Julia Beck Vandenoever – Sidelined

Julia Beck Vandenoever
December 11, 2013

The current economic crisis knocked on our door on October 28th, 2011. In one 24-hour period, life as we knew it came to a screeching halt when my husband and I were laid-off within hours of each other on the same day. In the morning, when I was told my longtime position in publishing had been eliminated, I froze. But when my husband texted me two hours later say he had also been cut loose, I went numb. It was on my drive home, with my personal possessions stuffed in a cardboard box beside me, that something broke. I had to pull the car over and absorb the shock. For three years, I’d been half-listening to the unemployment stories on NPR during my morning commute. And now, with one grand gesture of bad timing, I found myself with my own story of a husband and a wife who have become a part of the 13.3 million unemployed Americans.

We are a typical middle class American family: one mom, one dad, one girl, one boy, and one day. The five of us live in a one-story 1,100 square foot blue brick ranch in the foothills of Colorado. By nature an optimist, I’ve always endeavored to show the shimmer just below the surface of everything, but now I see that shimmer as a fragile illusion. Since October 28th, I have been photographing ordinary moments of family life, partly to remember, but also to document life living with the burden of worry and the struggle of two unemployed parents raising a family, while trying to remain hopeful. I’ve discovered that life does not stop with unemployment –or with children. Birthdays and holidays continue, breakfasts need to be made, laundry needs to be done, and each day we put on a brave face and try to find meaning in this experience.

In many ways, being unemployed has given me the ability to see the world differently and given me the power to bring voice to the ordinary.