On first glance, Marianne Steffey appears to be an average high school student. She lives in her mother’s house, in the same room she grew up in. She stays out late, worrying her mother. In the afternoons, she volunteers and participates in an amateur theater company. She has no idea what she wants to do with her life.

But Marianne is not a high school student. She’s not at student at all. At 32, the Erwin, Tenn., woman graduated years ago. She moved out and moved on, starting a career at a local small town newspaper.

Then the recession hit. And here she is, back in her mother’s house.

“It’s my old room. I’ve been there forever, and it kind of feels like I’m regressing instead of progressing,” said Marianne, pausing to ponder this.

Then she laughs.

(Courtesy of Marianne Steffey)

“I mean, I don’t have a curfew or anything like that,” she clarifies.

Marianne’s positive outlook has been a major weapon throughout her seven months of unemployment, she said.

Of course, she’s also benefited from her mother’s help and six months of unemployment benefits. But the benefits expire at the end of September with no chance of extension, and Marianne doesn’t know what her next move will be.

“What can you do?” she said. “You cross your fingers and pray. You hope something comes along. And you just keep on trucking.”