We followed the rules, but lost everything anyway

September 9, 2011

I was walking through the grocery store yesterday keenly aware that I had little to no money to spend on groceries.  It was a strange sensation – like watching a TV documentary about poverty.  I imagined a narrator telling a story about a person forced to walk the aisles of a well-stocked grocery store, being teased by all of the food available, knowing it wasn’t to be.  The documentary could be centered around the irony of America…how this country has everything but so many go without.

But alas, it wasn’t TV.  It was real life, my life.

Reality doesn’t seem to make sense anymore and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  I’ve had conversations with friends, colleagues, family and strangers about how we’re living.  So many people of various age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds are all wondering the same thing – what happened? 

We did what we were supposed to do.  We went to school, sought higher education or trades, got real jobs, saved our money, bought homes and invested in our retirement funds.  We did what we thought was right, what our parents taught us to do, but it’s all gone.  Our educations put us in debt, our jobs laid us off, our homes aren’t worth anything and our retirement funds are unreliable.

What are we supposed to do? 


COLLEGE PARK, MD- AUGUST 10 : Thera Larson is currently employed but lives with a fiance who is not. She is blogging about her experiences for the Washington Post. Photos taken at the University of Maryland campus, which is near her workplace. (Michael S. Williamson/WASHINGTON POST)

What happens if my fiancé doesn’t find work soon?  His unemployment insurance is up for renewal.  What happens if his claim is denied?  I hear you, peanut gallery – get a job flipping burgers.  Do you know how hard it is to get a job flipping burgers??  He’s tried.  It’s not about putting down too much experience or education on an application, managers look at him and know right away he’s overqualified. 

Seriously, what will we do if he’s denied?

What will we do if the government doesn’t want to extend benefits this year?

There are so many questions and so little answers.  I keep telling myself to hold on, fight for one more day.  I keep hoping that tomorrow will bring a reward for my honesty and hard work.  I am trying to hold onto faith that God has a plan.  I wish I could speak with my grandparents who lived through the Great Depression because I know they could relate; I know they would have sound advice for getting through this.  I’m sure they would tell me, this too shall pass and to know after these challenges have run their course, I’ll appreciate their lessons.  After all, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Thera Larson, a 33-year-old from Bowie, Md., is the fiancee of a union sheet metal worker who has been out of work for more than a year. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Thera Larson here.

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