Charles Hugh Smith had an interesting piece last weekend on failure and the crashing system in which we find ourselves. In Don’t Despair, It’s the New Normal Part II, he shares a letter from a reader who has been sorting through her life. After doing all the right things, she has lost her good paying job, cannot find another good paying job, and is working for $10 an hour. Elizabeth writes in part:
I have felt like a TOTAL failure. I did all the “right things”: went to school, got a degree, tried to always improve my skills. NONE OF THIS MATTERS NOW. Truly, the rules have changed. Three years ago I was an administrative assistant working as a contractor for the Federal Dept of Commerce. I earned $50k a year. That job ended, never to be replaced. Today I work part time in retail and earn $10 an hour. My take home pay is maybe $200 or less every two weeks.
I have asked myself over and over, “What did I do wrong?!!” I have felt like there was something terribly wrong with me, that I suffered from some sort of fundamental flaw. (After sending out endless resumes and filling out endless applications for ANY JOB, you start to wonder if there is something really wrong with you.) Now, I consider that perhaps I am not so much the problem and that the system crashing around me is the problem.
Thank you for your articles and confirmation that I am not crazy or useless or damaged. The State may be going to hell, but, I sure don’t have to. I am still a kind, honest and true person. Thank you for reminding me that it’s the system that is broken, and not me. I am beginning to feel some hope again, for myself. I am beginning to look for other possibilities. I am beginning to believe in myself again.
Elizabeth goes on to explain the bit of epiphany she had regarding her work and doing what she loves.
More and more people are awakening to this reality. You can be well educated, have up-to-date skills, and still find yourself with nothing. I believe that for many, many people it is going to become a necessity that you do as much as you can for yourself, diversify your income in as many different ways as you can, and expect to work harder for much less than you had before. Is everyone going to end up in this situation? No. Some people will still end up in lucrative jobs. Some people will end up on the street with nothing. Many of us will end up somewhere in-between.
David and I have been on our own vocationally for ten years now. We’ve seen very high highs and very low lows and pretty much everything in-between. We’ve slowly gotten used to the instability of it all, but it is going to be a very different way of life for many people. Many people are going to awaken to the reality that their dreams are no longer about saving for retirement and what they will do then, but simply getting through life and making it to the end. They are going to need to significantly change their thinking like Elizabeth is or they will end up in the “depths of despair” to quote Anne Shirley.
Being older parents with a young child this all weighs especially heavy on us. We still have many, many years of work ahead of us. We must stay relevant in our fields (graphic design and writing) so that we can compete in the marketplace. We must find creative ways to expand our business and provide us with as stable an income as we can. We must find the physical stamina to do what we need to do for ourselves. We also need to educate and guide Caroline to make good choices so she will have options and opportunities in the years ahead. As an only child, she may end up with one or two parents dependent on her. That isn’t what we would want to happen, but that is the reality she may face. It is all rather sobering to consider.
As a Christian, I would add to the post that Smith wrote. God knows the beginning from the end. He knows what is happening in our culture now, what will be happening next year, and what will be happening ten years from now. I trust Him to continue to guide and direct us as we seek the wisdom and discernment that only He can give.