Building a Better Bloke

Y am I here?

Posted in Careers, Philosophy by Sam de Brito on December 3, 2009

By The Ginger

I have a confession to make. I’m 21 and have been working at the same job since I left school in 2005.

Older readers might shrug at that and say “talk to me in 40 years” and some grandparent types might pat me on the back for not getting fired in that time.

Mention that fact to anybody of my generation, however, and I’ll more than likely cop a blank look, a slight slackening of the jaw and then the verbalisation of this shock: “What’s wrong with you?”

It’s been said that people my age (I loathe the term “Generation Y”) are far happier jumping from job to job, accruing life experience and sampling as much of the world as they can before their body, liver, bank account, or criminal record prevents them.

To be stuck in a single job, in a single location, for nearly four years is not the mark of success it was in my parents’ generation …

You might think that this is where I mount a spirited defence of my “tenacity” and “loyalty” but honestly, I completely agree with my peers.

I look around my workplace and I see slaves – people who hate their jobs, their smug bosses, and the just-dawning fact that they will spend most of their lives in an office like this, working hard so that somebody with a bigger desk and no porn filter on their computer will reap the benefits.

Admittedly, “I hate my job” is a tiny, pale complaint next to the howls of agony from refugees, the starving, the bereaved and the damaged, but that’s the point.

It’s not something anybody can get worked up about – it’s a tiny, niggling leech that slowly sucks the colour from every day, and while you tell yourself that other people have bigger problems, the fact remains that you don’t.

So here’s my question: is this really what life is?

I know there are people who enjoy what they do, who have a passion for it, and who do something truly vital, and I tip my hat to them (or would, if hats were allowed in the office).

But the bulk of us do small, boring jobs we couldn’t care less about, right? And we tell ourselves that “it’s just a job” and ignore the fact that no, it’s not just a job. It’s the sweet, precious, limited hours of our life that we lose in service to some faceless company, and that’s the one commodity we can’t get back.

In this land of opportunity, you can make more money, buy more food, find another house, but time only flows in one direction.

Personally, I’ve only been able to stand my job for four years because I tell myself it’s a stepping stone on a path to somewhere better – namely, the life of luxury, wealth, and groupies that comes with being a bestselling author.

Sure, I’m kidding myself (with regard to both the level of my talent and the lifestyle authors enjoy) but how many people are different? They slave and save for their retirement, as though it’s a good bargain to sacrifice youth for a comfortable old age.

Meanwhile, the news is rife with tales of kids in their early 20s bouncing from fruit-picking to tutoring to office work, each job lasting only as long as it takes to get bored with it. So who’s right? Is adult life all about monotonous drudgery?

I mean, somebody’s got to keep the wheels of this world well-greased. It can’t be all fun and games. A man has to become a servant if he wants to keep getting paid (and how incredibly emasculating is that?).

And if you want that bigger pay cheque, then you have to realise that your friends, family, hobbies, pastimes, can wait for later. They’ll always be there, waiting for you to come back, won’t they?

I dunno. Maybe I’m just a lazy, clueless kid wide-eyed with shock that the world actually expects me to earn a living. Yet I can’t help but feel that, somewhere along the line, I took a wrong turn when I landed in this office.

Or should I just shut up and bend over my desk for the boss?

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33 Responses

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  1. to life and K.I.S.S. said, on December 3, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Congratulations are in order! It seems that you have stumbled upon some of life’s grander truths, without having to stumble over it on your death bed, (stuffed with money). Your friends and family will reap the benefits! (And so will you!)

  2. The General said, on December 3, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I have been feeling this also since about the same time. Everyone (a lot older and not much older than me at 19 in 2005) told me “Wow, this is such a great time in your life! You can do anything, be anything!”

    Shortly after I started my first job, a permanent, full-time one ~6months out of high school I felt almost as I do now. How do people put up with jobs they hate?

