We Have Always Been the 99%: a personal story of recovery


Photo by: Patrick Emmerson
I have not written anything for past couple weeks because my family just literally fell off a financial cliff and we were in crisis. My husband suddenly lost his Consultant job of 18 months and we were officially out in the wilderness. Normally, I love to write but I had to put all of my energy into fighting to save our financial life. They let him go without any severance and we were already struggling. We have always been in the 99%. My husband is a cancer survivor, I am a survivor of Domestic Violence and my brother died of AIDS. A couple of years ago my ex-sister-in-law lost her life to cancer. There have been many moments of despair in our lives but yet we hung on and kept going. We pulled ourselves up by the "bootstraps" and got back into the game kicking and fighting.

However, when my husband lost his job recently I felt like all of the air had been pumped out of me. I did not want to fight anymore but I looked up and there was my just turned 12 year-old telling my husband that he had to align himself spiritually, emotionally and physically and get into gear because she did not want to move for a 6th time. Her words snapped me back into action because she heard me give that lecture to her many times before. There is nothing like a kid regurgitating your own words back at you. It really whips you back into shape fast.

Anyway after years of hanging off the edge of a financial cliff with white knuckled hands, it felt as if we had tumbled right off and plunged to the bottom. But hearing our kid's words bucked us up and we focused our minds and started climbing again. By the end of last week my husband had secured a job with an excellent salary, full-time benefits, long term and short term disability and the works. A health plan that used to be $12,000 a year is now $250-275 a year. He is no longer in Corporate, Finance, Insurance America as the only black man but is in Non-Profit Community Healthcare amongst Asians, Hispanics, Whites, Blacks. His new company observes Veterans Day, Martin Luther Day, Kwanza, all the Jewish Holidays and even Juneteenth. He will have 38 days to take as vacation or sick days and we will be able to finally spend quality time together as a family. Some may call this luck but we think it is all the hard work he put in finally paying off; all the racial crap he took day in and day out as the only black male paying off; all of the insinuations of him being an affirmative action case being pushed back. He/we worked damned hard to get here. Yes, he was helped along the way. Yes, Affirmative action played a part in getting him into college but he got out all on his own by working hard to get top grades. Affirmative action did not help him get out of college in good standing: he helped himself.

When all of his white schoolmates went off to Wall Street to cozy positions he was forced to work in a local book binder shop earning minimum wage even though he graduated with the same Ivy League degree as his Wall Street classmates. However, most of them had help and knew people. He was on his own and knew no one. Today he has no regrets of the path he took because he thinks the road he took prepared him for the conditions of today. He always remembers and frequently quotes his coal miner granddad who told him "all work is noble". Last week he went in to claim one week of unemployment and the unemployment office put him and the other folk through the ringer. Before they could even claim their check they had to come in for an interview and were forced to watch a video about people who tried to rig the system and ended up in jail. My husband said the people were so depressed many left the office without signing off to show they had watched the video. This was a prerequisite in order to get the check. He is worried that many of them will not get their checks. They told him the check will take about 4 weeks before we can get it. We are now wondering about those folk who cannot wait 4 weeks; those folk who have no food to eat; those folk who have no place to sleep. What about their kids? We barely made it through but so many others are left behind. We intend to give back in the coming months now we are getting our act together. The new company works with charitable organizations to help others. As an employer my husband can take time off to help in a soup kitchen or in any other way we can to help others. Sometime, soon we hope, we will be going out as a family to help in some form or the other once we are better placed.

Now I am back writing again. Hope I was missed cause I missed you guys. Thank you for having me here. Luv SepiaGurlSweetSpot

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