Pushing Pause = Before Pushing Send ->

My boss pulls me aside the other day and tells me; you might want to think about pushing pause before pushing the send button. This was in reference to an “angry” email I sent her after a horrible 2 days at work. She suggested I start typing out my thoughts and emailing them to myself, instead of to her. I swear, I nearly died laughing at the thought. I wanted to give her the link to my blog!

Seriously! She has no idea!

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– J. Ela

The Perpetual Child: Life On The Dole

  • She’s being mean to me.
  • I don’t want to share.
  • It’s mine and I don’t want anyone else to have it.
  • I guess he just doesn’t love me.

All things you’d expect to hear from a child. Yes? No. This all came out of the mouth of my 48-year-old sister!  The perpetual child. S-, who is becoming more obnoxious every day. Her perception of the world (and her place in it) is so skewed. Trying to make any sense of it gives me a headache.

It’s the overwhelming sense of entitlement; “I paid into the system” therefore I deserve everything I have (and oh-by-the-way everything you have too).

My sister hurt her back in 1990. By around 1993 she decided to trade in “living” for a lifetime of doctor appointments and medicine. She shopped every doctor from Los Angeles to San Francisco until she found one willing to diagnose her with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Opening the door for her to apply for social security disability.  Her application was approved. She has not worked in more than 20 years.

She moved back in with our parents. She laid in bed popping ambien every few hours. Hell, I’d be tired too! During her waking hours she feasted on tootsie rolls, sunflower seeds and coke. She blossomed to a hefty 350lbs. And yet never could quite figure out why she felt so bad?

She never did anything the doctors told her to; eat better, stop drinking soda, and exercise.

In fact, that’s what has me so riled up right now. She was dishing about how much weight our sister has gained (as if). Proceeding to tell me she’s okay with being overweight the rest of her life because she’s “tried everything” and nothing has worked. Going on to tell me she “can’t exercise.”

Now, if she had said, “I don’t want to exercise” or “I’m not going to exercise” that would be different. But to say, “I can’t exercise” is an absolute lie!

For 20+ years she has used her illness as an excuse. She had my sympathy for a lot of years. But my goodness. That just takes the cake! I know other people who have CFS/FM who work full-time jobs and have families; spouses and children. People who live full lives. S- made the decision a long time ago to stop living.

The kicker; she convinced someone she needs a live-in-caregiver! I have seen people wheelchair bound do more than she does.

It’s getting harder and harder to keep my mouth shut. Especially when she makes comments like, “I paid into the system.” I hear that one a lot. As if she’s trying to justify milking the system.

She gets free healthcare, section 8 pays nearly all of her rent, she receives a small amount of food stamps, oh, and she always knows where her next paycheck is coming from.

She runs to the ER or the doctor’s office for every little thing. Never pays a dime. Never has to worry about paying a dime. I could be dying from pneumonia and wouldn’t be able to afford to go the doctor! I remember one year the state decided patients were going to have to pay $1/prescription. She called me crying; the world was ending because she was going to have to start paying for her meds! One whole dollar! Meantime, I’m paying premiums and copays out the wazoo! Yea, I feel real sorry for ya!

How does someone develop such a sense of entitlement? She has CFS! It’s not a life-threatening illness. It’s at-best a life-altering illness. I get it. So find a way to work around it. Just like all the other people do. You’re no better than the other people with CFS who get up and go to work everyday, who take care of their kids, run a household.

Instead of expecting the whole world to “do” for you, why not get up off your ass and “do” something to help yourself for a change! Grow-up already! Get off the dole!

– J. Ela

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Perception is Reality: An Open Letter To Management

Dear Manager,

Perception is reality. I learned that much in Communication 101. Since I cannot change your perception allow me at least to illuminate the reality.

The reality is your blatant favoritism toward some, and your out-right biases toward others you deem “less than.” Less than, because they chose a different path, coming up through the ranks the hard way.

Do you even realize you just promoted someone to a “national” position who has never even left the state she was born in. That, in itself, is laughable.

To say that I am not “good enough” shows just how ignorant you are.

To say that I lack passion and perseverance shows you have spent very little time getting to know me, and even less time perusing my qualifications.

If you had, this is a sampling of what you would have discovered;

– I earned my Bachelors degree at the age of 32. I took a 10 year hiatus from school. When I returned I was a full time employee, mother, and wife. I commuted 100 miles to school every day for 5 years.

