Part blog, part oral history, part research project.
How has the Great Recession affected your path beyond college? What is your story?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Layla is in her mid-twenties and recently earned her Masters in Public Policy. For now, she lives in Oakland. She spent much of her undergraduate pursuing education issues and is passionate about engaging youth in the policies that affect them. Throughout the interview, Layla descended into wry laughter about her current job.

When I first decided to go to grad school, I thought that I wanted to be writing curriculum or designing a program for young people to be connected to policies. And then by the time it was time to graduate, I felt like I didn't know anymore what I wanted to do.

I knew that I didn't want a job to be specifically research-oriented. I still wanted it to be interactive with people. And I knew the idea of connecting people to policies is really important to me.

So I did this whole “ideal/less than ideal” job search thing. The idea was that I would spend a whole lot of time crafting my cover letter and being really, really deliberate on my ideal jobs and then crank out as many less-than-ideal jobs as possible. ‘Cause, you know I was getting broke. I kept feeling like...Job searching sucks, right? It's hard to feel successful when the outcome that you want is still not happening. No matter how many resumes you send out it's still hard to feel like "Oh, I did something."

Now, I work at this start-up nonprofit. This one was a less-than-ideal job. They're actually the only people that ever called me back. [When they called] I was kinda confident. I was looking at the less-than- ideal job, reading the job description and then I convinced myself that it was a really awesome job and that I really wanted it and that I'd mistakenly written less-than-ideal on it.

The phone interview went pretty well. I totally crammed for it. The woman who interviewed me is a weird phone person. So I'd talk and then she'd go, "Yeah, thanks for sharing." She laughs. And I was like, "Sorry?" It was really weird. We did that and then, I obsessed about how it went. But, pretty quickly after, she e-mailed me. Maybe a day later, "Oh, we're going to invite you in for an interview." They did the interview at this super posh cute place. It was actually up the street from the real place where I really work now. She laughs. So I went and it's all fancy and I met the board president and saw the board member and I remember thinking like—I’d assumed that I was going to meet the staff. So the interview itself went really well. And they asked me to do a timed writing. Which is crazy. It was 30 minutes to write an op-ed piece and an outreach plan for an event. I left there feeling shitty. I didn't do either of those well. I had 30 minutes and I'm dyslexic.

I've been reflecting on what they were trying to get at recently. Hindsight's twenty-twenty. Because now so much of my job is working under pressure, I feel like that was actually the test—as opposed to getting anything right, getting something done. It's a way that I hate to work and a way that I work a lot.

I'm really surprised that I got a job so quickly, but I think that a big piece of that is because it doesn't require the skill level that I have. The person who was doing this job before me was a sophomore in college. She laughs. I was like, "Ooooh! You guys are making me feel good—tell me more."… I don't think that there's as much opportunity to hire people that are overqualified when the economy is booming.

I think I definitely—I had to do it. The day I found out that I got the job? I was at $5 in the bank account. So I needed to. I feel mildly duped about how excited I was about it.

It's the exact right organization, which is how I think I confused myself. They do what I wanna do. I don't do what I wanna do. You know? It's that. It's decently close, in that it's the right kind of place. Just the wrong kind of position.

I get to work about 8. I do a lot of little stuff that fills my day entirely—I don't know that I could tell you what I do. Everything just takes a lot of time. I do mostly website stuff. I’m stupidly over-qualified for this job. I'm more or less an office manager who blogs and tweets. You don't need a masters degree for that, right?

And I get paid crappy. Yeah, I thought that would be different for sure.

Usually I leave, like physically leave work at about 6:30, 7. I just come home and maybe make dinner, sit down and immediately do work. And then I stop that at around 10, eat food, hang out with [my boyfriend], complain about work.

