How the Recession Has Changed Us

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I have noted in previous blogs that it is still too early for us to take a true historical perspective on the Great Recession of 2009-2010. We are still too close to the subject, and there are still too many issues that require the unraveling of time before we will be able to truly measure the impact of what we have been through these past few years.

Recently, I was re-watching the Lord of the Rings movies, and I couldn’t help but see metaphors for the personal and financial wars from which we are all emerging. At the end of the second movie, when full-blown battles are imminent, one of the characters notes, “War will make corpses of us all.”

This sentiment echoes the deep psychological impact related to financial distress, career change, and job loss that people have to work through right now. There is a certain amount of shell shock we are all feeling as we return to new jobs, continue to look for work, or try to figure out what early retirement really means. These drastic changes have left many of us feeling like undead zombies; hollow shells of what we once used to be.
I set up a reunion lunch last week with a number of my compatriots from Ford Motor Company. Back in the mid-1990s, we all worked on the F-Series Truck program. As I looked around the table, I saw such a deep pool of talented individuals who were still so full of energy, creativity, and intellectual capital.

But as we got deeper into the lunchtime discussions, I had the odd and unsettling experience of learning more than half of these people had been let go or had left the company. There was also a contingent of people who were unemployed, still looking to get back into the workforce. Through many conversations that day, I began to pick up on the stress and sadness that prevailed in the lives of these good people. Though it was great to see everyone again, I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of loss from the entire group.

As I returned to my car from the restaurant, I realized that this was a bittersweet reunion. I was really happy to see all my friends and co-workers again, yet I was sad to see and hear about what had happened to everyone. I also had the feeling that this was a lunch scene that could be played out the same way thousands of times over with thousands of people across the country.

Though it is still too early to gain a full historical perspective on this recession, it is clear that much has been lost or stolen from us. Despite our great spirit and determination to carry on, it’s also important for us to acknowledge this loss and recognize that this war has made corpses of us all to some degree.

Once we able are to do that, perhaps, healing, renewal, and rebirth can begin.

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