The Drudgery of Work

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Charles Bukowski spoke about the drudgery of work. Because really, what else is it. Work. Drudgery. Drudging through the meaningless task at hand, for some money that probably doesn’t compensate what you do, and that you’ll likely never be able to use. But you’ve never been taught anything else. And so, you drudge on. I wonder if it can be used like that. It doesn’t seem like a verb, but I think of all things in my life, the rules of grammar probably matter the least. If for nothing else, then for the fact that I myself, drudge on a daily basis.

There are so many times when I think about all the other things I would rather be doing. I don’t want to tell you what I do just yet, because I don’t want people to form an opinion. I don’t want you to think, “oh well, now what did she expect taking on that kind of work”. Not yet, at least. My delusions of grandeur demand to be fed, by assuming for a little while that everyone goes through the same thing. But if I put my mind to it, I wonder if it’s the exact opposite. Is it grand or pathetic that all of us are going through the same, rather singular feeling of being absolutely pointless? Not going through, no. We never come out of it. I haven’t. I don’t know about others. But I feed by delusions still.

Some delusions I have been able to get rid of. A couple of months ago, I thought my work mattered. I can say with absolute certainty today that it does not. Not even to the people I do this work for. There is nothing I have been the author of that is worth more than the paper it is written on. Curious phrase. I suppose it comes from a time when paper was expensive. What I should be saying instead is, the work I do is not even worth the effort of pressing the keys that put it down. Put it up? It is on a screen isn’t it. Scattered thoughts and useless work. Could be the title of my autobiography. Maybe I’ll name this one so.

But let me get back to the task at hand. I believe I am in the unfortunate, though certainly not unique, position of being convinced that the work I do is worthless, while at the same time being convinced that the effort, I put into my work is worth much more than what I am paid. Odd place to be in. It has the dual effect of me simultaneously not caring enough to do a good job and constantly being a nervous wreck in case someone points it out.

When I look around, I see that almost everyone I know suffers from varying degrees of this…what shall we call it…? Disorder? We’re all perfectionists without the inclination to produce perfection, while never once doubting whether we might lack the ability. I, for one, have never questioned whether or not I can do a better job. I just know that I can, but I don’t want to, and I don’t want anyone else to ever point out that I, or in fact anyone else, could do a better job. And it certainly doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy myself one bit. I wake up every morning thinking about at least eight other things I might rather be doing. Then I go right back to my uninspired existence. I drudge on. 

A few years ago, maybe it was months, or maybe it is just my imagination, someone told me that humans on earth must appear like fish in in an aquarium. Its rather depressing is it not? That we’re all stuck here with nothing to do. So, we convince ourselves that what we do has to have some meaning. I’m convinced that most of us would go insane otherwise. I used to think mine had meaning. I don’t anymore. I am the fish in the aquarium that has stopped swimming. I’m feel like the person in the bar that has sobered up enough to look around and recognise what a shit show it is once you stop to think about it. 

I can’t remember the last time I woke up excited for the day that was ahead of me. I wake up. I barely feel anything. I go through the motions of getting ready for another day of sitting for 8 hours. 8 hours if I’m lucky. Sometimes it’ll be more. Sometimes it’ll be a lot more. But never less. Do you know another thing? I rarely see happy people in the morning on my way to work. When did we become like this? Not a one? Aren’t there laws of mathematics against it? How is an entire city unhappy in the morning? Someone must be waking up looking forward to the day ahead of them, surely. If they exist, I don’t cross paths with them. Everyone has the same blank expression that I am sure permanently sits on my face. I get to where I need to get to. As I get closer to the building the sense of hopelessness only gets worse. Have you ever felt so hopeless you felt like laughing? And so, by the time I get inside office, I’m smiling. They always talk about how all of us are pretending, and the ones who get ahead just do a better job at it. I don’t know why some people have a hard time believing that. I never think otherwise when I look at the faces around me. Show me a smile and I’ll call out the bullshit. 

I settle in. I take as long as humanly possible to set up my stuff. It isn’t a lot. One laptop. But I make sure it lasts at least 15 minutes. We only ever feel comfortable not doing something if we’re doing something else. When did we become so obsessed with staying occupied, so incessantly, neverendingly occupied? 

Call at 11 pm. 

Free to take on some work? 

No, sorry I’m already doing some other work. 

Will you be free once you’re done with the other work? 

It might take a while don’t think I will be free before 3 am. 

Well, give me a call then. There might be work left over for you. 

Ok, thank you.

Call on Friday evening. 

Do you have some other work for the weekend?

No. 

Well, take this work on then. 

I wonder who the first person was. The first one who thought of avoiding work at office by saying he had other work. To the point where that has become the only acceptable response to not taking on work.

Wait, what, you think you can have some off time just because it’s the weekend? Absurd. We may or may not need you, but we certainly need you to constantly keep checking your phone, and we may or may not call you, but definitely don’t make any other plans because when we do call you, we will want you the instant we do, and the plans you may or may not have made will need to be cancelled, because, well, we did tell you not to make them, so really who is to blame here. 

But I am getting ahead of myself. I reach where I need to reach. I smile. I say hello, how was your day. Hope you got some time to yourself. I honestly think all of our time should be for ourselves but even I can admit that is a little naïve. I get coffee. We’re all addicts. I certainly am. I meet the one person I find tolerable in my work place and crib about everyone else that I don’t. She does the same. Does that make us feel better? Maybe. A little. But it doesn’t change anything. Then the work starts coming in. Most of it, no, almost all of is just work created for the sake of it, the not doing of which wouldn’t matter to even to the person I do it for. But bills need to be paid, for which bills need to be raised, for which hours need to be put in, for which work needs to be created. I understand that. But it doesn’t make me more sympathetic. On the contrary. Once you realise, truly realise, that the work you do means nothing, you start seeing everything but the work. The hours. The sheer number of hours fed to the void. Let me show you. Forget my working hours. If the average is 8 hours a day, that’s 40 hours a week, which is 2,120 hours a year? I don’t know about you, but wherever these wasted hours of mine are sitting, I hope they are happy. 

Never mind the hours now, they’re gone. The entitlement my job, and the people in my job, have over my time is total and unrelenting. It used to bother me a lot that people thought they could treat you any way they liked just because they pay you. I imagine its worse for jobs that are ‘objectively’ not high paying jobs. I’ve been told I am in one. A high paying job that is. 

I find that adds to the suffocation. When people tell me I should suck it up, and that they’re allowed to treat me this way because of how much they pay me. I don’t agree. Who said time is money? It is so much more. Sure, you’ve paid for some of my time. But definitely not all of it. And so what if the money is good. Have you ever stopped to consider that the work we do for them is also great? I can’t say I have ever believed that to be justification enough. I don’t have high hopes anymore. All I want, is to take a step back and think about how unhappy I am, with what constitutes such a major part of my life. Maybe it won’t amount to anything more than the ramblings of a dissatisfied soul, but I want to re-learn how to be anything other than empty.

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