Real Life Stories~ Who Are the 99% ~ Jack Varnell ~ A Personal Essay

I am 48 years old and a recovered drug addict clean 17+ yrs.

I studied hard and became a certified addiction counselor.
Part of that included an 2 yr internship with a 40.00wk stipend.
Once legally certified, I ran a recovery residence for homeless and
indigent addicts for five years making little money

85 lives were permanently changed as a result.

Program State funding was cut; residence closed.

I filed bankruptcy as a result and lost my home

I studied and began a new career in IT.
I worked for major non-profit 2 years.
I rebuilt their internal worldwide communications network.
Then got laid off because free, student, foreign, and intern
workers would do my job for nothing, class credit or board.
Non profits employees don’t get unemployment or other benefits.

I lost another home.
My wife finally left with everything else.

I became caretaker for a father who died of cancer.

I started a new media business hiring students, and creatives
in a market where the schools that tricked them into their education
knew they would never be able to find a job doing what the learned and loved.

After three years the market couldn’t support the business and it began failing.

I got sick with a lung infection that almost killed me .
I spent 8 weeks in the hospital, fortunately on a grant.
Meanwhile all my audio, video, and computer equipment was repossessed.

Bankrupt again, and still very ill, I needed over a year to recover.

Finally I went to a retail management job to survive.
Slept on my mother’s floor to help her and save money.
I was hospitalized for depression. (Imagine that…)
then was terminated by company.

I’m still dodging the hospital collectors for the last $300.00 owed,
yet they got paid over $25,000 from Ins.

I lived and worked in recovery residence for addicts in trade for
room and board for over a year.

I began another career in client and account management for
a startup company streaming video online, worked for two years managing
high visibility clients, making 40k a year and massive profits for the company.

I was diagnosed with a life threatening illness.

I continued work during treatment while fighting incredible and
sometimes debilitating side effects.

A few weeks before I completed treatment. I was laid off.
Insurance was canceled and access to Doctors stopped.
Treatment never completed. No followup medically done.

3 Months later Company sold to foreign company.
Seems clear that although my performance evaluations and client
approval ratings were through the roof, the cost factor of my illness
was a part of the issue.

It looked more profitable for buyout.
Execs who got rich off my sweat, then laid me off
made millions.

Foreign company laid off 60% of local employees
who built company.

I got unemployment for 99 weeks while actively seeking work.
I have applied to over 350 jobs. I have had three interviews.
It has been almost three years now.
I have been rejected for age , being under skilled, and over skilled,
out of work too long, or too old. Mostly I have been ignored.

I have worked in online freelance work.
Those jobs have dried up because of the influx of available workers.

I am an author with two self published books and limited distribution.
Five sales each. But at least I hung on to a dream and got the words out there.

I am a photographer, and sell art online.
But most seem to be worried about having the money to eat.
They are not much concerned about art.
I get that, but I try anything to survive.

I am always days away from eviction.
Even if I manage to stay, electricity and internet will be gone soon.
Then I will have no livelihood at all because I am in active relapse
with my illness and in chronic pain.

I can not get medical help, and am too ill to actually go out and work now.
I will likely die of organ failure or complications within the next
five years without medical intervention.

In a country that offered a dream that never came true.

Some days I wonder why I worked so hard to become a good American,
and to do the next right thing based on a lie.

I wonder some days why I bothered to get clean.
I could have killed my own dreams much easier 20 years ago.

I have busted my ass, maintained hope and faith in the dream.
And tried to treat people the way I want to be treated.
I wasn’t banking on this.

I AM the 99 %

I have worked too hard for this to be the end.

I am pissed . I’m tired of being screwed over and of attempts
to make ME feel bad about it to alleviate YOUR guilt or greed,or to prop
up your overinflated sense of self-importance.

I do not care about being in the 1%.

Being out of fight or flight and survival mode would be really nice though.

I’ve earned it.

I AM THE 99 %


A huge shout-out to Jack for letting us share his piece this week.  This speaks to and for so many of us.  You do have a voice. It does matter.

This post originally appeared at The Emotional Orphan

You can check out Jack’s Art & Photography on RedBubble

Click on the book cover to order your own copy of The Lexicon of the Orphanage or visit Jack directly to learn more about his work, his qualifications and where he will fit into your latest project! Poet & Artist for Hire…

An extra special thank you, just for readers of The River…

For those of you compelled to purchase a copy of “The Lexicon of the Orphanage”, Jack has also agreed to provide a pdf copy of his chap book “A Part of All Sums” at no additional cost.  And we’re going to make it really easy for you to claim your copy! Simply email your purchase receipt to to receive your free copy! And don’t forget to let him know you saw the special in The River!


15 thoughts on “Real Life Stories~ Who Are the 99% ~ Jack Varnell ~ A Personal Essay

  1. This is a compelling, honest, powerful write that speaks to the lands of opportunity losing just that. Each and every one of us are battling in some way, some more than others, while quality of life, the ability to provide for our loved ones, all these things that we have prided ourselves on, slowly but surely disappear. No soul should be left sick, hurting, hungry, poor. The 1% could easily feed, clothe and house those who are experiencing difficulties right now. Yes, some will take and not give back, but the majority of people need some help right now, honest, hard working people are going with out…and it is not right!

  2. Thanks for sharing your personal essay! I am glad you had family to go to in your desperate time of need.
    More jobs would definitely help your situation and others. Yes, keep writing, and never stop going for what you want.

  3. this is excruciating…and i’m certain 100% that there so many more in similar situations all over this planet…it’s a shame that we have come to behave worse than animals when it comes to our brothers and sisters all around the world…:(

  4. a compelling witness to the struggles of so, so many, Jack. I can identify with just trying to survive inspite of the never-ending obstacles thrown our way. Fight or flight mode totally sucks. There has got to be more than this – what are we missing? what are our eyes focused on and what should they be focused on instead? Are we truly right where we are supposed to be?

    for those of you thinking about purchasing Jack’s poetry book, Lexicon of the Orphanage, I highly recommend it. I bought it over the summer and enjoyed the time I spent with it. You can find my review of this chapbook on my blog. The address is for those interested in reading it.

  5. Oh I’m here Jack with tears in my eyes. My day has finally slowed where I can comment and every time I read this I want to hug you and then stubbornly insist you get medical help and a fair chance at a job. Your story is the American story of today no matter how the media tricks us. No matter how many people wear blinders not to see around them or what they say to fool themselves. The reality is we are sinking and need to help each other out. Change needs to happen.

    Thank you Jack for telling your story and sharing it with all of us.

    • Hi River,

      Thanks very much for the kind words and the platform. I appreciate the opportunity and all hugs happily accepted… The ultimate lesson here is to maintain hope and keep moving. So I will and rest assured knowing that change is not only needed, but inevitable. The walls are tumbling around us.

      “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” — John F. Kennedy
      Be well.

  6. Wow, Jack, you ARE the 99%. Having lived a life of endless struggle myself, doing everything I can to survive on the brink, I so hear and relate to your every word and struggle. It is unconscionable, what you have endured. YES, maintain hope and keep moving. Thank you for writing of your journey. You speak for the millions (minions?) at the bottom of the heap. You speak for us all.

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