Thursday, December 22, 2011

The New Great Depression

Gentle readers, your MatchGirl is a bit terrified. Terrified of what's coming down the pike. Terrified of what is going to become of us.

In reading this piece in the Washington Post earlier this week, I realized that we really are coming to the next great depression in America.

The article, an adaptation of Bruce Springsteen's intro to Someplace in America: Tales From The New Great Depression, reminisces about a book that came out 30 years ago, by the same authors, filled with pictures and stories of ordinary Americans just struggling to get by.

Springsteen writes:
That book — “Journey to Nowhere,” by Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson — put real lives, names and faces on statistics we’d all been hearing about throughout the ’80s. People who all their lives had played by the rules, done the right thing and had come up empty, men and women whose work and sacrifice had built this country, who’d given their sons to its wars and then whose lives were marginalized or discarded. I lay awake that night thinking: What if the craft I’d learned was suddenly deemed obsolete, no longer needed? What would I do to take care of my family? What wouldn’t I do?

Without getting on a soapbox, these are the questions Maharidge and Williamson posed with their words and pictures. Men and women struggling to take care of their own in the most impossible conditions and still moving on, surviving.

Gentle readers, is this not the same thing we've been talking about for the past (over) three years? What happened to this country, the political rut we are stuck in, occurred be cause we as citizen's were too blinded by the glitter of a small economic boom to see failure coming. What has happened to this country has happened to this country before, yes, in the poverty and layoffs of the 80s - where manufacturing jobs started on their inevitable decline - but also in the wake of the "roaring twenties."

Extremes, dear ones, are not sustainable.

The failure that we didn't see coming - how stupid were we. Plants started shutting down in the midwest and the south. The family farm started getting eaten by the factory farm. Wages were cut in half and half again (The great book Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, by Nick Reding details well what the loss of these types of jobs has done to our country). Towns started to die. This started in the 1980s.

But what did we do? As citizens?
Sure, we donated to FarmAid, but FarmAid still exists. Thirty years later we're still begging for donations to help the family farm. And, maybe, in some places, this is coming. And maybe, as more people really want to know where the food they're eating comes from, we'll see their lives improve. We'll see.

We bemoaned the loss of "real American jobs." We watched Roger & Me. But what else did we do?
Did we "buy American"? Maybe.
Did it help? Not so much.
Because those American cars, at least parts of them, were being manufactured in Mexico and Taiwan and loads of other places where the labor was/is cheap and labor laws barely existent.

What we did not do, gentle ones, is look at the core problem.
What we did not do is to invest in education.
What we did not do was look at spending money now to teach people to be more prosperous in the future.

My generation, Generation X for those of you who pay attention to those things, is the first generation to be, overall, worse off than the one before it. Let's not let it keep getting worse for the ones who come after us.

Let's let our leaders - the ones in office, they work for us, you know - know that we want them to think long term. That we want them to invest in education and innovation. That we want them to look beyond creating 5,000 for the next 3 years and figure out how to create 5,000,000 over the next thirty.

Let's learn a lesson from our past - for once - and push push push for an American where there is a priority placed on learning to the highest level, of the skills that will build a future and carry us forward into the 22nd century.

Sure, we won't be around to see it, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthy investment.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Gentle readers, as many of you know, at the beginning of this year, your MatchGirl joined the street team of Seth Godin's Domino Project. I believe I reflected on it for the first time in February of this year. And I got my first big jolt of inspiration after devouring Godin's Poke the Box- and wrote about it here.

The thing is, dear ones, your MatchGirl continues to be inspired and motivated by this project, even though it has officially come to an end.

What is it that's kept me so motivated?
It's keeping in touch with the other members of the street team, scattered throughout the world.
It's watching them take deep breaths and do the scary things they weren't sure they could do.
It's being part of the community.
And it's keeping the collaboration going.

Your MatchGirl is a big fan of collaboration.
Of coming together.
It's part of why she was so excited to help in the founding of Work It Brooklyn. And why she continues to encourage all of you to come together.

Through working together, we can make good ideas great.
We can make small accomplishments big achievements.
We can turn the germ of an idea into something that will change the world.

No one can do it alone, though.
I promise you that, gentle ones.
No matter who you are. No matter how big your personality. No matter how much money you have. No matter who your parents are.
Anything you do solo in this world can only be made better by coming together with other smart people. Whether they code or write or market or keep your ego in check. If they give you answers and keep your ego in line (no matter your talent) they're worth your time.

