On 1 December 2008, I was 13-years-old. I don’t remember much of that day – it was 12 years ago after all – but I remember seeing, on our school library’s clunky purple iMac, the front page of Yahoo! News: a picture of George W. Bush, and the headline “RECESSION”.
I wasn’t quite sure what recession meant, only that it was probably pretty bad. Loud whispers bounced off the popcorn walls around our tiny library from “classic George Bush” to “this would have never happened if Kerry was elected” to general indifference. The idea of a global financial crisis seemed so far away from the world my classmates and I lived in; a world of pending winter holidays, upcoming assignments, that new Twilight movie and awkwardly dancing to Beyonce’s Single Ladies at the school dance.
At home, while my father sat me down and assured me we would be fine and his job was secure, many of my classmates were not so lucky.
I think coming of age during the worst global recession in a century means I had a sense of insecurity, particularly financial insecurity, embedded within me. I saw what the world was like for family, and for friends in their 20s, newly graduated and ready to take on the world only to be greeted by a world with no job prospects. I always hoped that when I reached my 20s, I would have a stable and financially secure future with a ‘safe’ job.
Suddenly, it seemed like most jobs I applied to were on hold as businesses operated under stay-at-home orders, or, worse, shuttered.
Yet here I am now, a decade later, jobless after a year recovering from serious injuries sustained in an accident. This was apparently the best time to get a job. However, I have yet to hear back from most of the 100 or so jobs I had applied to so far in 2020. And when I do back, it’s usually through an cold, unpersonalised rejection email. What’s wrong with me, I started to wonder, completely dejected and hopeless but determined to carry on.
Then came covid-19.
Suddenly, it seemed like most jobs I applied to were on hold as businesses operated under stay-at-home orders, or, worse, shuttered. And now I can’t help but worry how long will it take for me to get back on my feet after coronavirus. What will a post-coronavirus job market even look like?That same insecurity that plagued me when I was a young teen has come back – except this time the future is no longer something abstract. It is real, and it is right ahead of me.
I thought back to how I had told myself in January that this was going to be ‘my year’ after an unexpectedly awful 2019. I’m not at all sure of that any more and I know I’m not alone. On social media, I found people my age across the globe – the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Malaysia – all in the same position I’m in. People who were seeking employment before the pandemic and are now worried about a prospective increase in competition for jobs in an oversaturated market once the pandemic settles. Jobseekers who had just found a job only to be let go due to the coronavirus and were now in the same uncertain purgatory they were in a mere few weeks ago. Others whose long careers were upended as fast as coronavirus had spread across the world.
Maybe it’s not the trajectory of my life that I expected, but I’ve decided that’s okay.
Our generation is going to be significantly impacted by everything happening right now, just like 2008. Except this time, our survival and the survival of others, particularly those in generations older than us, are at stake more than ever. We’re in a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. It’s something we’ve grown used to for a long time.
Despite all this, I am trying to make the best that I possibly can out of this situation. It’s obvious that the job market isn’t going to be up and running anytime soon, as the pandemic gets deadlier with cases continuing to mount across the world and social distancing orders set in. I’m freelancing, volunteering and collaborating on other projects. Maybe it’s not the trajectory of my life that I expected, but I’ve decided that’s okay.
At least I can take comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together.
Tavleen Tarrant is a freelance journalist
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