What direction should/can my life take now?
July 6, 2013 10:30 AM   Subscribe

This one might be a doozy. So, I'm a 23 year old recent college grad ( this May) with a B.A. in psychology and no idea what to do with my life. ( Original, I know, but bear with me, it gets better.) Everyone around me seems to have what are at least well-outlined 5 year plans, oriented around either grad school or a great entry level job. Certain circumstances in my life though seem to leave me with a vision of the future that doesn't extend far beyond the living room couch and daytime TV for the next 10 years and that frightens me to no end.

A little more about why I feel landlocked:
- I have cerebral palsy: I'm thankfully 100% mentally but use a scooter and electric wheelchair to get around. I don't yet drive (I don't know if it's even physically feasible for me to start, and a car with hand controls is prohibitively expensive). I do, begrudingly, make use of NYC public transportation when I can, but it's so much more laborious of an endeavor for me than most ( worrying about battery life, catching buses, finding curbs, etc) that I don't do it often. My parents are able to drive me from place to place for now, but they're both busy and at some point, it becomes socially unacceptable to need to do this. Also part of the roadblock that is CP is a speech fluency and spasticity issue that seems to get worse every day. Where it was once limited to the phone and to new situations in which I'd be prone to social anxiety, I've reached a point where I'm unable to talk to my own family without much effort and physical distress. Needless to say, it's wreaked havoc on my social life and doesn't bode well for me in terms of job opportunities in our interconnected and social society. I should note here that I love people and would, if I were only physically able to, be around them all day.

Apart from the CP, the six years it took me to finish undergrad left me with little to show for them. I began to suffer a cadre of stubborn depressive symptoms from the end of sophomore year on ( lack of energy, need for lots of sleep, overeating, etc). I've managed to make do with Prozac but still struggle sometimes. The most crippling part of the condition is the way in which it prevented me from getting the most out of my colllege experience. To make a long story short- I have no letters of recommendation/ good contacts at my university. It was too difficult for me to develop a meaningful relationship with most of them as I avoided office hours for the most part ( where I didn't, it was only to get an extension or advice on how to keep from failing a class) and kept to myself during lecture. It obviously follows that I have no research experience of any kind, no independent study experience and no real awards. My grades from sophomore year on are an exercise in confusion- all As one semester, half Cs/Ds, half As the next ( sometimes Ds in subjects I'd done amazingly in the semester before). Psychology will always be a love of mine, neuroscience specifically, and while I did well in most of my classes in the major, I did miserably in others that were no more difficult, for reasons that probably had to do with my depression, but I've given up trying to explain these inconsistencies to myself and others and will have difficulty defending them on a grad school app.
Outside of school, I've never held a job, volunteered or done much of anything really. My entire resume is a very, very hard stretching of the truth.
So, now, to quit the pity party and summarize:
What can I do with my time over the next few months/years considering
a) A B.A. in psychology with about a 2.9-3.0 average and no experience
b) The physical and logistical challenges I face?

Some more pointed questions:
Is there any way for me to make a decent ( even a 20-30k a year salary) right now? I've been told I'm a gifted writer and good with languages and have posted on Craigslist and job boards looking for 'gigs' wherein my talents for writing could be put to good use ( nonprofits, small magazines, etc), but no cigar.
In terms of skill development, what should I focus on? Grad school? If so, how in the world do I get in ? Vocational skills like design and web publishing? What's the most efficient path to proficiency here?
In terms of experience- where do I look and who do I talk to? I only need be given a chance to show how driven I can be.

One last thing to note: It's always been a dream of mine to move to either California, Israel or the UK. If anyone knows of any opportunities in these places or where I could look to start a life there, please let me know.