– My first “real” job in this industry was in this market: the same one you say I’m not good enough for.

– I sacrificed 3+ years of my career living and working in a smaller market to be nearer my dying mother. During much of that time I commuted 140 miles every day!

– In those 3 years I worked harder than I ever have before. Out of necessity. As a means of survival. That’s what you have to do, when you’re doing more with less. And my hard work paid off.

I learned how to manage a newsroom staff. In the absence of effective leadership, I was called on daily to make important decisions effecting the days, and future newscasts.

There were many, many days I was not only the shows producer, but the AP, assignment editor, EP, and ND all at the same time. I didn’t just survived. I thrived.

I arranged and produced my stations first-ever (and only) live report from the White House.

I arranged and interviewed an astronaut as he flew in a spacecraft over our city.

I helped coordinate the St. Jude Telethon, raising more than a million dollars each year for St. Jude’s Research Hospital.

3 years in a row I helped coordinate and produce a LIVE 2 hour Christmas Parade.

I enterprised a popular show segment that aired weekly, helping families save money.

But perhaps the most important thing; my newscast saw a year-to-year ratings increase of more than 200%.

Others, like me, others with far less experience than me, have gone on, they have been welcomed by other markets. Some smaller. Some, even bigger.

Do they have more passion? More perseverance? What is on their list of accomplishments? What makes them “better than?”

The truth is, you don’t really know how good I am. You have a perception about me. And what’s worse, the perception isn’t even based on actual knowledge. It’s based on a perception about where I came from.

I think that makes you very shallow. Indeed.

– J. Ela

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Quality Control: Inspected by…

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Pardon the cliche; but isn’t it a bad idea to judge a book by its cover? It’s akin to children refusing to eat broccoli based on the smell.

I’ve been in my job now nearly a year. The shiny-new has long worn off. And I’ve all but received verbal confirmation of what I have long believed to be true: I have been affixed with an inspection sticker that reads FAILED TO PASS!

I’m upset because I think, no, rather, I know, the label was attached without proper inspection.

It’s like the fruit inspector, inspecting the bananas while they’re still green, growing on the plant. Or a factory worker signing off on the quality of a piece of clothing while it’s still being sewn.

You can’t make a decision about something you haven’t seen.

I watched a movie trailer. Can I tell from that short clip if I’m going to like the movie? No. I have to actually see the movie first.

The thing that bugs me most about having been labeled so early on, is that none of it’s true. Words that have been used to describe me: not aggressive (enough), not passionate, not willing to make sacrifices.

WHAT?

I think, no, I know, if you ran any of those descriptors by anyone who truly knows me, they would laugh, out loud! They would not associate those words with me.

Being aggressive, being passionate, making sacrifices… that’s HOW I got here, at all!

It makes me crazy that I came all this way to be pre-judged, based on “where” I came from.

“Oh she came from ****? She couldn’t possibly be ready to compete in this market!” “She’s just not ‘there’…yet.”

WHAT?

I hate to tell you, but your competitor down the street doesn’t think so. They think I’m ready. I think I’m ready. I’m ready.

You just don’t want to be the one who puts the “girl” from “there” in the big chair. Because, heaven forbid she mess up. No one wants to hear, ‘I told you so!”

Or, you could all be wrong. And she could be great! And when you see her you’ll be wondering, “why didn’t we do this sooner?”

But the truth is, you’ll never know. Because you’ve already made up your mind. Which is really, really sad.

You (as a representative of the company) mislead the employees, with all the corporate bullshit: placing value on people with different experiences and experience levels, touting an environment where employees voices are heard, and careers are rewarding.

My time with this company (4+ years now) hasn’t been any of those things. I banged my head against the proverbial wall trying to get my voice heard. To the point of exhaustion. It would be no surprise if I lacked passion, assertiveness, and the willingness to make anymore sacrifices. My career has been anything BUT rewarding, being that at this point in my career I should be further ahead, not trailing from behind. I do not feel valued. I feel used. I feel relied upon, but not respected.

I have a decision to make.

I came here with at least three very specific reasons in mind. How much longer do I hold on, hoping for a shift in the tide? There are great opportunities out there. I just have to be willing to cut my losses here and start over, again.

– J. Ela

Who ya gonna call?

