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Considering the 'New Normal'

February 15, 2013
Shepherdstown Chronicle

As I look forward to spring and all of its wonderful refreshing new beginnings I turn to thoughts of myself and my next chapter in this life. I keep asking myself what is the New Normal in these times of economic disruption, destruction and uncertainty.

I thought by now I would be more settled, and more secure in my career. I took for granted that all the previous success I had before would always continue. After all, I paid my dues; I worked hard and gained immense knowledge in my field. I should have everything in place by now, and reaping the joy of all those years working towards financial freedom.

Unfortunately the world sped up and then crashed before that expectation ever became a reality. I am finding myself looking back in my memory and wondering if I would have made different choices had the economy been what it is today. I wonder if I would have pursued a different career knowing that the one I chose would leave me feeling worried about my future.

Things were easier then. I don't know if this stems from the fact that I was a couple of decades younger with my whole life before me, and health and energy was a given and seemed unlimited, or if it really was just easier. Easier to find a job, easier to pay for things, easier to make ends meet and have some in reserve. I always seemed to have enough and I didn't even realize that at the time because it was, well, normal.

Now I feel a blend of fear and resignation when I think about money. It is never enough anymore no matter how hard I work. I made far less back then but somehow had more. Things were more balanced. I used to think "Things will always improve." Now I think "I am happy to break even."

I hear this sentiment from almost everyone I know, even people who have always had a good financial life. There has been a huge shift in the world that is hard to define. People are struggling with money and self worth and trying to sort out why they feel like they are starting over when they should be winding down and enjoying life, or they are merely treading water, waiting for something to shift again, and give them some momentum to push forward once again.

There is a lack of appreciation for people in general, and they become nothing more than a commodity that can be bought and sold and thrown away like a used car. You are only as good as their profit margin, and when you don't fit in the mold anymore you are out, no matter how good you were. There is no earning your way to the top anymore. A few lucky ones get there but everyone else gets tossed away before they earn their retirement and are replaced with someone cheaper and less experienced. What was the point of giving your life to that place then? Are we destined to endlessly start over waiting for something good to happen?

When considering how to improve my circumstances, I wonder whether I should try something new and dive into an unknown sea of possibility (or failure) or do I look backwards and return to a safe, yet entirely uninspiring former job because quite frankly, I am tired, and doing something familiar is sometimes just easier. Or is it?

It's a strange decision because there are so many layers involved. Life wears a person down. Setbacks can suck the air right out of any confidence or enthusiasm that used to pave the way for new adventures. It seemed when I was younger, there was a job for anyone willing to learn. Young people, older people, inexperienced people, highly experienced people all had a shot. There seemed to be plenty of success to go around. And if you worked really hard and tried your best you were rewarded for that effort and became someone to look up to. Now there seems to be this very slim window we all have to somehow fit into to become included in this new and modern world of achievement. There is too much competition, too much choice, even too much excellence. It makes regular normal people feel inadequate, as if they have nothing to offer anymore so why even bother. When did it happen that there is not enough to go around?

Everyone has something to offer in this vast place we call Earth. But if seems that in order to fit into that slim window you must be perfect, but not too perfect. You must be just the right age, and have just the right amount of education. If you don't you will get overlooked without even seeing a human face to prove you have more to offer than a few glowing words on a page. It is a heartless and blind experience. Gone are the days of walking in somewhere and getting hired because they saw potential, or they just liked you personally or had a good feeling about you. How does anyone get anywhere or feel good about anything without that? Where is the incentive, the joy, the exhilaration? Is this the New Normal? Just getting by and hoping for the best but expecting the worst is not where we should be.

We all have gifts to offer this world and we should be able to find our niche and make the world a better place by working together. If this is the New Normal, that is, going back to the starting line and trying to run an old race hoping that this time we make it to the finish line then something needs to change. It could be that there is no actual start or finish line; it is just a circle that goes around and around until someone gives us a break. But by then, will we all be too exhausted to appreciate it? I have to wonder.

 
 
 

 

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