A reader writes:
What are we to make of this story? The American Dream is "nonexistent" because a gainfully employed professional can't quit in summer 2008 when the economy is already starting to fall off a cliff, enroll in an overseas masters degree program, and then get a dream job? The American Dream is "like Santa Claus" because a successful businessman shuttered his one business to open another that later failed? The American Dream is just a "story told to keep kids in line" because a 55-year-old woman with no education and no resume has a hard time finding a professional job? This is just self-serving venting.
The health insurance part of the email, however, is a nightmare. But it's one that shouldn't happen again once all of ACA is implemented. In that regard, this would be better classified as a view in your series about health insurance nightmares than a recession view.
A reader writes:
I work in a factory for $13 per hour. I have three children under the age of six. We have had to move several times, first from apartment to apartment to chase lower rent, then into a mobile home to escape the crazy people and the roaches that infest low-rent apartment complexes. Car repairs make it impossible to put any money away. I'm attending junior college with no assurance of getting a job in my chosen field. It's incredibly difficult and I am fed up with this economy.
Oh wait, that was me in 1982 (except I made up the part about being fed up with the economy). I married at 19 and worked in the factory for five years. All my difficulties resulted from my own choices.
I got my degree in a field that was exploding: computer programming. I made good money and had the usual financial challenges along the way. After years of self-imposed difficulties I learned to pay myself first by saving till it hurt and avoiding debt. That habit has given me peace of mind and financial security in good times and bad. I refused to be dependent on any clockwork functioning of the larger economy to "guarantee" my future. There are no guarantees except those I can purchase.
I could have just kept the factory job and told myself that I was doing everything expected of me. But expected by whom? Does everyone deserve success just for showing up? It would be nice if that were so, but it is not that way now and it was not that way in 1982.
Your reader's wailing about the lie of the American Dream is weak and foolish. The essence of the dream is that you can succeed if you work hard and make the right choices, not that you will have an easy road just by making any attempt. Please wake up and look around at the incredible energy of recent immigrants (legal and otherwise) to the U.S. and note their approach to getting ahead.
What I see in your View From Your Recession stories are people hugging their recession mindset - the mindset that presages failure at the first downturn - and trying to top each other with the most compelling litany of woe. Astoundingly, they often include actions such as quitting a paying job and taking on student loans to pursue some dream or another, only to find themselves unemployed and deep in debt. Here's an idea: don't do those things. Free idea #2: don't blame the world for your decisions. Their recession really does start on the inside and then manifest itself in their external condition, and it would probably do so in a good economy too.
People, please refuse to HAVE a view from within your recession. The recession should be a thing you refuse to inhabit. It should be a thing that you avoid in advance but if you find yourself in it, work your way out of it with no tales of woe and no excuses. I know my tone will strike some as harsh, but I really think most people can pull themselves out of their difficulties but they must first refuse to wallow in them.