Let’s get this straight:

When your sick; you call a doctor.
When your car is broke; you call a mechanic.
Need advice about parenting? Ask someone with kids.
Keep killing your houseplants? Consult a green-thumb.
Maybe you need career advice? Talk to a colleague.

Trouble with a relationship? Do you ask someone who’s actually been in one? Or defer to someone with absolutely little to no relationship experience?

I’d say, having been in a failed relationship (or two or three) makes me exceptionally qualified to speak on the subject. Having been in a failed relationship doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about being in relationships. In fact, I think it says I know quite a lot. If I were doing the asking, I’d want me on the advice giving end. After all I’ve been through, I’ve learned a lot.

– J. Ela

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Giving A Voice To The Voiceless

Every day, it is my job, and a pleasure, to give voice to those without. To tell the stories that would otherwise go untold. As a journalist, I am blessed to be in a position to be able to give a voice to the voiceless. To bring attention to a worthy cause.

Before being bitten by the journalism bug, I worked in health insurance. I saw both sides of what I can only describe as a horribly corrupt and mismanaged system. First, working for a major corporation. Then, later on for the government.

I started out in a call center for Cigna Health Care. As a customer service representative I was pushed by my supervisors to answer a certain number of calls per day.  To be clear, the goal was to answer calls, not to answer questions. That translated into answering calls as quickly as possible so as not to have other calls waiting in que. Management wasn’t concerned if the callers  questions were being answered. Only that the calls were being answered quickly. In other words; we were to get on and off each call as quickly as possible. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the company would look for any reason not to pay a customers health insurance claim. It was a game. If customers knew how to play the game, the claims would get paid. If they didn’t, the claims were rejected. I learned how to play. And I would often “coach” callers about how to play the game as well. (This was infuriating. Either they, or their employer was paying for this insurance. They should be able to use it without having to jump so many hurdles.)

I spent just over 3 years at Cigna. Then finally, one day, about mid-way through the morning, I realized, I didn’t want to be there anymore. I had already answered dozens of calls. I had been yelled at. These calls were some seriously unhappy people. And who could blame them? I’d feel the same way!  I had my “ah-ha” moment.  hung-up from my last call, collected my belongings, and walked out the door. I never looked back.

Then I ended up working for the county health department. Which ended up being worse! But in a different way. My department was responsible for billing. We handled the billing for every county-run clinic. Most of the patients were Medi-cal (California’s version of free healthcare) or Medicare, but some had other insurance or were private pay. When your dealing with payors like Medi-cal and Medicare the guidelines are very specific. Claims have to be sent within “x” amount of days of the service being provided. If it’s not, the claim won’t be paid. Providers can appeal. Which also has a deadline. If that’s not met, the charge for the service ends up being written off. In other words, the county healthy department (i.e., the county I lived in and worked for) basically ate the charges.

So let me describe my working environment while at the county. Mind you, it wasn’t a big county, like Los Angeles. There were a dozen or so clinics. But we had stacks of claims feet high. FEET HIGH. The stacks of claims were taller than me. The process was in a boondoggle. Claims were backed up months. We were working on mailing out claims that we knew were not going to get paid because of how far past the deadline they were. Ignoring the claims that still had a chance to get paid. I saw so much waste! It literally made me sick! It was such a dysfunctional mess. Every day, every one came in, sat in their cube, doing the same job they had done the day before. Stamping this claim with this, marking this one with that number, stuffing bills in envelopes. It was such a mind-numbing, senseless job. And at the end of the day; for what? So the county could write off the charges anyway. No telling how much money they lost! Your tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen! Government waste!

This was the job I had when I decided: enough! There’s got to be something more! I looked around and saw these old women who had been working there 20 years or more. I thought to myself, “no way is that going to be me!”

I had been with the county just about 2 years when I left to return to school full-time. When I handed in my resignation my boss said, “I knew this was going to happen.” I’m glad she knew. I’m glad she was able to look at me and see that I didn’t belong there. That I have more to offer the world than that.

What I have to offer the world now, thanks to my hard work and my education, is a voice.

The people calling to speak to a customer service rep at Cigna, they were looking for someone to be their voice. I couldn’t be their voice. I wanted to be. I tried to be. I didn’t even have my own voice. I was powerless.

My education empowered me. It helped me find my voice. Now, I can give voice to the voiceless.

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– J. Ela