Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recessionista?: Monday Musings.

There are days when it's difficult to be enthusiastic about work. I'm not a morning person. I drag myself out of bed approximately 30 minutes before I'm supposed to report for duty (if I'm having a good day), thank God that I picked out an outfit/packed my bag/showered the night before, and I'm out the door. I apply my make-up on the subway (a faux pas I judge others for), pick up coffee on the short path between the subway and my office, and there I am, 15 minutes late, and still not fully-functional.

I should note that this is in sharp contrast to how I was in high school, when I awoke at 5.45am to style my makeup and perfect my hair, rotated between at least 3 outfits, and sat down to a hearty breakfast during which time I reviewed class notes, all before trotting off to my extra "zero hour" course at 7am. This may explain why I was voted Most Likely to Succeed by my graduating class. Even in my Freshman year of college I took a 9am Chinese language class Monday through Friday. Have you ever tried speaking Chinese at 9am? Don't.

At any rate, despite all my grumbling--partly due to the fact that anything before 2pm might as well be 4am in my book--I'm grateful every day to be employed. All bets are off in this economy, and employers are no longer beholden to their employees.

But what kind of a recession is this, really? It goes without saying that an atomic bomb landed on Wall Street and has affected nearly every other industry, but what's the trickle-down? The NYTimes reports that even the rich are affected, which means reduced personal training sessions and increased time between hair appointments (wah wah). Yes, the stores and restaurants are slightly less crowded here in NYC, but the fact is that they are by no means EMPTY. Manhattan is a young city. Most of the people who live here may be a little older than I am, but we all are from generations that don't know economic hardship. "Recession" is right up there with "Okie" and "Land Rush" in regards to terms that have no bearing on the world as we currently know it/as we have known it in our lifetimes. Is it simply that we don't know how to "DO" a recession in a post-conspicuous-consumption world where everything is interconnected and mass-produced?

My paternal grandmother simultaneously lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in northern Kansas. Her family produced their own food and ran their own farm. When Depression hit, there was no Ebay to turn to for selling their reserves of jewelry, no discount bin at Wal-Mart to pick through, no college tuitions being paid that they could cut back on for extra cash. Life was simpler. Not in an idyllic way, but financially life was less complicated: Hard work was expected, fooling around wasn't allowed, no partying in the hottest club (what clubs?), no shopping sprees (what malls?), there simply wasn't access to many things, but it's also as if they didn't know what they were "missing." Only in comparison to what she has amassed in her long lifetime does my grandmother feel deprived of anything in her childhood.

But despite current economic climes, I have hardly become a recessionista myself. I am fortunate to have my job, but I'm not allowing (perhaps to my detriment) my nagging fear of lay-offs, etc. stop me from wanting to buy the perfect dress and shoes for my birthday party, or planning my next vacation, or going out to dinner, or subscribing to a new gym membership, or traveling to Princeton for Reunions. And I don't think my friends are reassessing their habits either.

Is my generation simply incapable of coping with a Recession until it strikes us in a very personal way? Would we be able to survive if it did? Thanks to our evolutionary skills, humans are wonderfully adaptable in ways we might not expect...but I also worry that as we, particularly those of us in NYC where I monitor this firsthand, continue to live as we always have, might be running ourselves deep into the ground.

Maybe battling the alarm clock should be the least of my concerns. Or, at least, something to be thankful for.

1 comment:

alanna said...

completely understand...i make fairly acceptable money, and most of my girlfriends are in similar boats with fewer benefits, but we all manage to go on these indulgent vacations with expensive clothes and our idea of 'cutting back' is not drinking top shelf. i feel very blessed not to have to worry about my job security, but i really wonder where the recession actually is? the repercussions we keep feeling are deeper discounts and better happy hours.