I feel like what they stand for is cool and I hate working there. Which makes me sad. She laughs. It's really, really busy. My position is actually two and a half positions. So they needed an office manager, they needed a communications person and they needed support for all of the [community] work. So they balled it up into one position. I should never be an office manager. On the best of days, I'm nobody's office manager. She laughs. I suck at that. The communications part is what I was interested in. When I worked at the P----- , I did all of their outreach and all of their newsletter blog, all of that kind of stuff. I would go to community meetings and connect to people. I feel like that is the least of my work now, but that is what I was most excited about, right? So that's kind of whack. The [community] work, even though it's really, really frustrating, is really interesting. I like watching it unfold, but hate being in the room while it's unfolding. That said, my role for that work? Is notetaker at the meetings. So I'm not doing anything interesting, I'm just watching things that are interesting.

The one cool thing is that I found out that everybody else that works there feels the same. Which sucks, but makes me feel not-so-bad. We ended up having this long discussion about how unhappy we all are...It all came spewing out at this team retreat where I was like, "Oh, P.S., I hate my job.” It was really bad. We were talking about all of these organizational problems—the fact that we move too fast, the fact that there's no consistent vision for us all to work toward, no decision-making process for us all to work together…Those I think are [all] very true and I would've said them, but somebody got to them before I did. So, I was like, "By the way, I hate it here." She laughs. And now they just think that I need constant praise

I ask her why she hates her job.

I'm the only communications person and I had assumed because I am the only communications person that I helped make decisions around stuff. Not the case. I got told extremely bluntly that my job was doing the bidding of other people that do the thinking. And I've been really trying to push back on that and do thinking anyway, but it's hard when that' s the place where I start at every day. I worked really hard to become a critical thinker. To be doing something and to just be a gopher—to be a complicated gopher…I put up websites, I do things that require a skill set, but I don't think and I don't feel like it's valued when I do, I feel like it's a little bit put up with. She laughs.

I don't like it at all. I'm trying to like it more. I'm trying to get zen about it, honestly. I don't think that I'll ever really like it. Even before I got disgruntled [she laughs], I realized the first day that half of my daily tasks are things as a dyslexic person that I struggle with…Everybody needs me to do something and are genuinely appreciative of the work that I do. It's just that it's really stressful to do something that you know that you struggle with. So, there's that piece.

And then there's just like…I'm not feeling successful in the work that I'm doing—I'm busy all the time, but it's not the same as having something to be proud of.

This is the point in my life where it is time for me to work a whole lot. I was totally ready for back sweat and crazy working, right? But I wasn't ready for this much work without feeling fulfilled. I expected to feel a lot more confident in myself and my abilities—I have a cool new piece of paper and I have all of these new skills, but I feel way insecure now. I'm really stressed and I'm—because I'm doing work that is so not my bag, it's all organization and catching other people's typos? I don't catch my typos! She laughs.

I'm always nervous and I don't feel confident in the stuff that I do.

I really thought I'd have more autonomy in whatever it is that I'd be doing. I thought that I would have the opportunity to be a lot more creative and do work that I thought was interesting.

I would hope that the next place that I look for a job, that they would understand that we've been going through a recession and that I wasn't necessarily in a job that was my maximum potential. But it doesn't look super great on a resume, fresh out of grad school, [to] be a glorified office manager. The only good thing is that it's a startup and that I do lots of little things. So I feel like I have some good resume spin.

My boyfriend just graduated in 2010 too and it's been even harder for him ‘cause he got a masters in fine arts—more nuanced than that, he does video art. He's been having a really hard time finding a job. He's been applying for a bunch of jobs that he's overqualified for too. One thing that he really wants to do is teach. At this point, we made a deal, I'm putting off my job search until he finds a job.

And even though I love Oakland and I love the Bay, we'll probably have to move. We're just, more or less, gonna go anywhere that doesn't suck that he can teach. This is probably the right area for me to do some interesting nonprofit work and reform work and stuff like that. This is probably not where I'll end up, at least not in the next couple of years. We're gonna live somewhere not as interesting, with not as many opportunities. It will be hard for my whole future trajectory.

Postscript: Less than 3 months after this interview, Layla was laid off—the nonprofit ran out of funding for her position.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Claudia went back to school as an adult and transferred to a four-year college after attending community college. She designed her own major in Criminal Psychology and graduated in Spring 2010. She speaks passionately and demonstratively—leaning forward in her chair, animated and intense, but quick to laugh.


