“It’s like a Kafka short story…. You build something, and you can’t live in it, you just sit around guarding it.”
– Rodney Mullen in The Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.
I had been ingesting an unnatural, harmful artificial ingredient for over 25 years that induced stress, lack of sleep, and too much time away from what I love to do.
This ingredient, much like many others that Paleo/primal adherents shun, is relatively new in human evolution. With most foods on the Standard American Diet, it seems as if everyone is eating it, and see nothing wrong with it, despite evidence of its harm and their constant complaints about it. In fact, people love it when they stop ingesting it for a couple of days, then complain when they start again.
I didn’t start ingesting this ingredient until I was in High School, and then it was in small doses 2-3 times per week, at most. Not much more. No major harm, but I like the results. In fact, in the beginning it was probably good for me.
Over time I took it more and more, and over the years I spent most of my waking hours ingesting it, on my way to get more of it, on my way home from taking it, or thinking about it.
Caution: Ingredients have been proven to be harmful to my health.
Yes, in my case, I am talking about working at a corporation. Being a corporate drone, or cog In the machine.
I’ve always had a strong work ethic, I was one of the first of my friends to get a job in High School. I loved the sense of responsibility, contribution, and not to mention, getting a steady paycheck.
Work starts as something you do to make extra money to pay the bills, or save up for something special, like a car. Eventually it becomes an overwhelming force in which you are trapped into with a great dependency, and a fear to keep it.
I’ve never been shy to seek employment, I’ve had the same role for the past 12 or so years, working in high tech sales and account management. Before that, I pursued everything from sandwich making, retail for many many, many years, bartending, executive recruiting, bartending again, teaching elementary school, market research, consulting, customer support and some I can’t think of right now. These all varied in duration, but yes, I was multi-dimensional, and a quick learner.
The Money was good.
Over the years, as I settled into account management and sales, I did well, sold a lot, and made a decent living. More money than I ever expected to make. That’s fine, I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it a bit too much, as instead of growing, and pursuing something I love, I focused on protecting what I had. I was scared to lose the status I had attained, even if it was making me miserable.
Over time, especially the last two years, I found my role slipping into putting out fires, dealing with system issues, client turnover, a whole maelstrom of issues that weren’t what I signed up for, nor suited my strengths. So many moving parts, and NEVER being able to let go. I envied the people with jobs they could let go in their mind once they walked out the door.
For me, that was impossible. I would wake up in the middle of a Saturday night, stressing about a client’s technical issues, on whether I would make my annual quota, to an implementation that went awry and is taking up too much of my company’s time and money.
This artificial ingredient was no longer providing the taste and nourishment I needed to thrive. Lately, I became less effective at my job, in a way, I was checked out, stressed, unhappy, and dreaded every working day.
Is a corporate job an artificial ingredient? Should we all be jobless bums?
I think that modern corporate job, in all its facets is an artificial ingredient that counters a healthy life. You may thrive in a corporate environment, and wonder what the hell is wrong with me. You may be right, but I’m not going eat something that makes me feel lousy. I wouldn’t want you to do the same.
Some people, like those with celiac disease, can’t take a bite without immediate harmful reaction. For others, the cumulative effects compound over time. Like someone who finds their metabolism slowing down, and gaining weight over the years. You find out you can’t eat like you used to during your 20s. I was the latter. I put up with the grind for years.. but slowly felt its effects adding up to a unhealthy, miserable situation. Whereas others had an immediate reaction, or never even took a bite of the corporate-life diet, I was able to handle if for a long time.
I live in San Francisco, work in Silicon Valley. The day to day grind, commuting, working late hours, being rushed out of the home in the early morning, drinking coffee to stay awake, looking forward to Friday, the typical break room exchange on Mondaymorning:
Q: “How was your weekend?”
A: “Not long enough”,
Is that a way to live?
Maybe you thrive at your job, and makes you healthy and happy… but I wasn’t. I don’t know if anyone really is happy. If you are, good for you. I can’t tell you what to eat. If it makes you feel good, then do it.
Yes, I kept consuming this harmful ingredient, was practically addicted to it, and wanted to ensure my next fix/paycheck didn’t stop. I liked making my next fix stronger by selling more and getting bigger commission checks.
But, someone saw I was no longer healthy, happy, and thriving, and staged an intervention.
I was laid off. “Lars, we’re going to cut you off.”
I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, gratitude, and excitement for what’s next. The best part, I don’t exactly know what it will be. I have ideas, and I’m going to pursue them diligently and smartly, applying what works, and discard what doesn’t.
I was too hooked on the money income, and just coasting through it to make this change on my own.
The money made me complacent in pursuing my passions, dreams and what areas I am really good and talented.
Am I going to stop working?
No, I’m probably going to work harder than I ever have in my life. But I’m going to be working for me, for what I love, how I can help people, and move my life into something that leaves me feeling alive at the end of the day, not worn out emotionally.
How about you? Have you been given a clean break from your harmful corporate job diet? Did going cold-turkey help, or did you get back on the treadmill? What worked for you?