Daddy Llama Re-enters the Workforce

The big news this past week was that The Llama has returned to the steady-scheduled world of the full-time employed. Say it ain’t so I know, but it’s true.

It has been a long haul since grad school to reach this achievement. Between freelancing and doing some session work with the state legislature, the time finally arrived that I had to get back out there full-time. My primary job for over a year was taking care of my baby girl Isabella, from an infant to 14 months.

I’m going through some adjustments of not being with her all day. I’ve been shopping around for day care and suffering anxieties of knowing soon she is going out into the world. Thus far she has never been cared for by anyone other than immediate family.

I feel honored and privileged that the state offered me a position. While I’ve been lucky to have been able to bond with my daughter over this last year, these haven’t been easy times financially. I got caught in the housing bubble bursting, the economic downturn and the employment crunch.

I had a front row seat to see what happens when an industry that had been flourishing suddenly stalls. I made the conscious decision to put a stop to a career I had built in the legal services industry in order to follow my desire to write professionally. My thinking had been that to make a career change at this juncture needed a significant commitment to jump start my prospects, show I was serious, and give me the necessary skills and qualifications that would allow me to compete against those already in the field.

So I went back to graduate school in journalism, but during my first semester in 2007 the bottom started falling out of newspapers. What began as a fascinating story to contemplate became a death knell. The digital revolution began taking hold in earnest, and newspapers were closing. Between free information being made available online, news cycles speeding up to 24/7, and folks reading less – the delivery and location of how people took in information was changing in real time.

This made for an interesting time to be in school. It isn’t often students get a chance to be in an academic environment as history is taking place – but I could also tell this was problematic. Financial and economic pillars in America were falling. One of the historically safe financial investments had become counterfeit overnight – a home purchase.

It was all hypothetical until I graduated in 2009, and then it became real. I strung odd freelance jobs together in New Orleans, made a bunch of good connections and wrote some interesting stories, but daily newspapers weren’t hiring. Mainly they were shedding older, higher-salaried professionals. This stripped their payrolls down and forced those who remained to cover more, write shorter and leave investigative and in-depth coverage to a minimum. Keep it local and keep it light became the mantra.

This led me to adjusting my focus for employment. I started looking for communications work, where I could combine my writing skills with previous political and governmental experience. Thankfully I secured a spot with the state.

I now work for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. I’m a program coordinator for education and outreach concerning kynect, Kentucky’s version of the Affordable Care Act.

For the past week I have been inundated with new and weighty information. Thank goodness for running. If I didn’t have exercise to burn off the stress of getting up to speed on this new job I’m not sure what I would have done.

This is an exciting time. Sunday marked 100 days until Obamacare will open for business. This isn’t a perfect plan. There will be untold bumps in the road before there is a smoother system in which those Americans without health coverage can receive benefits – but it is a start. I like to look at this first wave of Obamacare as the beginning of a long conversation.

There is a lot of misunderstanding and lack of accurate information circulating at the moment, and that is where education and outreach comes in handy. Hopefully in the next 100 days this program will become less of a mystery to many, and play a beneficial role in society.

Interestingly, I personally haven’t had health coverage since graduating in 2009. I’m a 46-year old white male. I’m game eligible for all sorts of health maladies: high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke. It’s no longer shocking to hear about people my age checking out early.

That’s bad enough, but I’m also a new father, so it no longer is just me that this impacts. I don’t want my daughter growing up without a father. So for several years I’ve lived cautiously to not have an accident. If I get banged up from running there is no doctor to go see. I look up remedies online for small illnesses, and thankfully I’ve been in good health, but that is a lot of stress to carry around daily.

There are millions of people in this country that don’t have the prospect of finding a job with benefits, so the Affordable Care Act could be a major weight off their shoulders.

I hear the Republicans complaining, and setting up strategies to help make the transition to Obamacare as difficult as possible. My question to all those opposed, is why are you so scared about people without health care benefits getting covered? Is it that perhaps if minorities and those below the poverity line have education and health benefits, they might soon be able to compete for your jobs?

What many people tend to forget is the system for health coverage in America was broken. It wasn’t an option to continue with how things had been done – it was too costly and inefficient. That would have bankrupted the system and our government. This meant an alternative was required.

Republicans were given a fair shot to design a serious plan for universal health coverage and they couldn’t come up with anything worth the paper it was printed on. Obama and his team went to great lengths to draft a plan that was viable. It passed several independent accounting estimates and all branches of our government.

Instead of trying to kill this thing before it has even been tried, it might be a better idea to check it out and provide feedback on how it can be improved.

But getting back to how returning to work is impacting me, it’s my schedule mostly. I’m trying to squeeze in family, cooking, shopping, exercise, relaxation and writing.

I’m shortening up my routines, being better about time management, prioritizing everything, and eliminating some activities all together. I anticipate working a bunch of extra hours as the lead-up to Obamacare approaches. On one hand this means I may be publishing less on my blog, but it also may mean I write more about health care and see where that takes us.

I’ll be around for sure, and continuing to keep my eye pealed for interesting topics. Please stay tuned and be nice to each other out there.


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