I'm passionate about many things and I realize I could be doing more. I do feel like I need the compass that is the often brutal honesty of the Mefite to guide me though, so fire away- what can I start doing right now?
posted by marsbar77 to Work & Money (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Some people might consider what you've accomplished so far a resounding success. Have you thought about volunteering for a CP organization?
posted by Brent Parker at 10:37 AM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I have, and as atrociously vain as this may sound, I don't think I'd enjoy it, precisely because I don't want a B.A. in psych from a state university to be my be-all-end all standard for sucesss and then hop on the advocacy train just because that would seem the most natural fit for someone with CP. I've never been able to see myself as disabled ( definitely not always a good thing, trust me) and so I'd venture that I wouldn't feel all that fulfilled. I realize this sort of reaction means I need to work on self-appreciation and love, etc. but that's just who I am right now- I wouldn't take well to being pidgeonholed. That's not to say I'm completely discounting the idea if all else fails.
posted by marsbar77 at 10:43 AM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm glad you updated about your reluctance to get into advocacy because that would have seemed like an obvious answer and a way to get a toehold into something.

It's not clear to me whether you have thought about working as a therapist or counselor eventually. If you haven't discarded that idea, I would start talking to people about what you can do to upgrade your credentials, including either volunteering (doesn't have to be CP-related) or study.

You say you don't have relationships at your university. But I think you might be surprised at how willing at least some of your former professors and advisers would be if you asked them to help you with a defined plan. By "defined" I mean, "I want to take this course in social work or whatever" not a five year plan. A lot of those end up just being a way to get started.
posted by BibiRose at 10:56 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perhaps craft a well-written letter inquiring about work for the larger nonprofits that focus on CP and/or other disabilities? All nonprofits need development professionals whose job it is to raise money and write grants. A disability-centric one will understand your challenges and likely value your perspective. You could cultivate a career as a grant writer. Search for jobs around keywords like program, operations or development assistant, grants manager, grants administrator, etc. Requires good writing, editing and computer skills, strong internet research ability and attention to detail.

I'd suggest first researching jobs in the nonprofit world to become knowledgable. Read job descriptions, see what kinds of staff are listed on the web sites. Then consider the nonprofits that you are likely already involved with and inquire with them and others if they'd be willing to give you an informational interview to learn about the nonprofit job sector and what opportunities they recommend for someone with strong writing skills who also really likes people (know that grant writing can be very solitary work and anything to balance that is good). If you present yourself well, they may have a job for you or at least some valuable leads.

But always start with a letter, or have one to hand them. If speech difficulties present an obstacle to first impressions, you want to wow them with your writing ability first.

Really develop your LinkedIn profile.
Good luck!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:58 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you ever been on SSI (federal disability)? Would you qualify for it now? I ask not because I think you should be on it, but because people who qualify for SSI also qualify for vocational rehabilitation. Since you generally have done well on your own, I'm sure it may be kind of sucky to ask for that kind of help, but realize that it's there for you. Think of it this way: It's really hard for all recent college grads to get jobs right now--you have additional obstacles, and this agency is there to help you. Everybody else is taking every opportunity available to them, so why shouldn't you do the same?
posted by hydropsyche at 11:00 AM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure I completely understand your response to BP, but it sounds as if you feel that volunteering would be settling. And I agree that this might be the case if you put all your eggs in that basket. But if you volunteer a few hours a week while looking for paid work, it could be a way to buff your resume and build your network. And I don't suppose there's any reason the volunteer work *has* to be with a CP org.

Volunteer work is often suggested for people who are out of work and looking for direction. Additionally, some volunteer work can be done online. Check out the Taproot Foundation and Idealist.

Odesk might be a place where you can find freelance writing gigs. I haven't used it myself; you will probably want to vet before you dive in.

If you want to be paid for writing, it might not hurt to start a blog to showcase your skills. This would also give you something to point to - in my experience people rarely hire a writer without asking for a sample of their work. There are some famous examples of blogs turning into book deals, but I think a lot of people use them to show that they can write and are knowledgable in a certain area.

I wish I had more knowledge about what transportations and support options might be available to you - hopefully someone else will.

