As far as military careers go, mine was quite short. But the aftermath of my time in the Army has lasted more than 20 years. During basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., I suffered a hip injury. After recovery, doctors told me to wear a sneaker on one foot and a combat boot on the other, a solution which I later learned had probably exacerbated my injury. For a while I was able to work flight operations, but even this became increasingly difficult. After two and a half years, I was medically discharged. Today I live with chronic pain. I am unable to sit in one place for more than an hour and a half. Several times per night, I wake up from the pain caused by my own movement. After seeing countless physicians, I am now undergoing pain management therapy. After being discharged, finding a job flexible enough to accommodate my injury and family obligations was difficult. For a while I worked as a file clerk at a car dealership where I was able to sit and stand as often as needed. But at $8 per hour, my take-home after paying for childcare seemed miniscule. I knew that if I could set my own hours and make more money, I could spend time with my son when he had a day off from school. I could take breaks during a shift to walk around if my injury acted up. And I could contribute more to my family financially. But without having worked at any particular company for a significant length of time, I knew that flexible scheduling would be a challenge. Then a friend told me about working as a home-based call center agent. I was skeptical at first. I knew that there were upfront costs involved in starting a home-based business such as setting up a computer, dedicated phone line and incorporating as a business. I also knew that without a supervisor watching over me, I would need to be self-motivated. But the more I talked it over with my friend, the more it made sense: I was investing in my career and in my future. And seeing her success was even more motivating. Now I have been a home-based call center agent for five and a half years, fielding calls for members of AAA New York and AAA Mid-Atlantic. I chose to work for this client based on the hours that best fit into my schedule. My shifts last from an hour to an hour and a half, but flexible scheduling allows me to work in as little as 30-minute increments. In between shifts I take breaks for swimming or therapeutic soaks in the hot tub. My income is far more than minimum wage, and I am compensated for the quality of my work, not just the quantity. In addition to flexible scheduling and the ease of working from home, I take pride in running my own business. Many people tell me stories that sound remarkably similar to my own. Living with chronic pain is an enormous challenge that can significantly diminish one's quality of life. But I believe I found an opportunity that makes it easier to cope with. My military career may have been short-lived, but working from home as a call center agent has no end in sight. Julie Gill is an injured Army veteran and works as a WillowCSN CyberAgent CSR¿. She lives in Jupiter, FL with her husband and their 11-year-old son. To learn more about becoming a home-based call center agent, visit www.GoWillow.com.
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