Monday, June 6, 2011

A Letter From Myself in 2009

carefree college days (I'm a dinosaur in this one)
I wrote this letter to myself in 2009 at the start of the recession.

Had someone told me five years ago that I'd be married, living with my parents and working in an entry-level job at the age of 26, I would have laughed. Not about the married part, but the rest would have sounded pretty ridiculous.

I graduated from a very good Boston area business college in 2004 with a BS in Information Design and Corporate Communication, concentrating in public relations and marketing. I worked through college so I already had a nice resume, lots of computer skills, excellent references, and that fancy degree.

That fall my boyfriend of three years and I moved to San Diego where life and my career was moving along - by 2006 I was working in the pharmaceutical industry as a senior admin with an eye on junior management marketing positions. Then the company hit a bad patch, sold all but one of its assets, and laid off over 75% of its employees. I moved to the architectural industry, got a significant raise and work in marketing, and got laid off due to the economy. Back to pharmaceuticals with a management level promotion in sight, and then - surprise surprise - company wide layoffs. That was at the end of 2007.

Very qualified people that I'd worked with were struggling to get interviews, as I was, and the job offers for them were few and far between. I got no offers and resorted to temp work. The whole county was suffering - people were being laid off all over the place, companies were closing, and people were losing their homes. The news was talking about a possible recession on the horizon, but we were already seeing it up close and personal.

That same boyfriend and I got married in the courthouse while it poured rain outside, which I counted as a good omen in the desert of San Diego county. That was a bright spot amidst the depressing job situation, and I was able to sign up for his health insurance plan.

A few months into 2008 we decided to move back to Vermont where we would have the support of our families and the cost of living was lower. We both got steady jobs after about three months of searching, though I took a 40% cut in pay and accepted an entry level position. It was hard to swallow my pride and accept the job offer, but the job market was and still is stagnant, the company is secure, and it is unlikely that my position will be terminated.

We moved in with my parents to save for a down payment - which to be honest wasn't as much of a nightmare as I was expecting, they have been great housemates and landlords. We have yet to make an offer on a house as most of the homes in our area are listed at their inflated appraisal prices from 2007, or even more. Even our real estate agent is impressed with how much people are asking for houses. One we looked at was easily $30,000 overpriced - it was appraised three years ago for $20,000 less than the current asking price. We're so frustrated with the inflexibility of sellers that we're considering renting for a year and trying again. Though we hate to lose out on the low interest rate and tax break, it's not worth paying more than a house is worth like so many other people did in the last ten years.

Overall, though the recession seems to have handed me a big "Return to Start," sign and I was pretty angry, I've come to terms with how it's affected my life. It was a big wakeup call for me - my career was surging ahead, but it was also very stressful and kept me up at night; I took a huge cut in pay, but I enjoy the industry that I'm in now, I'm no longer working in "cubicle land," and I enjoy my coworkers; I'm living with my parents, but our relationship is better than it ever was; and, well, there's no downside to marrying my sweetheart. He's still angry about the economy, as many people are, but that's his story to tell.

We now have a house and a child, and I'm making a bit more money, though not nearly what I did in 2007. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, the recession has been so much harder for others - family and friends included. If you had written yourself a letter in 2009, what would it have said? If you wrote yourself a letter now, what would it say?

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