Friday, August 30, 2013

The Changing Tides of Life

I have officially completed the first week of my last semester of coursework in graduate school. 

I will be going down to Georgia for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga from September 13-23. 

I will no longer be working in my current position with the Park Service after May of next year. 

I could not have made any of these statements with any degree of certainly until a few days ago. Quite a lot has changed in the last couple of weeks...

Earlier this summer it appeared that I had stumbled onto a way in which I could not only be promoted to a higher grade level in the Park Service, but also be converted into what is known as a "Term" position. I still wouldn't be permanent, but it would be notably closer and would qualify for health insurance. I determined that in order for this to happen I would have to finish graduate school this school year, and consequently set out to find a way to do precisely that. 

After meeting with my graduate advisor and discussing different options, I decided to take three classes this semester to allow me to focus on doing a research seminar and internship next semester. I was able to find a way to use my position with the Park Service as a launching point for an internship, which will give me credit without me having to do nearly as much additional work. I also found out that, as luck would have it, the topic for the spring research seminar is.... The Civil War! And the professor leading it is the guy I took a class on the Civil War from last semester. So that really is perfect. It should allow me to work on a project that I am really interested in and I will be able to focus on that without having to do other papers and coursework at the same time.
Thus I have found myself taking three graduate courses simultaneously while also working full time. We will see how well I survive the venture when I (hopefully) reach the end of the semester! 

One additional benefit of taking three classes this semester is that I am considered to be a full time student, which means I can now use the recreational facilities on campus. This past Monday I went out to the aquatic center on campus and swam 1000 yards in the pool before work. It was really fun as I haven't swam laps like that in ages.I don't know how much I will be able to take advantage of it with how much else I will have to do, but it is nice to have the option!

If all goes according to plan I will complete all requirements to graduate in May of 2014. 

Even as I began the semester and put this plan in motion I was finally able to sit down with my supervisor and the two people at Manassas who have control over the hiring and budget issues and talk about my situation and the possibilities of promoting me to a higher grade level. We had been trying to arrange this meeting for quite a while, but with various scheduling issues and in order to give them time to find out more specific information, it hadn't happened. 

I went into the meeting expecting to get confirmation on my plan to convert me into a term position when I graduate in May. Instead I found out that it is not possible after all. 
It is exceedingly frustrating and disappointing, especially after I had designed this whole plan with the expectation of that conversion happening. But the bottom line is that I can't do anything about it. 

So where that leaves me is that, instead of being promoted, I will lose this position the day after I graduate. I cannot work in my current position unless I am a student and I can't be converted into another position in this office, so come May 18 (the official graduation day or GMU so consequently my last day of eligibility as a student) I will lose this job. 
While that is obviously problematic, I do also get four months of non-competitive eligibility for any open position in the federal government after I graduate. This means that I can be picked up without having to compete for any open position anywhere for four months. That four months starts the day after I graduate. 

My plan is to do anything I can to utilize this four month window (May-September 2014) to get hired into a different position, ideally one that is permanent.

My career with the Park Service has been a risk and journey into the unknown from the beginning. It has worked out through God's abundant provision so far. Every time I needed a new position, something came along. So we are just going to have to trust that that will happen again once May hits. 

Speaking of God's provision, there is also good news about Alison to report. On Tuesday (September 3) she will begin an internship  with a non-profit that does work with international and national justice and human rights. The work is 20-25 hours a week, and mostly done remotely whenever she has time. So at long last, she will get to do something she is actually interested in that isn't just starbucks. She will remain at starbucks (for now still working as she has been, about 35-38 hours a week) and do this as additional work. That way we still have her starbucks income and health insurance, plus an additional monthly stipend for the internship. 

So literally on the heels of finding out that I would not be promoted and would not be able to get health insurance, we found out that she will have the opportunity to do work she cares about and we will get a little extra money as well. 

In a few weeks I will go down to Georgia for what will now be my last major Civil War 150th event. I will go to the 150th of the Gettysburg Address in November, and there will be a few other small events, but with me losing the position in May, this will be my final multi-day event.

Thus, even as new horizons are opening, old ones are beginning to close. We know that these next nine months will be a time of transition. It remains to be seen where that transition will takes us.


  1. Not sure why they can't keep you on for the 120 days after you graduate: must be a park issue, because that's not the Pathways rule. FYI: if you can be converted to a term position in the non-competitive period after graduation, you maintain the non-competitive status throughout the term position. This is what is happening to me. I just got my offer letter which states these terms. Hope this helps.

  2. Oy vey! Sorry to hear about the career setback but I'm sure there will be good things ahead. Also, the Civil War seminar sounds awesome! We should meet up for a coffee soon (or your drink of choice). Do you have my email?

  3. Tell me about it brother, the suspense may not be killing me but it sure has me on edge.