Thursday, January 15, 2009

Economic Reality

During the last economic downturn, the one after 9/11, I was in grad school.  

During the economic downturn before that, the dot-com burst, I was just leaving college and entering what essentially was a government position, in research.  It paid crap. 

During the recession of the 80s, I was a kid, and I cared only about football cards, soda, stickers, maybe the cute boys in my class, and my banana-seat bicycle with one pedal.  Food showed up on the table.  My parents went to work everyday.  It was fine.  Sure, now I know that we moved every year probably because my parents couldn't make rent payments, and their business was barely making money. 

During this economic downturn, I'm worrying about getting laid off...and more significantly, watching my friends get laid off. 

Yup, it happened this week.  Although we all saw it coming, it was, in the end, rather sudden.  My friends are both optimistic, worried, relieved, practical, realistic, and sad.  The ones who are left behind feel betrayed and depressed.  We were rather close.  And we all chose this place because, well, for different reasons, but for a lot of us, we passed up more prestige to be part of this family.  Sure, in the end, it's a law firm and no one is safe, but it did feel like a family, that they cared, that they'd do the best to bring us to our potential and either have us make partner or send us out into the world to continue growing the network of firm alumni. 

Yeah, I guess I drank the kool-aid.  And now it's worn off.  Or they've given us the red pill.  Or insert other slightly inaccurate pop culture reference here. 

Like I said, we all saw this coming, and given the state of the economy, it's not that surprising.  But it could have been done with more tact, more warning, more respect. 

And in the end I can only say so much for my friends and colleagues who were laid off.  I can say this about me.  I feel like a fraud.  I feel like if anyone should have been laid off, it should have been me.  I have made so many mistakes and made so many bad impressions.  And I have parents whom I can fall back on.  I mean, they own a bar.  People definitely drink through recessions.  I feel like if I could, I would step up and swap places with someone.  I feel bad.  I feel guilty for exhibiting these bad feelings because I feel like my friends have it so much worse.  I have survivor's guilt. 

Can't I go back to the time when I just worried whether my parents would be able to buy me shiny, pointy new crayons?! 

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