She sometimes wondered how four years had brought her to a point of such resignation. “How did it get this bad?” she asked. But she knew the answer. It had happened gradually, with one disappointment after another.
She had graduated from Columbia College in Chicago in 2010 and applied for photography jobs, then internships, then unpaid internships. After 40 rejections in five months, she had taken the only job she could find, at a doggie day care around the corner from her apartment in Chicago that paid $10.75 an hour. She had slept on a cot at the day care and cleaned up after the dogs on Thanksgiving and Christmas. She had decided her college degree was “a worthless piece of paper,” she said. She had stopped taking photos. She had sought advice about dealing with depression.
Finally, she had decided that her only option was to apply to graduate school. She got into the University of Missouri, one of the best journalism schools in the country. “Maybe they saw something in me,” she thought, and that glimmer of hope — that momentary boost to her confidence — encouraged her to take out another $10,000 in loans and enroll.
And now here she was, midway through her first semester, sitting in her room with a boyfriend who lived 400 miles away in Chicago and was unemployed himself.
Even as they planned for a future together, they couldn’t help but feel as if their lives were moving backward: two college graduates, one 24 and the other 23, one living back with his parents and the other back in school, with diminishing ambitions and bank accounts that continued to drop. “I have $15 left in savings now,” he said, explaining why it might be a while before he could afford another visit to see Coleman in Missouri.
On this day, their best hope to stop the slide was what Mathur considered a “last resort.” He was waiting for a call to confirm that he had been hired at Best Buy, on the Geek Squad doing repairs, which would pay $12.15 an hour and allow him to afford more trips to see Coleman.
The Best Buy manager had promised to call in the next few days. They sat together and waited for a call that might not come, about a job he didn’t want.
The flag Chinyere Brown waved on election night was somewhere in the back of her Toyota Tacoma pickup, which was parked four years later in front of her apartment in Charlotte.
“Where is that thing?” Brown said last week, rummaging for the flag amid boxes piled in the back seat. “I hope I didn’t lose it.”