Under 30 in the Great Recession

See accompanying text here: Under 30 in the Great Recession

I spent the past few weeks interviewing 20-somethings around the country about their experiences in the “Great Recession.”

What began as a personal endeavor — a simple interest in the way the recession is affecting my generation — became a publishable project when I decided to use some of these interviews to create a video for Campus Progress.

My initial interviews left me feeling dissatisfied, however, because I didn’t think I was tapping into something that hasn’t already been reported by major news outlets. A friend told me she was tired the sob-story media framing — The Washington Post recently published an article about type-A kids moving home after college. A BusinessWeek article called us “The Lost Generation.” The New York Times published an entertaining but ultimately depressing piece about Katie and Kristy Barry, twins who can’t find work in New York City.

All of these stories are relevant — in my interviews, I met people swimming in debt, worried about the future and frustrated by their inability to translate hard work into real rewards. Many of them told me that they felt the recession had put their lives on hold. Eddie Smith, a Californian who studied criminal justice in various forms since he was 15, has spent the past two years working odd jobs — a Wal-Mart gig among them — because he can’t find employment in his field. Ben Kreider graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in May but now finds himself overqualified for many jobs and more than $60,000 in debt. Stephanie Mueller, a University of Michigan grad who works in New York City, has entered the world of  “permalancing.” As she explains it, she does full-time work without receiving full-time benefits or any job security.

What I felt was lacking in my story, however, was a way to demonstrate that the recession has not stripped all young people of their agency and their power to act and control their futures.  Then I met Causten Wollerman and Sara Fatell, two twenty-somethings in Washington, D.C., who recently started a baking business. They waltzed into my office to deliver cookies one Wednesday. When I contacted them to ask about the role of the recession in their decision to start something new, Sara told me this: “I think definitely the economy had something to do with this – because if we’d had full-time jobs, we never would have talked about it.”

I decided to focus my video on the two of them. I loved the idea of creativity as the antidote for a depressing economic landscape.

The two launched Grassroots Gourmet, a dessert catering company that delivers to non-profits and political organizations, just a few weeks ago. Their story isn’t one of overnight success — they’ve taken just under 20 orders and are cautiously setting goals for 2010 — but in the video, the two make some excellent points about how the ragged economy can actually affect our generation in positive ways.

Take a moment to watch the video and listen to Sara and Causten ruminate on baking, living green and refocusing our lives as the economic rollercoaster takes us for a ride. It helps that the two are wonderfully charismatic.

And now — on to my next project! For the next two months I’ll be documenting the way the economy is affecting the lives of older individuals. The photographs and stories will be published by the National Council on Aging.

Julie.

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What is this blog?

The "Unstatic Blog" documents the changes going on around you and me. It will ask and answer — and then ask again — how is your world changing? Read and participate in the conversation.

stat⋅ic

/ˈstætɪk/ –adjective 1. pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition. 2. showing little or no change: a static concept; a static relationship. 3. lacking movement, development, or vitality
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