The 9 to 5 Black Hole Time Suck
Having a job has shown me why I don’t enjoy having a job. Again.
One of the hardest thoughts with which I’ve had to reconcile is the idea that there is more benefit than hindrance to staying at a 9 to 5 gig. But after my recent foray back into the 9 to five world some three years ago, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not into it. I just can’t anymore. Sorry.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about their job. According to one newspaper, roughly 80% of Americans are unhappy at their job (though according to Forbes it’s a little more than half). Another, survey shows more than half of Americans (who answered the survey) feel disengaged at work. Disengaged is just a more business-y way to say workers feel like they are sleepwalking. However you slice this unhappy pizza, it can be said for sure that many (in the U.S.) aren’t happy at their jobs. So I recognize this is not a mind altering revelation. Hell, complaining about one’s job is almost as American as apple pie, football or thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting event.
But here’s the catch, I’m not writing to complain about my job. I appreciate and recognize how lucky I am to be employed right now and the practicality of how it pays for rent and bills. I acknowledge my current job provides myself and the goddess with a stable income during these Pandemic-monium times that are seeing worker shortages in many areas of the job market. But, that doesn’t stop me from seeing how my current job creates certain levels of metaphorical claustrophobia slowly slithering around my heart and suffocating my creative nature, turning the poetry I hear in my brain into a flat, static sound.
If I’m being honest, I haven’t found myself particularly happy since I beginning my job (even with a sorta promotion I got 2 years ago, and then another one 7 months ago). I think this is partially because I don’t feel connected to it. Many people conflate their identity to their job (51% of Americans according to Pew Research). Occupations are so indelibly linked to identity that when most folks meet for the first time, one of the first things revealed to someone else aside from a name is whatever current job they occupy.
According to my parents and the 18 years of schooling I had, getting a job is supposed to be a major milestone in someone’s life. It means you’re on your way to completing two out of the five achievements on the holy conveyor belt of life quests; school, job, house, marriage, children. At the time, I didn’t know any better, so I bought into all that stuff. With a little help from my parents, I figured out my ideal job between my sophomore and junior year of high school. So, that’s what I focused on for my 6 years of university. But then, once I got that dream job, I discovered it wasn’t for me. I’m not the only millennial who’s had this revelation either. Turns out, nearly half of older millennials wish they’d chosen a different career path.
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However, I’m grateful that I was smart enough then and still smart enough now to know that should never tie my identity, nor my mental and emotional stability to any job. A job is just a job. My current 9 to 5 job is something I do out of convenience; a means of keeping my head above water. But just because I feel detached from my 9 to 5, it doesn’t mean I’m not immune to feeling anything about my job.
It’s felt way more mentally exhausting than I remember the last time I had a regular 9 to 5. Back then I didn’t have much else to focus on; I was living alone (save for a brief moment with a good friend I eventually had to kick out). Now, in addition to living with the goddess, I have other interests too. And my current 9 to 5 takes time away from doing the things I enjoy; mostly writing.
Honestly, I’ve found myself happier and mentally healthier when I didn’t have a 9 to 5 job, even if that meant practically vagabonding around the world in some respects. I felt more free. My ideas flowed naturally. My mind jumped through less hoops when taking something into consideration. In those times, I was actually living life. Now it feels like I’m just existing through it. Now, I’m expending way more mental energy on menial things that, in my mind, are unimportant to my core being as a person (calculating taxes, student loans, grocery bills, internet bills, home repairs, pet care, making sure I have enough hours at work, all the corporate restructuring drama at my job to name a few). Basically, I’m way more stressed now that I have a job. The pandemic hasn’t exactly helped much either. And again, turns out I’m not the only one who feels that way.
