Last night I settled in with the boyfriend to watch Office Space, which seems to be (newly??) available on Netflix instant watch. I hadn’t seen the movie since actually “entering” the professional workforce in 2010, so there’s no surprise that Peter’s office hell hit really close to home. I don’t have a great work life and that is one of the main triggers for the negativity that’s been plaguing me for the past several months. I actually couldn’t wait to graduate college and begin my life–but then I graduated with a pretty functionless degree in English (specialization: publishing studies) and an even more useless minor in French. Mix into this cocktail the failing American economy and you may see why my job prospects were initially limiting. A high school boyfriend actually warned me that if I pursued this track, I’d amount to nothing but a “miserable pencil-pusher.” That was 7 years ago and look where I am. Self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps?
Once upon a time (about this time last year), my only goal was to quit my job and “move up” to a job that paid better. I looked and looked and looked. I interviewed at a couple of places. I got a taste of what I wanted, and then blammo! I moved up. Well, maybe not “up,” per se. But I moved. I was happy to move on to a legitimate organization (see: not the corrupt family-owned company I had been working for) but it didn’t take long for corporate life to embrace me in a loving stranglehold. Misery set in. Weight gain began. The commute started to grate on my last nerve. Living with my parents for a time to get a firm financial footing was exhausting. So then, with a little bit more money but an ever-present hole in my soul, the next step was to move out. I did that, and that brought happiness for a time. No one to answer to anymore. No one to eat the food I bought. My cats, who had traded me in for my parents who were home more frequently while I lived with them, with no other option, started to cuddle with me. Life was good.
But then the hole in my soul grew. One of my closest friends moved away. Work got increasingly more stressful. Things continued to suck and I wondered, what now? Is this the life I’m destined to live? Wake up before 6:00 am each day to commute an hour, sit in a dimly-lit cubicle for 8 hours, commute another hour, arrive home depressed, drink a couple of beers, and head to bed before 9:00 pm out of sheer exhaustion, defeat, and boredom?
No. Enter the intervention. Only, no one intervened but me. I decided that I need to start trying harder to be better, better at everything, better at trying to feel fulfilled.
Most people don’t like their jobs. Most people don’t get along with their bosses. Most people feel underpaid and under-appreciated. But should these negative work feelings spill so completely into my personal life? You have to learn to leave work at work. You have to not sweat the small stuff. And perhaps most cathartic of all, you have to learn to laugh. As one of the crazies vented and nearly worked herself into heart-attack mode in the cube next door, I calmly smiled to myself and thought, that could’ve been me…but it’s not.
Today a series of annoyances occurred in my work-life that would normally render me irate and complain-y. But today, I did not come home to complain to my boyfriend. I didn’t come to vent here about my ignorant coworkers. I came here to say that I saw life with new eyes. And also to present a question: if I try hard to not let my work-life affect me as emotionally as it has been, does this make me a bad employee? Does this cement me as a perpetual pencil-pusher in a dead-end job? I’m not sure. I want to care, and I do care, but I found that I cared too much and my mental health was suffering. My challenge for this week is to find a happy medium: stand out as the excellent employee I know I can be while taking this corporate nonsense with a happy little grain of salt.
Ready, set, go!