Your 9-5 is Helping You
Work is the law of life, and to reject it as boredom is to submit to it as torment.
To be common is to despise your crappy job. This is why you see those overly-competitive 30-somethings playing softball at the park. You need to get emotionally invested in an adult sports team when you hate 40 hours of your week.
In fact, “crappy job” is redundant. By definition, a job trades your time for money, and since your life is just a collection of time, you’re trading your life for money. How much is your life worth? Your answer arrives every two weeks on your deposit statement.
Though lucrative jobs are crappy, too. You may be making 500 grand at your finance job, but it’s still a job, and you’re still an employee. This is why you see those hordes of hoary cyclists racing around bike paths in their tortured spandex shorts. When you’re on the Larry King side of 50 and you still have three bosses, you need to assuage your rage with 1500 dollar Mag wheels. Then use your sales training to convince yourself expensive equipment matters in your parade of swollen prostates.
Weekend warriors reflect a common attitude: work is always going to suck, so try to compartmentalize it and then distract yourself with hobbies until you save enough for retirement.
It’s what most men do—and it’s why most men are miserable. It’s this kind of miserable thinking that leads to you only having a job in the first place.
I’m reminded of my second job out of college (my first job was as a pizza delivery guy, a fact I prefer to sweep under the rug of shame). I was hired as a marketing writer by a television station to help them get more advertisers. Though I didn’t want to end up as a marketing writer, I had plenty to learn from the trade.
My boss, to my amazement, was quite the writer himself. He couldn’t turn a fart joke the way I could, but he had a surfeit of writing tips, like the importance of not cramming in words like “surfeit” for the purpose of making yourself sound smart. Even more to my amazement, my boss made decent money. All on his own. Without asking his parents for it or anything. So maybe I too could make money one day without asking my parents for it. It’s like watching Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile—simply seeing it was possible imbued in me the belief I could do it.
I also read seven books about marketing, which is way more than anyone needs to read about marketing. Regardless, it was a pragmatic break from my 19th Century French literature binge. I even learned a thing or two from the station’s designers, which took some persistence on my part. Learning facts from a designer is like learning how to not get stupid tattoos from a designer.
It’s because I submersed myself in the job, instead of distracting myself from it, I was able to take away something from the job much more valuable than money.
Besides, I was 24-years-old. What else was I going to do with my time besides inhale Korski and do backflips off our balcony? I still did those things, of course, but at least the structure of a job kept the testosterone-induced stupidity to a minimum.
Throughout my years as an employee, I’ve had my moments of dread. I worked at a butcher counter in a grocery store, making 12-dollars an hour at 27-years-old. Oh boy was that depressing, especially since I was fired for “stealing money.” Resume, meet blank space.
And I once had a boss who was mean-spirited, gossipy, and he referred to his father as simply “dad,” as if he was my dad, too—eg “I had a talk with dad about the client dispute.”
When you dread the job, you dread the life. I even considered becoming a Marxist, and I did end up joining an adult sports league.
But during these times in my life, I remembered something Victor Hugo said, “a job can be pretty crappy, but it can also be a good thing if you’re not a total idiot about it.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing:
“Work is the law of life, and to reject it as boredom is
to submit to it as torment.”
To distract yourself from work with hobbies and vacations and happy hour is to miss the value of work.
Instead of distraction, try integration. If you’re a loser—and if you have a 9-to-5 job based on salary or hourly wage, then by definition, you’re a loser—work is where you’re going to be around the most successful people you will ever be around. It’s where you will be challenged more than you could challenge yourself on your own. (If you could challenge yourself on your own, you’d have a career or a business.) It’s where deadlines and bottom lines act as placeholder boundaries until you’re smart enough to set your own boundaries. It’s where you’re going to grow and learn, because that’s the real wealth you’ll earn from a salary.
There is no work-life balance; it’s a fabrication of the middle class to convince themselves they’re better than the upper class. Work, as Hugo reminds us, is the law life, so it’s best to work and work and work some more until you learn enough to make the law.
Or if you’re still getting fired from butcher counters well into your 20s, at least learn how to write about it.