I've just spent the last hour reading real life accounts of how the economic crisis is affecting the lives of normal people. Here's the link if you'd like to read some of these accounts for yourself and please don't be deterred by the website itself, this is hardly a partisan issue anymore. After all, I believe Bush finally admitted we're in a recession this week, after the National Bureau of Economic Research stated the recession started last December in 2007. So at least we're finally past arguing about the definition of the word recession, which is a relief as we approach the definition of a depression. As I watch the news, I notice the media reports are so focused on the topic of bailouts, first for insurance and banking and now moving on to the auto industry, that the stories of real people are being ignored.
From stories about previously retired people being forced to now look for work after the savings they had spent a lifetime accumulating is now gone, to those who have lost their long-held jobs and don't know where to turn---their first-hand accounts are all in that link. Their tales are important and heartbreaking because they are victims of doing everything we've always been told we should do to get a piece of the pie. Their previously comfortable lifestyles are now the casualties of the willful greed and ignorance of others, yet so far no move has been made by the government to help them.
I've even seen it firsthand while reading through the resumes my company has received for an entry-level position with our firm. There were hundreds of resumes received from all types of applicants. But I was most alarmed by the number of over-qualified individuals answering such a job listing, some having been in the financial industry for well over ten years. I can only guess how dire the situation of each of these applicants. The realization that these people were so desperate in my own industry was a wake-up call for me. While we are all wise to constantly remind ourselves how easily replaced we are in our jobs, it is scary to see the possible competition's resume. And it's even more frightening to put yourself in their shoes. Those with education and experience are normally more assured to land a position during tough times, whereas now these qualifications mean almost nothing. I thought my degree and work ethic would always insulate me from struggling like so many I had seen growing up. This recession seems to be leveling the playing field though.
Recent graduates and young adults entering the job force for the first time have been on my mind lately too. How discouraged they must feel when they send out a metric ton of resumes and get no bites. But I'm especially thinking about family members of mine that will graduate high school shortly and the fear this recession must cause in them. (And if any of those family members want to hear my advice, I want to tell them to get their butts in college come hell or high water. Yeah, yeah I read my previous paragraph about how a degree won't always help you in this economic crisis. But enrolling in college will buy you some serious time for the state of our country to hopefully correct itself. If money is a concern, enroll in a branch campus of a bigger school, get a part time job, apply for loans and scholarships and use the internet as the valuable tool it is. As long as you are working your butt off in school, I'm quite sure the family will help you foot the bill anyway they can. If you are floundering over what to study, may I recommend any subject dealing with green technology or sustainability programs. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.)
Part of me thinks the economic meltdown will ultimately be good for this country forcing all of us to get back to basics that really matter. Who knows, maybe the number of people popping prescription drugs to make themselves feel better will even go down. In my opinion, American unhappiness crept in as we started to think more about our stuff and how we could accumulate more stuff than we did about our relationships with each other and how we live our life. The good thing about focusing on surviving is it leaves little time to think about all the crap that really doesn't matter. You've got food in your belly and a roof over your head? Good for you, feel blessed and be thankful. If you've got people you love and love you back there with you, there's little else you could really need. Let's just help each other stay afloat during the tumultuous times ahead and we should be just fine.