I am the last person you would expect to be among the long-term unemployed. Now I've moved in with my mother, back into my childhood bedroom.
These were not the dregs of society looking for a handout. These were working people, just like me, who just needed some help. This was a shocking reminder of what has become of the middle class.
I'm a young American, finishing my last year of college, looking down a road that gets bleaker every day. My family is dirt poor; people today seem to forget that in America today families still exist who don't have TV, who don't have A/C, whose electricity gets cut off regularly, and who can't afford to buy meat.
Getting a meaningful job seems unattainable right now. I can't change things that are beyond my control. I can't change the fact that I'm 52, and that I'm transsexual with a voice like a guy.
My life prior to student loan debt and the economic collapse of 2008 was one of promise. I was a straight "A" student in high school and I have earned two degrees. I am a law abiding citizen and have never been arrested.
You want to know how the working poor really live? My husband works an average of 50 hours per week just so we can barely make it paycheck to paycheck. We are the in-betweeners. Not making enough to live "comfortably" -- but not "poor" enough to get any assistance either.
If I ever get a job where I'm paid a living wage, I will probably still volunteer at both the food pantry and thrift shop because the work they are doing really helps people, and nobody knows that better than I do.
When people say hang in there, it will get better, even they don't believe it. I am a grim reminder of what might happen to them and they don't want to catch what I have.
I admit it. It's true. I lie to the people running the food pantry. But before you get out your pitchforks and righteous indignation, before you diatribe about me "abusing the system" or taking advantage, please let me explain.
Five years later I still cry. I cry for our hard work which benefits only the banking industry and the super-rich. I cry because the government bailed out the banks who call us irresponsible. I cry because we work four times harder for half the income and will never catch up again.
Being poor anywhere sucks, but there's perhaps a particular kind of soul crushing that one experiences being poor in New York City. On average, after rent and bills, I probably had less than three hundred dollars per month to put toward food, other expenses and social activities.
I got laid off from a full-time job due to the belly-up economy. I didn't realize just how much of my identity I had associated with "being important" -- dressing up, interacting with clients, being seen as a professional. Now I was aimless, wearing jeans and flip flops, and worrying about money in a way I never had before.
For those unfamiliar with the term "adjunct," it is considered a part-time supplemental teaching position. To virtually earn somewhere between $10-13 an hour for performing college-level instruction speaks plainly of the Walmartization of our nation's colleges and universities.
Students around the country have families who have been evicted from homes; parents who have used their retirement accounts to pay the mortgage until it ran dry; rent and student loan payments that leave them with less than 50 dollars a month with which to buy food.
I began to feel I had slipped so low that I was no longer respected. I lost self confidence. I stopped talking about my writing. Soon nobody knew that I was a writer or that I'd ever gone to college. Nobody knew me. I became invisible.
We are at a loss as to what we will do now that the unemployment has just run out. We live month to month. We really do not want to become homeless, but if something doesn't give, that is where we will end up, without even a vehicle to sleep in. In Ohio, in winter.