    I don’t blame our generation at all. If it’s true what they say about us witnessing our parents hate their repetitive, monotonous jobs for little pay, what would you do?

    I am completely with you about sacrificing our time for employers. Especially if you are in a business service industry like I was. The amount of unpaid overtime that took place that wasn’t for the most part acknowledged was what really brought me down.

    You work to make your boss money. If that all goes to plan, s/he takes out dividends and for the most part, does not pay you higher wages or a bonus. You may be lucky. Do not count on it.

  3. Sarah said, on December 4, 2009 at 10:06 am

    This is all there is if thats all you let it be. I used to think like you – the job was only a job, untill I found myself with a career, and then your choices for self bettering become – I really should go back to study so I can earn my money in my current field, not I should go and study to follow my dreams – maybe the reason why so many authors don’t become sucessfull till after their 40’s – it takes that long to lose the shackles of a world we never belonged in the first place. As for the writing.. stop procrastinating.. just write – and surround yourself with friends who are writers because the slaves will never understand you wanting more.

  4. Neo said, on December 4, 2009 at 10:37 am

    As trite and cliche as it sounds, Life is what you make it.

    If you’re workin’ a dead end job that you hate. Change it. If there’s anything that Boomers and X’s can learn from gen Y it’s that you should be out there chasing your dreams so stop wasting time. Just don’t go changing your dreams like underwear because if it’s something you really want then you shouldn’t get bored of chasing it in 6 months.

    Welcome to life, have fun!

  5. Rob said, on December 4, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Well I’m a bit older than you (I’m 35) and I’m only just coming up against the things you’ve described. Though I do love my job (I work in environmental consulting) it can be a drag sometimes. I think my extended period in education (9 years at uni for 3 degrees!) was a partial realisation that I was delaying starting work because I loved the world of learning and reading so much.

    So I’ve resolved to cut back on work (down to 4 days a week, instead of 5.5-6) and spend much more time with my wife and kids. I can start writing that book on energy and the environment I’ve had in me for years too. I have been making a difference in the things I care about (sustainability) but no one says I have to do it in an office writing reports!

  6. Robert said, on December 4, 2009 at 11:11 am

    That’s a problem I’ve been wrestling with myself lately, although at 43, I’m a fair bit older than you.

    I work in IT and I’m a fairly senior specialist, so I have plenty of respect and responsibility, but the catch is that I’m there because whatever problem comes up, I ‘ve usualy seen something like it before and know how to deal with it…Which is great for my employer, but means there isn’t exactly much challenge to it for me, and thus, I’m bored.

    Changing employer wont help, I need to change the field I work in, but the big scary part of that is I’m kinda used to the $’s, and being a specialist, my skills don’t exactly translate across to anything else well enough to maintain my current lifestyle.

    So I stay where I am, saving and investing, so I can afford to do something new ( but less lucrative ) as prudence slowly loses to the desire for change.

    Being an adult doesn’t mean a life of drudgery, but it sometimes means taking the bad and sucking it up while working on turning it into something better. The important part is that you actually work at finding something better, rather than just sitting back and hoping it’ll magically appear.

  7. don't know where I heard this said, on December 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

  8. Sam de Brito said, on December 4, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Man – this is great – this is what this site is about. Good on you all for sharing. Doesn’t it help to know there’s other people out there tackling the same issues?

    Well done to The Ginger as well – great piece.

    I can tell you from the traffic figs that there’s lots of people reading your comments, so you’re not just shouting into emptiness.

  9. Wicket said, on December 4, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t ever make comments on blogs, but just wanted to say that its a really good article and something that i’ve been struggling with for a while now.

    I’m pretty lazy and i tell myself that i’m going to change jobs, move overseas etc.. but i can’t see myself doing it until i’m forced to. I hate myself for it sometimes, but its hard to leave when you’re on a good wicket.

