My own story of The Great Recession


It’s been a rather trying week in many ways. Family medical issues, a wonky work schedule, forced trips out of town to take care of lingering and pesky business. It came to a head in ways that have put a serious crimp in my training.

As of this writing, I’ve lifted once and put in one three-mile run. That’s it.

And there’s a good reason.

If you read this blog much, you might think that my life is all about great hikes, trail runs, epic sessions at the gym and fantastic summit views. That’s definitely a part of my life.

But there is a lot more to it than that. The life that builds “the life” has been far from ideal.

At this point, I’m going to get pretty real with you. And way off topic from what I usually write about in this space. I want to talk about the recession. The Great Recession.

I’d say my life is a good metaphor for what this country is going through right now. The U.S., in short, went through the most traumatic economic downturn since the Great Depression, and years after the financial crisis hit, we still haven’t dug out from underneath the avalanche of woes that buried us. I don’t want to talk about blame here, in terms of our lengthy and painfully slow recovery. Let’s just agree that it has been slow, painfully slow, and we’re not done yet.

When the Great Recession hit, I was working in a totally different city. I had a good job, a modest home and a career path that seemed to be stable and rewarding. Soon, though, the layoffs hit. I survived the first. And the second. But the second led to a change in jobs (a demotion, through no fault of my own, I was told). And months later, a third layoff in the same company.

I didn’t survive that one.

After 10 years, I received a nice lunch and a rod-and-reel set from my employer. Two years later, while visiting my terminally-ill brother in another state, I got a phone call telling me my services were no longer required.

And that’s where my journey through recession really began. I was unemployed for four months, kept afloat by a severance and unemployment insurance benefits from the government. It all went fast.

When it ran out, I was fortunate enough to find a new job. No small task. I applied for scores of jobs all over the country. I got two offers. One was for less than half what I made.

The other was much more, but still a pay cut and would require a move to a new city. I snapped it up gratefully, and it has turned out to be a pretty sweet little gig.

But we in the media often live paycheck to paycheck. For every high-flying media star making millions, there are a hundred-thousand getting by on working-class wages or less. Things like car repairs, new tires, replacement appliances or medical bills not covered by insurance don’t fit in the budget. They end up as debt. That is where I was before I was laid off in 2011.

The new problem — selling a house in another city while renting a new home in a new city, and still having to manage old bills and everything else on an income not strong enough to pull all that weight. Renting the old house out only slowed the bleeding. Two offers to buy over two years fell through. The bills continued to pile up to the point where I cannot say for certain that everyone I owed was going to get paid. Solvency was in question. Thank God for friends and family who helped along the way. We wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

It is only now that I can say my recession nightmare has ended. Well, sort of. The unwanted out-of-town house is sold (at a sizable loss), but the patient is finally in the recovery room, so to speak, with the hemorrhaging finally stopped. That one transaction made a lot of other dominoes fall in a positive direction and it no longer feels like the boot heel of debt is smashing down on my neck.

I’ve told you all before that my runs in the city or on the trails were about escape, and it’s true. A couple of hours weaving my way through the trees did wonders to keep me sane as endless hours of worry and a lot of sleepless nights passed by over a period of 28 months.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this here, in this space, other than to say that behind the facade of every blogger or writer you see, or anyone else for that matter, are real-life stories that are not glamorous, victorious or otherwise idyllic. I’m a real person who felt the sting of “the new economy” in a pretty bad way, one that didn’t end when a new job was found two years ago. A lot of others have had it far worse and will continue to struggle for quite some time, even if they find work.

Be good to each other. Recognize that a whole lot of folks are under the weight of enormous national events that weren’t an abstract realization that comes from reading a headline or watching the news. They lived it, losing a lot (losing it all?) through no fault of their own. We’re not “takers.” We’re not looking for a hand-out or even a hand up. We’re just trying to escape some seriously rotten circumstances. We, like our country, are still recovering from that trauma dubbed “The Great Recession.”

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088