Sundays to Thursdays you do not exist outside of 9 hour intervals. The early mornings are a blur filled with unanswerable questions such as ‘Do I have time to shower?’ ‘What is the least amount of effort I can expend and still look presentable?’ and ‘Is this how I will feel every morning for the rest of my life?’.
The morning commute is where your mind begins to rouse from the painfully insufficient slumber of the night before. The drive is an equal part mixture of anxiety over a late arrival at work and dread for the moment you step foot in the office. They do not mix well.
You finally arrive at work. Immediately you regret all the life choices that have inevitably brought you to this moment. For the next 9 hours your entire existence is whittled away until all that remains in the forefront of your consciousness is how you will survive the rest of the day as an office drone, stuck working a job that depletes you of energy, passion, and hope.
The reasons vary. Your degree did not pan out for you like you thought it would. Or you’re only doing this job until you find your true passion. Or the state of the economy means so few employers are hiring and so you’re stuck. Or, worse still, you have found your true passion but it does not align with the capitalist framework that sees merit only in pursuits that produce a quantitative monetary gain. In other words, your passion doesn’t sell.
You make small talk with your coworkers or you don’t, it matters little, they are fighting their own battles too. You sit at your desk, knowing that a combination of the following thoughts will inevitable make their way to your mind and paralyze you, although only momentarily.
Thought 1: This job is bullshit. I’m bullshit
If the entire department disappears overnight the world would continue to function just fine. It may even be better off.
How did you end up in this field? This meaningless, purposeless field? You know that only a fraction of people work in the field that they majored in, but how could you have strayed so far? You see no true value in the work that you do, that your department does, and sometimes, that the whole business does. What’s the point?
The question is simple and the answer can be easily found on the company’s ‘About Us’ page. These answers however are just another fragile, paper-thin layer of bullshit on top of a Jenga like structure of business jargon and deluded self-aggrandizement.
This is the mutually shared delusion that must be maintained by all staff in every job you’ve ever had since you’ve graduated. How many jobs was that again? Your father had 2 maybe 3 jobs over a 40+ year career. How could did he stand it? Your mind brings forth platitudes to answer itself: ‘It was a different time‘ or ‘the economy was something else‘ and ‘people were loyal back then‘.
This is the mass delusion that unites office drones from all cultures and countries. An unintended effect of globalization. A true testament to what happens when 30-something-year-olds from around the world must make due. What we do is important. We create value. We have a vision. We have a mission. This is not just about the money.
You stop yourself before you start feeling queasy.
Thought 2: I should do it. I should quit right now
But of course you won’t.
You need this job almost as much as you hate it. While your objections to capitalism and consumer society are, after 10 years of ceaseless rumination, fairly clear and eloquent in your mind, you are still part of the system that you abhor. In other words, whine all you want about businesses and money being the ultimate measure of success, but you still need to eat.
If you have a family to support, the idea of quitting is even more absurd. You may be willing to suffer as a willfully unemployed person (gasp) but your family didn’t sign up for this wild, existential crisis.
This doesn’t stop you from fantasizing about it constantly. Not overly dramatic theatrics where you throw your resignation letter in your boss’ face and yell. No, your fantasies have shrunk down along with your ambition.
You fantasize most about never having to walk through those doors again. Never having to deal with these people. Never having to pretend.
This is purely the creative work of an achingly deprived mind. You may have quit a similar soul-sucking job before and now that you are in the same position again a creeping feeling takes hold of you as you realize that this just might be it. That it doesn’t really get better than this.
Thought 3: Quit your whining. Others have it so much worse
You know that some people die from lack of access to water, to food, and yes, even to jobs. You should count yourself lucky. Everyone tells you this. Your mom. Your friends. Your significant other. There is a term for your problems, a nice, neat, belittling term: first world problems. It’s a hashtag too.
But you can’t help but wonder why the suffering of others, worse than yours by many standards, invalidates your own. No one has a monopoly on suffering. You should feel lucky, blessed even. You have a roof over your head, food in your fridge and your biggest complaint is that you are wasting your life by merely subsisting. Surviving each day only to wake up and attempt to survive the next. Blessed.
You constantly think about veering into oncoming traffic on the highway on the way home. You dismiss the idea, despite its persistence. You don’t want to hurt anyone else.
Thought 4: Work on your passion projects on the side
The side. The perfect place to relegate your most prized passions and dreams. You constantly wonder what people mean. Which side?
You do the math. 24 hours minus the time spent commuting to and fro, plus the deathly work hours, plus chores, obligations and sleep, equals 3 to 4 hours on a good day.
You might even try and heed that advice. You try. Once you finally have a moment to work on whatever your dream may be you quickly realize that not all time is created equal. An hour after 12 hours of a mind-numbing waking life is not of equal quality to an hour that follows a solid 9 hours of sleep. You try anyway. You stumble towards progress sometimes but ultimately, you fail.
The side. You are unsure if you are so hollowed-out by your daily job that you can’t make the side projects work, or if that’s just the form that your procrastination chooses to manifest itself as. After all, you think, there’s nothing I can do, I’m stuck! Thank god. Otherwise I might actually have to create something.
You wonder how it came to be that you must spend the majority of your life with strangers doing work that you collectively pretend is meaningful. Or maybe only you feel like a total fraud and everyone else is convinced. You brush the thought aside, unable to accept the loneliness it suggests.
Thought 5: You think of all the ways you could suddenly die, unfulfilled
Your mind stirs itself into a panic. You think of all the genetic predispositions towards death and disease bestowed upon you by your family. Cancer. Stroke. Heart failure. You think of these things and wonder if you will die before actually get to spend your waking life without misery. You think of all the causes of accidental death. Car crashes.
You think about all of the ways in which your existence can come to an abrupt end, and yet instead of springing into action, the thought only serves to paralyze you. Unsure if the move ahead is on a landmine, you choose to remain still and slowly rot to death instead. Sedated by comfort and the alluring never-realized promise that things will change for you, some day. Maybe. Soon?
Thought 6: Thank god its 5 p.m. – time to head home