What's the best collaborative project you've worked on? What inspires you to keep connecting and collaborating? I'd love for you to share your stories with me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Your Fair Share

"Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built.
Rule of etiquette the first—which hundreds of others merely paraphrase or explain or elaborate—is:
Never do anything that is unpleasant to others.
Never take more than your share—whether of the road in driving a car, of chairs on a boat or seats on a train, or food at the table."
--Emily Post, Etiquette

As we keeping talking about the 99% and the 1% (refer to this post to see what you MatchGirl has to say on the subject) and the wealth gap or income gap. And as we enter a presidential election year (hint: not the most important public official you vote for), and watch a crazy Republican primary taking place, it's easy to forget that life can be broken down into some pretty simple tenets. And that perhaps if we took a moment to reflect on them, we'd all be living a bit better right now.

The rule to live by, gentle readers, the golden rule, as it were, is sometimes hard to stick to, but it's the most important: Treat people like you yourself want to be treated.
Be nice.
Be kind.
Say excuse me, pardon me, thank you and you're welcome.
Hold the door for the person behind you
Stand up for a harried parent, an elderly person or an injured person on public transport.
Speak your mind, but don't be cruel.
Think before you speak.
Treat people like you yourself wish to - feel you deserve to - be treated.

And, this, gentle readers, from Miss Emily Post's 1922 Etiquette (now in its 18th Edition), never take more than your share.
Don't be greedy.

Work hard. Reap the reward. Sure.
But take what's your's.
That's enough.

Your MatchGirl leaves you with this (repeated from above): "Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built."

Let's remember that, shall we?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tipping Point

Yesterday, gentle readers, a friend of your MatchGirl shared a link to this very cool interactive map about tipping for takeout food in New York City. Take a moment and go over to it.

You can see that it has several types of food listed and, when you click on them, you can see how popular they are for takeout in certain areas of the city. (Having lived in Greenpoint for over 7 years, the food listed as popular her came as no surprise to me. Even as the neighborhood changes in its residents, and a different demographic moves in, the options are still limited - though if you want Thai food, we've definitely got it!.) Then you see a little radio button where you can click and see the percentage of tip that was left with the people delivering the food.

It would stand to reason that the wealthier neighborhoods would tip better, no? They've more money, after all...

Well, it's not as simple as that, dear ones.

There are delivery people we tip more because we order more from their place of business.
There are delivery people we tip more because they arrive on our doorsteps at the speed of light.
There are delivery people we tip more because the weather outside is atrocious and we're so very glad that we didn't have to go out in that.

Looking at the map, you'll certainly see that some of the more wealthy neighborhoods are poor tippers. But the numbers are different by fractions of percentages. None of the neighborhoods tip more that 14% on average. It's not terrible. It's not amazing. I'm not judging. There are loads of reasons that people tip well and loads of reasons that people are stingy. I've written about it before (to a barrage of comments - people are passionate about this subject).

But, gentle readers, as the "season of giving" keeps rolling forward, and the economy keeps being stuck in first gear, let's take a moment to think about the people bringing us warm food on cold, cold nights.

And let's move that thinking to the world as a whole.

Many of us are in no financial state to be giving way bigger tips or donating way more to charity, but, as we're in a place where we are paying greater attention to what we're spending on a whole, let's just take a moment and spread a little more cheer when and where we can. An extra buck here, a warm (and sincere) smile there. Giving up your subway seat to a harried parent with little kids. Holding the door open for the person coming in behind you. They seem small. And they, maybe seem like they have very little to do with tipping your takeout guy.

But your MatchGirl, dear readers, is of the opinion that a little extra bit of warmth and compassion is contagious.
Especially at this time of year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spirit & Resolve

This is the time of year, gentle readers, when, especially when things are going great in your life, that it's hard to remember that not everyone is sharing your celebrations.

Your MatchGirl is thinking back to when she was first laid off, in November of 2008 - right after the worst birthday I have ever celebrated, right after the death of my grandfather, right before Thanksgiving. Though I spent Thanksgiving in Brooklyn with dear friends, and Christmas in New Hampshire with my family, this was a low point for your MatchGirl.

I could not go out and buy gifts for people in the way I had hoped. I was living hand-to-mouth off a paltry severance (which I know I was lucky to get), as I waited for unemployment insurance to kick in. It was a bad time.

I was single.
I felt disgusting.
I felt unloveable, undate-able and unhire-able.
The weather was damp and grey and cold.
It felt like the sun never shone.

And to make matters worse, the streets were filled with the gaiety of the holidays.
I mean, come on!
Nothing like the world rubbing it in, huh?