My original picture was that I was gonna go straight to law school. But...that didn't happen for a coupla reasons. I suffered a pretty severe break in my ankle. I sat for the LSAT cold because I had already paid for it. So there was that. However, even with the low LSAT score that I had, I would've actually gotten into law school anyway because of my personal statement, my letters of [recommendation], the fact that I designed my own major. But, when the economy goes bad, the first thing people do, is they [go] back to school, that somehow we have this idea that if I go to school—that degree equals success.

I applied to 8 law schools. What happened when I applied for UC Berkeley, the entire institution, both undergrad and all their grad school programs, they received 83 thousand applications. Ok? And they took a very small percentage of—maybe 20 thousand applications, a quarter of the applications they got.Two-thirds of it was out of state students. This is a public university, they receive both state and federal funding, which is null and void because of the economy. And so they're asking for out of state students to come in because they're going to pay out of state tuition fees.

I saw the impact of the economy directly in trying to get into [law] school. And now that I'm applying to law school [again], I'm applying to schools outside of this state, because those schools will probably be more apt to take me because I'm gonna pay their out of state tuition fees. It's ridiculous! What was disappointing was that as hard as I worked at school that I couldn't get into law school because so many out of state students were getting in. Because those are the people paying the fees that they want.

The day after I graduated, I began looking for jobs. I looked for a job for how long? Four and a half months before I landed a [clapping to emphasize each syllable] SER -VING-GIG. I've finally landed a job—waiting tables. So, really fabulous—my original career that I was trying to get away from... I had to, I actually had to take that. [I had been] tailoring every single cover letter, to every single company and just not getting responses. I mean it took me a long time to get a serving job. I was applying all over the place, going to the interviews and not getting any of the jobs. And the reason is my resume, because I'm educated, because I can complete a sentence. My resume says I'm probably more qualified than you manager to do your job [and] I'm extremely experienced. The less qualified you are, the more they want to see you and deal with you.

And then for the other jobs that I was applying for it was no response or delayed responses. And then, to add insult to injury, when I'd get there, they'd be like, "This position pays eleven dollars an hour." "This position pays twelve dollars an hour." "We don't actually have shift work, it's an on-call." Ok, well, what does on call mean? They wouldn't even have set days, like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday you're on call. It's like you're on-call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So, if they call you at 1 a.m. on a Friday night, hopefully you haven't been at the bar getting drunk [laughs] because they need you to come into work.

I interject, “You're talking about service jobs, right?”

No. Now I'm talking about real jobs. They can afford to be super-super picky right now. They can afford to do this, because there's no—there are no jobs...So, what's the applicant pool? Three thousand people? For one job? No kidding, seriously! It's crazy.

I still engage my mind. I totally actively engage my mind, because serving is so brainless. I mean, once you know how to do it and you're really good at it. I've been finding it hard to discipline myself . But, hey, it [applying to law schools again] has to get done, so…The problem with serving at night is that you're with a bunch of other people mostly who don't have college degrees who don't have these kind of lofty ambitions.

I make ten dollars an hour plus, like two hundred bucks a shift. That's a livable wage. It's ridiculous. You know? That I can't use my college degree. So I laugh about it. Like, "Ooo, that [diploma] came in real handy."

I've been really disappointed and I've been really angry that this is the world that I've inherited. From these fucking buffoons, these bankers and these think tanks and this system of government…and no jobs for us and the shitty economy. Just super disillusioned. You think you're doing the right thing, “I'm gonna go to school, I'm gonna get my degree, I'm gonna move forward.”

I really enjoyed [school]. I'm so glad that I was able to do that. The value of learning how to think critically about what I'm reading, the value of being able to compose letters or documents—it's enormous. But do I need to be seventy thousand dollars in debt now? Seventy thousand dollars of debt that I can't pay and not just that, I mean, with the private loans, I can't even fucking afford the interest payment right now!

How the fuck are we supposed to pay back all of these damn loans when there are no jobs for us. And the only way that we're going to be able to make it—really make it, is to invent work for ourselves. And that's going to be something local and sustainable. Whether you make clothes or you grow food or you make soap or you do this kind of stuff, where you're writing and trying to get published and can get speaking engagements and stuff like that. Those are gonna be the ways that we're gonna be able to make money in this economy. The old way of doing things is not going to work for us anymore. But what's really shitty is that we're all operating under the old mode of thinking, “I'm gonna go to college, I'm gonna educate myself, I'm gonna get my degrees, I'm gonna get my job.”

