28 June 2012
The following is a guest blog from Dr. Christina McCale, an author, a doctor and perhaps most of all... a person.
-- Sir Bacon
There are many moments that are etched in the memories of most adults.
Birth of a child.
Your wedding day.
Buying your first house.
But unfortunately for more than 12 million Americans, some of whom read this blog and share their stories here, another day that remains etched in our minds is the day our professional lives were upended. The day that part of our very identities were taken from us.
And unfortunately, for some 5.4 million of those, one of the largest “segments” of the unemployed population are those who have been living the nightmare of unemployment for more than 6 months.
My own personal descent into the living hell called unemployment started in the Spring of 2009 when I was passed over for not one but three different professorial jobs; jobs that I had spent nearly a decade networking to get, preparing for, and culminating volumes of good teaching evaluations, article publications, text book involvement, and conference presentations. I was recognized as one of the most published researchers in my field. I was recruited to launch a national journal.
But in the end, none of that mattered.
The “why” I didn’t get any of the positions I had so long networked for, and ended up unemployment is less important than the actual fact of the matter: I was now unemployed. And despite any number of attempts to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” I failed.
I wouldn’t fit the model any news organization would report as a “typical” unemployed American. For good and bad, I have an above average education: I have a bachelors and masters from a well-known, private Pacific Northwest university; I had done graduate studies at a top tier state school; and I held a doctorate in a highly desirable profession that I had specifically gone back to school to get a doctorate at the urging of several department chairs. These hiring managers had indicated that my talent for teaching, and my lengthy corporate marketing experience would make me a shoe-in to teach almost anywhere I chose.
All those facts added up to not an inordinate amount of student loan debt, but in return, seemingly having the credentials to join one of our most revered professions: that of professor, academic, teacher.
But then the economy cratered.
Then the housing crisis exploded.
And then the financial markets dissolved into chaos.
State and local governments’ budgets came under fire, laying off previously unimaginable positions that had always been considered sacrosanct: police officers, firemen, and teachers. Professorial openings went unfilled; retirement eligible employees hung on by their fingernails, delaying retirement in order to allow the markets, and ultimately their retirement funds, time to bounce back. When professors did retire, they were not replaced.
And then things got really bad.
In the Fall of 2011, l put my decade’s worth of training to work, and began documenting the plight of the unemployed, pulling together the data, media observations, and interviews to profile the one in two Americans who were now “the new poor:” those who had fallen quickly and harshly into the state of poverty despite previous training, education or work history.
But as I wrote, I found my own story creeping into the narrative because too many people I tried to interview could not bring themselves to bare their souls, their hurts or their “failings” for the book.
This approach isn’t new: Authors like Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch), Jonathan Kozol, author of Shame of the Nation, Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation, and even documentarian Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me. have long documented situations, to include their own role and impressions of the situation, which indicate a larger, potentially systemic issue at hand.
I was reminded of the stories from our grandparents and the Great Recession that we all probably grew up on. As so in light of these memories, I put myself to work, writing the book “Waiting for Change: Impacts on life, family, work and the new 99% reality.” This book, then, centers on five key areas of the human experience – housing, sustenance, employment, children, and our social support systems -- exploring how these areas of one’s life can be so drastically impacted – irrevocably altered – by job loss and the continuing drag of the Great Recession we’ve all experienced in a myriad of different ways.
I’d love to hear how closely these stories ring true for all of you.
Over the course of a decade, Dr. Christina McCale has been a marketing professor at a variety of public and private universities, the author of research studies, proceedings, conference presentations and books, including Waiting For Change, which discusses the economic realities the 99% experience during the Great Recession also found at her blog http://www.waitingforchange.us/. Dr. McCale continues to write research and write while actively looking to return to her love of teaching the classroom or virtual environment with college students.