When I was about to graduate from college, I was told that the economy was not the best–perhaps I should stay in school. I was an English Ed. major with a decent GPA and experience, so I din’t think I’d have a problem finding a job. However, I like school and didn’t think it could hurt to have an extra degree just in case. Three months before finishing my second degree (by the age of 24), I began to seriously apply for jobs all around the country. I got nothing but rejections in return. So I decided to pack up and spend what little money I had saved to move to Colorado. Once I got here, I continued applying with little luck and decided to take part in a youth program at the local Unemployment office. Soon after I signed up, I received a job at a local enrichment program, but decided to still do the internship with unemployment just for the experience. They placed me in the Media Relations department at a university in town and it was awesome.
In order to participate in this program, we had to attend a pre and post session. I don’t know why, I was surprised to see how many people actually showed up. They were young, determined, qualified, and ready to work and I could relate. I felt bad for having a job (though only part time), and was glad to see that there was something available to my generation of job seekers. But what struck me most was during the wrap up session. The speaker facilitating the discussion began to compare our predicament to that of her grandfather in the Great Depression. She told us how we would tell our children and grandchildren about “The Great Recession.”
This was the first time I’d heard it phrased this way. After months of looking for a job, I have no health benefits, am $22,000 in debt from student loans, and have moved back in with family. At least five of my coworkers have also moved back in with family. I know many who have lost jobs or had their pay cut. But because I also know many who have it much worse than I do, I never quite considered the current economic crisis to be on quite the level of the Great Depression.
So I guess now my question is: Are we anywhere near or could we be anywhere near the magnitude of the Great Depression? Are we close enough to parallel and label this time as “The Great Recession”?
True, I have no health benefits. I owe over $20,000, which is more than I currently make in a year. I do not have a place of my own. There are tons of people without jobs and in worse situations than I. Should I feel bad that I have a place to sleep at night? That I haven’t had to go hungry? That I have a couple dollars in my wallet and plenty to pay off on my credit card? I don’t think so, but I also don’t think that any of these things can be taken lightly either, because I know that it’s bad now, but it can always be worse.
Being aware of that also makes me know that though I’m not in the ideal situation, I am in a comfortable one. And because of that, I (and whoever else shares my situation) can always afford to give back a little. I see the 99% protesters all over the news and internet and though I feel for them, I can’t help but think of the parallel made today. And I think of my time in college, when I worked with Invisible Children and am thankful to not wake up in a war zone wondering if I will wake up to a missing family. I guess I’m just saying what I said earlier: it could always be worse. And so I find myself somewhere in the middle. How do we make it better? And how do we better appreciate what we already have?