It's just a disillusionment. A total disillusionment that, you know, we're all sold this whole thing, that if you go to school and you get your degree, that there is a place for you to be a productive member of society in your field. She laughs. That whole thing? I really believed that—I really believed that. And today, I'm totally, totally fucking disillusioned from that.

I just sat for the LSAT again. I did better than I did last time. I still didn't place where I need to place. She sighs. Law schools are tiered. You have first tier law schools, second tier law schools, third tier law schools. Basically, the lower a tier law school that you go into, the more common you are, but, the more practical your education. So, when you go into these first tier law schools—Harvard, Yale, Berkeley—they turn the law into a very academic pursuit. The law is not supposed to be academic—law school is a professional school. You tell me how to interpret statute and case law and what the hell I need to do in the courtroom—that is what law school is for.

I think it's really good that I didn't go into law school right away because it gave me a better perspective on what school is really about, and what law school is gonna be about. I'm gonna apply to Tulane in New Orleans as a first tier law school, but I'm also going to apply to Loyola in New Orleans, which is a third tier law school. Why waste the money? I spent like $1500 applying last year. Tulane, I'm above their GPA but below their LSAT. Loyola, I'm right on target and I probably could get in to Loyola. [Loyola is] going to be extremely procedural. They're not going to expect me to be sitting on a bench somewhere, wrestling with the human condition, ethics and the law. It's been like a reality check about what school is. And it's also brought me down to earth as far as the school search in that, you know what? I don't need to go to these expensive schools and stuff. I can go to a cheaper school. To understand that going to school now is not about having money and being able to buy into the system. That by going to school I get a degree to do work that I enjoy. Serving is fun, but it's not engaging at all. I wanna do work that I enjoy and if that is what going to school is going to allow me to do, then that's why I wanna go to school. So, I'd say that this recession has impacted the way I think about school. I'm not thinking about [school] in that old way that I used to think about it. I'm thinking about [school] in a different way, a more practical way.

I'm not even gonna call it a Great Recession, I'm gonna call it a Depression. We're in the beginnings of this right now. We're in the beginnings. We are going into the Greatest Depression. I've really gotten into this mode of reuse, recycle, repair, stop buying, stop consuming. If you consume less, you require less money. To use my money for what my money is for.

There's something about it that seems like so...not fair somehow. It definitely has politicized me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Researcher check-in

It's been about a month and a half since I first launched this project and I thought this would be a good time to check in and tell you how it is going. I've spoken with 10 recession grads, some holding bachelor's degrees, others with master's in hand. 8 women, 2 men. 4 states, 5 universities. 7 have jobs, only two are employed in a job related to her field of study. Of those two, one has been laid off since the interview.

So, where are these stories? Well, once I've conducted an interview, I then transcribe, code and edit it into a short narrative. This process can take a great deal of time. I do promise to keep posting stories as soon as I have them typed up. I imagine that as the holidays approach, I will spend less time interviewing and more time getting these stories to you.

About you. Since October, this project has been viewed 494 times in 8 different countries. However, since that very first post, no one has commented. So, if you're really out there, and you have comments or opinions about the issues raised by the folks I interview, please add your two cents!

Additionally, I need your help. I don't have any interview candidates who graduated from community college. I have few interviews with men. Most of my interviews were with people who went to school in northern California. Do you know anyone who graduated from community college or university in the U.S. since 2007? Please send them my Spread the word! I want all sorts of stories and experiences. I can only do this with your help. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Jeff is in his late twenties and has traces of a regional accent in his voice. A native of the Great Lakes region, he earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology in the fall of 2008. A troubled young adulthood saw him in and out of school for almost a decade. As I speak with him, I am struck by his heartfelt empathy and deep sense of gratitude.

