Losing his Wall Street job in 2008 taught Billy Quirk that 'everything doesn't come easy'
Editor's note: Those who graduated high school in 2002 were the first to enter the post-9/11 world. Their adult lives have been shaped by two wars, a shortage of jobs and the Great Recession. The Day asked nine of the seniors profiled in 2002 about how their lives now reflect their dreams and ambitions then.
Westerly - Billy Quirk remembers being on Wall Street in 2008, waiting for the subway with people who were holding boxes of their personal belongings and crying.
The start-up private equity firm that Quirk joined after graduating from Dartmouth College failed. So he moved back home to Westerly.
"The recession humbled me a lot," Quirk, 28, said in a recent interview. "You just think that everything is going to be peaches and cream."
Quirk said he learned that everyone experiences failure.
"I think it's what you take from that that really shapes you," he said. "I don't think I would've been as good of a person if I didn't lose my job in 2008. It taught me that everything doesn't come easy."
While he was figuring out what to do next, Quirk spent time with his grandfather, who had moved from Cape Cod to Westerly. He practiced piano and applied to be a math teacher through a teaching fellows program.
He had one more math fluency test to take when a former co-worker called in March 2011. There was a job opportunity at a new private equity firm in New York City.
Quirk was a senior at Westerly High School when he realized how much he liked economics, his major at Dartmouth, where he graduated in 2006.
He also had missed living in the city and working in finance.
"I found it so interesting, and I wanted to be back in the action," Quirk said.
He is now an associate at the firm, which invests in financial services companies. He lives in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side.
In high school, Quirk thought that one day, he might serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Some who knew him thought he might run for president.
Quirk said he no longer harbors any presidential ambitions; politics have become too divisive. He also doesn't see himself formulating monetary policy.
"It's not in New York and it just doesn't seem particularly interesting to me anymore. I think I was a senior and didn't really know what I was talking about," he said with a laugh.
When he's not working, Quirk sings in a chorus and plays piano in bars and at friends' parties. A Stephen King fan, he hopes one day to write a horror novel of his own.
Ten years from now, he predicts, he'll still be working in finance. But, he said, he'll be living downtown, and will be married and maybe will have children. His advice to young adults just starting out: keep working.
"I would say the number one thing is to always have a job, even of it's part-time in college. Don't blow through your savings," he said. "It's just always good to always be working."