You sound like an amazing individual who has accomplished a lot. Keep that in mind and don't be hard on yourself. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 11:01 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: All these are great, common-sense piece of advice. My trouble with the advocacy and social work route is: I've always been 'into' medicine and neuroscience and, like I said, I did well in most courses relating to that. There's even a professor I guess I could dare to ask for a rec letter, though we haven't spoken in a while. Do I throw all that away?
posted by marsbar77 at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2013

Er, sorry but I was crafting my above post before seeing your added comments. You need work experience, a first job. I'd argue that the nonprofit angle is a good place to find that, and likely your best bet. Get a little experience under your belt first, THEN be more discerning.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:04 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks bunderful- some great options there, along with grounded advice and an understanding of my...er, neuroses. :)
posted by marsbar77 at 11:04 AM on July 6, 2013

Response by poster: True, AOG, I realize that I'll need to start somewhere. Sorry if that first comment sounded a little haughty- never meant it that way. Just hope you can understand the apprehension.
posted by marsbar77 at 11:05 AM on July 6, 2013

just because that would seem the most natural fit for someone with CP

I do hope you'll reconsider this. "Natural fit" is how many careers begin.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:06 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Hey there, marsbar77, moderator here. Just a note, at AskMetafilter, generally you ask your question and then just let people answer it -- it's not customary to reply to every answer, and it really isn't a place for getting into a back-and-forth discussion. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:09 AM on July 6, 2013

Hey, I have a degenerative disease, too. Somewhat the opposite story: I did well in college and I've been degenerating since. I'm now in a power wheelchair (well, the arthritis in my hands is now making that hard to work) and I needed IV feeding for six months of this year (really affected my voice too - I know how embarrassing that is). Some thoughts: every state has a vocational rehabilitation program which helps people with disabilities access work -- and they have funding to do so. I mean, it's in their interests to get you off the rolls for SSI/SSDI. They help you make a plan (a five year plan even), they help you think about how to approach people with your disability, they pay for classes, they even pay for cars with hand controls if that's part of a reasonable plan to get you employed. (Also, if insurance is a worry as it often is with CP, when you do find work, you can buy into Medicaid almost everywhere as long as you're making under 250% federal poverty level.) Just google vocational rehabilitation and your state.

Centers for Independent Living also have this kind of info and you have to have one near you; they're a nationwide program -- google that and your city / locality as well. The people who are telling you to become a CP advocate and inspire others blah blah blah... they mean well. It sounds like your illness is foregrounded way too much right now and you'd like to figure out a way around that. Both vocational rehab and centers for independent living are staffed by other disabled people. They'll totally get that. Memail me if you want.
posted by sweltering at 11:11 AM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

You might also consider reaching out to CP organizations or broader organizations for people with disabilities because they may have career advice or tips on getting access to services that would make it easier for you to work. For example, there may be grants available to help with the purchase of mobility aides and other equipment that might allow you to drive or get around more easily. You absolutely don't have to work in that field if you don't want to, but people who do work in the field might be able to point you in a direction that would help you get into a career you would enjoy.
posted by decathecting at 11:11 AM on July 6, 2013

When I was unemployed I volunteered with three different organizations. That gave me a ton of references and I networked with all kinds of people. Since you are interested in neuroscience and in New York you could look for volunteer opportunities like this.

College does a shit job of preparing people to be professional adults. You can spend hundreds of hours in a major without learning what it is to be someone in that field does. A field like neuroscience doesn't need just neuroscientists. They need people to run their databases, design their web pages, write grants, manage their volunteers, organize conferences, be a liaison to the public to government bodies to universities. So, college isn't the place to find your niche (unless your niche is terrible movies and greasy food). But you have found a direction you want to go in.

Good luck.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:19 AM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've never been able to see myself as disabled ( definitely not always a good thing, trust me) and so I'd venture that I wouldn't feel all that fulfilled. I realize this sort of reaction means I need to work on self-appreciation and love, etc. but that's just who I am right now- I wouldn't take well to being pidgeonholed.

