For the fourth annual Nation Student Writing Contest, we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing how the recession had affected them. We received hundreds of submissions from high school and college students in forty-four states. We chose one college and one high school winner and eight finalists total. The winners are Jim Miller of Henderson State University in Arkansas and Deborah Ghim of Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois. You can read the essays at The winners receive a cash award of $1,000 and the finalists, $250 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. This contest was made possible by the BIL Charitable Trust to recognize and reward the best in student writing and thinking.   –The Editors

To me, the recession is like a parasite: eating away at the flesh of the world. Present-day life has been drastically altered from its previous state due to this severe economic downturn. Whether it is a national government, a large company, a school district or a regular family, changes have been implemented at all levels. My life has been affected by the recession through a culmination of events beginning about two and a half years ago.

I once lived a very sheltered, privileged life in the suburbs of West Bloomfield, Michigan. My father had had a great engineering job. However, due to various economic troubles in the company, he was “let go” from his position in late 2006. He tried to find a job but since he was an auto engineer in the metro Detroit area, this was next to impossible. I realized that I had some growing up to do. I kissed my college fund goodbye, and I worked especially hard in school, since scholarships and financial aid would be my only options. I also had to be a mentor and role model for my two younger sisters, who had no idea until much later that my father was out of a job. Our situation steadily worsened as my father remained jobless. I quickly learned to stop picking up my house phone, never answer the doorbell, and always, always look around before walking home from the bus stop. Debt collectors, repo men and eviction officials were everywhere, waiting to take possession of our house and our cars. This was an exhausting process for me, trying to study for AP Biology with all the lights off while people from the car dealership shone flashlights through the windows and pounded on our doors roaring “Mr. Durrani! We’re here about your cars. Come out immediately, we know you’re in there!” Those tremendous voices sent chills down my spine at first, but one could say I eventually grew used to it.

By late 2008, we could tell that the end would arrive soon. It is impossible to go unnoticed when you stop paying for your McMansion and its utilities for twenty-eight consecutive months. Friday, January 9, 2009, had started out as a regular day for me. But as I pulled up to my house that evening and saw U-Haul trucks everywhere, with my furniture in them, I knew that the wait was finally over. Walking up to my cavernous bedroom and seeing more than half of my things gone, several of my possessions sticking out from boxes, and workmen smoking and meandering as if my room was a sports bar is an image that I will never forget. I was thrown out of my house in a matter of hours. My life was changed forever and I had to move to Potomac, Maryland, to live with my aunt. Because our move happened so rapidly, I am still adjusting today to my current living situation. I do not have most of my clothes or other things because they have disappeared. I am sad that I had to abandon the place where I was born and raised, but at the same time it was like a weight had been lifted, and I no longer had to worry about the dreaded event of leaving that had been looming over my head only months before. The recession had made me hate the way my family and I were living, so in a way it was a relief to leave. We could start afresh, which we are still doing today.

The recession affected my life beginning with the loss of my father’s job and continuing to the day my family was evicted from our house. It affects me today because I am still adjusting to my new life in Maryland. But I am not the only one who has been affected; others around the world have also made adjustments to their lives because of it. It will be a cause of great satisfaction once this world has been freed from its current state of economic turmoil.