Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Pinch Me

All my life, I've worked this job and that. Lots of "administrative assistant" positions, which is office-speak for "girl-who-does-everything-and-gets-paid-crap-and-called-'girl'", sales positions, front office positions, that sort of thing. The truth is, I've been lucky (and choosy) about where I've worked -- lots of non-profits, medical clinics, friendly, smallish staffed places. A couple of times I've found myself in Corporate America with a Big C (I did a fairly long stint at the headquarters of a national women's clothing chain), and in the "IT" sector (I spent a VERY brief time working for a company that sold medical software), but mostly it's been economic development, outpatient alcohol treatment, that sort of thing. Still, as wonderful as the people were where I worked, and as progressive the workplace, I still was doing work that was less than challenging for pay that was less than rewarding. I wanted so desperately to be able to call the shots -- to run my own business, not punch a clock, not have to worry about showing up at 8 on the dot somewhere, not have to deal with office parties and gossip and waiting in line for the xerox machine and all the other banalities that awaited me out there in office land. And I wanted to do something interesting and fun, and get paid well for it. I had a college degree, I was smart and capable, I just never had been able to figure out what it was I wanted to be when I grew up. And I was all grown up already.

When we moved to Texas in September of 2001, the bottom was rapidly dropping out of the economy. There were no jobs here in office land, IT land, Corporate land, anywhere. I did my share of substitute teaching, but hated it. I tried to get into the State program to become a public school teacher but the bureaucracy kept rearing its ugly head. In spite of my stellar, well-rounded college degree, I went to the kind of school where I didn't have to declare a major and wasn't required to take physics, and trying to explain all of that to the Texas State Education Department proved to be too much of a hassle. Plus, I was increasingly afraid, after months of substitute teaching in the schools of Texas, that I would be one of those teacher burnouts. The whole atmosphere of the public schools here scared me. So, I kept looking, and waiting, and hoping, and not working. I tried VERY hard to get a job as a systems analyst trainee at the University of Texas -- passed their entrance exam with flying colors. But the program is highly competitive. Pair that with a hiring freeze, and you have a series of interviews that led nowhere.

Finally, in March, a break came in the form of a job doing medical transcription. I love typing, I love words, I love medical information, and I had experience. I got the job. I pretty quickly realized I was working for a less than stable woman in a less than stable environment, but I kept showing up and doing the work and getting paid and trying to keep my head down. Then, in August, the shit hit the fan. Unstable lady finally got around to screwing me over and I had to quit. There are a lot of details here that I'm leaving out, but trust me, it was ugly. And she still owes me money, but I have no way of getting it except to take her to court, which I am entirely unwilling to do.

So there I was again, no work, no prospects for work, 3 months pregnant, on my ass. I spent about 2 weeks licking my wounds and freaking out. Taking a deep breath, and with lots of outside encouragement, I decided to just go for it and market myself. I went after every doctor in town, including the accounts I'd been working on since March. I made 700 postcards, printed labels, affixed stamps, mailed and prayed. I also took a day to go door to door to all the doctors whose accounts I had already worked on. On my very first day of meeting and greeting I heard back within 15 minutes from a doctor. Did a trial week that week, and he signed me up 2 weeks later. I was on my way. A couple of weeks after that I got a call from an OB/Gyn looking to outsource their transcription. It was a small account, but I picked it up gladly. I now had two clients, a fax machine, some work to do...but I was getting increasingly nervous. These two clients were not going to sustain me, I needed to triple my business in order to stay afloat. I was just a few months away from delivering twins and watching my bank account dwindle away. I cringed every time I swiped the debit card at the gas pump or the grocery store, every time I wrote a check for the baby to see the doctor or fill a prescription. I was, in short, terrified.

Two weeks ago I heard that the previous boss was messing up her work for one of her biggest accounts. I knew she was behind on her work, and guessed that things were far worse than just a bad turn-around time. I headed back to that clinic with a bag of candy and a note, and was greeted warmly by the office manager. Another transcriptionist, who had also worked on this account (and also been burned by the crazy lady), had agreed to join forces with me and we were presenting ourselves as a team. Last week we got a call asking to do a trial run, which we did.

And today, I got the following email:


I just wanted to touch base with & let you know that (Doctor N) was very pleased with your work. I will be giving a two week notice to (Your Crazy Former Employer) tomorrow & depending on her response we will go from there. I will keep you posted & look forward to working with both you & (Transcriptionist K)."

So, like I said, pinch me.

I'm about to be earning more than I have EVER earned in my life, doing what I like to do, from home, on my own schedule and on my own terms. I'm not saying all of this to brag. I guess I just can hardly believe that it's finally happening, that I managed to make it happen, that I've actually reached this goal. Because, believe me, I've spent YEARS with this goal in sight and have never, ever come remotely close. And now, in a matter of just a couple of months, it's all here.

I'm also not saying that all I ever want to do for the rest of my life is type medical transcription from home in my bathrobe. Because it's probably not true. I want to write, I want to do more photography, I'd like to be more involved in community service, and who knows what all else. But for now, it's more than enough to keep me happy.

So go on, pinch me.

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