The Recession Lesson

If you would have asked me five years ago where I would be today, my vision would not have looked like this. Back in 2006, I was pretty successful (or what society deems successful). I was making $43,000 a year as a development coordinator, had my own apartment, a reliable used car, no child…the list goes on. I could do what I wanted when I wanted, and I did.

There was only one annoying snag: while I loved what I was doing, I hated the office politics at my job. Emotional baggage can wear you down and I got tired of the load. So, in 2007, I put in that letter of resignation just knowing I would find another job with ease, like I had done before. What I didn’t know was that we were slowly and unknowingly approaching a recession. Some intelligent people predicted it, but many of us went on with our lives unaware of what would hit us.

After quitting my job, the idea for my first novel came to me and I thought I didn’t need to find a permanent job because I just knew I was going to become the next Terry McMillan and rake in the bucks. Unfortunately, the literary agents in New York that I submitted my manuscript to didn’t think the same way. They praised my writing but couldn’t see a market for “my type” of fiction.

During my journey to become the next Terry, I did temp work to pay the bills, but my life was slowly unraveling. The debts were piling up, but I refused to go back to permanent work. I just knew I was going to sell that first novel…eventually. I didn’t. So, what did I do? I began to work on the second one, still believing I could be the next Terry. Again, the big-time literary agents in New York didn’t think so. Again, they praised my writing but didn’t want to take a chance on such a risky book. So I shelved the book and begin to think of my next steps.

With so much time on my hands and no job in sight, I managed to find trouble. Mama always said, “An idle mind…” Well, you know the rest. Next thing you know, I was knocked up at the ripe age of 36. I should have known better. I was too old to be making mistakes like that. When I told my “baby daddy” about our little surprise, he disappeared. So, there I was pregnant, unemployed, and knee-deep in debt. By then that downward spiral could have reached the depths of hell at the rate I was going. But lo and behold, it got worse.

I moved in with my mother and adult siblings because I thought my family would have my back. The siblings were hellions in disguise and made my life a living hell while I was pregnant. After an incident of sibling violence, I landed in a shelter and that experience was sickening (we’ll save that story for another day).

All the while, I had to navigate the system of what I now call Social DIS-Services…a system that I had paid into by paying taxes since I had my first job at the age of fourteen. However, I received little help from this epitome of governmental bureaucracy. While pregnant, I bounced from place to place and landed with a friend long enough to have my baby girl. During this time I found a publisher for my second book (All Things That Matter Press) and they were willing to take a chance on such a risky novel.

Unfortunately, Social DIS-Services found more ways to disappoint me. It’s sad that I paid taxes for over 23 years and got nothing but trouble from an organization that’s supposed to help people. It’s because of community organizations and the grace of God that my daughter and I are making it right now.

I’m back at my mother’s for now. It is my hope that one day I’ll get back on my feet again…sooner rather than later. I am absolutely in love with my baby girl—her father just doesn’t know what he’s missing. In all of this carnage and chaos, she’s been my light.

In spite of all the difficulties I have experienced these past few years, I still have hope, and I have learned some valuable lessons during this recession. I have learned that I never fully appreciated the things I used to have: a reliable car, a nice, quiet apartment, a profitable job. I took those things for granted. I now know for sure that won’t happen again when I get back on my feet.

I have fully realized that I am responsible for the course that my life has taken. I can’t blame anyone for what has gone down. Not Social DIS-Services. Not the recession. Not my baby daddy. No one. I have to take full responsibility for my choices, and all the people I have come across will have to take responsibility for the choices they have made, and the role that they have played in my life.

I have learned that everything happens in divine order. If I never would have bounced from place to place, I never would have started writing again. I wouldn’t have submitted that second novel to the publisher who finally said yes. And most of all, I have learned that I don’t have to be the next Terry McMillan. I only have to be the next T.C. Galltin and T.C. Galltin, my friends, is enough.

T.C. Galltin is the mother of one, a freelance writer and the author of the forthcoming novel Zaire’s Place about three women whose lives converge at a domestic violence shelter in Baltimore, MD, which will be available this summer. Until then, you can find her on Facebook (/TCGalltin) and Twitter (@TCGalltin).

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