Tag Archives: stigma

I went to grad school and all I got were these awesome food stamps.

I'm so glad that they use a card now.

This week, most of my former classmates got their master’s diplomas in the mail. I got food stamps.

I have yet to receive my actual diploma, and I don’t know when or if I ever will. My last three terms, I had to take out short-term emergency loans because my regular loans just weren’t enough. They were expecting me to live on about $300 a month, so once my unemployment ran out, I started taking out emergency loans that upped my monthly “income” to $1100 or $1300. My situation was at its most dire my last term because that was when my car got repossessed and my electricity cut off. The problem with short-term loans is that you have to pay them back the following term. As the name implies, they are short-term loans. But if you run out of money and have to take out a short-term loan, chances are you are going to spend the short-term loan and then not have any more money once you pay back the loan after the quarter is over. So then you take out another short-term loan to pay off the last short-term loan. The cycle continues until graduation. You aren’t allowed to take out a short-term loan the quarter you graduate. I was desperate, so I lied. I took out my short-term loan as early as possible and I applied for graduation as late as possible. I finally got a job during my last term, but it just wasn’t enough.

Unfortunately, because of my bad loan habit and my medical bills (and maybe because of an incomplete I got in a class unrelated to my degree), they have a hold on my diploma, so I won’t be getting it until I pay them tons and tons of money. It’s okay. If anyone wants to call the university, they can confirm that I really did graduate. Though there is no foreseeable reason for anyone to call.

I am more excited about food stamps than I am about the degree. Because they took so long to approve my application, I got $108 to spend before October 31. It was quite a task, but I managed.

I have genetic insulin resistance. What that means is that for reasons unknown my body does not respond to normal amounts of insulin, so my pancreas overcompensates by secreting abnormally high levels of insulin nearly all the time. I have checked my blood sugar many times, and I have never once had a high reading. In fact, I am somewhat hypoglycemic (possibly because of the high insulin). My mother was the same, and she ended up with diabetes that ruined her life and killed her. My maternal grandmother was also the same. She, too, ended up with diabetes that ruined her life and killed her. The first time I got my insulin tested at age 24, my fasting level was 51 uU/ml. It should have been around 5. Insulin resistance is associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. My mother had type 1 diabetes, and I’m not sure how that relates to IR.

My doctor strongly advised me to go on a low-carbohydrate diet. I was doing well with that for a while, but when you live on food bank food, it’s difficult to stick to it. Carbs are cheap. My local food bank has four kinds of food: meaty, starchy, beany, and sweet. Meaty makes me vomit, starchy is kind of bad for me, sugary is really bad for me, and beany is just inadequate. I end up eating lots and lots of salted spaghetti. I haven’t been taking my medication, and I’ve been eating food that spikes my already-spiked insulin, so I’m gaining weight despite being hungry all the time and not having much to eat. I’m sure my insulin is through the roof again.

Nom nom nom.When I got food stamps before, I actually lost 20 lbs in about four months even though my caloric intake increased significantly. I was still eating too many starchy things, but I was eating a lot of vegetables, eggs, nuts, and tofu. I felt well and was getting plenty of exercise, which I haven’t been doing lately. I hope that my new food stamps will be a catalyst for me to get back on track and to a point where I care about myself again and can take steps towards regaining my health. I might even cook. It’s a bit sad that when I was working I did not have enough money for healthy food, but I do on food stamps. I get more with food stamps than I ever spent on food when I worked. I don’t buy cheap junk either. Sorry, Republicans. I guess this makes me a socialist bum. Go ahead and heckle. At my last job, I made less money than I was required to spend on rent and bills. I technically had no money for food unless I stopped paying for something else. That’s how I ended up with no phone and no electricity.

I became very sad at Trader Joe’s because every item I put in my cart made me wonder “Will I pack this when I move?”I still don’t know when I have to go. Or where to go.

 

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Filed under Depression, Food, health, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

Going through the motions (or Awkward Interviews I’ve Had, Part 3)

I have noticed an unsettling trend in job interview techniques as of late. It appears that potential employers are straying from typical interview questions in order to ask questions that are…different. Bad-different.

I’m not one to fear change, but I do not always deal well with unpredictability. That said, I do my best to be prepared for a multitude of situations, especially when I’m preparing for a job interview.

I have been job-hunting on-and-off (more on than off) since December 2003. I have had many job interviews. Some interviews have been great, some have been horrible, some have been just okay. I have completely nailed interviews and then found out that I did too well and I come off as overqualified. I have had interviews I didn’t prepare for, and interviews I studied for over the course of many days. I have read numerous books on job interview technique. My favorite is Fearless Interviewing by Marky Stein, which is (in part) responsible for the ritual I complete prior to any interview. First I read and reread the job description. I apply for so many jobs that it can be difficult to remember which job my interview is for, especially if I’m being interviewed for a job I haven’t thought about in weeks or months. I make lists of the items in the job requirements and then lists of corresponding skills or experience I possess. I come up with anecdotal details about previous jobs I have had that illustrate my skills. I maintain a list of my proudest achievements, even though some of them aren’t directly relevant to any jobs I currently seek. I attend each interview with approximately five questions to ask the interviewer. Three questions would generally suffice, but often they end up answering one or two of my questions during the interview.

