Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not the smoothest transition

I must admit I *love* being a housewife. Waking up when I want, setting my own pace, drinking coffee, writing, doing laundry, baking bread, reading/writing/knitting at my leisure. It's really a lot of fun.

But it doesn't pay the bills. My new job at the health food store is nice, but it is not going to pay any bills either. So far I have had only one or two shifts a week, and they are only four hour shifts, so it is definitely not sustainable for me. I'll have a conversation with the owner next week and we'll talk about what our needs are, mine and hers, and see if we can come to a new arrangement.

Part of the problem is that we are planning some weekend trips in the next five weeks. I am going to the AMIA Symposium in DC in the middle of November. I registered for the symposium back in August, paid $700 from basically a whole paycheck in order to be able to go. Normally the people who go to these kinds of things are sponsored by their employer or school. I decided to fork over the money and go so I can meet people and get back into my field - health informatics. I will do all kinds of research before I go - who is presenting, where the attendees are from, who are the right people to approach with my curriculum vitae in hand.Surely with the symposium being so close there should be a fairly good representation from employers in North Carolina, right?

One thing is for certain: there no career for me in Kinston or even Greenville, it sounds like. With my education and experience, well-meaning people who don't know any better keep telling me I'm sure to get something at such-and-such a place. But I have been applying to all of those places. I am either overqualified or don't have the skill set they are looking for. I need a bigger market to be looking in. I'm sure I could find work that would allow me to pay my bills, but my career is idling and after all those years I spent in post-secondary, it's a shame to let all that go to waste. I have huge income-earning potential and after getting a sense of what it is like to run a business (albeit a night club), I am ready for a bigger project to sink my teeth into. But how do I get there? How do I get my foot in the door?

Admittedly this is a terrible time to be looking for work. The US government has been shut down since October 1st and is heading for a default, which will not only mean severe hardship for federal employees, but also to all those businesses that rely on those government agencies and the income generated by them. The US economy as a whole is contracting and will continue to contract. Where will I find my place?

On the other hand, with the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare), one would think that there is a demand for someone with a health informatics background in this new health care paradigm. Unfortunately the Courtyard Group is enmeshed in another controversy after making a big attempt, it seems, to rebrand itself after what they did a few years ago, and it is they who are responsible for the problems all those millions of Americans who have tried to sign up for Affordable Care but were shut down by website glitches. Interestingly, I was considering taking a job with Courtyard when I graduated in 2009, before all the scandal broke out. I am so glad I dodged that bullet!

I am sure you are wondering too what a job for me in the city will mean for me and Dan. It's hard to know. For the right job, say in Durham, (specifically at Duke) we talked about me getting an apartment for work during the week and coming back to Kinston on weekends. Yes it would suck to be apart so much, especially after our immigration ordeal, but the fact is I need to be earning money and using my brain. Maybe we could find a place to live that's halfway in between here and there - I have friends in British Columbia who do that. I don't have this imaginary well-paying job yet, so it's almost futile to really consider.

I really like not working six days a week. I really like not working weekends, and being able to spend my weekends with Dan is wonderful. The night club was really quite stressful for me, really more stressful than I realized while I was in it. In some ways I'm still having a hard time letting go, but that will come in time.

The other thing I am finding is that now that I am not working in a job that has me interacting with hundreds of people, I... have no social life. I only see people if I go to the restaurants downtown or back to the club for a visit. I would love to join or participate in a stitch night, but for a state that grows cotton there are very few people who do any textile-based crafts in this area. It's really disappointing. I heard there is a book club in Kinston but that it's "mostly old ladies", which wouldn't bother me if it didn't bother them, depending on the kinds of books they read.

And it's not like I can go hang out in coffee shops. There is only one, is only open until 4:00, weekdays. I can't really go for walks or runs in my neighborhood without getting ogled by men or being asked for money/cigarettes - there is a lot of poverty here and I don't feel safe outside my truck or without Dan at my side. Now that I am not completely enmeshed in my job I have time to look around.

I feel hopeful that something really good is about to come along though. I have a lot of applications out there and I am excited about the symposium. Not only will I get reacquainted with the state of the art in health informatics, but I will see who the big players are now and hopefully I recognize a few - I knew all the names back around 2005-2009. I'll give my CV a facelift and I am even reconsidering joining LinkedIn again - I dropped it a few years back when I saw no value in it, but it seems to have changed according to some. (If you have an opinion on this I would love to hear it).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New job!

I gave my notice at the night club mid-way through August and have ever since been applying for all sorts of jobs, near and far. Despite being "overqualified" for many of them, the ones I feel I am qualified for in my field haven't given me so much as a nibble. I had a really excellent interview a couple of weeks ago, probably the best I have ever had (sorry Jeff, yours is a close second), and would have taken the job if it wasn't for the hours - afternoons and evenings five nights a week, including weekends. After spending so much time away from Dan, I just can't give up my weekends to work anymore. 

There isn't a lot to offer in downtown Kinston but of the businesses that are here, there are some real gems. The brewery and The Red Room bookend a night out for out-of-towners, filled with a dinner to one of Kinston's three downtown restaurants: Ginger 108, Chef and the Farmer, and The Boiler Room. In my mind, that comprises the food and beverage community. There is also the Queen Street Deli, but it is only open weekdays until four, so it mostly serves locals rather than people from out of town.

In the middle of this little community (and I can tell you that, having worked at The Red Room, I know all the people who work in these places) is a health food store called Living Well. For those of us who live in Mitchelltown, two or three blocks away from this food and beverage downtown, Living Well can be viewed as the nearest grocery store. The owner, Judy, has a broad and friendly smile, welcomes everyone into her store, usually by name, and knows what her customers want.

I have been going there about once a week or so for a while now, as have a few of the brewery staff. Judy has been a big supporter of The Red Room and always made sure she had the current poster of the the month's events clearly displayed in her shop. In my last week working at the night club, she asked me if I had anything else lined up, to which I replied "no". She said want to come work for me part time? I said "let's talk!"

We had a great conversation. I know my way around a health food store and already have a lot of product knowledge. I also know a lot about localist movements, CSAs, and how to grow a business. We were both really excited and didn't quite commit, though I had pretty much decided within a day of our conversation that I would go work for her.

A week and a half went by, as I had some things to take care of (my truck! I know have a North Carolina plate on my truck and can legally drive here!) and she was away at a trade show. Turns out we both spent all that time thinking about each other. :-) I went in soon after her shop opened yesterday and we were both so excited she jumped up and hugged me. I start this afternoon.

I honestly did not expect my work path to take me in this direction, but this is a field I am really interested in and have experience with. I can also do a lot of good here. Not only that, Judy clearly values my skills and respects my input, which means a lot to me. I can't remember the last time someone who has just hired me gave me a hug (ever?)

I'll be working weekdays, for the most part, possibly the occasional Saturday. After having the entire weekend with Dan off last weekend, it felt like a l o n g time that we got to spend together which was pretty awesome, so weekdays was definitely the right decision for me. With a staff discount and other perks (casual dress, a four-minute walk to work), not to mention room for advancement, this is definitely the right thing for me right now. Also? I can use more of my skill set and be able to help. I don't have to be around drunk people or smokers, so that's nice too. Lots of people already know me and it will be interesting to see the people of this area from this new perspective. I am excited to start my new job today.