See I was in school for so long, you know? Cuz I was in there and out since I was 18-19. In the beginning, I didn't know what I wanted to do…my parents just told me [that] I need to go to college. I always just went, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was always tossing around ideas. I wanted a psychology [job] and I took a job, just to learn, in a drug rehab. So I was working in the field and I thought it was really interesting for a while. I thought, "Maybe I should do that" and then I think my senior year was when I finally thought to myself, "I need to make money." He laughs.

I think I grew up and began to take a look at living expenses. What it costs to raise a family. You wanna have a house. You wanna have a car. Kinda realizing how much money my parents made to live the life they lived. If I wanted to live something like that, this is what I'm gonna need. Also, talking to people in the psychology field and finding out how much they really do make and whoa, it was almost insulting. When you get down to it, for all that education. And for what you do. You really have to get involved, it's really emotional, you know? It kinda messes with you, being around people all the time that are struggling. That was kinda what changed me. Also, I'd worked so hard for this degree. For me it was really hard. I had to go back a buncha times and it took forever cuz I, you know, had a coupla issues and had to restart...All that hard work, I wanted to make sure that it was worth it.

I changed my life. For a while there, [my father] didn’t think I was good for nothin.’ I was getting my life together…and my dad told me that maybe he can maybe get me a job in his field somewhere. A starter job.

His father is in medical equipment sales.

I think I was like, "Hey, do you remember that job you were talking about? So...Is that real? Can I really do that?" And then he started telling me. And he started preparing me. And telling me what it was going to take. And I can remember being in my last semester at [college] and taking psychology classes and thinking, "This doesn't matter. I'm not doing this. I'm going into sales."

I was lucky. I had the inside scoop. I knew that I was going to be given a shot—my dad was good friends with the vice president of the company and it lucked out that the Ohio sales rep was tanking it for a good year or two. They decided that I was coming up and they had to fire the kid anyways and so I kind of walked right into it. It's a beginner sales job—it's typical that they hire kids fresh out of college with no sales experience. I was told I would've had to go in there and basically, like, swear at the guy or something, not to get the job.

I can remember graduating and I was very excited. It was one of the most exciting times of my life. I mean, because I finally achieved this and everybody was proud of me and it was also like, "Well, better put your suit on and get ready for the business world. Here we go!" I was so nervous. I didn't study sales, I didn't study business. You know, I studied psychology, so...He laughs. I really didn't want to fail, so I was really nervous, you know? Because, obviously my dad's reputation got me in here, I better not fail.

So, it turned out, it was fairly easy. I mean, you're basically going to people who, they're not spending their money, they're spending the hospital's money. So, they buy from people they like. You know? And if they don't like you, if you're a jerk or you're mean or whatever, they're not gonna like you and they're not gonna buy from you. If they like you and you keep coming around, eventually they're going to buy something. It really is that simple. And in this particular field—it’s been fairly recession-proof. But you have to go out and work.

I ask what it was like when he first started the job.

It was really, really exciting. For the first time in my life I was making grown up money. He laughs. I mean, it was a really, really extreme pay increase for me. The money right away—it just changed everything. I could pay my bills, I could afford to go out and have a dinner on the week night. To buy clothes. I mean, it was...And then it was also, like, I was learning all of this new stuff. Like I was out there doing a job that I actually enjoyed. I enjoy talking to people, meeting people, sales is kinda competitive, so I like the competitiveness of it. It was just really good in the beginning. It still is. I'm still having that much fun.

There's not a day goes by that I don't feel kinda blessed, if you wanna use that word. Sometimes you almost feel guilty. Especially the way things are goin.' And I travel, so I see people that are struggling.' And I'm doing pretty good. Especially for me, coming from my background. I've had issues and made a lot of mistakes. I look at some of my friends who didn't do a darn thing at all their whole life and I got a great job today. So. I personally feel lucky every day. I love my job. I like doing the work, it doesn't bother me. It's not work when you grew up hangin’ from the sides of buildings and cleaning 'em and fighting in clubs and being a bouncer. He laughs. It's nothin’ like that.

Jeff has now been with the company for two years and is about to be promoted.

