Friday, January 7, 2022

Microstory 1795: Drudgery Clock

It wasn’t really until the day I graduated from college that I realized I had no direction in life. I had this liberal arts degree that didn’t lend itself to a particular career, and while everyone said it opened doors for me, I didn’t believe them, and I would find out later that I was right to have my doubts. I spent years, unemployed off and on, only able to find temporary work, and just hoping someone would ask me to stick around. I became so disillusioned by the whole thing that I gave up trying to be what people told me I should. I began to be more honest in interviews, and for the most part, that didn’t work out. People don’t like honesty. They want you to pretend to be perfect so they can justify hiring you, and then when you make a mistake, they have a justification for getting pissed at you for being dishonest. Completely contradictory is the resting state of middle management, and I will die on that hill, if need be. Ha-ha. I never stopped trying. I kept applying until I told one interviewer that the reason I never last long in any position is because no one has given me a real chance. That seemed to speak to him, so he accepted me for a fulltime, permanent job. I was elated and relieved. There is no such thing as a hundred percent job security, but I felt safer than ever, and that was enough to keep me from stressing out over it so much. The months ticked by, and before I knew it, I had been there for two years, which was longer than I had ever been at one place before. It felt like a huge win, but it was also incredibly depressing. I started to realize that I didn’t like being the veteran. I didn’t like it when someone who had been there for one year told the person who had been there for a week that I was the one to help them. It made me feel weird. That’s when I got a promotion that moved me to a new facility.

Ah, it was like getting a fresh start. I was the new guy again. Sure, I was still working for the same company, but it was different enough to reset my internal drudgery clock. But then two years rolled around, and I got that feeling again. People came, and they went, and it always felt like they were moving on to better things while I just stayed here as a nobody. I saw one of them again once. He had the misfortune of delivering me a sandwich, which actually proved that he didn’t move onto something better, but at least he got out. At least he reset his drudgery clock. I needed that, and I needed to feel good about myself. I quit my job. It was the first time I had ever done that, and it felt amazing. I was the one in charge of my own fate; not someone else. That was incredible. Now I just needed to find something else. It was a little frustrating, going back to the beginning of the search, but it wasn’t too hard, and my drudgery clock was at zero. It stayed there for two more years, which was clearly my limit. I was smarter this time, and applied to something new before I quit the current job. So I just kept doing this a few times, staying in one place for two years, and then getting something else. It didn’t have to be better, it just had to be new. Over time, this technique became harder to sustain. As my résumé grew, I found the interviewers to be less enchanted with me. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I hold down a job? I couldn’t rightly tell them the truth, or it would make things worse. I couldn’t warn them that I didn’t care about their organization, and that I didn’t have any ambitions. So I didn’t. I went back to lying. It didn’t matter. I didn’t look very good on paper, and before I knew it, I retired after thirty years in the same crappy job. That delivery guy I met years before? He was my boss.

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