[Shola’s note: Man, do I have an extra special treat for all of you! This week’s post is written by the insanely fabulous Kelly Gurnett, founder of one of my all-time favorite blogs, Cordelia Calls It Quits. If you have never heard of Kelly before (first of all, where have you been?), it’s time for you to get familiar with her awesomeness. So, without further ado, buckle up and prepare for some of her signature ass-kicking goodness. Here’s Kelly!]
No one likes their job.
Be thankful at least you have a job.
Suck it up. We’re all unhappy. That’s life.
Funny how standards change when it comes to the thing we do for the majority of our waking adult hours.
If you were in a miserable marriage, full of resentment and hate and irreconcilable differences, how many of your friends and loved ones would tell you, “No one likes their spouse. Be thankful at least you have a spouse. We’re all miserable in our marriages—what makes you think you’re so special?”
If our friends and loved ones said those things to us even once after we admitted how unhappy we were—let alone saying them over and over until we finally learned to keep our complaints to ourselves—how many of them would we still consider friends and loved ones? (Or, better question, how many of them would we turn right around to and express concern over their own apparently awful circumstances?)
We all know we shouldn’t stay in a relationship that makes us miserable day in and day out. If our best friend or our sister ever told us they were in that kind of a situation, we’d do everything in our power to convince them to get out. Because we don’t want anyone we care about to be miserable. Even if getting out will be tough, we know it’s better because it will make them happier, and no one deserves to be trapped in a horrible relationship.
But when it comes to our jobs? Meh. Then misery is just The Way Things Are. Standard issue. So stop whining, learn to deal like the rest of us, and wait for the weekend to come around…
“The Way Things Are” is Bullshit
There’s something fundamentally the matter with the way we view “work” in our society.
Don’t get me wrong. I know plenty of people would give anything to have a job—any job—just to pay the bills, and I’d never look down on that. Sometimes, just having a job is enough, and I have nothing but respect for the people who are doing what they need to do to stay afloat.
But for those of us who have other options than the job that’s currently sucking our souls—whether or not those options are necessarily as “easy” or familiar or “comfortable” as our current job—what the eff is our excuse? (And no, “ease” and “comfort” aren’t good excuses. Being soul-sucked is neither easy nor comfortable, and you know it.)
There’s this collective mentality of settling in our society that too many people are willing to buy into.
We all hate our jobs.
We’re all underwater financially.
None of us really gets to be what we dreamt of being when we were little, but all that “you can do anything” talk was just a fairy tale.
Welcome to the real world.
It’s a miserable way to view the world and your place in it. So why do we accept it so readily? And why, more importantly, do we rush to stomp down anyone who dares to think they deserve more?
Because believing you’re a victim of circumstances beyond your control—circumstances that every one else is a victim of, too, so obviously they must be unbeatable—is the easy way out.
It gets you out of having to put in the time and effort to make your dreams a reality. It gets you out of all the uncomfortable hustle, and hope, and risk you’d face with no solid guarantee of success. (At least your current paycheck is steady—until your company hits layoff time.) It gets you out of sticking your neck out as one of those crazy pie-in-the-sky types who don’t know how to appreciate a not-really-good-but-at-least-not-awful thing and are always wanting “more” instead.
It’s a dirty word. It implies that you think you’re better than the rest of us. It implies that you’re greedy. It implies that there is, in fact, more out there—and it is, in fact, obtainable.
And do you know what that does?
That scares the crap out of the people who are settling, because if you happen to make it in your cockamamie scheme to buck the system—if you can actually manage to be happy on your own terms, even if it takes said hustle—then you’ve given them an ultimatum.
You’ve shown them that it is possible, and then the only excuse they’ll have to lean on is the fact that they don’t have the guts to try it themselves.
Is that too harsh? Am I being mean to the average Joe who’s putting so much of himself into just getting through the workday and trying to eke a little joy out of the evenings and weekends?
I am being mean, intentionally. Because if you’ve got the stamina, the strength, and the sheer bullheaded determination to slog every day through a job you despise with every fiber of your being, then you sure as hellfire have it in you to work for your dreams instead.
Sorry to kill your buzz. But that’s the real world.
Peer Pressure is a Bitch
We may think we’ve outgrown peer pressure, but the sad fact is that our friends are still jumping off a bridge like our mother always warned us about—and we’re still doing it, too, just because they are.
