Five months after graduation, I quit my illustrious full-time food service job, packed up my things in the trunk of my friend’s car and moved the nearest major city. Jobs – the kind that pay more than fifty dollars a day, and don’t require you to ignore the high-schoolish antics of a cast of apathetic co-workers – were on my mind. A lot of folks would say I made a big mistake.
Recessions are defined as a period of time in which investments are down, jobs are scarce, and the growth of the economy slows or comes to a standstill. In reality, however, a recession is much uglier than that. I can imagine it now – a bug-eyed employment-chewing beast with gorilla-like strength – bent on mercilessly terrorizing Tokyo… err, Wall Street.
Recession monster attacks
after apparently setting fire to New York.
(Illustration by Josiah Pyles)
During the last recession, things were “back to normal” within five years, with accelerated economic growth carrying a surge of job-fulness well into the 1990’s. The time before that, every bank on the continent neared collapse and thousands of people began to starve as they lost their homes and belongings. I heard an economist on TV say this current economic predicament is more like the former than the latter (a real charmer, that guy).
One thing that the recession of 1983 and the Depression of 1929 have in common is that they’re both safely in the past. Maybe that’s part of what makes this particular recession so troubling to me – uncertainty.
When I find myself worrying through the day, I sometimes think that what I really need is a story – a way to ensure my experience of this economic hiccup becomes a tangible piece of history in the making. I need to talk about what it’s like to live with no money, with no savings account and no rich relatives to fall back on.
Maybe, more than anything, this recession is a great opportunity to think carefully about the life choices I’m making; to live more deliberately than I have before. It’s 2012, and I’ve decided to ride this one out in Portland, Oregon.