I think you should try counseling, because self-acceptance and love are going to be the first step in figuring out both your capacity and your potential. For example, had you posted about your school troubles back when you were going through them, a valid route would have been to contact your office of disability, not only for accommodations regarding your CP but also for accommodations for your depression. Many schools will excuse poor grades for mental health reasons if you're working with a therapist and their office. But the first step in all of this is admitting that you need help, and I think you do--likely beyond what metafilter is going to be able to tell you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:21 AM on July 6, 2013

Ah, and now I see that you did reach out during college, got advice from your disability services offices advising you to withdraw, and lots of good advice about dealing with your depression then.

I know it's hard--I know it's going to necessitate some mourning for the "normal" life you'll never have*. But it sounds like you are facing severe physical limitations in addition to fairly severe emotional ones. It is not a bad thing to need help, and beginning this journey with acceptance of your own limitations and capacity would be a great start.

*Also, quit focusing on how perfect other 23 year olds seem to have it. First of all, because it's mostly bunk; they're all just as scared and clueless as you are, and god knows what their lives will look like 5 years down the road. And second of all because it's just not helpful. You are not them, you are yourself, and success is going to depend on accepting yourself.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:28 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've always been 'into' medicine and neuroscience and, like I said, I did well in most courses relating to that.

do you want to do psychological or neuroscience research?

if you want to do writing or copy editing for now there are websites specifically for that.
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:30 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was not going to suggest this initially because I could not pick out where your interests are, but this follow-up comment "I've always been 'into' medicine and neuroscience" is helpful.

There is a type of job that you should be able to get, although the pay is not great (although it should at least be in the 20 to 30 K range), which would be research/lab tech, basically any work to complete a research study.

Here are the reasons that you should consider doing this, and I'm mentioning this because it looks like your are considering these possibilities:

-If you do this type of job, usually you participate in the research and your name goes onto posters, papers, etc., which helps when you are applying for graduate school (you seem to mention grad school in your original post). You would also be able to acquire lab experience, techniques, etc.

-If you work in a lab and contribute to the research, then the PI in your lab should be able to write a great letter of recommendation for you after a year or two. If you spend time in other labs, then you would have two people who know you very well (not just academic potential, but potential for research, work ethic, etc.)

-Tuition (a class or two a semester) is a job benefit, so you can start taking a grad level neuro, etc. class to see if it is what you want to do.

-You can truly assess if grad school is even an interest (what you study academically does not equal doing research....).

How you get into these jobs:

-Go online and look at every med school/university/hospital - you usually just have to fill out a general form and they interview you from there.

-Take the next step and get experience NOW. How would you do this? Go to the 'about me'/research page for faculty and peruse their research and work. What looks really interesting? Get the contact info for faculty and email way - send a brief few sentence letter telling the person that you are interested in X, and you are looking for a job but would also be willing to volunteer. Lots of people start out as volunteers and if they do a good job, get hired. Do be open that you are eventually looking for a job so that everyone understands that you may be there 6 months and move on if they can't hire you. If you are invited to meet the person who runs the lab, try to read a paper or two and have an intelligent conversation about what they do.

-I would also go to the front office for the department and ask if there are part time jobs or new faculty that may need a volunteer to work in the lab. I'm not in academia now,but a few years ago when I was - I had funding to hire one to two students for a part time job.I was so busy I did not have time to post the position. Two students found me on their own and asked if I needed help and that they were looking for a job - guess who I hired?

-Letters of recommendation: You may not have known the profs, but did you get to know any TAs for your lab sections? They can often write letters for you or be a reference for a job ... if you ask them, sometimes they can write a letter with a prof - so it can be a stronger letter. But you may consider asking a grad student who TAed a lab section for a class that you did well in (you mention getting As in some semesters).

As another suggestion (although it is hard to tell what your background is - was it just psychology or did you take bio and neuro courses?) is writing at medical communication companies. There are some in NYC that hire people with a BA. One way in is to pass a writing test (really). If you want to go this route, memail me and I should be able to point to a few companies that hire people with BAs for jobs - if you have science courses you would be a stronger candidate. But the companies that hire BAs do hire people with just a BA in English, so it should not be impossible to make that jump. (As in you would present the neuro background as a strength/plus)
posted by Wolfster at 11:35 AM on July 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

You are am excellent writer have you considered pursuing that at all?