On top of preparing to answer questions about myself, I research all I can about the company. There are a few companies I would genuinely like to work at, and I know a fair amount about all of them. That said, after nearly six years of active interviewing, perhaps my skills are waning. At times I feel I’m just going through the motions, and my interview skills aren’t up to snuff. I know what to do, but sometimes I fall a bit short.

I had a phone interview on Thursday, once again with the company that laid me off in 2007. Not the same job I interviewed for a week ago –this one was different. I have worked there twice before, and even if I had never worked there I would be familiar with their philosophies and practices because I am a fan of their products and services. So how did I completely bomb a phone interview?

I interviewed for my old job and I never heard a word about it, even after following up with both the recruiter and the interviewer. I assume that I’ve been rejected because I was then solicited to interview for this new job within the same company. Since June, I have interviewed for three different positions at this company. At this point, I think they’re just messing with me.

Everything was going well until I was asked this question:
“From a usability standpoint, what areas of our website do you think need improvement?”

Frankly, I’m puzzled. I have no idea what they were looking for. I am a writer and editor. Twice recently I have been asked this exact same question at two different companies. Both of these jobs were editorial jobs where I would have been doing some web content writing and editing. I have NO idea what they’re getting at, and I’ve fumbled both times. I am not a web designer. I am not applying for web designer jobs. While I do know a bit about usability (and I know how to conduct a usability study), I find it difficult to answer that question without a lot of research. More research than I have the resources to complete.

While in both cases I had carefully examined the website in question, I hadn’t evaluated their sites for usability. I looked through the sections and tabs to get a sense of their voice and the products and services they offered, but since I was not shopping, it hadn’t occurred to me to think of it that way.

Now, the company that I’ve worked at twice — not only do I have a fair amount of experience working there, but I have been a customer there for over 10 years. I have had no serious problems. Even the minor issues I have had were completely unrelated to the content on their web pages. To answer the interviewer’s question, I ended up mentioning things I liked about their site, which is of course not a good answer. Strike one for me.

Next, the interviewer asked me what companies I thought have a good customer focus and which have a bad customer focus. Once again, I fumbled. I’ve been living in poverty so long that I never go shopping. My clothes are little more than rags, I don’t buy books or music, I haven’t changed my cell phone plan nor have I recently subscribed to cable. Despite Alan Greenspan’s theory that the recession does not affect women’s lingerie sales to the extent that it affects men’s underwear sales, my underwear drawer looks like that of a pauper.

Now, I have had customer service issues: I have had problems with the electric company when I needed assistance with my bill, I have needed assistance from the employment security office, I have been frustrated with the Department of Social and Health Services because of their treatment of my food stamps application –but none of these involves information I care to divulge in a job interview. There is a stigma of poverty. Poor people are often seen to be at fault in their situations. Sure, sometimes that’s true, but it’s not always true. And while I will take some of the blame, I will not put myself forward to be judged.

What could I have said?

  • “Well, when I had my electricity cut off, Seattle City Light’s customer assistance program is the worst I’ve ever encountered.”
  • “I’m trying to sign up for food stamps, but they require me to ask my former employer to fill out a big form explaining why I should get food stamps, and that’s just embarrassing. They don’t even realize what their clients may be going through.”
  • “The food bank has mostly good customer focus, but I wish they had more vegetarian options.”
  • “I had my car repossessed by a bunch of thugs who assaulted me in my parking lot at 1:00 a.m. after I had made a payment arrangement with the car loan company to pay them a day later. And I had the money.”

That’s all I could think of. Obviously I didn’t say any of that.

I didn’t say much of anything. I named a company that I thought had good customer focus (I don’t even remember which company I mentioned), but I just couldn’t come up with anything for the “bad customer focus” part of the question. I couldn’t. Fine.

I knew I didn’t get the job, but I was very surprised when I received a phone call from the placement agency the following day. I spoke to my recruiter, and he said “Hello, I got some feedback about your phone interview yesterday.”

Over time I have noticed that the phrase “I got some feedback about your interview” is code for “You didn’t get the job, but…”

He paused then said: “She said you weren’t prepared at all.”

I immediately went into defensive mode. I did prepare and I told him so. I told him specifically which questions I had difficulty with and (to some extent) why I had difficulty with them. What disturbs me most of all about this is that “You weren’t prepared at all” is probably a watered-down version of what she actually told him. If that’s what he repeated to me, I can only imagine what she actually said. He ended the conversation abruptly, before I even finished telling him about the questions I had difficulty with. I predict that he will never contact me about another position again.

I had an in-person interview on Friday, for a job that actually seemed pretty fun at a really large company with a better reputation than the one I have worked at before. The interview went mostly well, but again I fumbled. I got nervous and blame myself. They asked me to format-edit a document, but I had to do so while two people were staring at me. Also, the document was in Swedish. And they didn’t specify how much time I had, so I felt rushed. I missed two things which I never would have missed if I had been calmer. I really hope I get this job, though. It doesn’t pay as much as I would like, but it pays enough for me to get by.

No more word on my eviction. I’m still exhausted. My 31st birthday is on Tuesday, and this may be the worst ever.

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Filed under Awkward Interviews I've Had, fml, jerks, Obstacles