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Before I got this job, I managed to publish two books of poetry within a three year period. I was also able to devote time to sending my poetry to various websites for publication. I also met the goddess which has since blossomed into a five year (and counting) relationship while I didn’t have a job. But now, sure I’m still fortunate to be able to write, but it feels like I haven’t been able to finish anything.I’m sure if my parents read these words, I’d be met with their disappointed voices saying something like “Well this is what it means to be an adult, deal with it.” Actually, I can hear their voices alternating between that phrase and every millennial's favorite boomer complaint, “Well kids today are just lazy and want everything handed to them for free blah blah, blahblah blah…”
Those thoughts in particular always take the guise of my parents voices. Those thoughts have and still continue tripping me up sometimes as I try to navigate through my everyday life. I think it’s because there’s such a huge disconnect between what the parents of millennials grew up experiencing in terms of job security, education, housing, etc. vs what millennials have experienced in the job market, education nd housing.
Over the last 3 years at my job, I’ve noticed my brain just cannot function in such an assembly line go with the flow system where it’s almost impossible to differentiate between the days of the week. Believe me, I’ve tried. But as three years have passed, I feel like that’s allowed for plenty of time to notice differences in how I react to things and behave in general when in a 9 to 5 job vs when I’m not. Because I’ve been meditating off and on for roughly 12 years (not to brag or anything), this has afforded me a certain level of self-awareness, which in turn has given me a good handle on not only how my mind processes information, but also what truly invigorates my being.
My conclusion; a regular 9 to 5 job ain’t it. Lord knows I’ve tried doing this 9 to 5 gig. Between helping my dad cut grass, my year advertising in Cincy, cleaning condos and hostels to now, something’s always felt off about grinding in the 9 to 5 realm. Really the only things grinding away are pieces of my soul.
The goddess and I have spoken about this many times, coming to the conclusion that our brains are just not wired for the monotony of soul crushing patterns that fulfill us economically but not mentally, emotionally and dare I say spiritually. Sure, it’s easy to say ‘well just find a job that you like.’ I understand the sentiment. But, I don’t think it’s about ‘doing a job’ we like. Doing what one enjoys shouldn’t feel like a job.
Please note, in no way am I saying or insinuating that regular nine to five jobs are not essential or that nobody should work them. I understand all too well the metaphorical double-edged sword used in the sacrifice that many make in order to bring in some shekels just to have a roof and some squares. Fuck, I’m pretty much doing that now.
The problem though, is that many people making money through a 9 to 5 job have other goals and dreams they want to achieve. For most people, a 9 to 5 job is just a temporary situation. It’s a limbo that lasts as long as a person’s willpower. How many people do you know have put their dreams/goals in a holding pattern because of the immediate need for cash to use as a shovel to dig out from all the debt accrued thus far in their life? The problem however, is that paper makes for a poor shovel. How many people do you know are working a 9 to 5 until they start or finish school?
Again I hear the voices of my parents saying something like, “Well that’s life. You must have a day job to put a roof over your head while you treat the thing you really want to do w/ your life as a hobby or part time gig until you’re accidentally discovered.” I understand the sentiment, but living like that is fucking exhausting!
I can hear others suggesting that if I’m unhappy I should simply find a job that pays more. It’s a great suggestion. I mean, sure it would help if I had a degree in computer coding, engineering or I guess medicine/therapy (due to a traumatic 2020 for many) since those are areas where people are needed the most. Or, I guess I could start taking classes on how to be a plumber or carpenter. Also, it depends on what kind of economic climate we’re currently moving through. But sure, I’ll just get a better job.
I’m not making excuses, just explaining the reality of the situation.
For most people, a 9 to 5 job isn’t supposed to be permanent, just a stepping stone. But even though it’s only suppose to be temporary for many, it often becomes a black hole time sucking vacuum where if you blink suddenly three years have passed by like nothing. Suddenly, those stories I’ve been writing have taken much longer to finish.
A 9 to 5 job interferes with what I’d prefer to be doing. It’s not like one has much time for things anyway. If one were to break down the numbers of each day, they’d see that there is an 8 hour shift five days a week. Then, on average, most American’s sleep roughly 8 hours, so that’s 16 hours gone right there. Household chores including paying bills is maybe 2–3 hours, eating meals, 30 min lunch break combined with 45 min dinner so we’re up to about 20 hours out of our 24 hour day. Oh, if you have a pet, let’s tack on an extra hour or two as well for feeding and playtime. That leaves someone with roughly 2–3 hours a day for “free time.”