Seems like there's going to be a future in this as long as I continue to be successful. But my feeling still is I'm trying to ride this as best as I can. Don't want to fall off it. Don't want to lose it. You definitely feel the pressure. If I lost this job what would I do? Is there another one out there? It could take a year, you know? Who knows how long it could take to get another job even close to this? I feel like, I have a great job, I need to work hard if I don't want to lose this. Because I see every day how many people are out there trying to get jobs like this one.

If things were better, I've often tossed around ideas. One idea I had, was being a personal trainer. Because I was big into health and fitness. You know, trying to go out there and do my own thing. But it's a very tough market right now. People are just not gonna pay a trainer when they're broke. He sighs. I had tossed around ideas like that—a really good trainer can actually make a pretty good living. You can demand a pretty high dollar per hour. But, naw. Right now, I wouldn't do that. It's just too risky, you know?

I feel like when you have a sure bet, you’ve got to go after it right now. Versus, maybe if things were better and it was easier to make a living or if there was more chances out there, maybe [after graduation] I would’ve chosen to pursue some of these other ideas I had. When I saw one avenue that was a sure bet, I was like, “You have to go for it,” because I don’t see anybody else getting any opportunities like that.

[M]y girlfriend is the one you really want to talk to, where I'm kinda like the one who got lucky. She calls me almost every day, upset, cuz she can't get a good job. She just graduated college too. You'd probably really like talking to her, cuz, definitely she's been affected by this. The girl got straight A's in college and really worked her butt off to get that degree and it's just frustrating… I give her the speech. At least once a week. You know, "You're doing fine." She has two jobs right now. But she's so frustrated because she can't find that full time position. That was a girl that had her mind on a certain idea of what was going to happen and it hasn't happened that way. Hey, it's only been 6 months, I told her. I predicted it's gonna take a year. In this economy. I feel like if she could even get in for the interview, they'd love her. She is very talented. Very good at what she does. I know she's going to be successful. It just going to take some time, I think. She's got to get a break. Like I got a break. I think everybody's got to get their break. Something's got to happen, you know? Give them a shot. Then it's up to you to make it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Kadie has a master’s in public policy and recently founded the Single Parents’ Network. She is a young divorcee—kind and caring with a bright smile; she greets me with enthusiasm about this project. The morning we meet, her apartment is in a state of disarray. She was in the middle of moving her and her two sons’ things into one of the two bedrooms. To save on rent, she recently decided to take on a boarder.

My typical day is getting up in the morning, taking care of my kids, getting them off to school...I didn't have a job right after graduation, so there was down time for me to be looking for work, but I was also managing my kids—I‘m a single parent.

[After graduation] I was really proud of myself, like "Wow! I actually finished this!" It was a huge turning point in the way that I perceived myself and kind of like... Having my master's degree? That was a big, big deal. And so I thought that, of course I'd be able to get a job. You know?

Finding a job? I felt like, I...there were times that I told friends, “I went to school and I got indebted and forewent”--if that's the right way to say it—“working experience.” So, I didn't have that cuz I was in school and taking care of my kids. When I came out, my resume was "student." I remember saying, "I should've just gone to work at Wal-Mart and worked my way up and been into management." Because, where I'm at now, I have all of this debt...Yes, I have this degree, but there's really no value in the economy for it and not only am I out money but the time that I spent doesn't—isn't helping me. It's not helping me get a job—having been a student for the last three years.

I went back to school as a single mom—I had an 8 month old and a two year old, I didn't have a degree and so, I was thinking, I’m gonna get myself into school and then it'll be fine. I just looked at it as like, when I'm done, I'll be able to get a job and then I can live. At least just live on basic living expenses—I envisioned coming out and making a starting salary of $35,000, $40,000 and working up from there. Having opportunities to advance where I'd feel like I could safely provide for my family. And so, to not have the opportunity to do that... To be either overqualified—I've been on so many job interviews where I've been overqualified and undesirable for a number of reasons. And one is, you have more education than the person who is your supervisor. To feel like people don't want to bring someone on who in some way has more expertise built in or more potential to—I don’t know. So that was working against me and also working against me was my lack of experience because prior to going back to school I had part-time not really serious jobs, um, I had been more of a stay at home mom type for my sons' first three years. So I didn't really have a lot to offer...

