Product of the Recession

US-VOTE-DEBATE
Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Note: this post may not be the most grammatically correct and that is on purpose.

Two nights ago, I was one of 81.4 million people that watch the presidential debate. After thinking to myself “This is taking place down the street from me at Hoftsra University,” a few thoughts ran through my mind. 1) Instead of watching Love and Hip Hop Hollywood, I watched Monday Night Raw with my nephew while playing chess; either show were perfect warm-ups for what I am glued to. B) The back-and-forth bickering of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sounds eerily similar arguments I have had with former girlfriends.

The two front-runners for Head of State gave amazing drama with the fate of the next four years as their backdrop. I listened, laughed, and paid attention to the subtext (I cringed as people like myself were repeatedly referred to as African American…it just didn’t feel right in my spirit). It was all good until the talk of job creation came about.

Donald Trump explained his revamped platform of Reganomics: tax breaks for the rich that are supposed to induce job creation. Hillary Clinton refuted and explained what many of us already know in which this plan obliterates the middle class. Some semblance of the phrase explaining the recession of the late-aughts still leaves a bitter taste in many mouths – including mine.

Many of us are still reeling from the country’s worst economic period since the American stock market crash of 1929. So many factors accumulated into a perfect storm that trickled down to the millenials. While things have become increasingly better, it is very difficult to explain to the generations before us what particularly is going on and why we-millenials-are having a difficult time finding our financial way.

I-and many of us-have heard a variance of “Why don’t you just apply to jobs?” in matter-of-fact-yet-condescending tone. Attempting to have some kind of respect for those before us, we bite our tongues and simply say something along the lines of “I’m a product of the recession.” Eventually, I have learned to rebut this by asking “When is the last time you applied for a job?” After a long pause, the answer is always “A long time ago.” While saying under my breath “So since you don’t know, kindly shut the eff up,” I try to break things down.

Here’s my story. I am 30 years old and graduated from Morehouse College-a very esteemed and renowned institution of higher learning-in 2007. I can think of many people that I matriculated my four years with who are doing some amazing things. To some extent, this includes myself, as well by turning my story into becoming one of the leaders in writing about black fatherhood. I love what I do and am thankful that this passion project of mine has opened up the door for a second career. However, shit is very real out here.

My first job out of college wasn’t at some entry level doing something corporate; I ran the photo department at Walgreens for $7.25 an hour. In Atlanta, that was enough to get by with a roommate and live-in girlfriend; but those student loans I took out had to fall by the wayside. Why didn’t I get some entry level position in Atlanta with as many corporate headquarters in its metropolis? They ALL had hiring freezes.

The second job I attained was working at a mortgage firm October 2008. So what seemed like five years in the making lead to a housing crisis and the people that hired me literally going bankrupt the day before I started. My next job was selling cars in July of 2009. Cash for Clunkers dried up business and I was back to being broke. I had to make my own professional experience and hustled my way into project management.

The problem with having to make your own experience in a time in which everyone is looking for work means that companies can be as picky as they choose. In the days of the internet, a human resources professional can word out thousands of applicants by simply doing a word search, interview a couple of people, hire the one who was referred by a friend, and the answer one gets in return is “You don’t have experience in this setting.” Explaining this to many of my peers, most have sympathetically replied “Yes! This is me!” You can also add to this that one is competing with the 30-50 somethings who were let go and willing to take a pay cut to feed their families? You’re kind of fucked.

As time progressed, so did the interest on my student loans. It’s hard to pay someone $750 a month when you’re already living under your means. So when Sallie Mae Navient calls me about making a payment, I tell them “I know you have a job to do; but I had to choose between paying $700 a month to you all or feeding my daughter. I chose them.” Credit-obliterating debt, the cost of living constantly rising, and many looking out for themselves…what do you do? Hustle and hope for the best.

The silver lining in this all is that The Recession of 2008 has created jobs. They just don’t pay very well, right now. One lesson that always stuck with me from macroeconomics is that cutbacks often lead to some creative people creating new paths. It is still difficult to make ends meet; but I now have two career paths. Right now, neither are paying into a pension; but somehow, I have a feeling that things will continue to work out.

Generation Z is beginning to enter the workforce. They have grown up in a world in which all they know is the internet and being tech-savvy. The way that they have been conditioned to process information means that they will have it much easier than my constituents who are now in their thirties, settling down, and starting families. We’ve become the sacrificial lambs-turned-entrepreneurs.

So…while I’m listened to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump talk about their visions for the future of economic growth, I’m sitting three feet away from a sleeping kindergartner, with fingers typing away on a laptop, thinking “One day this here will all be worth it.”

…This is the very abridged version.

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