The U.S. economy added 120,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department announced Friday, fewer than economists expected, and the unemployment rate declined one-tenth of a percent, to 8.2 percent. As job growth remains tepid, many post 50s are struggling. One of them is Anthony LoLavad, an author and teacher who agreed to share his story with The Huffington Post using a pseudonym. He calls himself "the world's oldest boomerang child" -- under-unemployed, on the verge of divorce, and living in his parents' home -- with his college-graduate son, who is also looking for a job. Here he tells his story to Huff/Post50 in his own words:
I am the world’s oldest boomerang child. I’m not proud of this, but I landed here. And while I may be the oldest of my kind, I know I’m not alone. In fact, there’s a couple across the street who have boomeranged back to her parent’s house. We represent the leading edge of the evaporating middle class, sucked up in the vortex of the recession and dumped into the family manse.
How did I wind up here? Well, part circumstance and part stupidity. I moved my family out of state to take a job, going from a sprawling urban area to one where "bucolic" is too busy a word to describe it. The very remoteness of the place allowed us to buy the house we’d always wanted –- 3,000 square feet, four bedrooms including a master suite, two-and-a-half baths, huge formal dining room, open family room, breakfast nook, and kitchen combination, front porch, back deck with a gazebo and fish pond, a quarter acre of land, and even a playroom in the basement. This was had for about the same amount of money we’d gotten when we sold our three bedroom, one-and-a-half bath, semi-detached little grass shack on a tenth of an acre in the exurbs of the sprawl, with a bunch of mortgage still pending.
My main stupidity was I thought the job was going to last. Unfortunately, due largely to my political blindness, my job lasted just a year, while my wife’s job continued.
The initial move to my childhood home was supposed to be short, just long enough to find employment, because an area as isolated as our new city provided very few opportunities. Unfortunately, a combination of demand for my skill set shrinking –- some say I’m a writer; I have managed to have a few books -– the state of the economy, and my 50+ age has stretched the job hunt to Silly-Putty™ proportions. I work part-time, but barely make enough to pay my bills, and that’s without rent.
In the meantime, the quest for hire took its toll. Our dream house became a nightmare of white elephants. It spent two years on the ever-shrinking market, and we finally unloaded it for about $25,000 less than we’d paid for it. Sick of not having my income and having to live in an apartment –- albeit a nice one -– in a place Britannica uses to illustrate the entry for “the middle of nowhere,” my soon-to-be-ex-wife (there has to be a better word for that) filed for divorce.
Initially, I couldn’t blame her –- I would divorce me, too. But lately that has changed. Two of my friends and peers are in a similar situation, a seemingly eternal job hunt that refuses to yield fruit. They both lost jobs of long standing, one at a company that went out of business and one to a putsch at a major corporation, at about the same time my livelihood went bye-bye. Both of their wives stood by them, and support them emotionally and financially as they, too, eke out an underemployed living. In that, we are similar, but everyone’s life is different.
After recently graduating from college, my eldest child asked if he could run his job hunt from his grandparents’ home, again citing the proximity to work. So, the four of us live here, my parents happily retired (and, until recently, migrated for the winter leaving us house-sitting), and us un-or-underemployed. It sounds like the plot to a sitcom, but there is nothing funny about it –- though that’s the story with many sitcoms these days. My eldest son is here with me and his degree, my next eldest came back here to the sprawl to attend college about two hours from here, and my youngest is a thousand miles away living with my proto-ex (does that word work?) And by the time you read this, my parents will have braved the migratory paths back north.
I used to love the idea of the future, the opportunities that will come next. People tell me to continue having that attitude. I think the word they use is “optimism.” I once had that in large amounts, reserves large enough to lend it out. Now, many days I wonder. After all this time, I find it tougher and tougher to see my future. Even the Magic Eight-Ball™ says, “Reply Hazy. Ask again.”
Many days, I feel too small not to fail, and I know this isn’t helpful. I’m thinking entrepreneurial thoughts lately, pondering the pros and cons, and whether I can turn these ideas into an actual living. One thing I know is I really don’t want to do another winter of house-sitting. I am so tired of relying on the kindness of my parents, and scared sh*tless of surviving at the suffrage of strangers.
I also wonder about the other people in my position, living off the benevolence of friends or relatives while waiting for businesses to treasure their wisdom and experience rather than fearing their age. I wonder, is the middle class in America too big to fail? I know I’m not alone, and that’s not a cheerful thought. In this, Aesop was wrong –- misery does not love company. Misery wants relief.