I ask Kadie to describe some of her jobs after graduation.

I started out as just like a consultant, like a twenty hour work week and then I was hired on as staff part-time and then I was brought on full-time and then I was promoted. But all of this in the course of a year. And then...I lost that job.

[ I]t was great to have employment, to gain experience. Working in that environment and having some kind of small successes under my belt. Projects and feedback—that was great. But, I—my biggest issue is like, even though I was working and making a decent amount of money, I still couldn't even afford everything, because of my childcare expenses. My expenses still exceeded my income.

My situation is difficult because, at the same that I lost my job, I lost my car. I had some tickets that I was probably going to be able to handle paying, but I went out of town and I left my car with somebody who got six more tickets on it and I didn't know about it. They didn't tell me. Um...and then when I found out…She sighs deeply. You can't negotiate, you can't ask for a lower floor or fee. After a certain point, it's too late. So I couldn't manage that. It was growing, because I couldn't afford to pay it and the city started really cracking down on expired registration. My registration was expired and so my car was towed. And I was one payment away from it being free and clear. I've been paying for it for five years and because I couldn't come up with the two thousand dollars, I-I didn't have a car anymore. I've been without a car now for over a year. And, like I said, when I was working, I was making about $47,000, but I have two kids and one was in preschool, so that means you have to pay for them to be anywhere during the day and I had negotiated a really reduced rate for him and I was still not able to pay it every month and I still owe them two thousand dollars in back pay. Yeah. So then I lost my job, lost my car and really was like, why even try? I can't make it when I am working. Now I don't have a car, now how am I going to manage all of these logistics that were complicated before, on top of this?

I worked at a cafe for a bit and I worked cleaning a massage school. Making nine dollars an hour at the cafe and twelve dollars an hour at the massage school, vacuuming and dusting and cleaning bathrooms. And...while I was doing that I was just exhausted, too exhausted to really put much into my job search. And so I quit those jobs. I have some child support tax return helped me pay my rent for a few months.

I've had food industry jobs before, but not for a long time. I thought I was pretty tough, because I have two sons and they're really energetic. But I was so exhausted. I was so exhausted from working there. My first day I was like sick, I can't handle this...and they yell at you! And it's just another bad work environment, not getting paid enough to even...I mean. I was getting paid something. You could buy some groceries with it, but...She felt felt bad. Yeah. It felt bad.

I ask her what it was like to be waiting tables and cleaning bathrooms—with a master’s degree.

That just ruffles people's feathers. Because once they know you and they're getting to know you and they know you have all this education—the office manager [at the massage school] suddenly had this ego about how I was doing things. I was doing them wrong. I walked out on that job. He just kept nit-picking at stuff—the way I folded towels. Or I left without saying good-bye one day. He wasn't even really my supervisor, but he was kind of manning the place, because the boss was having a baby. So he was just complaining, complaining about how I was doing things. It didn't make any sense to just keep doing it. It didn't seem worth it to have it out with him. So I just walked away and I was like, "I can get a ten dollar an hour job somewhere else probably." She laughs.

So, I kind of was looking for work, but I had another project that I was really feeling a great need to act on and had some supportive people around me to develop it into a business plan. So I did. I kind of tested the water with that and didn't really know if it was going to be my thing. But I didn't have a job, so, I just decided to experiment with it. And continue job searching, but not really wholeheartedly at all.

I started a project for single parents—a business. Because for years…going to school, trying to get somewhere where I could support my family and my's always been the things in my personal life, having to do with my single parenthood that is like the stick in the spokes of the wheel. Every time you get going, something happens and it's all over. So I've had a lot of time to think about what I would need to feel able to...overcome those obstacles and what that would look like and you know, aware that I'm not the only person, actually, a lot of people are in that same situation. I put together an idea, a way to sell it and started selling memberships for the Single Parents’ Network. And providing some benefits, involving some local business owners in offering discounts to my members. And just having a place for people to convene, to meet face to face with other people who are having similar life circumstances without really having to go out of their way to create that for themselves—cuz who has time to do that? And it just generated a lot of interest and became, you know, "the project" but also like "the business" and has been a way for me to use the skill set that I went to school to get. So I feel satisfied with that. It's still in the getting traction—I mean it's been like 9 months.

