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Question 0

Do you feel stuck?

Roxanne Palmer

I’ve been relatively lucky.

I graduated from Brown University in 2008 with an English degree just before the economy went to pot. I went straight into journalism school for a science journalism program, and finished that up at the end of 2009. I actually interned at WBUR right after that, for the first half of 2010. That was an unpaid internship and I worked at a fish market in Cambridge so I could make rent. It was kind of tough. I generally ate one meal a day except for Saturdays, when my boss at the fish market would buy us all lunch and I’d be able to eat twice that day.

In May 2010, I moved to New York City to take a paid internship at a medical journal. After that, I found a full-time job as a legal reporter, and then this March I found a full-time science reporting job. I get a little anxious when I think about all my undergrad and graduate school debt — under six figures, but not by much — but my payments are manageable.

What I worry about most with my generation isn’t just the dollar difference in our lifetime earnings but our attitude toward work. When there’s such a culture of fear and uncertainty about the job market, people will put up with a lot of unfair work conditions to hang onto our job.

And with unions wasting away, the power is all in the hands of the employers.

Meanwhile, my parents have fared worse. My mom, a graphic designer, got fired by the educational publishing company she worked for along with several others. My dad, a software engineer, also lost his job. They both lost their health insurance and have had to pay for medical expenses out of pocket. My mom, at 61 years old, took vocational classes to become a home health aide. She takes care of elderly folks and occasionally does freelance work for the company that fired her.

That’s who I really think this recession is affecting. Twenty-somethings like me have our future ahead of us. I think age discrimination falls even harder on older working-class people.

I think a lot of journalism and trend pieces tend to over-focus on people like me — young, white, college-educated — and how hard it has become for us, when for a lot of folks — the poor, minorities, uneducated, older non-upper class Boomers — things are even worse. And for many of these groups, the “American Dream” wasn’t feasible for them before the recession.


  1. William Shakespeare at 5:58 pm, September 21, 2012

    Thank you SOOO much for your considerate post. So far, you are the only one in the group of bloggers who have written about others who are struggling, or have always struggled. The age discrimination is affecting older workers considerably. I wish WBUR would have included other voices in this project.

  2. Roxanne Palmer at 10:04 pm, September 25, 2012

    Thanks for reading!

    As you might be able to tell from this post, I was a bit initially skeptical about the project. But admittedly, I am probably one of the less “stuck” members of the group, so my own perspective is going to be a little more naturally sanguine. If I was writing about my situation when I first came to NYC (living in a poorly ventilated “co-op” in Bushwick with about 10-15 other people where bedbugs crawled on the walls in broad daylight), I’d probably be striking a vastly different tune.

    I do think that my fellow bloggers and I will have some valuable stories to share. Mine is definitely colored by what has happened to my parents.

    I agree that it’d be great for WBUR or other outlets to use this kind of format to tell other kinds of recession stories in future series. You could have diaries from young parents, older folks, veterans, etc. That’s one of the things I really like about modern/online journalism; there’s access to so many different kinds of voices.

    I hope you keep reading!