Saturday, December 31, 2011

Post-Recession Reflections

Three years ago, I was licking my wounds after being laid off from my job as editor of two weekly newspapers and contributor to a third.

I was panic stricken and angry. For an entire year, I searched for a day job, search for freelance work, and worked my butt off at whatever freelance work came my way. I started writing for a local online newspaper, took on contract projects for my former employer, explored content mills, met with various people about start-up projects, taught a copy desk class as an adjunct professor. I interviewed for only a few jobs during that time. I had hoped to be able to earn a respectable living by freelance writing.

All that while I was possessed by a bag-lady fear. Trying to stretch every dollar and staving off calls from the utilities and credit card companies became a fact of life. They were clueless about real life and I let them know in no uncertain terms. It was cathartic.

I was pissed about corporate greed and Congressional cluelessness before this happened. My difficulty (and my husband’s) in finding work that fit our qualifications only galvanized my anger. As the Great Recession progressed I saw I was not alone. So many people with solid job qualifications and experience could not find jobs and were losing their homes.

It’s a problem that continues today, four years after a Recession was officially acknowledged and two years after it was declared over.

That germ of anger has galvanized into the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s had its ups and downs. The occupiers took up residence in many major cities across the country, and even abroad, and while they’ve been dispersed, there are still clusters on city greens who are digging in their heels for the winter. In other cases, groups meet regularly and hold rallies.

These are not uninformed ragtag groups. In many cases (locally, Connecticut shoreline), they’re well educated, well spoken, 50- to 60-age range, and even employed. They’re not going away and I hope that they morph into a strong influence in the 2012 elections. After all, Congressional approval was at 11 percent as of Dec. 21, with 86 percent explicitly disapproving.

 As for my husband and me, we’re in recovery mode. We’ve both been employed for two years, albeit at less than we were making before we got hit. At one point I figure it was about $20K less than in 1987. Not need to say what’s happened to the cost of living since then. But we’re in our 60s. His Social Security is going right into a money market account, and fortunately his can still collect his full salary.

The job that dropped into my lap – I had an interview in July 2009 that turned into an offer in December 2009 – is one of the best in my career – low BS factor, wonderful people, new skills. With a nod to my bag-lady fear, I’ve maintained my freelance work, and earned quite a nice chunk in 2011.

That said, retirement is not an option. While my husband is not crazy about his job, 11 days off over that holidays made him realize that it’s nice to go to work. I’ll work until I’m face-planted on the keyboard.

The house is a lot of work and needs a lot of work. Housing values are iffy and to get the maximum price, we need to finish projects we started years ago. We bought it as a “new fixer-upper” in a development that went belly-up. Good price, but a lot work that got stalled by the Recession.

Any extra expenses instill panic, i.e. the transmission in my 20-year-old car acted up, but rebounded with a service job. The cats need check-ups. I equate leaving the house on the weekend with spending money, whether it’s basics and/or gas. I’ve never felt financially secure and never will feel financially secure.

I keep telling myself that we’re lucky. We’re working. The mortgage and bills are paid. 

But I have a lingering anger that the 1 percent will never know the struggles of the 99 percent.

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