The Economy and Me

Conquering Fear of the Future...

Keep a clear head to fend off a sense of pending doom.

Since I live in a state that has been hard hit by the real estate collapse and the evolving mortgage-foreclosure disaster, in the epicenter of the economic damage of the resulting financial crisis, my perspective tends to get skewed on the larger US and world economy. To be sure the outlook is not very good in most places but Arizona, along with neighbors California and Nevada, has been particularly devastated and life often feels unstable with each bit of news about real estate and foreclosures making it seem even rockier. The news can be in the form of a headline, about someone we know, friends, family, workmates, a neighbor, friend of a friend or overheard in public. The feeling can rise suddenly, is unanticipated, unsettling and manifests itself in unexpected ways.

Even those of us that in spite of economic damage due to unemployment and other financial problems but have ourselves, our family and friends, managed to remain fairly intact and stable, relatively unscathed, are beset by unnerving raw thoughts and emotions. We wonder what is the next shoe to drop and even though we have made it through so far and have never been involved in too much debt, real estate transactions gone awry and the like, are concerned we will be hit by flying objects out of our control.

Most people here understand that this entire decade will be spent unwinding and reconfiguring the aftermath of Arizona's economy that collapsed due to an overblown building boom, that resulted in unrealistic real estate prices and far too much reliance on construction. This can cause moments of weariness at looking at the long road ahead or a sense of pending doom.

Truthfully, selfishly I suppose, I'm not worried much about what happens next for me. I'm a survivor and usually manage to make the best of whatever situation I end up in for the duration. My concern is more for what happens to society and institutions around me and how what happens to them will affect our daily lives. I worry about a breakdown in society around me that makes ordinary activity difficult. Since worrying never solved anything and the future can't be predicted, this is a futile waste of brain power. Good old therapeutic self-talk seems to work. These "memos to self" work for me:

Everything changes and in the long term it's usually for the better. A positive point of view and keeping perspective generally makes whatever happens turn out to be a good thing. 

Remind myself that just as surely as a bad thought or feeling arrived unannounced, it can be replaced in a flash with another, better thought or feeling.

This is a great opportunity to embrace my inner bohemian. If the future is up in the air, then conventional rules and practices are irrelevant. 

If nothing is the same anymore, then the future brings the chance to live life in new, unconventional ways. What is there to lose if the old way is gone? 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There is an element of truth in what you expect is what you get, so it's a good idea to expect the best.


  1. This is a very good one, JR.

    Here's the thing: I am here in New York, still going to work at a small company which recently had no work...I have been talking to the bosses a lot lately, because with the shakeup at the place they have come out on to the floor and worked a lot, so they were where I could run into them.

    Here's the real thing though, and I don't know if it's just companies around here hoping November works out well for them or if everybody's reaching their final level of insanity, and I know NY is far from Arizona...but...

    In the last couple weeks, companies have been ordering things. And not for 2011; for, like, the 20th.

    From nothing to overtime.

    I don't trust it but it is interesting and it makes me wonder.

    I don't know if there's hope; then again I don't think hope is what's needed.

    I love the memos to self. I think they nail it perfectly.

  2. I'm experiencing a similar situation. There are seven employees where I work, one is a working manager and does the job as well as the supervisory stuff. We have never been busier, working as many hours as possible and high volume of work schedule through the end of December. Somehow I don't trust it though.

  3. Now THAT is interesting. And being the so-called conspiracy theorist I probably really am, it makes me wonder if part of the $700 Billion was set aside to get some of us working people busy a little before November. Work takes your mind off voting, especially if you have work.

    The vast majority of the work I have right now is work I've never done before; some of the same customers but new work...some companies that we haven't seen work from in years are suddenly back, but with newly drawn prints and totally new work. No great sales growth from the customers who were there through all the recent hell. And some "union" jobs being passed along, complete with stories of the "union guys" destroying the last part we made so we'd have to make it again.

    After your response and thinking about it, I trust none of this. I'm curious as to whether any of the stuff I said above pertains to your work.

    Either way, I'm voting.

    Thanks for responding, JR!

  4. Your response is also very interesting and yes, it does pertain to my work. We're seeing a lot of people we didn't used to see or coming back after years but it isn't really due to much growth in the sectors they work in. So I've been thinking the same thing, that not all of that $700 billion went to public service and union workers and that some was set aside for nonunion nonmanagement joe schmoes like me, to keep us busy and occupied before the election. Look for a blog post.

  5. Fellow Joe Schmoe, looking forward to the post.