But that doesn't mean I don't understand how awful and terrifying it is to have expected a certain life, and have it stolen away from you by a fate you do not very well control. In June 2001 when I graduated from business school, I had a management consulting gig that was scheduled to pay over $100,000 a year and had just moved back to New York. Two months later, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, killing a number of people I knew and leaving the rest of us traumatized. Four days after that, I was working at the World Trade Center disaster recovery site, trying to come to grips with what had happened. Four months after that, the consulting firm, having pushed back my start date twice, called my associate class and told all of us that our services would not be required.Read the whole thing here.
For the next eighteen months, I struggled to find a job, in the teeth of a recession that kicked MBAs especially hard. It was awful in a way that is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn't been unemployed long term; the thing makes you question everything about your life. I remember going to see Avenue Q on a date, and writhing in humiliation, thinking that my date must be identifying me with the aimless failures on stage. I was 29 years old, and living at home. I had money--I always managed to work. But as far as I could tell, I had no future.
When I finally did get a job, with The Economist, it paid about a third of what I'd been expecting as a consultant. I had about a thousand dollars in loan payments, and of course, I had to live in New York, where my job was. For the first time in my life, I understood what Victorian novelists meant when they described someone as "shabby". Over the years since I'd had a steady income, my clothes had stretched out of shape, ripped, become stained, gone out of style. I couldn't afford new ones. And I wasn't one of those whizzy heroines who can make over her own clothes. Instead, I frumped around in clothes that never looked quite right, and felt the way my clothes looked.
It took me a long, long time to crawl out of that hole. I'll never make what I expected to make as a consultant. I'll never have the job security that I had learned to expect in the pre-9/11 world. The universe will always seem a potentially malevolent place to me, ready to unleash some unknown disaster at any moment.
I am becoming a fan of Ms. McArdle