When 38-year old Catherine Goerz got laid off in 2008 and was given just two weeks severance, she found herself taking on odd jobs and struggling to live -- happily -- on 75% less.
How were others doing it? How was anyone surviving? How were they toughing it out? Was anyone finding new opportunities in the worst job market in some 80 years? She decided to find out.
Armed with a hand-held mini-cam, a couple of friends, and a mission -- to fulfill her dream of making a documentary -- Goerz, a former campaign manager and producer for a Bay Area communications company, spent several weeks traveling cross-country, and interviewing America's jobless -- from marketing managers to waitresses.
Back home, she assembled a film crew to shoot and edit more footage.
The result: an award-winning 10-minute documentary called RE:Invention, which showcases everyday people and their response to the economic downturn.
Goerz shares some of their coping strategies -- and hers:
Let go of your identity
"Don't get too attached to who you think you are or what you think you should be doing," says Goerz. "The more you let go, and invite in all possibilities, the more things come to you." Indeed: In addition to moving into films, Goerz is also consulting, doing PR, producing conferences and workshops, taking on projects in social media, and coaching people -- and organizations -- on reinvention. Goerz is also continuing to look for full-time employment in the corporate world, but realizes that she may, in fact, have a career as a reinvention expert if she's willing to go that route. (A second, longer RE:Invention documentary was recently completed, paid for with the grant she won for the first one).
Get out of the house
"While working from home has its benefits, the truth is, we are social animals and being around the company of other people does wonders for your energy level and productivity," says Goerz, who works regularly from a local cafe that offers reliable Wi-Fi connection and is frequented by other independent contractors. She also pays a nominal monthly membership fee for co-working space in the Bay Area.
Like most Americans, Goerz, who used to have regular pedicures, eat out whenever she wanted to, buy a lot of music, and shop for designer clothes, has made significant cutbacks. She limits travel to local destinations, shops at thrift stores, gets her hair cut at a local academy, helps throw clothing-swap parties, and goes to potluck dinners, but she (like many others she interviewed for RE:Invention) is OK with it. "It's about readjusting your expectations about your life, and reconfiguring what you need to be happy, and not taking anything for granted," says Goerz. "You have to find value in your life; value that is non-monetary, and comes from within."
Don't point fingers
"We have all played a role in this," says Goerz of the 20-year spending binge, fueled by easy credit and the desire to keep up with the Joneses and have it all -- cars, boats, homes, fancy vacations, luxury goods. "Change is happening and you have to embrace that, be awake, and know that a bright future is on the horizon but that it will take time and patience."
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