mid- May that in-person interview led to a confirmed job offer with a salary increase and full medical coverage.
Although I was very excited to start this new position I was also very apprehensive; for the past five years I’ve worked at one office, made a few solid friends and I would be leaving all of that comfort to go into uncharted territory — to a new office where I didn’t know anyone and my friends wouldn’t be there to help me if I needed it. I was also concerned because the last two years at LA County I was utilizing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which as some people may know is a medical leave that allows employees the benefit of job protection for medical approved absences; however as a new employee, I would be under probation for six months and ineligible from FMLA until I passed probation; I was very concerned that if my current medical needs required me to take off unexpectedly and/or frequently I would be at risk of not passing probation. Despite all of my concerns I had to take a leap of faith and follow God’s plan for me and take the position. I would start my new job on June 1, 2018.
On my first day at the job I immediately noticed that there was not an ADA push button for the entrance of the building, however there were four dedicated security guards in the front of the building that were there every time I needed to enter or exit the building so that was already one step in a beautiful direction. I learned on my first day that I would be reporting to my section, meet with my manager, who generously took me and the rest of her staff out for lunch to celebrate my arrival and then we (the entire office) headed out early for the first all-staff meeting in Downtown LA, which would go over the new homeless funding, new approved programs, the newly lowered homeless count and my first opportunity of meeting over 90% of the LAHSA family, which is currently over 300 people.
Within the first two weeks of being at LAHSA it was refreshing to be employed with a company that embraced my differently-abled needs. I didn’t have to wait months for my specialized equipment at my desk — LAHSA quickly ordered my keyboard and mouse, office desktop supplies, table-top cold water dispenser, reaching stick, they also installed my keyboard tray. When I noticed that the Women’s bathroom doors were not accessible I immediately alerted HR and my Manager, although I’m still waiting for these changes to be made I am hopeful that it will be changed and within an appropriate time.
I have noticed that my body has been a bit more tired than usual at the end of the work day because unlike when I was at LA County where I had friends that would assist me with certain things like preparing my breakfast, getting hot water for my tea and daily EmergenC (I’m rebukin ALL sickness, Amen!) or the removal of my purse and coat. I didn’t really have that kind of support at LAHSA just yet so my body is more fatigued because I am doing a lot of this on my own.
As a woman with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, my muscles get tired extremely fast and once that energy is gone, well it’s pretty downhill from there lol. In saying all this, I’m not trying to insinuate that no one at LAHSA has offered to assist me because there are a few people that have, however, I’ve never been one to consistently ask for help. I’ve always been someone that wanted to do it on my own and granted there are times where I just have to ask for help but 9 times out of 10 I am determined to figure it out on my own so I’ve had to come up with a couple different modified “hacks”
Since I couldn’t exactly reach and operate the hot water kettle in the office kitchen, I decided to bring my own hot water dispenser and I would keep it at my desk.
I tend to drink my coffee very slooooow so instead of me constantly having to reheat it, which is a process when you have trouble reaching and operating the microwaves, and then trying to drive back to my desk holding hot liquids (not a smart idea) one of my friends introduced me to coffee cup warmers. This saved my life because now I can keep my coffee at a nice warm temperature at my desk and I don’t have to keep going back and forth to the microwave.
Since I am not able to remove my purse without assistance I had to become very creative in the types of purses that I can actually carry to work (and still be cute); so now I only carry purses that have a detachable crossbody strap because I can easily detach the clip and remove my purse or I wear larger wristlets that can hang on the armrest of my chair, which allows me to easily remove it without any assistance. See some options I recently purchased below!
Instead of carrying heavy beverages in my lunchbag from home I decided to make a #TargetRun during one of my lunch breaks and buy a couple of the beverages that I like to drink (Bubly, LaCroix.) In doing this, I can actually carry my lunch bag in my hand on the train or on my armrest (since it drastically lighter without the beverages) instead of putting it in my tote bag behind my chair and asking someone to dig it out for me. I still need assistance putting the lunch bag in the refrigerator but I’m headed in the right direction :-)
As you can see, I’ve really tried to make an unmodified situation more modified to my needs as much as possible. It’s not easy being differently-abledin an able-bodied world but life isn’t setup to be easy so you gotta roll with the punches and let God lead you. Although I’m only 2 ½ weeks at the job, I feel very hopeful that this change was exactly what I needed to do to begin living in my purpose. Working at LAHSA has truly awakened my spirit and has allowed me to really pour myself into helping others and seeing people beyond their circumstances and looking solely at their hearts…because at the end of the day we are all just human beings moving along this Earth trying to do better than we did the day before.
I hope you continue to follow me as I document the first three months of navigating a new job, adjusting to new modifications and challenging myself both spiritually and professionally!
Until next time, this is my world … on wheelz!