West vs. East – Part IV – A New Hope

Photo by Lynnelle Richardson from Pexels

I’m a hopeful person. I try to see the good in people and situations. But that has led me to being taken advantage of, to not seeing people clearly who were troubled or narcissistic, or worse. It means that I grate against cynics and half-glass-empty people.

When I moved from San Diego, California to New Haven, Connecticut with the girlfriend, it was with high hopes of something new and better. She was off on an adventure, a new chapter in her life, and I willingly took a supporting role with the hope of forging a new path for myself as well. After a rough few years in San Diego, a change of scenery was just what I needed.

But my first 15 months in New Haven, Connecticut have been more of the same. I’m trying to evaluate everything evenly, not jump to conclusions, take things as they come, not attribute any malevolent force to the universe. I don’t consider myself a hard-luck case. But it’s becoming harder and harder to find an advantage, to forge that advantage, even when I put my best self into the world. Here are examples of what has happened since I’ve moved to New Haven – a list:

  1. Landed a job teaching at Southern Connecticut State University, as I drove across country without a job.
  2. Once in New Haven, I looked for more teaching jobs and was turned down for one I had been angling for for 6 months back in San Diego. I landed a different assignment at Norwalk Community College.

    (Those were the good things – sort of. They at least provided monies to help me get started. But then the world shifted on its axis.)
  3. Commute to Norwalk turned out to be 90 minutes to go 30 miles at 9:00 am. The last 5 miles took 30 minutes in Fairfield County, CT – New York bound traffic. It sucked!
  4. Teaching position was a glorified babysitting position with an unfair curriculum the didn’t allow students to learn. Director was an egotist who didn’t help when true problems arose (such as, I didn’t have access to the faulty intranet for the first month, and he wouldn’t take the time to help. Such as, evaluating students without a rubric, saying “I just don’t feel it.” How professional is that?)
  5. Teaching position at Southern CSU was better, but I had one posse of three students in one class who were disruptive and a hostile student in another class. The institution would not back me up with regard to the hostile student and let back in the class. Absurd and dangerous.
  6. When parking one day near my apartment, a guy was crossing the intersection as I was waiting to turn right into that street. He was looking over his shoulder away from me, eating a sandwich from a wrapper. When he turned and saw me waiting for him, he yelled “fuck you, buddy!” Really? Welcome to New Haven. I should’ve hit him.
  7. On my commute to Norwalk CC one morning, I behind a car that hit a deer. Traffic screeched to a stop. No one was hurt, but the deer sat in the road, its legs buckled under it, while one of its hoofs dangled at the end of his broken leg. Heartbreaking. I regularly saw about 5 deer carcasses each morning on my 3 day a week commute.
  8. The teaching assignments were so awful that I developed chest pains, trouble breathing, anxiety, and vertigo.
  9. I had a work injury to my thumb, which I reported the day I left California for Connecticut. It took three months to get approval for physical therapy, and when I finally got to PT, I had trouble arranging a visit with the orthopedist. Two cortisone shots later, my thumb was not improved and it was decided I needed surgery. It took another three months to get through to the worker’s comp office in California to get approved. Once approved, I had a job that I couldn’t leave to have the surgery as the surgery would have taken me away from work for more than 2 weeks for healing. If I had gotten that approval sooner, I could’ve had the surgery while I was unemployed. Fortunately, my job at the library helped my thumb injury. While it’s not completely healed, it is better than it was while I was getting PT.
  10. I had to pay for my health insurance (1/3 of my monthly earnings), from which I would receive 70% back 3 months after I stopped that health insurance coverage. I found a doctor who didn’t really listen to me about my worries and prescribed me Ativan!
  11. Christmas break in California with the girfriend, meeting some of her family for the first time. It went well, but I was sick most of the time.
  12. I was down to one class (earning less than $500/mo) in the Spring 2019 semester, waiting for my health insurance refund, and applying for unemployment. I was denied for a special appeal based on an extreme change of income. Found out 5 weeks later that the appeal was denied, but that a regular unemployment disbursement was approved, but no one had told me. I started receiving some unemployment compensation.
  13. Because I lived in California part of the year and Connecticut part of the year, my taxes were complicated. I barely made any money and still had to pay an exorbitant amount, almost a third of my income for the year for California taxes. They billed me later and I’m on a payment plan. I still think they miscalculated.
  14. I got Husky Health, Medicaid, because I had practically no income. I had a battery of tests done and everything came out negative. I am fit as a fiddle – stress was the major issue.
  15. Once I got unemployment figured out, I no longer qualified for health insurance. Unemployment counts as income and priced me out of any form of free health insurance. And the lowest costing plan, even with the Affordable Care Act, was too much for how much money I was bringing in. So I couldn’t afford health insurance for a while.
  16. I applied for a job as an Assistant Manager with a luxury pet kennel company, looking for a change of careers. I had two interviews, which both went very well. I called when reviewing the job terms, and found out that they didn’t offer medical insurance. They would pay for half of it – you present a bill each month and they write you a check. A tax professional said what they were doing is illegal, for them, not for me as a potential employee. My experiences fit exceptionally well for this job and I was excited for this opportunity. They complained in the interview about past candidates being offered the position and then never following up with them, just disappearing. After my interviews, they said they’d call me the following week. I waited…and waited…and waited. They ghosted me.
  17. I signed up for a job placement service at New Haven Works, which takes some follow up to get enrolled in. After the initial sign-up and conference, one is assigned a job coach. My job coach seemed active and engaged, and I had high hopes of being placed into a temporary position rather quickly (I have 33 years of higher education experience in management type jobs, as well as classroom teaching in college.). I even found a typo on their PowerPoint Presentation materials, which impressed them. But then, my job coach missed three straight meetings, one of which I walked to their office over a mile in the snow to attend. On the third missed meeting, I waited almost a week and then called my job coach. She answered the phone, “Oh you. What?” I was astounded. SHE should have called me back and apologized for missing and tried to reschedule. But evidently I was an inconvenience to her. We were in the middle of revising my resume based on recommendations from Employee Services/Recruiting at Yale University, and a month had gone by. I was livid. I wrote the executive director of the company and explained the situation and requested a new job coach. They wanted to mediate a discussion between me and the previous job coach, but I declined. There was no need to try to continue working with someone with that level of contempt. She had her chance.

