Decade of discontent

A Facebook friend was waxing ecstatic about the 80s this morning on her post. Many of her friends replied in similar vein, talking about music, fashion, even the economy. I could not agree at all. Maybe it’s because I am of a different generation. The FB friend is closer to my daughter’s age than mine and was in high school during the 80s. Terry said, when I laughingly told him of the comments, that everyone likes their high school years and that I should tell her the 60s and 70s were the best. I don’t know that those decades were all that great, either, but they were much happier for me than the 80s. The clothes and music were also better and there was a feeling that we could do anything. Like go to college, get married, buy our first place, buy new cars, start a family.

We bought the house in which we still live in October 1980. The prices were high (we had made over 100% profit on our condo) but so were the interest rates. We were able to buy the house because it had an assumable loan with 11% interest. New loans had interest rates of 15-16 percent. A few months later Terry’s brother would buy a house with 18% interest on the loan. It was a tough, tough time. Sure enough, only a year or so after the purchase, our house was worth considerably less than we had bought it for. We had put almost twenty percent down, so that helped somewhat, but it had not been our intention to stay in this house but for a few years. We had hoped to sell and move up. Thirty two years later, with the house paid for, it’s all a moot point, but back then it was painful.

Terry lost his job in 1982 and we really struggled. His next job in retail didn’t pay all that much. There were times I had no idea how we would pay the bills. Jennifer was removed from private school; the dance lessons stopped; we didn’t go on any vacations. Since I shopped at Mervyn’s for Jen’s clothes, I bought my things there, too. Certainly nothing fancy.

I wasn’t happy with my job and wanted something different, but every interview I had was pretty much for the same kind of work, just a different company. Years went by. One day I finally realized I wanted a job that would give me more time off with Jennifer, and teaching seemed perfect for that. I had worked long enough for the cottonseed company that I had a large amount in my retirement fund, enough to live on for two years, the time it would take me to get a teaching credential. In late 1987, things began to click. There were again possibilities.

By 1989 I had the credential and a job at the inner city high school where I would remain for 21 years. Terry had returned to school, too, and was working in computer programming. He would change companies quite a few times in the next two decades as the businesses kept changing, but our finances were in good shape.

I also had begun to feel better about myself and what I was accomplishing. The  1980s, and my thirties, were behind me. Maybe that made a difference, too. The thirties seem like a tough time, now, in retrospect. You’re no longer young, but you haven’t found your niche yet, or at least I hadn’t. The financial part was the biggest hurdle of that era and one I would not relive for anything. I get upset, though, when I hear of people just up and leaving a house on which they owe more than it’s worth. That was our situation for a few years, but it never occurred to me that we should abandon our debt responsibility. We stuck with it, and today the house is paid for which makes retirement at a young age possible. I guess that decade of discontent taught me that things can change and you are never stuck forever.

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14 responses to “Decade of discontent

  1. Very well said. As a high schooler of the ’60’s, I’d say school time was very difficult, but the opportunities in those years, and the risks, were always an adventure. I would have hated to have grown up in the 80’s.

    And we also bought an 18% home, for which we were forced to take a significant loss on a few years later. But we survived layoffs, and low paying jobs, even fine dining on peanut butter and crackers, and look back on it now as stepping stones to our place in the world today.

    Great blog

    • Thank you. I wouldn’t relive the 1980s but I’d be happy to do the 21 years at the inner city high school again, if I could know then what I know now. I would relax more and worry less about my students.

  2. I never thought about what decade I was living in until recently when someone mentioned the 60s to me. And how enlightening they were. But not for me. I went from HS to a brief stint in college to the army and then to marriage. I lived in the 50s during the 60s.

    I missed drugs, the sexual revolution, and the formative music legends. And I survived and thrived.

    • I have never been all that interested about any music of any era, but I know it’s really important to most people. The music seems to define us.

  3. I get nostalgic sometimes, but I’d only want to relive parts of my past if I could do it knowing what I know now. I’d do things so differently if I could. I wasted a lot if opportunities being shy and afraid to speak up.

    • You were probably smart to stay quiet. Speaking up takes a lot of energy, and in the end, it usually makes no difference. Said by the person who always spoke up but doesn’t so much any more.

  4. wonderful summary of what the 80’s meant to you. You have a good life now.

  5. Wow! I guess that was your lives in a nutshell. There were struggles, but you came out of it happily. We were also going to live in our Illinois house for a short time before moving on to a larger home or to another state. Instead, we stayed there for 34 years and now our daughter and family lives there. We can never anticipate what the future will bring.

  6. I started a job at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in 1979 and stayed there for thirty years, during which I put away 15% of my salary into a retirement fund. Back then it never occurred to me that I would actually one day need it, but today it is enough, along with Social Security, for us to live comfortably. The young of today will have to do the same to have any security in old age.

    • Smart investing. Glad you had such a good job that allowed you to do that. I felt that way about teaching. I was forced to put money into retirement, but the district also matched that. Big help for teachers when it’s time to retire.

  7. The 1980s (in my forties) were the best for me. High school was awful (1950s); first marriage was awful (1960s and early 1970s). My happiest year = the year I turned 40. Yes, the 80s had their issues, but somehow we muddled through (with 18% interst on house, etc.) The 90s were insane. Since 2001 it’s been war and rumors of wars. Just yesterday, I heard from a military guy that Obama had sent 10,000 troops to Syria. Dianne

    • I believe it really has to do with our age at the time. Just chatted with a couple of 30 something girls and they said their 30s have been hard–raising small children, keeping the house together, working, etc. I told them that I had dreaded 60 as it just seemed so old to me but that this has been a wonderful year and I really feel good about who I am, what I’m doing, and life in general. Maybe it’s something about gratitude. I just read that discontent is brought about by ingratitude. I will think more on that.

  8. Interesting post. When hubby got demoted to a lower salary and position, we applied for a reverse mortgage, which was a godsend, because without it, we would have been homeless, unable to pay the 2 mortgages. Somehow, things work out in life.

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