Friday, September 30, 2011

Unemployed and Counting...

In my previous post I discussed my loss of employment in the heart of one of the toughest economic downturns the country has seen in more than a half-century.  It came at the beginning of a presidency filled with hope and change.

Fast forward ten months from Inauguration Day to October 2009.  This is when the situation began to go from bad to worse.

Despite my reluctance, I filed for unemployment benefits in April.  Meantime, nearly every temp agency I signed up with was inundated with applicants and short on assignments, so 'stop gap' measures grew more difficult.  Worse, every resume submitted was either ignored or responded to with a rejection letter.  Things were looking grim.

What's more, as my nest egg dwindled, I increasingly worried about my ability to pay my mortgage.  President Obama passed the Making Homes Affordable program in March 2009 and banks, including mine--Chase--began accepting applications in April. 

Going into this, I wasn't looking to the banks to do this gratis, and I didn't expect the bank to lose money on me either.  Simply put, I was looking to stretch out my savings in case this bout of unemployment lasted longer than expected.  My hope was that the interest rate could be lowered which, in turn, would lower my monthly payment; The bank would still make a profit off of me, just not as much.

From the beginning of the process (April 2009), advisors from Chase informed me to continue paying my mortgage because it would better my chances of being approved for the MHA program.   From April until October--when I finally received a decision--they repeatedly requested additional paperwork that was not part of the requirements, asked for resubmissions because they 'lost' my information or claimed they never received information (despite "successful" fax receipts).  What a bureaucratic nightmare!  Nevertheless, was told all along that my chances were good given my excellent credit rating and superb history of paying my mortgage on time.

To my surprise the letter arrived and stated that I was not eligible for the program because my situation was not of a permanent nature.  More specifically, they stated that unemployment was not of a permanent nature.  Hopefully not, but it was clear that the President and Congress passed this legislation to help those who were finding themselves in a long-term unemployment situation. what?  I wasn't going to take this lying down.  I jumped through their hoops and I followed the rules and according to Congress, I qualified for this assistance!  The media would have a field day with this...and I was just the one to tell them!

(please forgive the background noise of a friend giggling at various spots during the story)

My story continues here...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hope and Change

Chicago is my hometown and an amazing city!  It was an especially exciting place to live in 2008 with all the buzz of the presidential campaign.   I was personally lucky enough to meet and shake then-senator Obama's hand at the Super Tuesday event at the Hyatt (see photo below.  I'm between Obama and Jesse Jackson) as well as attend the gigantic Grant Park election night acceptance speech.  It was truly an amazing moment for my city, and like a majority of Americans, I was excited about "hope and change.

Sadly, the change that came my way just three days after Obama's inauguration was not what I had expected.  It would be the first time in my life I'd lose my job. 

At first, I wasn't worried; I've worked since the age of 15 and never had trouble landing a job.  After all, I had a Master's degree, including two years of study abroad; ten years of solid professional experience, including international work and a positive, passionate attitude!  What's more is that being the product of a fiscally conservative mother, I maintained little debt and a comfortable nest egg, so even in tough times, I could manage for several months.

Although I was confident about my ability to quickly land back on my feet, the economic free fall of the previous four months put a lot of things into question.  Unemployment rates were quickly rising as mass layoffs were announced daily; the media reported about the complete crash of the housing market, which would affect all other areas of the economy.  My first sent resumes were rejected.  This was like nothing I had experienced.

With more than 8 months of savings and a new President installed, I was hopeful that my unfortunate situation would change quickly.  Boy was I wrong...

The story continues here...

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Conversation Begins today

Welcome to my new blog!  I’m really excited to begin a conversation with everyone.  There may be times we don’t agree, and we’ll try to persuade the other of our argument.  Some reasons will be compelling and might move one or both of us in a different direction, but we’ll always remain respectful to one another.  A vigorous debate is always fun, but it should always remain respectful.  Disagreeing in itself is not disrespectful, it’s the manner in which we disagree that can be.

So what is this conversation’s subject?  Well, it’s mainly about shame and how to unlearn much of what we have learned through social cues that stop us in our tracks, or paralyze us so much that we can’t move forward.  Have you been unemployed?  Gone through foreclosure?  Bankruptcy?  Divorce?  Coming out to your family and friends?  The list goes on…
If you have experienced any of life’s challenges listed above, you’re sure to have encountered judgements and statements that, when analyzed, clearly have a negative connotation to them.  Here are just a few:
  • People who are unemployed are just lazy.  They only need to apply for jobs and they’d have one!
  • Filing for bankruptcy is for losers and those who mooch off the system!
  • I can’t believe all those people who don’t pay their mortgage payment!  What?  Do they think they should live for free?!
  • Well, people shouldn’t get divorced.  Divorce means they didn’t work hard enough on their marriage.
These statements come with a lot of judgement and can change the way we view ourselves, often negatively, which is not at all useful while we are going through a rough patch.

So what do I know about this?  What makes me an expert?  Well, like many of you, I’ve become a poster child for the Great Recession.  Despite my Master of Arts degree, over 10 years of work experience, bilingual speaking abilities (French/English) and many more talents, I lost my job in January 2009.  At the time, I had a credit score in the mid 800s, very low credit card debt and more than $10,000 in savings.  What happened next was something I never expected at the age of 32.

I would spend 22 months unemployed, having sent out hundreds of resumes, attending networking events, career fairs and the like.  I would lose my condo to foreclosure and consequently file for bankruptcy.  If that wasn’t enough, after landing a great job, the company hit financial troubles 6 short months after my arrival and I would lose my job again! 

During this round, I faced an IRS audit and a huge debacle with the State unemployment office that put me on the hook for thousands of dollars, despite THEIR errors!  Indeed, this recession has been “great” and caused much depression for many.

Through it, however, I found patches of hope, happiness and harmony.

So, this blog will chronicle some of the adversity I faced.  It will also be a place I post and discuss interesting topics surrounding shame and how we, as Americans, view ourselves as a result of what we are ‘taught’ by our culture.  It will also be a place to talk about how to reframe that shame.  The judgements and opinions of others will never go away; it’s embedded in our culture, but we can find ways to over come them and move forward with peace in ourselves.

Let the discussion begin…