The alarm buzz sounds, the snooze is set, and eventually you drag yourself out from under the sheets and into the shower. You rock along shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the city on that transit car disguised as a sardine can, avoid eye contact with your peers in the elevator, park yourself in that three-walled box for eight hours beneath those buzzing, fluorescent lights… and then before you know it, it’s 5 o’clock and you’re back into the elevator, back onto the subway, back through the door at home. The sun is already dangerously close to setting and it’s nearing that time when you’ll slide yourself back under the sheets, alarm clock set. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
I’ve overheard a lot of people complaining passionately about their job lately, myself included to a certain degree, but nobody seems to know exactly why they feel so stuck or even that they’re capable of changing things. A lot of the time I feel as though these same people don’t even want to question it.
“Oh, you hate your job? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody and they meet at the bar.”
Welcome to office life! You’re familiar with it, I’m sure; many of us are deeply entrenched in it. It’s automated and often impersonal, perhaps two aspects that can more appropriately be blamed on things like our high-density habitation, commuter culture, or faceless corporate establishment. Perhaps they should be blamed on their accommodation by an increasingly jaded public. Whatever the reason, it’s a lonely club with an exceptionally high membership rate.
But as melodramatic and cynical as this all sounds, it’s really not that bad. At least not in my opinion. Personally, I don’t hate my job — unfulfilled by, sure, but not in contempt of. I’m in the process of uncovering my own greener pastures, but there are certainly no bad memories where this stage of my life is concerned.
As with everything in the universe, the experience of a thing depends an awful lot upon the eye of the beholder, and hey, it’s a job, right? Above and beyond a lot of things, it’s a means to existence. It pays the rent, fills the fridge, and keeps us afloat. In theory, it fulfills the primary necessities of life that allows us to keep trucking forward, onward, ahead — do you see the pattern? These things all point to survival, but we’re not thriving. We maintain staticity. Why? Because it’s what we do? What we were told to do? Because it’s considered normal?
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for — in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”
Unfortunately the very foundation on which this lifestyle is built makes it difficult to find satisfaction, as this quote alludes to. I know many people who are — or at least seem — genuinely happy with their office jobs, and I’m genuinely happy for them, but they are the minority. The most prominent statistic on the subject states that more than 70% of employees, in both American and British markets, are dissatisfied, disengaged, or uninspired with their jobs. That’s a lot of people. The majority of people.
In the name of survival, something that isn’t always easy in our modern economy, I think a lot of us forget about the ulterior reasons for working. The jobs we do are a lot more than merely a source of income. They’re an integral part of who we are. At a most conservative estimate, we spend more than one third of our waking hours devoted to our careers. That’s one third of our time, our attention, our thought, and our activity, and I suspect that my conservative estimate is probably much higher than merely one third. It’s a lot of time. A lot of time, here in the most vibrant and productive period of our lives, spent focused on something we don’t care about, are uninspired by, and ultimately unfulfilled with.
Of course the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. The theory of cognitive dissonance does a fine job of explaining that no matter what the job, pleasure or lack thereof is powerfully influenced by the fact that we are being paid to do the action in question. Changing the scene or flipping the script doesn’t make any of our problems evaporate, but perhaps new directions are better suited to who we are and where we envision ourselves in the future.
There is no singular answer. There never is. Stress abounds, be it in the office, on the build-site, behind your own desk at home, or on a beach in Hawaii. The pressures differ, but they’re omnipresent. It’s not the purpose of a job to make you happy, of course, but I think we can agree that happiness is a fundamental objective of life — what’s the point of it otherwise? And if that’s true, given how deeply entwined job and life are, I think we should all be paying more mind to how happy our careers make us. We only have one shot at this whole existence thing, after all.
“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
I’m curious about your thoughts on the subject. Are you working the job you want to be? What would you change about it?