My mom recently said to me, ďI think it was Ronald Regan who said something like Ďa recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose yours.í ď
I was driving to work listening to NPR last fall when our economic market started to show signs of tattering. Like a patchwork quilt made generations ago that had suddenly shed multiple patches, our economy was starting to show its wear. Iím not an economist. I donít know the
intricacies of why profit wasnít suddenly as prolific and why business belts started tightening as soon as the first domino fell. I just know thatís what happened. I remember thinking when the first financial institutions fell to their knees that I was hearing the first murmurs of a movement that might affect many.
I got an email from a friend a few months later about her job ending. She was notified and asked to leave that day. In the course of a statement that took seconds, both her life routine and her financial soundness became quite a bit more blurry than they had been when she woke a few
hours earlier. Sheís smart, dependable, loyal, and had worked her way up the ladder in the field she chose as her career. And it was suddenly over. She was my friend rather than my neighbor, but I suddenly felt the concept of the recession hit home. However, within the course of a few monthsí time, sheís gradually moved
forward and changed her career to something she has long loved doing anyway in her spare time.
Sometimes I think even the most subtle of shifts that occur during dastardly times can have a profound effect. I canít say how hard or simple her path was, but I can say she made certain choices during the next months after losing her job to become more adaptable to her environment,
and now sheís in a job that suits her well, and she seems content with it.
This recession story is my friendís story. For me, it was still recession. While I did feel like the recession was creeping closer to my little alcove of the world, it was June and there were lovely flowers blooming where I worked, and in passing by them every day to and from where I
needed to be my thoughts eased about words like recession or certainly about depression.
By July the flowers were fading in the garden and by its end my employment status suddenly changed. ďIím going to have to let you go.Ē The depression had arrived. I stayed in the job for two more weeks, during which time I thought of what I wanted to do next as I drove to and from
work each day. Some days I wasnít so productive and brooded about words like depression and feeling the effect of what experts were calling a recession. But most days I was able to be clear about what was important to me. First and foremost, I wanted to remain locally employed. I wanted a job with employees I respected and
a setting I would enjoy going to each day. I wanted a job that would challenge me in new ways and still let me build on what I already had come to learn. And, I wanted to work where it was inappropriate to wear flip flops, even though I never thought I would think Iíd prefer to wear heels again.
The two weeks went by, then a month, and I felt increasingly that I was looking into an abyss since I still had no idea who my next employer might be. I felt the meaning of the term depression! But, although the uncertainly was unsettling, I actually found myself looking forward to
what could lie ahead more than I was looking back at what I had left behind. I had learned wonderful lessons, was grateful I had worked with my boss and coworkers, and did miss much about my previous place of employment, but I was surprised by how grateful I was for having been given such a graceful way to exit. What
surprised me even more was the day that I just happened to walk into a restaurant nearby with my resume and left with a job.
Although my resume does contain the word ďartĒ on it once, it is not in reference to my experience with art, but I was hired at the art gallery adjoining the restaurant. Needless to say, Iím new to being a knowledgeable source about artwork, but Iím starting the process of learning.
It feels a bit like Iíve been given a full scholarship to learning a new field or degree, and I feel excited by the challenge. Everyone Iíve met at work has been kind and professional. And so far I donít feel like I have sunk, even if at times if feels like a little water may be seeping into my boat. There are lots of
skills Iíve learned at jobs past that Iíll still use with my new one, but Iím excited for all the new skills yet to learn. And to top it all off, flip flops are out of the question.
Fortunately, the experience of my Great Depression has ended. But I have gained valuable insights about the reality of the current recession in this country. It is a circumstance which can become very personal very quickly. I know that my friend and I were among the lucky ones. We
were fortunate enough to land on our feet and turn the experience into one that resulted in growth in the midst of change. Our experience, however, is unfortunately not everyoneís experience. I am left feeling very humble and very aware of how lucky I am.
If a recession is when your neighbor loses a job and a depression is when you lose yours, my hope is that the current word on the news is accurateóthe recession may be beginning to ease. Letís all hope that is true.
Read other articles by Katherine Au