But here's the thing, dear readers.
It was all in my head.
I was sad and allowing myself to wallow in it.
Not being able to separate the good things in my life from the dismal feelings I had.

A year later, your MatchGirl was still unemployed. And you know what? I took advantage of it for all it was worth. Money? Who needed it? You can check out my Handmade Holiday here. What had really changed, though, was my attitude. I was certainly in no better situation than I had been the year before. In fact, after over a year unemployed, I should have been more depressed, not less.

But things change.
And you come to realize where priorities should lie. What matters to you the most (it's different for every person and I wouldn't presume to say where another's priorities should lie).

That's not to say, however, that this isn't a hard time of year for those who aren't working. Or who are working at part-time jobs. Or who are getting by - just - paycheck-to-paycheck. It's tough. It's tougher than the rest of the year, for sure.

So, this month, be generous with yourself. With your thoughts.
Take a moment to recognize how your hard work has gotten you to a great place.
Take a moment to pause and reflect on what it might have been had you not gathered your resolve and pushed forward.
And take a moment to see those around you - the unemployeds, the underemployeds, your friends and neighbors - and think how you can help them to find their resolve. To make their grey days a little brighter.
I promise it will be the best gift you can give.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Year In Review

Ah, gentle readers, as December rolls in and 2011 comes to a close, it's time that your MatchGirl started to think of all the changes that have occurred in the past year.

There are a lot.

Friends have gotten married and divorced. Babies have been born. Celebrations have been shared. Losses have been mourned.

Boyfriend started a new job just to start another a couple of month later.

Your MatchGirl got a promotion. She met some really cool people. She started speaking more. Writing more. Networking more.

The year has flown and sometimes I wonder, "What do I have to show for it?"
I'm still skint, after all.

But, gentle readers, though money is a big concern (especially living in New York; especially as we move forward and start to plan the rest of our life together and all that awesome yet pricey stuff that goes with it), it's not everything. It can't be. It shouldn't be.

Looking back at the past year, money aside, your MatchGirl has a lot to be excited about. A lot to be proud of. A lot to be grateful for.

Here are some, by no means all, of the highlights:

  • Boyfriend and I moved in together. Solidifying an already strong relationship. Moving forward into some serious, fun and terrifying territory.
  • I got a promotion. After doing all the social media for my company, without it as part of my job description, my hard work and initiative was rewarded with a change in title and responsibility (and a new desk on the "cool" side of the office).
  • The Domino Project, powered by Amazon, conceived of by Seth Godin, invited me to be part of the Street Team. Through this project, I met an amazing and supportive group of people. We share visions and projects and support each other how we can, with the resources that we've got. Some projects mean more to some than others and it all goes around. But this is a smart group of people, scattered across the globe. I'm proud to have been chosen for this project and honored and humbled to be amongst them.
  • I made some new friends. I love my "urban family" (ht Nick Ramsey), the one that has been growing since I've been in New York - the one I spend holidays with, celebrate weddings and birth announcements and crazy dance parties with, the one that holds me up when I am down - but I've been really excited to meet some new people - who work in my industry, who share my passions, who offer helping hands "just because" - and to get to know them as friends. You all know who you are. Thanks for coming into my life.
  • I celebrated. I saw friends - old and new - bring gorgeous children into this world. I traveled, and stayed home, for weddings of people who mean the world to me. I laughed at speeches by multiple brothers-of-the-groom. I cried at at least one first dance. 
  • I traveled. Not far, but to places new and old. With Boyfriend. We brought out the the worst and the best in each other. And we explored the ideas of new possibilities for the two of us, as we build our life together.
What changes has 2011 brought into your life, dear readers? What are some of the best things that have happened to you?

What do you wish for in 2012?

I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And Then It Hit Me!

That's how inspiration is supposed to come, isn't it, gentle readers?
A bolt from the blue!
And voila! You're inspired.

Not so fast.
It's not like that. Not at all.

Sure, sometimes you'll get an amazing idea as you're drifting off to sleep at night... or in the shower in the morning... But how many of you drop what you're doing and take the time to jot that idea down? Better yet, dear ones, how many of you then go back to that scribbled note or hurriedly typed memo and do something about it?

Ah. That's what I thought.
Your MatchGirl is wise to you, you know...

For my Friday post, I remind you that after you have the great idea - that jolt of inspiration - you need to do the work to make something happen. And so do I.

So, let's get to it, dear readers.
Get a move on.
Take that notebook full of great ideas an make something happen!