Oh, but there’s weekends… they’re supposed to be the free time to do free time things, right? But seriously, how many people have time to do anything on the weekends when they’re so exhausted from doing a job that isn’t fulfilling while simultaneously suppressing the things they really want to? Many of my coworkers have said that they spend one day of the weekend doing most of their chores and household things. Personally, I’ve found working that way often takes an entire day. So the final day of the weekend is usually spent in exhaustion doing nothing.
Part of the problem, at least in American culture is that many wear fatigue as a badge of honor or see it as some sort of rite of passage. In reality though, it is rather unhealthy and may actually make us stupid &/or killing us. Turns out the “work hard, play harder,” mindset isn’t necessarily a thing for many of us weirdo millennials. Instead, our mindset is more like “work hard and try not to burn out too quickly.”
Believe it or not, we weirdo millennnials do work hard, but it’s more based out of necessity so we won’t go into crippling debt while trying to pay basic bills in addition to food and other necessities whose prices have kept going up since the 1979. Turns out, many millennials don’t have much of a work-life balance. Because of this, not only is our weirdo millennial generation the first generation to be worse off than our parents, but now we may be the first generation to go backwards in terms of life expectancy. Fun times. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that 44% of millennials turning 40 (so far) have a chronic health condition. If that’s not enough of a concern, millennials may be part of the largest generational workforce in the US, yet somehow also the least wealthy. And my parents wonder why myself and the goddess don’t want children. We literally couldn’t afford to have children even if both of us were working a 9 to 5 job. With the prices of grocery food continuing to rise, we’re barely able to get everything we need on a bi-weekly basis.
So then it’s no wonder I feel unhappy with my current job. It makes sense why I haven’t finished all the writing projects I started on in the last year, save for a book of poetry I wrote on drugs. Please note, I’m not writing this in order to garner sympathy. Just detailing my thoughts on an how I’m attempting to come to terms with a part of my life that is a complicated mass of contradictions.
I think some of these challenges I face are simply based on shifts in priorities. You see, as I said earlier, I appreciate the steadiness of my current job, mostly because it provides a contrast to my previous lifestyle as a #travelingpoet living the #gypsylife in some rather stressful living situations. Having said that, I feel like I handled those stressful situations better than when a simple problem arises in my current living situation. I guess it just feels like at any moment everything that the goddess and I have cultivated in terms of living space and jobs could be gone. There’s no logical reason why that would happen. But, I acknowledge these added responsibilities have made me more paranoid.
To be clear, I recognize how blessed I am to be living with the goddess I love while having a job that provides much more stability than I’ve ever seen in my life. My faith in the relationship to the goddess is unwavering. BUT… as a famous fictional uncle once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And every day I feel that responsibility. I feel that heavy responsibility of having a job that is helping us maintain a roof, eat delicious food that we enjoy and also watch black and white movies.
Perhaps part of this heavy responsibility I feel is compounded by the ongoing pandemic that we as a country have failed. This pandemic has revealed how, especially in these troubled times, not only am I having to look out for myself and others, but I am especially looking out for the goddess. In the beginning of the pandemic before my office was prepared to have a largely at home workforce, I was considered an essential worker and still had to go into the office. Because of this, I had to take some extra major precautions because, if something were to happen to me or I get sick, then the two of us were pretty much screwed (like most people actually). That’s way too much pressure! I’m seriously surprised I made it this far into the pandemic and haven’t quit my job. I’m surprised I at the amount of new poetry I have been able to share on my IG this year (which doesn’t feel like much compared to other years). I only mention this because I don’t recall hearing that voice too often in years past, which hopefully means I’ve been satisfied with the amount of new content and other fun things I’ve put out in years past.
But I do my best not to dwell on things like the amount of content I put out. I acknowledge it from time to time, but I don’t put any energy into it.
