It was autumn 2008, and I’d just moved back to Portland. Hillsboro (a close-in suburb), actually, to live in my best friend’s spare bedroom for about six weeks.
I’d found a position as a recruiter in the hospitality industry. My boss had just opened up an office, and things were going well, so he expanded. I was one of three people he hired.
Recall, if you will, the economy in November 2008.
My boss at the time didn’t realize the economy was tanking.
Recruiting is a nice word for sales cold calling, and I was picking up the phone 95 times a day asking hotels what their hiring priorities were.
Guess what? They didn’t have any.
We still thought we had a chance, and I was quite obviously wearing out my welcome at my friend’s house, so on January 1, 2009, I moved to a fantastic neighborhood in Portland with a roommate I didn’t know.
By January 20, I’d been laid off.
To say these were lean times was putting it lightly. I applied everywhere, heard back from some, heard nothing from a lot more, and stayed awake at night wondering how I’d pay my share of rent. How I’d pay the minimums on my credit card. How I’d get by, period.
I couldn’t move back in with my friend, and I was committed to staying in Portland. So I scoured.
I finally found another sales job that was 100% commission, and it ended up costing me more than what I’d earned because it was a smartphone app and I had to buy a new phone before I could demo this product.
Then, finally, I saw a posting I was really excited about*. Sure, it was part-time, but hey, part-time is better than no time, right?
So I applied. And I was hired.
It was a great fit, work wise, but the owners weren’t sure it was going to work. I mean, a start up? In 2009? It was risky, so they didn’t want to commit to full time work right away.
That was fine with me. My friend and I decided to live together in an apartment that would save me $100 a month (and I’d get to live with a friend rather than a stranger who left half-eaten cans of tuna around the apartment).
Times were so lean. I was nearly maxing out my $25,000 limit on my credit card. I was sharing a car with my sister (who should be a candidate for sainthood based on how few times she complained about sharing her car with someone who did not live in her neighborhood!) and borrowing money to make rent.
This friend that I lived with is one of my favorite people on the planet, and the other day, we were sitting in my apartment talking about furniture shopping.
“I remember how depressing not having a dining table was,” she said.
I cringed. “Oh, my gosh, I remember that too. Goodness gracious, we’d go to these stores, and all the cute stuff would be so expensive so we’d walk out, dejected.” It was a lean time for her, too.
“Then we went to IKEA and bought their cheapest table. I was so broke that I couldn’t even come up with half of $150.”
I paused, and smiled.
I’ve come a long way since 2009. I live in my very own apartment, and I’m able to pay rent even before payday every month. Not only that, but I have savings! I paid off my student loan! And I have very little left on my car loan! I even maxed out my IRA in 2012! Hot dang!
It’s good to remember how I felt back then. How generous my friends were when they knew I was making something like $1000 a month, but they still wanted me to come do fun things anyway.
There is peace associated with having a dollar or two in the bank. I wouldn’t say that I’m wealthy, not by a long shot. But I have not woken up in the middle of the night in tears because it’s the 25th and I have no idea how to make it through to the first.
*That job? I’m still there. I’m a full-time employee now, and I still think it’s a great fit. It’s not 100% commission, but I do earn some commission, and the fact that I’m making more money means the company is healthier, too. Win-win.