  10. Connolly's agent said, on December 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Everything that’s worthwhile takes time and effort. I wouldn’t call it drudgery, or a waste of time, if you’re committed to doing whatever it is you do with the sincere motive to be the best you can. They say that you can’t be world-class in anything without at least ten years of full-time practice. That includes business admin, or writing, or downloading porn from the internet.

    And even if it’s not something you’re committed to, it’s worthwhile if it’s for a better cause. I was like that at your age as well. Straight out of uni, I was stuck in the same job for five years. I hated it, but didn’t leave. But as you get older, your priorities change. You realise you’ve got to do endure things like working a crappy job, in order to support things you do enjoy. You end up finding things you want to dedicate your life to, and that makes it worthwhile.

    Good luck, Ginger man.

  11. Don said, on December 6, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I will put my 50 cents in. In the scheme of things, you (and I) have already won so much in the lottery that is the game of life. Seriously, how can you look at history and bemoan your lot? I hate to break it to you but compared to most people who have ever been born you are living a life of extreme wealth and privilege. Don’t believe me, then just add everything up.

    You can be assured that the state will ensure that you live a life of relative safety and if you (or your family) are a victim of crime that it will do everything it can to give you justice.
    If you get sick you will be entitled to and serviced by some of the most advanced medical knowledge and technology devised.
    Even if you have no job you will not go hungry – and when I mean hungry I don’t mean the “ooh my stomach is growling, better go to Maccas” type, we are talking “I have not eaten propery for weeks and my ribs are showing whilst my vision is getting blurry” type. Tell me when was the last time someone died of real hunger in Australia?
    For little or no cost you have access to information and knowledge that would be considered impossible even a decade or so ago.

    So please, read a bit of history and I mean do it properly. Think about how life would have been back then, reflect on just what people then would have given to have what you have access to now. Then realise that no matter how much you have, you will want more and more and how that will never be enough until you can be find somehow to be content with the small things. I am not saying do not strive for better, just that if you can find pleasure and give thanks for simple things then treat everything else as a bonus you will find far more contentment and maybe be able to see things in a better light.

    • from the Peanut Gallery said, on December 6, 2009 at 8:19 am

      Beautifully put, Don.

    • The Ginger said, on December 6, 2009 at 11:17 pm

      That’s true mate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissatisfied with my lot. I know I am ridiculously, unfairly high up on the quality of life scale, both historically and currently.

      But that was part of my point. Does that mean we have to accept what little discomfort we can? Does it make me somehow more noble if I decide to suck it up and be a good little employee for the rest of my life? Why not strive for EVERYTHING I can? Not to put too fine a point on it, but if everybody had decided that we were as well off as we were going to get, we probably would have stopped at fire and never really figured out the wheel.

      Not that I’m suggesting my own desire is to somehow better humanity’s lot. I’m a little more small-minded than that. However, I distrust total contentment. I distrust it greatly. Our urge to constantly better our lot, while fundamentally selfish, is also a great driving force. So basically, my question is, where do we stop? Do we need to stop?

      And I think the last person to die of hunger in Australia was that infant who was starved to death by their parents.

  12. james said, on December 7, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Lol, I felt like that after my first 3months of work cause I saw many other people much older than me (22) doing the same thing, so I changed jobs, felt the same pretty quick, now I’m living in an orphanage in kenya for a change! But starting to get bored here too after 5 months…. Hmmm

  13. k54 said, on December 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    The Ginger. It sounds like you know what you have to do….

    If you’re struggling with ‘The Fear’, think of yourself in 10 years…. still in that same office… still selling yourself short… still bitching about the same things….

    To me, the issue of leaving a job you hate really has nothing to do with the the privileges that we have as guys in Australia.

    You’re current job is probably the perfect position for someone else out there. Moving on to something better/different/more suited to you does not equate to screwing over society.

  14. Bender said, on December 7, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Less than 1% of the world will be rockstars, professional athletes, highly paid authors (95% of books barely sell 5000 copies) or movie stars. Even they realise they are on a treadmill of media appearances, performance anxiety and often burn out.