Again, please don’t misunderstand, I am grateful to have a job that allows me to #paydembills while many do not have the same opportunity for a variety of reasons. I’m simply trying to come to terms with my own disappointment, not only in myself, but to a certain extent, my family as well.
You see, I’m disappointed and frustrated for the work-ethic my parents instilled in me that is based on a system where the most acceptable way of living life is to burnout in an underpaid job with wages that haven’t risen in 40 some years despite the cost of living skyrocketing since they were teens all the while fostering an environment where the next generation (us weirdo millennials) will be worse off than previous generations, which includes a lower life expectancy than previous generations as well.
But I also recognize that it’s not like the generation of parents or grandparents specifically set out to tip the scales to disenfranchise myself and other millennials. It’s just a thought that is challenging to reconcile with because many of us grew up with helicopter smothering parents who told us we could do anything, not to mention the fact that they are the ones who gave us awards and participation trophies just for existing because they loved us so much I guess. This is on top of the fact that they tried to program that same American dream bullshit into us. But as most millennials have discovered and George Carlin once quipped, “It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
I guess it’s just disappointing to me that at certain points thought my life, my family has celebrated greed. I remember on multiple occasions my Dad praising the founder of McDonald’s Ray Kroc (or maybe his lawyers) who at one point realized he wasn’t in the burger business, but instead real-estate, which enabled him to essentially destroy a small, family run business. I know my dad isn’t the only one who thinks this is more clever than cruel. There are many who do, partially because I believe there’s a false correlation many in my parents generation make between being rich and working hard and/or being smart. Please note, I’m not implying that Ray Kroc didn’t work hard or was handed his opportunities. If anything, he worked hard initially, then simply morphed into a ruthless businessman who was only in it for himself.
A more recent example many cite as praise of a “working system” is Trump’s so-called business /branding acumen, saying he either must have worked hard or be pretty smart /business savvy to be so rich. However, I think once Trump opens his mouth he removes all doubt about what a “stable genius” he is. Regardless, I’m aware many also cite Trump as an example of someone who must have worked hard/be smart because of his wealth, ignoring the fact that he’s thrown so many employees under the bus over the years and exploited tax rules to get as far as he got (not to mention “the small loan” from Trump’s father).
I’m not saying we should do away with money or we should all be poor. My point is just that there’s a generational difference between expectations of what doing the work and living comfortably means.
Parents and grandparents often say “kids these days” or “back in my day” which partially acknowledges how things have changed, but usually they’re talking about societal or cultural grievances. Yet when they attempt to give monetary advice, it feels as though many refuse to see the current economic realities facing many of us weirdo millennials. Granted, they might not be purposefully ignoring these things. But, rather maybe they do it out of ignorance because they grew up in a time when minimum wage still enabled one to live comfortably and before college education rose 3,009% between 1969 and 2019. Their cost of living wasn’t nearly as bad back then, and that’s the only experience / point of reference many boomers and older generations have. I understand that, but it’s just frustrating when they don’t want to take the time to learn how their children or grandchildren are facing a different set of struggles. Instead many argue that if we just were to keep following their path and believing in “The American Dream” everything will turn out ok, despite the overwhelming evidence that philosophy has gotten us into our current economic predicament in terms of record income inequality.
All of this weighs on me. Not every day though, that would be maddening. But still, I think about these things a lot when I work, and sometimes even when I don’t. I think about these things because I feel there has to be a better way, especially for my generation to maintain a better work/life balance than what is currently offered. We almost have to find a better way because our mental and physical health almost depends on it, otherwise if we continue on our current trends, life clearly isn’t going to be kind to us earlier in our later years of life.
Brycical is by no means an sociologist or economist. He doesn’t even hold a degree in psychology. But still, like many people, Brycical isn’t immune to noticing certain patterns about how the world apparently “works” for some but not others. So Brycical writes about it, hoping more will notice these patterns and feel inclined to also speak up and let their voice be heard. Feel free to read more of the patterns Brycical notices on Medium, or consider checking out his website at www.thebrycical.com to learn more about Brycical himself.