Pushing my limitations vs. accepting defeat

I just had an interview for a job that would be working from home full-time on a shift that would allow me to get enough sleep. Those two factors rule out the reasons I couldn’t work full-time before: the long commute and early mornings.

I absolutely aced the interview (the interviewer told me so) and I’m moving on to the next round. It was really incredibly gratifying to discover that I still had strong interviewing skills. They used to be stellar but I thought they were gone forever.

But–and this feels like a big “but”–there’s the risk that working full-time will jeopardize my disability. If I bomb out within a couple months, I likely wouldn’t earn enough for the year that I’d lose my disability. But say I make it for 9 months before discovering that I can’t actually work full time, I’d most likely lose my disability. Then I’d have to start the process all over again, hiring a lawyer and waiting a couple of years to get it back.

My mom strongly feels that I shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize my disability. In fact, I can’t even tell her that I had this interview or about how well it went. I can already hear the hesitation and skepticism in her voice in reaction to the news of the interview without even telling her. And if I get it and fail, she will see it as further proof of my fate.

We’ve talked about this before in recent months. I said that I felt like I might be ready to try working full-time again and her reaction was that no job is worth potentially losing my disability.

Yet I DO feel like I’m in a stronger place now than I was when I initially got disability. I do want the routine of a work schedule again. I want externally imposed structure. I want paychecks that are larger than a little over a thousand dollars a month. You already know this is coming if you’ve been reading me for a while, but I really, really want to be done relying on freelancing as my main source of work. Maybe I’d still do it supplementally for the extra cash but in general, it’s not very reliable.

My mom envisions disability plus part-time freelance work as the limit of what I can do and I honestly don’t think she understands why I want more. Why I need more.

Frankly, disability plus part-time freelance work means that I’d be in poverty without my husband’s income. It also means that due to the nature of freelance work, my income might fluctuate by $500 a month or more–which would be disastrous if I were relying on it to support myself with such thin margins. I really don’t like having such variable income at all. I don’t have the interest in or passion for marketing myself enough to be able to freelance full-time.

Really, I want a regular job with regular paychecks. With so much in my life that’s up in the air, it would be nice to have a predictable income of my own—it would even be empowering. It would theoretically be nice to have health insurance, which this job offers after a certain waiting period, though I don’t have more details about that yet. Most likely, they would not be particularly good health benefits because few jobs offer those but it would be nice knowing they were an option.

With disability, I now have Medicare. But while it has inexpensive premiums, Medicare requires me to cover 20 percent of the cost of all services I receive, with no cap. If I have disability plus Medicare and incur $200,000 a year in medical expenses (not unheard of in the US medical system, especially if something happened like having to be hospitalized for Covid or having another stroke), I would be responsible for 20 percent of those costs on an income of $1000 a month from disability. I’d have to hope there was some kind of assistance to release me from that debt. Quite honestly, I see using Medicare at all as likely to impoverish me.

Paying down debt is another reason I’d like to earn more money. Yes, we can do it on my husband’s income alone, but we can do it faster if I’m earning more than just disability and part-time freelance work. My ultimate goal is to be financially self-sufficient and stable, not relying on assistance and debt forgiveness.

Yes, after enough years on disability my student loan debt would be forgiven. But considering the fact that I’d have to live in poverty to make that happen, I’d honestly rather be able to pay them off myself. I don’t want a free ride through life and that feels like it’s what disability is; it’s just a very meager free ride.

To me, there are so many reasons not to stay on disability and Medicare. My mom sees it as the sure thing–better to settle for relatively little of a sure thing than to risk pursuing something better and more livable.

This is a prime example of what my husband calls “Michigan mind,” which we experienced ourselves and many others have as well (though certainly not everyone in Michigan, for which I was recently taken to task by someone online.) That kind of thinking was part of what I had to escape by moving away and what kept me trapped there for so many years. I’m dangerously close to falling into that mindset again.

“Michigan mind” is a state in which you learn to settle for the least you can get because you probably won’t find anything better. It happens after making many efforts to improve your circumstances and not getting anywhere. You develop the attitude of why bother trying. I can tell that I’ve been infected by this thinking.

A big part of me is already trying to talk myself out of the job: it probably won’t work out and it doesn’t pay well enough anyway and won’t be worth it.

I’ve stated for a long time that I didn’t intend to stay on disability. I thought I’d have to make a dramatic career change to do so and possibly have to go back to college for a Master’s degree, depending on what I wanted to do. And to be clear, this particular job isn’t the kind of full-time professional career job that would pay a middle-class wage. But it’s a start and it would get me out of having a poverty-level income.

Still, there’s this voice in the back of my head that’s not so little, doubting myself. Maybe I really can’t work full-time, like my mom says. Maybe disability is the best I can hope for. Maybe I should make peace with having a poverty-level income and try to make the best of it.

But in truth, I want so much more. I want to try again and see if removing the factors of a long commute and 6 a.m. wake-ups make a difference in my ability to work.

It’s just hard that I feel so beaten down by what my mom thinks about my potential. I’ve adopted so much of that as my own view of myself. I want to overcome it but have so much self-doubt.

But I have to fight to overcome “Michigan mind.” I can’t give up before I even try. The best possible outcome is that I’ll succeed at it and prove that there is more that I’m capable of doing than just being on disability.

4 Comments

  1. I am so happy your interview went well today. Working from home is definitely the best way to do things because it gives you the safety to work from home and also allows you to be comfortable. I work from home and it is nice to be able to stay in my comfy clothes all day! If for some reason, this work from home job does not work out the way it should, my company is growing and is all work from home! Just let me know if you want their info and I will give it to you

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      1. You are more than welcome! My company is called Freedom Mortgage. They are doing a lot of hiring for work from home, so hopefully it will work out! At least you would know someone in the company and could reach out to me with any questions!

        Like

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