Only this time around, the peer pressure is even more pernicious, because instead of getting us grounded for a week, it’s screwing up our very lives and happiness.
There are two different types of peer pressure.
There’s the “we’re all going to do something stupid and want you to join us because there’s strength in numbers” kind, which bullies you into going to that party, skipping that class, spray painting that water tower.
Then there’s the “stop being so remarkable because you’re making us all look bad” kind. The kind that makes fun of you for raising your hand too much in class. The kind that tells you to pick on that awkward girl instead of befriending her. The kind that hassles you for spending the night cramming for the midterm instead of going out.
Most of us, from our wiser, grownup vantage points, know better than to give in to the kind of peer pressure that tells us to do something stupid. If the “life means settling” mentality expressed itself this way, we’d laugh in its face:
Hey, dude, I found this job that treats me like crap, and now they’re asking me to do mandatory overtime! I’m never gonna see my kids again! You’ve gotta get in on this!
Did you hear about this “case of the Mondays” thing? Everyone is spending all weekend dreading Monday, and then they spend all week trying to make it to the weekend! It’s a total lose-lose! Wanna try it?
O.k., so here’s the deal: You spend your whole childhood writing these awesome stories, you get a full-ride to a great liberal arts college, you graduate with honors and land a killer internship at an indie mag you love…then you get a huge mortgage for a house you don’t need, rack up all this debt on stuff you’ll forget you even have, and spend the rest of your life pushing papers in a cube because you can’t afford to do anything else! How cool is that?
Put that way, of course no one’s going to buy into this mentality. We know a rotten deal when we see one. But that’s not the way grownup peer pressure spins it.
Grownup peer pressure doesn’t try to pretend that “The Way Things Are” is totally awesome. It’s actually very good about acknowledging the fact that it sucks, big time. But, it’s also very good at making those of us who try to rise above it feel like we’re absolute morons, or worse, for doing so:
Wow, must be nice to “chase your dreams.” Some of us have to work for a living…
Oh, I’d love to focus more on my photography—but I’ve got kids and a mortgage and responsibilities. You wouldn’t understand.
A freelancer, huh? That sounds…fun. Let me know when that runs out; I’m sure I can help find you a real job.
Put this way, suddenly we seem foolish for not giving in to The Way Things Are, crappy as they admittedly may be. Put this way, we look selfish, delusional, and we get the feeling that people hate us for doing something they secretly want to be doing themselves. (Why don’t they? Because it’s selfish and delusional.)
But—and here’s the thing the people who are settling don’t want you to know, let alone advertise—it’s not.
Is it easy? No, but is dragging your dread-filled tail into your awful job every day any easier? Is it guaranteed to work? No, but no one spends their lives with one company until retirement anymore, either, and at least this way you’re channeling your time and energy into doing something you love.
The Dirty Little Secret(s) No One Wants You to Know
People do things like this all the time. Start their own businesses. Leave their hated jobs for better ones. Dare to dream.
I saw my dreams of being a writer shatter during some particularly bad college years [note from Shola: seriously, do yourself a favor and click on that link–it is a fantastic post], and I spent the first 8 years after graduation living a non-life in cube land because of it. Then, one day, I decided I had nothing to lose, and I started a blog. Then I figured I still had nothing to lose, so I used it to try launching a freelance biz. And two years later, I’m writing part-time with an eye on making the leap to full-time soon enough.
It was a crazy stupid move I knew at the time had just as much chance of failing as it did succeeding. It took time and tons of blood, sweat, and tears to get to this point, and there have been plenty of chances for the settlers to show me along the way why it’s not worth it. But I can’t listen to them. Because I’ve seen otherwise.
And it is SO worth it.
You are not crazy for wanting more than a bottom-line, lather-rinse-repeat life.
You are not selfish for refusing to accept a state of affairs that makes millions of people quietly miserable.
You are not keeping other people down, playing high and mighty, or giving in to delusion for trying to create a life that makes you happy—and maybe (just maybe) letting other people know that it can be done.
Don’t listen if they try to tell you otherwise.
Guest blogger bio: Kelly Gurnett runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she calls “Shenanigans!” on anything that doesn’t make the cut for an awesome life. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger here.