In July, we published the following guest article in response to a callout for stories from the recession.
We spoke to Brenda again recently and learned that her new business is thriving. She has also obtained a Georgia real estate license and has started working for a real estate firm, which helps fuel her side business.
"Times are changing and so must we," she says. "We need to be supporters of ourselves
otherwise we will not survive."
As HuffPost continues its coverage of Americans struggling to recover from the recession, we are asking for stories from our readers to be featured on our Third World America section. The following is a guest article from Brenda Carter, a Marietta, Georgia, grandmother who in 2007 lost her job of thirteen years. Unable to find work, she began selling homemade pralines online.
I was a manager of information systems at the same company for thirteen years. I thought my job was secure. All the purchasing approval and budget monitoring went through me. I attended weekly board meetings. I was well liked.
One day I was given a high priority project by the COO. I did not suspect I would be laid off the next day. When I arrived, I said my "good mornings," and for some reason it felt different. My co-workers in finance and administration looked a little sad and they did not respond to my greeting in the normal fashion. Their department processed the checks, so they knew I was being laid off. I shrugged it off, went to my office and put down my briefcase.
My phone rang -- it was my boss. He told me to come to his office. We had a good rapport so we talked a little. And then he told me I was being laid off due to budget constraints. I thought he was joking so I chuckled. He brought me back to reality by saying he was sorry but his hands were tied. He told me that since I was a long-time employee I would not be escorted immediately out of the building, and I could take as much time as I needed to remove my belongings.
Since I was at my office most hours of the day, I'd made it feel like home, with plants, pictures and other personal items. As the "Manager of Information Systems," I was the one called to terminate employee user names and passwords. To allow me to clear my office knowing I had access to that information told me my boss trusted me and did want me to be humiliated in front of my coworkers.
Imagine getting up every day for 13 years and suddenly that part of your life just ceased. I cried and cried and cried. I just could not believe it. "Not me," not "Brenda Carter," they needed me. I did the jobs of three people. How will they make it without me? Some days I did not get out of the bed. I wondered why I wasn't given an option of demotion in lieu of lay off? My seniority should have counted for something.
Now I spend my days searching for work. It's hard to compete for jobs at my age. I hate putting my previous salary and age on applications. They are red flags. I developed a wall of fame of rejection letters. I took it down because it started to depress me.
To broaden my opportunities and keep my mind fresh, I began taking technology courses in college because, as we all know, technology changes so rapidly. I also passed the Real Estate exam. It was the toughest test I ever took. I wanted to be in a position to help people like myself who want to be homeowners. But I don't have the money to start doing real estate, and you need credit card for the dues. I am looking for a job that will allow me use my skills to help others, so I have applied for jobs with HUD and the banks.
I am trying to make it by any means necessary. I went door to door to sell my homemade candy. The candy sold well, but it takes gas to travel. I have only had good feedback about the candy so I will continue to pursue this dream.
I applied for unemployment. When they requested to know the name and address and the business I applied to, it was not a problem. It let them know that I really am sincere about finding work and each week I tell them where I applied.
I am back in the role of housewife, and I don't like it. My children are adults now. They think the world of me. I came from a family that did not teach me that education was important to success. Early on I vowed not to become a part of that vicious cycle and to let my children know that education and determination to succeed is the key. I wanted to set the pace for my family. I did not want to receive welfare for life. I wanted to acquire a career that could be something my kids could aspire to.
My children cannot believe I have been out of work for so long. In their minds I was the one who was going to be a millionaire. They think highly of me and I sometimes feel that I let them down.
But I am proud of them. They are striving, as I did, not to be the typical welfare recipient. Not that receiving it is a bad thing, I just told them to think of it as a blessing and a stepping stone to a better life. My calm demeanor is something my children notice, because they are still waiting for a negative reaction from me. I think that what I am going through is a lesson for them on how to handle difficult situation.
I have been out of work since 2007. I have worked all of my life and find it very difficult to ask for help. I raised four children without a father's help (yes, I was married). Think about it -- after all the years I have worked and raised a family, I am still dealing with threats to turn off my utilities and repossess my car. I only have three months before I pay it off and they're demanding all the money now or they'll take it back.
What have I learned from being unemployed? That it's frustrating and demoralizing. I have learned I would prefer to work to support my family and that I don't want to be dependent on a Congress that obviously does not have America's best interests at heart. I have learned to have more compassion for people who are in this situation and I'm now more willing to help them.
People are struggling, children are going hungry, families are being put out of their homes, minimal possessions are being taken away by creditors, age discrimination is running rampant, the nation has become disheartened. I know there are many stories out there and mine is not the worst, but in my life it is. It's like waking up in the same nightmare every day with no way out. There is a scripture I hold on to and say to myself when I open my eyes each morning:
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you."
My response is: "Lord, I am asking for Your help, knocking on the door, asking you to open it and find favor on this day."
You can buy homemade candy from Brenda via her website.
For more, visit our new Third World America section.