Article by Wendy McCance
I should give you the reader a little history on what started this journey and blog to find the happiness. I am an ex-factory worker from one of the big three auto plants. I worked on the line building trucks for seven years before the bottom fell out and the economy took a nosedive.
During my time at the truck plant, I made $30.00 an hour, got a lot of overtime, saw some great bonuses, had superior health insurance and had an incredible number of paid days off due to shutdown schedules, holidays and vacation. My husband also worked at the same plant and together we bought a beautiful home and raised our kids in an exclusive neighborhood with fabulous schools. We felt incredibly lucky and grateful for what we had achieved.
Then, the bottom fell out. We bought our home in 2007, and by 2009 we lost our jobs. Our plant closed its doors for good. Our only options were to move to Ohio for an assembly line job with the company or take a small payout and leave the company for good. The housing market was a wreck, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to sell our home without losing a considerable amount of money. On top of this, we also had a small home that we rented out as an additional way to save towards retirement. All of our family and friends were in Michigan and the kids loved their school and the close family bond they had with their relatives. Financially and emotionally moving just wasn’t an option.
We devised an emergency plan to get us through this rough time. We applied for help to reduce our mortgage. We spoke to a housing counselor who said we wouldn’t have a problem considering that we both lost our jobs. In the mean time, we started to dig into our retirement savings. We made sure every bill was paid off. We paid off both cars and the credit cards that had outstanding balances. We both went back to school. I had an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts. I went to our local community college and signed up for the Paralegal Program. The program was for one year and from what I researched, Paralegals made a good living. My husband had never finished college and had no degree. He was starting from square one studying to be a computer programmer.
In the mean time we went round and round with the mortgage company. Papers were always said to be lost, not turned in, or our information needed to be updated, even if we had just updated information two weeks prior. We saved every email and letter showing that at some point the mortgage company said everything was in and we would hear from them shortly. It didn’t help that we had a solid paper trail. The mortgage counselor was of no help either. Although she would contact the bank and send in duplicate papers when we sent them in, we were never approved.
We went through all of our savings making payments while we waited and lost everything. At this point, we had no debt other than our home and the rental property. We could not afford to pay taxes on the difference once the rental would be sold. We owed $91,000 and the house was worth $35,000. In 2011, after 2 years of trying to save our home, grabbing any job we could find and going to school, we claimed bankruptcy. The bank became extremely aggressive and we had to find a new place to live fast. We completed our bankruptcy one month before the home was sold at auction. Thankfully, we had a relative that put together a land contract agreement for us for a home that although in a different city, allowed the kids to stay in the same schools.
Finding a decent job has been a horrible experience for me. My husband got lucky and found a job that he enjoys. The company he works for pays decently, has good hours, challenges him and has given him opportunities to move up in the company. My experiences have been with law firms that don’t want a Paralegal with no experience. I have been a receptionist at a corporate law office, a debt collector (which was heartbreaking) for another law firm and an office worker calling on insurance companies and medical professionals for a personal injury law firm.
I understand that you have to start somewhere and I should feel lucky to have gotten a foot in the door. My wages were pretty much minimum wage and benefits were limited or nonexistent. I was screamed at, made to feel worthless and harassed. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. Each place would bring up the fact that I had worked on the line, and it wasn’t in a positive way. I have decided that being a paralegal is not for me. I love to do research and interact with clients, but the offices have been toxic. I’ve seen too much ruthless competition, back-stabbing, gossiping and general self-centeredness to want to continue in this field. I can accept lower wages in an atmosphere that is enjoyable, but the experiences at these law firms were demeaning and degrading.
Currently I am unemployed. I have been working on my writing and I’m doing a lot of soul-searching to figure out what direction I want to go in. I know that there have been so many stories like this where people have had to start over, to reinvent themselves. I know something positive will come from this experience, it just takes time. I hope that this story has been helpful for anyone who has experienced some of what our family has gone through. Sometimes knowing that others have been there as well is comforting, and I hope that is the case here.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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