I’m not going to be rocking any boats or rattling any cages when I observe that we live in an increasingly stress-filled world. (Apologies about the mixed metaphors… I love using them, it’s like having my cake on cloud nine.)
So it seems that our lifestyles are out to get us. I look about my collection of friends, some of whom are relatively well-adjusted, and I see a lot of tired faces. A lot of tired and stressed out people. And it is all our fault. Like the scene from Trainspotting, we choose life. We choose the job, the mortgage and the big-screen TV. We choose massive amounts of credit and we choose to live beyond our means. What they don’t show in the movie is that going straight and living a life of “Joneses” means accepting a giant dollop of stress with every scoop of living. And the vast majority of that stress comes from our jobs.
People (and by people, I mean men) like to say how marriage is an unnatural institution, that staying with the same mate for longer than seven years is somehow counter-evolutionary. And there is a fair amount of debate both ways about that. But what we never consider is the naturalness of reporting to a dimly cubicle in uncomfortable clothing and shoes, there to sit for basically all the hours of daylight. We’ll spend upwards of forty years of our lives working. Forty years! In our instant culture, it’s a number that really has no meaning. How are we to judge at the age of twenty five what will suit our sixty year old selves? I’m in my thirties now, and I STILL haven’t the slightest idea what sort of work I would like to be doing when I retire. What I can tell you is the work that I would like to be doing now. And this I think is the way forward.
We need to plan for the future financially. No mistake about it. We’re living longer and longer, and nobody wants to be a burden to their children. I’m happy to accept that I need to save today for tomorrow. But aside from the financial aspect forward planning is pointless. When I was at school, I was constantly told that I absolutely HAD to do Mathematics, absolutely HAD to study Science, that the skills and logical thought I learned at school would stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. And it’s GARBAGE. It is tripe of the most trite and sanctimonious sort. To this day I have not yet been forced into a situation where trigonometry or calculus have saved the day. I have yet to use ANY of the Chemistry I learned. Mr Ball, Mrs Mendelski… I could safely have made it through my life thus far without your classes.
But the push to advance subjects continues at university. From the moment you enroll, lecturers push for their subject. Psychology teaches valuable life skills, History teaches research techniques and reasoned arguing. And unfortunately, most of the Arts subjects are really rather worthless in the real world. (I’m speaking as a Bachelor of Arts myself.) Any one of the teaching subjects are utterly useless for 99% of the people graduating, unless of course they intend teaching. The Commerce subjects tend to have a higher relevancy to real life, but let’s face it… who wants to study Commercial Law? No… honestly. You might like practicing law, but studying it is a pain in the ass.
And so it is that we emerge newly minted degreed job-seekers, the end product of lots of advice, and with hundreds of hours of “essential” instruction under our belts. And almost immediately, we become barmen and waiters. Besides basic arithmetic and some social skills, we’re doing something your average nine-year old can do. And it doesn’t end there. Eventually, we prevail upon an interviewer that our degree, whilst not really practical in the real world, DOES mean that we are at least “trainable”. And so the forty year office cycle begins. While at work, we will be told to study various courses, to further our qualifications. Do they have real-life applications? Honestly? No. But now we are in the rat-race. We’re jostling with our cohorts, fighting for that promotion, for the corner office. We’re lurking around the water-cooler, we’re drinking crappy coffee and we’re taking orders from someone who has in all likelihood not received the same education we have.
For people from my father’s generation, and the generation before, there was such a thing as company loyalty. This was a two-way street where every employee was taken care of, where the company appreciated the sacrifice of its minions. Sadly, the grey suits and bottom-liners have taken over, and that is not really the case anymore. My generation changes jobs more often than any other. We flit from job to job, company to company. We do two years here, three years there. And this gives us the best opportunity for a chance at life.
(See… I do eventually come to the point.)
If you are unhappy in your work… If you find yourself talking, wondering and worrying about your work on the weekends… If you find yourself on edge at home because there is something going on at work… For the love of yourself, change your job! Find another career, or find another position. But don’t ruin your Real Life for a paycheck. If we work to support our lifestyle, what point is there in allowing our work to kill our lifestyle? Without a life, is there any need for a high-stress job? No. Leave the work at work. Stress is for the week! And the week stops at my front door. When I get home, I change out of the clothes of the oppressor, and into casual home clothes. I don’t bring work home with me. Not because I don’t care about my job, but because I care about my wife and my life more.
Hunched shoulders and last-minute reports are for work-time. Your family and your life are waiting for you when you get home. More than half of your life is given away to the companies and the suits. Why volunteer more? And remember… like every other authority figure in your entire life, your boss does not have “Truth”. Your boss has “Opinion”. And just like every other authority figure in your life, your boss is going to use his position to further his ends. (Think about it…when last did you hear any teacher say the words, “My subject? Nah… you’d be better off taking something useful”. )
At the end of my day, and at the end of my life, I want to look back on my work and be able to smile. Not because I got the promotion, not because I got the plaque on the door. I want to be able to be happy with myself because I did good. Because my job supported my life, and not the other way around.