    For the rest of us Joe Schlubbs we do what you describe. What was described at the beggining of Trainspotting.

    We find a job. It grinds us down. We do it so we can pay the bills on a place we wish was bigger and in a better suburb and filled with nicer “stuff”. We do it so we can have clothes on our back and food in our bellies.

    Being homeless and begging for these things is not an option. Nor is bludging off the govt. Nor do you want to work your butt off for a job you want to think you like for small pay, a crappier house, a car that barely works. Soon you will be hating the “happy” job because you hate what it gets you.

    The smarter among us realise that Super is only a good choice if you actually make a lot of money so funding a comfortable retirement is also another necessity to add to the list ($80k pa will not be enough to fund your retirement). We know we need that bigger desk, fancier title and more responsibility.

    Ultimately, unless you can find a way that brings in a steady stream of (a lot) money for the long haul for minimum exertion then the 9-5 is what you do.

    Many have tried this. Some do Amway, some sell drugs . . .

    Otherwise, good luck with it. Don’t worry, you find that the feelings that you have now tend to fade and you realise that there is no point getting upset or worrying about it. You just do it. You have less choice than you think.

  15. Brian said, on December 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Is it the idea that “the grass is always greener…” that keeps people jumping between jobs?

    I’m 38 and I’ve been in the same job for 5 years.

    1st job was banking – I planned to stay 6mths while I worked out what I wanted to do. Some of my dreams didn’t come to fruition and I was there 6 years later. At that point I bailed out, went back to study and IT. I then worked for an IT company. It had its ups and down, but I stuck in there for 7 years. Then my current job came along – better money, 15 min from home and I get to play with cool toys and in a smaller team with with people I like.

    At this point I should be happy. Yeah, I think I am but…

    Recently I caught up with old school friends I hadn’t seen for years (thanks facebook), and talking to them they’ve done some pretty interesting stuff. I wonder whether I’ve done enougb. Sometimes I wonder whether IT is what I want to be doing for the next 20 years. No it probably isn’t. But I don’t know what I want to do yet so I’m happy to stay where I am for now. I’ve got a family etc so being close to home and decent hours was worth a pay cut (and I actually got more) – so I’m going to sit tight for a while. The kids are growing up (we had kids fairly young) so they’ll soon be out on their own (unless they’re those kids who stay home til 30!) and it might be time to re-assess my options.

    As a friend keeps reminding me, I’m not old at 38 (you 21 year olds might disagree πŸ˜› ) and I can do so much. I might check back in a few years and tell you where I’m at

  16. Tinman said, on December 7, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    The problem here is that our “meritocratic” culture and society are constantly telling us that we must pursue material success at all costs, and that the value of a person is measured by their wealth. All the pursuit of material success does is make you a slave to money.

    Although I am not religious, I think that the Buddha was right about the want of material things. The second of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is “The origin of suffering (life=suffering) is attachment” (to transient (ie. material) things). In other words, unhappiness comes from wanting things we don’t have, and from losing things we do have. Because nothing is permanent, attachment to material things only brings suffering when we lose them or fail to attain them. The way to avoid suffering is to stop wanting things.

    Applying this logic to the notion that money=success/happiness, we may find that not worrying about how much money we have or how much someone else has may be more beneficial than trying to accrue more than we currently have.

    If it weren’t for the fact that I’m an atheist, being a monk sometimes seems like not a bad way to go…

  17. fnersh said, on December 8, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I would have to congratulate you, Ginger, on learning one of life’s valuable lessons. It proves you have a brain that is capable of thinking deep thoughts. All the best for your writing career. You already have a better way with words than I ever have…

    I managed to escape a stressful career (high school teacher) and the drudgery of office life afterwards by moving overseas and teaching English. Granted, the money isn’t great but it’s enough to live on and save to travel. Other countries are close by and the one I’m in is interesting enough as well.