Also how are your math skills? Biometrics might be a really good fit for you if they are strong. The physical demands are low, plenty of jobs and you can communicate via email easily as many biometricians are off site anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 11:45 AM on July 6, 2013

I've always been 'into' medicine and neuroscience and, like I said, I did well in most courses relating to that.

There are various writing jobs related to biomedical sciences. Grant writing is the obvious one, science publishing has all kinds of editing, writing, and researching jobs, medical writing is a thing in both the medical and biotech industries, and there are sometimes jobs just helping other people write and publish their work. Being a good scientist doesn't necessarily correlate with being a good writer (this comment is an example!), so those with the latter skills are definitely valued.

If you have any kind of affinity for maths, programming, data crunching, that sort of things then look into dry lab work (bioinformatics etc). I know that neuro research, for example, generates shit tonnes of data which needs to be turned into something meaningful by someone smart with a computer and that doesn't take a lot of talking or physical interacting with other people. There may be graduate level courses you can take to become more specialised in this area, but you should also look around for entry level jobs which will get you working with data (even just boring shit like patient survey collator or data base overseer or whatever) and go from there.

Dry lab/computer based research is a growing field in biomedical sciences, and science writing/publishing of various types isn't going anywhere, so if you have any affinity for these areas at all then look into it more deeply. My bioinformatic friends do spend all their days by themselves in front of the computer, which can be hard for an extrovert. They communicate mainly by email, which could be good for you (since it's easier and still less lonely than nothing), and sometimes they work from home.
posted by shelleycat at 11:53 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've always been 'into' medicine and neuroscience

The technical standards at many medical schools will allow the mobility issue (you're unlikely to be a surgeon, but I know successful mobility limited MDs in cognitive specialties), but I'm not as familiar with communication and emotional problems. Whether you can get the needed accommodations is hard to say without knowing you; the disabilities service center at your undergraduate may be able to help with an evaluation. The scholastic admissions standards at US allopathic schools are also pretty high right now; you may need to do something else for a while to buff up your application. Lab neuroscience might be a tough fit, but computational neuroscience is very big right now and is essentially a desk job. If you have any computational or programming skills I don't see why you couldn't get a job / do a volunteer year as an assistant even if getting into a PhD program would be hard with your transcript. This would be a useful interim task for going into either neuroscience or medicine; "I have CP and and have demonstrated passionate about going into neurology / peds neuro" could be a compelling application.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2013

I have a form of cystic fibrosis.

I do freelance work online, when I am able. Some folks make upwards of $500/week that way. I don't but I am working on resolving the things which prevent me from earning enough. In that vein, my primary focus is getting myself healthier. As that piece improves, my productivity and reliability improve and that is slowly showing gains in my earned income.

I also run several websites. I am still working on developing them, getting traffic, etc. I think in the long run, that is likely where the good money will be for me. But if it never comes, hey, I have made my peace with my limitations and the fact that needing less medical care is the cheapest thing I can possibly do.

I also moved to Cali last year, but that was after spending like a decade addressing some of my issues. So I kind of hesitate to mention it. It sounds to me like you are a long way off from that kind of independence and may never get to a place where that is realistic. I am not saying that to be discouraging. I am trying to say "It can be done, but it takes a lot more work when you have a serious handicap to get to the point where you can follow a dream instead of just trying to get through the damn day."

posted by Michele in California at 12:42 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's an enthusiastic vote for medical or science-related writing. It's a big market and pays better than generic "freelance" writing, and it can be done remotely with a minimum of phone conversation.

Some things that you might write starting now that pay decently: plain-English materials for patients provided by several companies that sell web sites to hospitals and doctors, marketing copy for biomedical companies, training materials for medical students and continuing ed for doctors (degreed MDs will review it but you can write it), ghost-writing science or medical books for people who have expertise but no writing chops...