    17. I got a temporary 6-month appointment for a very physical job at the Yale University library. I love it. My appointment was changed to a limited duration appointment, which qualifies me as an internal candidate. I have applied for a few jobs, but I haven’t landed anything yet, though I don’t know why. I’m waiting to hear back on a promising position for which I had an interview on Nov. 12. This job is perhaps the lone good thing that has happened since moving to New Haven, other than getting our dog, our now 1 year old Dachshund named Herman. While it’s certainly not a career job, I have the best boss I ever had, a work environment that values me, an inspirational place to work (Sterling Memorial Library), and no grading to bring home at nights. My time is my own, and I can write before or after work. I’m surrounded by books every day! My appointment ends at the end of February. I am still looking for jobs and hope to land something permanent before I lost my internal status.

    18. I had a major car accident that has left me with a car for the first time since I was 16 years old. I walk to work, about 0.3 miles, and I live downtown, so everything is within walking distance. If we have to drive anywhere, the girlfriend has a small car that we can use. But my beautiful Toyota RAV4, the first car that I negotiated with and fully bought on my own without a parent or spouse to help, was totaled at the stupidest freeway onramp ever. At the top of the ramp is a yield sign and a road coming from over the driver’s side left shoulder. A car was stopped at the yield sign, and I remember saying, “you gotta go! you gotta go!” and before I even reached him, I was rear-ended so hard, and then pushed into the stopped car. The person behind who rear-ended me hardly had anything wrong with his car. The person in front had back bumper and gate damage, but both cars were drivable. Mine was smashed in front and back and had to be towed away. It was a total loss, for which GEICO paid everything off in a week. Fortunately, the girlfriend and I were completely unscathed, though we were curious as to why the airbags did NOT go off. We were lucky – so losing the car wasn’t such a good thing, but one good thing is that we weren’t hurt.

Am I a magnet for bad luck? I don’t think so. Do I think the world is out to get me? No, not at all. I do think there is a great difference between living in California and living in New England, and I can see where a more cynical person could drown in New England. The beauty of the fall scenery is not enough to make up for the incompetencies and outright awfulness of many of the people.

I’ve done what I can on the job front, I’m revving up my writing career with a blog here and on Medium.com. I’ve made great progress (250+) pages on a memoir over the course of a year of writing. I’ve got a great girlfriend, a fantastic puppy dog, an enjoyable job that allows me time to live my life, my health, a centrally-located apartment, and enough money to pay my bills and food to eat. But this is still life on the edge.

I take care of what I can everyday, and I don’t overly worry about the future. There are times when I worry, when I can see that I’m not getting anywhere substantial, and I’m not getting any younger. But as long as I keep focus on my integrity and not doing anything to betray myself and my values or to hurt those I love, then…….. every day is a good day, I hope.

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