    One of my co-workers is currently stressed out to the max. at the moment. She asked me over dinner last night how I could seem to be so stress-free. I replied that the secret was multi-faceted. One thing was that when I left work, I didn’t take it with me. I don’t work at home. Another thing was trying to have the correct frame of mind – that it was just a job, it wasn’t ME, despite the best intentions of my boss to make it so. You seem to be working through that phase nicely. The other thing was for me to have interests outside of work. I read a lot, have musical diversions, travel, and so on. I have moments of stress, sure, but these are just moments.

    One of the benefits of getting older is learning that ‘these things shall pass’.

    One of the drawbacks of getting older is also understanding that time passes a lot quicker year by year!

    Be a well-balanced, interesting and interested individual. I enjoyed your post and the comments made by others. Keep it up!

  18. Spook said, on December 9, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Is adult life all about monotonous drudgery? Yes!

  19. Peculiarist said, on December 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Just know what the point is and you’ll be fine. Work out why you’re doing the job, and as long as it fulfills that it’s all good. In your case, if you’re working so that you can have a decent life while you write and the job provides that, it’s good. If it starts getting in the way of that, either by not providing enough money or by taking up too much time or by stultifying your brain so you can’t think, then move on. Just know why you’re working.

  20. Simpleton said, on December 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I was in a very similar situation and what worked for me was further education. I went to uni and discovered that my feeling of drudgery came from knowing comparatively little about the world and things in it.

    I hope it helps.

  21. Crooky said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    You are not alone in the question you pose. I have been asking myself this now for a number of years, and feel as though some changes are very superficial. At 47, a change in a job for me is ‘same stuff. different location’. There is more out there. Challenge yourself in a way which inspires you. If it means changing jobs, then do it. If it means study, then do it. If it means leaving your current life, even if it’s temporarily, to explore yourself, then do it. You have no commitments other than yourself at your age, and you are as free to do things now as you ever will be. The responsibilities we accumulate as we age within this society together with the expecations and definitions of what defines us as living a good life, does not suit everyone.

    Above all be true to yourself. Go out and find what that is.

    Congratulations on the wisdom you have found at such a young age.

  22. ? said, on December 10, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Another quote from an unknown source;

    “Wherever you go, there you are.”

  23. Brian said, on December 10, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Ford Prefect – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy


  24. David said, on December 16, 2009 at 9:02 am

    There’s a good site here which explores work and it’s alternatives.

    They describe themselves as “We’re a pro-leisure and anti-wage-slavery group of people dedicated to exploring the question: why work? This site provides information, support, and resources for those looking for alternatives to traditional employment.”

    Might be a good place to start exploring.

  25. Brian said, on December 16, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Last news update on that site is 5 years ago – guess updating it was too much work πŸ˜‰

    (forum looks more active though…)

  26. k54 said, on December 18, 2009 at 2:40 am

    The Ginger…

    What have you decided to do?

  27. shawtodds said, on January 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    hey, ginger
    life sucks, then you die.
    deal with it asshole.

    • delete said, on January 6, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      this needs to be deleted

  28. RR said, on February 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    the first job i joined, i hated it… it was boring, there was no recognition and the workplace was filled with griping, boring people etc etc. three months into it, i made the decision to quit. and i stuck to it. i got pats from my pals and boos from my parents.

    now i’m in a job that pays well AND one that i love.

    my point is if you don’t like it, just let go. the grass is (most of the time) greener on the other side =)

  29. bubbleland breakdown said, on May 10, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I have a confession to make, I am well over 40 and am only now breaking out of a delusional bubbleland. Why has it taken me so long to see what people really are? People are frightening. In my bubbleland people had a natural default towards decency, no matter what.

    Is this new awareness part of necessary growth? Is it a good thing to learn that you can never trust another, that never trusting is the best protection? Or does life come down to the luck of the draw- the good events, the unfortunate events and the personalities one encounters within these.

    signed: defragmenting and hurting … or perhaps simply growing up.

  30. marcia said, on June 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm

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