I strongly suggest you start Googling around to see what materials are being published in the biomed world and who's publishing them. Also look for information on being an independent copywriter, and throw out every site that suggests an hourly rate of less than $50. You can get experience through volunteer writing for a patient-education nonprofit, a group like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, or any of the cancer etc. charities, and you might check the UN Online Volunteers program for health or science communications projects.

I've been working independently in my own business for a long time now, relying almost entirely on my writing skills. I love it because not only is it intellectually fascinating, but I set my schedule and I control how much social contact I have. When I went through a bout with depression, I had a wide range of clients, so it was easy to say "sorry, not available" to some and cut back on work until I got on the right meds. Plus, I can live anywhere! I now sell my writing as information products and have been able to eliminate client work, which is even better.
posted by ceiba at 12:46 PM on July 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

I also think you should look into volunteering/interning with a nonprofit organization. Possibly a medically-oriented one, but honestly, your main goal should be getting any sort of work experience - this will give you something besides school to put on your resume and also probably increase your self-confidence and give you a better sense of what you want and don't want. An internship with the development department of a nonprofit would probably be a good idea, as those jobs involve a lot of writing. You might also look into press/digital/communications internships.

I suggest nonprofits because they're often set up better for volunteers (and, by extension, interns).

Also, while moving to California right now might not be the most feasible option, it might be a good longer-term goal, since the Bay Area in particular tends to be much better-set-up for people with disabilities.
posted by lunasol at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2013

I will add that I eventually got a normal job based on education and volunteer work. That can help. I left that job essentially because it was too hard on my health but volunteer work can be a path to a regular job.
posted by Michele in California at 1:25 PM on July 6, 2013

I'll go a bit against the grain here and suggest that you don't try to volunteer, nor go into CP advocacy. What you need (in addition to a job that can accommodate your disability) is to build up an understanding of how the world of work works - how to be disciplined, how to understand and follow directions, how to produce work steadily even on days you're not feeling great. This is the challenge of all 20-somethings after they graduate. While it's possible to get this volunteering, it is MUCH better to get it in an entry-level job - a real business where they are paying you real money. Because if it's not a real business paying you real money, then you won't be an important part of the office, and you won't learn how to work. You want to enter the world of PAID work, however you can do that. Take yourself seriously, in other words.

So I think I'd start with figuring out what you can do with your CP. Obviously writing is a strong point and a natural way to go. But what you need to do is find a writing job that can accommodate your disability -- both so you can be successful, and so that you can be protected from job discrimination. As others have mentioned, start checking in with the vocational resources available to you through your state and local government. And the federal government has special hiring preferences for people with disabilities. Hint: certain agencies, like US Patent and Trademarks, are already really accommodating for telework, so that might be a good place to start. And if you wanted to move to DC to work for an agency, I think it's a pretty wheelchair friendly place: the Metros all have elevators, not all that much bad winter weather, and lots of new apartment buildings that are probably ADA compliant.

Finally, since you're a good writer and a people person, I wonder if you might consider law school? You could do pretty much everything except interview clients and argue in court. (But don't go if you have to take on a pile of debt!)
posted by yarly at 2:14 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh look! I found your dream job. A job writing/editing for the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles. I'm not sure you're qualified for this (yet), but it seems within your reach.

Another reason to consider law school is that even if you don't practice law, law school (done right) will turn you into an excellent technical reader and writer. It's also the sort of credential that might be useful to you to get past disability discrimination.
posted by yarly at 2:28 PM on July 6, 2013

That job requires a PhD or two years of graduate studies and at least a year of experience equivalent to GS-9. Requirements on USA Jobs are non-negotiable.
posted by Nomyte at 6:54 PM on July 6, 2013

Yarly's comments got me thinking about this more. If possible, getting paid work would be best. But you may first need to do either volunteer work or part-time work to try to transition into that.