[A]fter I saw the response [to the first Single Parents’ Network event]—that was probably one of the best moments of my life. All these people. All these people came to my event and I just posted it on Yahoo groups and Facebook and East Bay Loop and just free little places where you can make your post. And all these people came out of the woodwork to come to this event. And they were paying me money. She laughs. Wow!!! Oh my gosh!!! This is great. I was surprised. At the same time it didn't come together because anything was easy, it came together because a lot of things were really hard. And it's still a work in progress. I'm still gaining traction and not really financially stable, path is feeling more and more, not just feeling more and more, it is more and more a sustainable option for me to have this as my job. And other things have come out of this—I've gotten an offer to teach at a university as a guest lecturer several times during the semester and then also, some consulting gigs have come out of it for other nonprofits who want to raise their visibility and want to raise money...That is the only way I've really gotten job leads is this thing that I've created. I haven't gotten them in any other, from any other places—the cover letters, the resumes. I'm seeing a lot more progress and movement doing my own thing.

I think I just got to the point where I just didn't have it in me to bang my head up against that brick wall anymore. And that's what it felt like every time I tried to work for somebody else. It just felt like—something's going to come up—in the first 30 days of my probation, or 90 days—my kids are going to get sick probably about five times, I don't have three backups to...You have to have people you can count on—most people are flakes, they have their own commitments and priorities, their commitment is not your kid. So, how are you supposed to get a good reputation, be a reliable employee? There's just something always coming up and with the school system, a lot of times there's furloughs, days off. There's no childcare. It's just a battle I'm not going to win, that's how I feel. It's just—I’m not gonna win that one.

[And] a lot of people aren't really hiring. It's been difficult even finding jobs that I'd want to apply for...A lot of times, I'm just searching for something that looks palatable, which maybe sounds really...bougie, like "people go to work every day, Kadie, just suck it up," you know? But I just feel like my energy, because I have all of these other concerns, for me to even be able to focus and do a good job and for anyone to be happy with me I'm gonna need to kind of like what I'm doing, have some kind of affinity for it or something. Otherwise, it's just gonna add to my stress and I'm a parent and being a parent is my first thing. It feels like...I mean in the fundraising world, in the nonprofit world…every week the budget would be getting cut because of the different scandals, like Madoff and that was happening when I was working at the nonprofit. And funders were not giving as much. I had a year of experience in fundraising and it was so hard to be competitive because there were a lot of development jobs, I think was the feeling, but like, Stanford people, their whole development staff got cut, so people much more experienced were in the job market and were able to secure the jobs that I probably would've been totally qualified for but they were willing to take for less than they were worth, so I didn't have a chance to—I think that had a big impact. The big employers cutting people, making it harder for a recent grad to get a job.

I ask Kadie if she thinks the recession has impacted her career trajectory and lifestyle.

If I was employed I wouldn't be doing this other venture by myself and really have nothing for the last year and in a school where my kids are being bullied. We're not happy with where we're living and all of this...Our standard of living is definitely different. And if I could afford—if I had a secure income and all of this, like, a lot would be different for my family. And I would probably [be] treading along—be an executive director of a nonprofit organization that I feel is powerful and impacts society in a way that I want, in a way that resonates with me. That's probably what I saw myself doing. That's what I saw myself doing. So...I guess in a way, I'm kind of not that far from what I thought. So I feel like things are working out, but it's been like trudging, trudging, trudging, a lot of trudging. A lot of trudging. And a lot of hardship that I probably wouldn't be experiencing.

[Before] I could have never psychologically gotten to the point where "I'm gonna move my kids and me into one bedroom and we're gonna have a roommate." That would not have happened in a million years, because that just feels like, what are we? It's just too tight. It just doesn't feel like something I would've come to... Solutions that I wasn't or couldn't come to before are now—I'm now ok with them for some reason. While before that wasn't—I was just trying to like "Well maybe I'll get a job soon enough and it'll happen and we'll get on our feet."