For years I worked at jobs that kind of made me feel like, if I wasn’t doing something brilliant, at least I was doing something to benefit my fellow humans in the meantime, and there had to be some redemption in that.
I was a writer at a newspaper, uncovering the truth for my readers and earning a barely livable wage for it. On my off hours, I attempted to work at creating something amazing.
Eventually, I conceded defeat. I told myself, OK, this idea that I could be a brilliant tennis player, director, playwright, whatever, might’ve been far-fetched from the beginning. Particularly because I didn’t work especially hard at any of those things, I mainly fantasized about them when I was feeling like a loser.
I took a good, sober look at the situation I’d created and told myself, now I need to let go of the “brilliant” dream and go to work every day; earn a livable wage, be a useful member of society and be grateful for the chance to do it.
So, I took a job in the marketing department of a major international finance company.
Thus began my descent straight to the ninth circle of hell.
Corporate America is full of people who try to cover up their incompetence with being a jerk. If I’m rude enough, the thinking goes, everyone will assume I must know what I’m doing, and no one will dare come close enough to dig a little and uncover the truth.
These are the people running the industries that rule our lives.
The other people in corporate America hate their jobs. They sleepwalk through their days clawing their way to each break, which they see as little daily mini-miracles that help them survive.
Every morning I walked the path to my desk I noticed these people wilting in their cubes like sad little daisies who never get to feel the sun on their face. Each day I passed them, I felt a little sunshine drain from my own face too.
I’d joined the crowd of Weight Watchers clubs and walking buddies. The first day these people seemed like weirdos. The second day their weirdness made perfect sense. It’s amazing how quickly one acclimates to one’s surroundings.
There were cubes with Dilbert cartoons covering every inch of wall, troll collections, unending jars of bright, sticky candy and stacks of South Beach diet bars.
I soon learned these people surround themselves with weird things to stop feeling so lonely all day, every day at work. Every one of them had their own version of the, it’ll-be-OK-because-I’m-going-to-do-something-brilliant dream forever choked by reality.
Their real lives are filled with never-ending conference calls with ego-maniacal assistant vice-presidents who love to hear themselves talk and have a captive (if unwilling) audience to listen to them.
These assistant vice presidents are followed around by the obsequious managers under them who are desperate to be loved them; the people under the managers are ensnared in the absurd drama and know that there is no way out. All reasonable people know a job is a good thing to have. To walk away, no matter how miserable you are, is out of the question.
In corporate America, everyone’s hoping their boss’s boss likes them and can see how talented they truly are. If you don’t get discovered and become famous as a brilliant something or other in your real life, then you’re reduced to hoping to be discovered by some air-head marketing manager wannabe in your office in a squat building surrounded by other squat buildings in a rambling corporate park in the middle of nowhere.
Getting to this corporate park is a harrowing task unto itself. Though you’re grateful to have a corporate park to go to, you have to negotiate highways and circles where other drivers are determined to kill you because they’re in a hurry to get to the jobs they hate before everyone else so their manager can see how loyal and hard-working they are and love them.
Beware corporate rising stars on the road. Someone should do a study on the havoc they wreak.
Working in the corporate world and devouring self-help books to find ways to cope with it, I developed a kind of self-help Tourette’s.
Self-help tells you to see everything that happens to you as an opportunity for spiritual growth. This requires a sort of mental spin that you want to believe, and maybe on some level do believe, but squished down on a much deeper level is that nagging, gnawing voice of truth that will always trump spin and come out just when you think you’ve succeeded at squelching it. The more you squish it down, the saltier the truth comes out.
My manager was always requiring me to do pointless things. In a corporate position, you look for ways to do a good job, no matter what you’re doing, or else you’ll go insane. But some managers will squeeze this good will out of you by delegating whatever nonsense they want to you, because they can. And because they’re moronic idiots.
No wonder we all have road rage. We can’t direct our road rage rants to the people who really deserve them.
So, I’d sit in my cube, a lifeless blob. With no motivation to get any work done. Too fearful to walk away into nothing.
I couldn’t have been farther from my brilliant dreams.
To survive in corporate America, you need to be able to put up with incessant boredom, wretched people, and the awful knowledge that this is your life wasting away. I couldn’t do it one more minute than I absolutely had to.
I answered every job ad I had more than a snowball’s shot in hell at getting. One day, I got an interview. And then a second interview. And then I was offered a job. I had no idea what I’d be doing, but it was a way out.
Breaking free of corporate America was like leaving a bad marriage. It was a little scary, because there was a sense of security with my long-time abuser and I was jumping into the unknown. But getting out was walking into pure sunshine. It was realizing every day can be good; life does not have to equal suffering.