It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. - Charles Darwin
The most successful people are those who are good at plan B. - James Yorke
I have always paid attention to the world around me, but over the last two years I have become a daily reader of financial and economic sites and blogs in addition to the several news sites I had always read. I have tried to learn as much as possible about the deteriorating economic situation around the world and its pending impact on individuals as well as nations. It has become like a train wreck from which I could not avert my eyes. My focus has been too intense at times, and my time spent reading and blogging has only increased as things have gotten worse. But recently, I stopped paying attention.
Over the last several weeks, I have been unable (or more accurately, unwilling) to watch the larger world around me as it has continued on its downward tack. I have also been unavailable to do so because the smaller world - specifically my world – has been through its own changes that took time to navigate and to understand. As I wrote here a couple of months ago, my wife's employer has been poised to layoff workers in an attempt to bring costs under control. We had been worried that her time there may be short, and so began the process of looking for a new job for her.
After finding a comparable job, albeit with significantly fewer benefits, she applied. After being interviewed, she was offered the position. She then began a very real and painful grieving process.
She was not happy to be leaving a facility where she had worked for 11 years. She was not happy to be forced into a decision she was not ready to make. She was not ready to leave those who had become a second family over time – those who have been there for her as she has grown both personally and professionally over the years and who will be missed as much as any other loved one. She felt traitorous; like she was leaving a sinking ship and her friends were still on board.
Adding to this stress, we both have parents who are retiring within months of each other – the first coming on the same day my wife finished work for her previous employer. Both families have some resources, but after all the recent losses of retirement savings, no one is feeling certain that they will have the means to be self sufficient as long as they thought they would.
Needless to say, my focus had shifted inward towards my own family and away from the world at large. My wife and I had many difficult discussions, some emotional moments, and a few frustrating times over the past weeks, but we have begun to come around. I believe a corner has been turned in our small world – my wife has begun her new job and feels better about her decision. She is encouraged so far by the people she has met and again feels fortunate to have a job she likes in our small city. For the moment, our changes seem smaller and easier to accept than many people's. We still have jobs; we still have our health; we still have our home. We continue to be fortunate. We have adapted for the moment and continue to avoid major disaster.
As I turned my attention back to the larger world yesterday, I noted that not much has changed: the bear market rally has continued, the economic commentators are calling a bottom (still) and people want to believe that the worst is close to ending. But the jobs numbers still seem shocking, the cost of oil is increasing, Goldman Sachs is looking at raising capital, and the Toll brothers (owners of one of the largest home manufacturers in the country) are selling their own company's stock. Yeah. That's better. Nothing new here. I have not missed much. The rest of the world is still falling apart.
But my own small family has reluctantly (and hopefully successfully) moved on to Plan B.