POLITICS

Unemployed Mom With MBA Rebuilds Her Life After Hurricane Katrina

08/14/2010 10:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In the following excerpt from Arianna Huffington's new book, Third World America, Linda D. Wilson, a human resources professional with an MBA, describes her struggle to rebuild her life and support her two daughters after she lost her New Orleans home to Hurricane Katrina.

Perhaps my story is no different from that of millions of other middle-class workers who are experiencing an enormous test of their faith. I have an MBA and more than twenty-five years of human resources experience. I worked for the same company in Louisiana for twenty-two years. Despite countless layoffs and downsizings, I was either promoted or changed positions every two to three years, expanding my HR skills and knowledge. I can honestly say I never concerned myself with getting a pink slip. I served on local boards and committees, volunteered for good causes, donated to charities, and served at my church. My near-perfect credit score and disposable income allowed me to live with little debt and pay down my mortgage from thirty to seven years.

I overcame a birth defect -- a cleft palate. After surgery, I had to learn to talk again. I attended college on a track scholarship, and in my senior year I competed in the U.S. Olympic Track & Field trials. After that, while working full-time and successfully climbing the corporate ladder, I had an idea for an event planning system. I filed for and received a U.S. patent. However, working full-time in a competitive environment left me with little time to launch a business and new product, so I put it on the back burner. Instead, I focused on a seemingly safer and more stable corporate career path -- guaranteed paychecks, benefits, pension, and a 401(k). Like most other members of the middle class I believed that with enough hard work and determination I would be successful. It was what my parents taught me by example and what they expected me to demonstrate in everything I did.

In 2005, I adopted two girls -- sisters. My ten-year-old was diagnosed with HIV and works extra hard to learn and be successful in school. I set them up with a financial plan and invested in real estate, which I planned to leave them for their inheritance.

Then, Hurricane Katrina destroyed my home and rental properties in New Orleans. My family and friends were displaced and scattered across the country. So after working for the same company for twenty-two years, I resigned and relocated to Texas, along with my parents and five sisters. I put my career on hold to rebuild our lives. Two years later, I'm still unable to land a suitable full-time position (at any level) -- despite more than twenty-five years of expertise.

The world has obviously changed for the middle class. Now the only guarantee that today's worker can expect is that you put in a day's work, you get a day's pay -- that's it.

So, like millions of other middle-class workers, I'm being forced to reexamine my career, lifestyle, priorities, interests, goals, and future. Although I've exhausted my savings and face insurmountable debt, I've decided to step out in faith -- or better yet, take a leap. I'm managing my own business full-time, designing products to help people plan and organize their everyday lives. I'm determined to establish a business as an inheritance for my children.

Editor's note: You can learn more about Evente, Linda's portfolios and business accessories business, here.

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