Depression is really common in people with chronic, incurable degenerative disorders. I am hesitant to say this because I fear it will get my comment deleted, but the answer to that is learning to manage your condition as effectively as possible so you can have more of a life. That is partly staying on top of treatments and partly learning how to accommodate your limitations. Most mental health professionals seem to not want to address the fact that being depressed because your future looks bleak is not crazy. It is a very reasonable reaction. Making your future not bleak is the real answer for that. But no one wants to hear that and it gets me super strong, negative reactions to say things like that to people. I guess it sounds to people like I am saying "Handicapped people don't get to be happy" or sonething. I am not. I am just saying your depression is reasonable and not crazy at all. It will get better mostly by solving other issues.

As for trying to create a career, which is part of having a not bleak future, it was helpful to me to get a full time job that was only 37.5 hours/week and evening shift but had hope of promotion and moving to the day shift. Work that leads to a real career is typically full time, often overtime. And 40 hours a week would have been too much for me at first and a day job would also have been unmanageable at first. I did eventually move to a day job at 40 hours/week and the transition was tough. It took me weeks, if not months, to adjust. I did pull it off but I could not have done it when I first started working.

So if you can find a job that is less than 40 hours but still serious work with career potential, that is probably your best bet. Those jobs are uncommon but do exist. Failing because the transition is just too much, physically, is not a path to success. You have to reasonably assess what you can do, given your physical limitations. Being very realistic about that will help you avoid catastrophic failure, which will help you be less depressed and give you a chance to find a viable path forward.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 7:23 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

marsbar77: "Vocational skills like design and web publishing? What's the most efficient path to proficiency here?"

I work in UNIX system administration. One former sysadmin employee in my department was completely blind, and some of our oldest servers still have braile stickers on them. We have a new hire suffering partial quadrapelegia, and I think he'll do fine with us. Properly trained, I think you could take on a similar role.

Obviously some effort must be made to match duties and tasks to capabilities, but with the cloud becoming all the rage, there's little need to be on site or lift things. Most communication with customers is via email or a ticketing system, and IRC, which nicely solves 50 percent of your spoken communication challenges.

On the earnings front, my completely able student employees graduate with not great GPA CS degrees and receive handsome offers from companies in California (bay area), Portland, and beyond. I imagine you'll have a harder time, but perhaps there's some federal assistance available? I feel like your asking price of 30k could easily compensate for lost productivity and part time work, given the right team and manager.

As for how to get credentials, I don't have good answers. My employee is pursuing an online post-bacc in CS from the university I work for, and working part time with us. But the litmus test is how he'll fare in industry, which won't be for a year or two. I think the part time sysadmin job is probably the more important of the two, though having some kind of computer credential will likely prevent doors from closing.
posted by pwnguin at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2013

I'm outside the U.S so probably have no business even attempting to respond to your inquiry, but I'm a little confused. You've mentioned your physical difficulties (spasticity and speech) are becoming worse and you're reaching the point where relying on your family for transport is becoming less viable, so wouldn't accessing governmental agencies and services which can offer you practical support be a priority at the moment? Particularly in regard to your moving to another country, how would this be possible without a strong support system (if you're currently reliant on your family for transport and have difficulty communicating)? I appreciate a career is important to you, but until you've managed to access all the available assistance and have in place a support system which allows you greater mobility and independence, you may be putting the cart before the horse.
posted by Nibiru at 10:34 PM on July 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all, for the advice so far. Just a question to those who've suggested medical writing/communications: where do I start? It seems like you need a good amount of experience before you even approach a job offer.
posted by marsbar77 at 1:49 AM on July 7, 2013

Seeing you can arrange an informational interview (or email exchange) with someone in the field. Preferably a few different someones.

Ask how they wound up in medical writing and ask for advice on building your skills so that you can be employable in the field.

If you go the blog route to build your skills / portfolio, you might specifically focus on medical issues. That would be something else to discuss in an informational interview.

A mentor might be useful to you.
posted by bunderful at 5:38 AM on July 7, 2013




These links might be a good jumping off point. (Sorry on mobile, links not pretty)
posted by bunderful at 5:42 AM on July 7, 2013

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