I had not planned on blogging this weekend but reading this piece in today’s NY Times really left me needing to vent. In this piece the Times spoke with former executives who were used to earning decent salaries (70K and up) who now are having to take on survival jobs.
One fellow went from earning 70K to now making $12 an hour as a janitor, albeit he is working for a friend and still has health care benefits, something the average Joe who has been a janitor generally does not have. The piece showed the very human toll the current economic crisis is having on middle America. Yet while many folks may be thinking this is all new news, truth is there are many out there including yours truly who have been caught in the under-employed no benefit having world for quite a while.
Barbara Ehrenreich who is one of my favorite authors wrote about this phenomenon in her 2005 book “Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream”. For a good part of the last decade the number of folks who used to live solidly in the middle class with good jobs has been shrinking, of course thanks to easy credit it was still easy to keep up appearances and pretend you belonged even when you knew deep down you didn’t.
In the Times piece though one woman spoke of how her current loss of income and lower status job were actually harder than dealing with the loss of her mother. I will admit that this statement not only stood out to me but almost rubbed me the wrong way. Over the past 5-7 years the Spousal Unit and I have seen our own income drop lower and lower, I suppose when we get around to our taxes, we will only be a few thousand away from being eligible for low income tax credits such as Earned Income Credit, won’t be there just yet, but its ok give us another few years and we will be.
During this time I have lost my beloved Mom and Grandma and while losing our income has been hard and at times devastating, nothing comes close to where I was 5 years ago when my mother died. Nothing. I suspect the only things that would ever be worse would be to lose my husband or kids.
In fact to equate the loss of jobs and money with our loved ones speaks volumes about us as a nation and judging from some of the heated comments that followed the NY Times piece, I am not the only one thinking this.
Look, it sucks donkey balls as my kid would say to go from a 6 figure salary and full benefits to living hand to mouth, shit I have been there, hell, I am still there. However the truth is these times reveal a lot about us and what we are made of, and in many cases out of what seems to be tragedy can come amazing growth potential.
As we move ahead as a nation in these unprecedented times, I suspect the emphasis will shift from going back where we were which I don’t see as sustainable to creating a new way of being, a simpler version of our lives yet there is potential for greater connection and inner growth.
America its time to wake up and face our new reality. Gone is $4 lattes several times a day and regular jaunts to the mall for the latest and newest gadget, instead we will spend our time chilling in the garden growing useful things and connecting to our fellow human in more meaningful ways.