Loud raindrops, black umbrella tops, fast-paced coffee shop workers, and dirt-stained raincoats scouring all over the busy streets of New York City, coming in and out of the grey, melancholic and money-hungry offices.
Even the film industry has a way of influencing how we view traditional office work. Take for example the ever-so-eccentric Emily In Paris. The message is pretty straightforward: Every young and ambitious woman should strive to work in an Instagram-worthy office space. One that has no actual value. Nor does it exist in real life.
Or The Intern, which even made Robert De Niro fit right into this Millennial narrative. So, in the middle of all of these seemingly attractive office desks and comfy lazy bags, a question hangs in the air:
Why is regular work so…Sad? And why is everything so grizzled in corporate America both on- and off-screen?
It’s ironic how all these actors made us perform Indie Movie-like acts when it comes to talking about our jobs.
“I love the new firm, it’s super diverse and flexible!” – said 22-year-old Jessica without a kernel of truth in that sentence. Jessica wanted to be a journalist but due to mom’s wishes (and the occasional capitalism concern), Jessica has settled for second-best: being a lawyer’s secretary. But if by some random chance you come across her journals, you’ll come to find out they desperately scream “how do I break out of corporate America?” in between the lines.
“This is a great opportunity for me when it comes to financing. It’s a great office and it gives me more reputability.” – said Tim as his eyes drift into the distance, thinking about his long-lost dream of being a baker. But since life is cruel and funny like that, numbers, paperwork, and the persistently melancholic suburban lifestyle has given Tim quite a few coins in the bank and tears in the rain.
It’s ironic how most people talk about their jobs as if they’ve been cast in a Netflix original coming-of-age movie: All performance and no actual meaning. There are so many Jessicas and Tims out there, it’s beyond counting. And however hard or even undesirable these risks and leaps may seem, it is often better to choose exhilaration over comfort.
How to quit your job? Just like in that one episode of Friends, where Rachel desperately wanted to quit her job as a waitress – her friends Joey and Chandler pointed out the one thing that was stopping her…
The fear of failure, the fear of being broke, or even the fear of the unknown – all of these things tend to pin us down without delay. We all get scared from time to time. And that’s okay!
Before even thinking about quitting your job, creating a rough plan for what’s to come is the best thing you can do. And we get it! We would all like that “I QUIT” liberating scene, followed by a middle finger to our least favorite co-worker all while that one upbeat Radiohead song plays in the background.
Sadly, we are not in an Adam Sandler movie, nor in an Ariana Grande music video for that matter. Real-life is much more complex than just a simple “Thank U, Next” power move. So, the fear, or as we would call it “common sense” is what makes most of us put our happiness on hold.
The longest “hold” even known to both man and Customer Care Centers. In a recent study, it was shown that around 50 million Americans choose to work as freelancers. And as that number keeps rising, so does the demand for a more liberated market, as well as better work-life balance
So, to honor that coveted sense of independence and your average solopreneur’s dream of a decent life, let’s break down the 9 to 5 lifestyle that causes so many Millennials to burn out. In other words, how the heck do you leave a corporate job?
“I’m Stuck In Life”
A phrase commonly used among college and high school students, as if the second you get out of school a prolific epiphany just whelms your mind, gracefully. But since life is not exactly a Netflix Channel Original film, there is no grand reveal towards the end. Instead, let us let you in on a little secret…
The reason we are “stuck” is because we’re actually living someone else’s life. This may explain why deep down so many people are dissatisfied with their hair, makeup, style, and most importantly, their job.
In an alternate universe, all those things may have been enough for happiness. But if you want different things for yourself, there’s no other way around taking risks. Tracing your steps and finding the knot that makes you feel “stuck” is step one. Getting rid of the knot, though, takes more than just practising awareness.
Don’t get us wrong. Nobody said it’s easy to just ditch a 9-5 routine while some feel-good radio song plays in the background. Everyday work offers us stability, regular food on the table, a roof over our heads, as well as the occasional indifferent vacation.
To some, that’s a life worth living, a fair and hard-working one, if anything. But to others, that pursuit for “security” is suffocating, claustrophobic even. It tends to make you feel like you’re missing out on something so much greater than your run-of-the-mill security blanket that is 9-5.
So what’s it going to be? Taking a risk in pursuit of happiness or staying put out of fear? We all get to pave our own path, but try not to get swayed by what others do and think. Living up to other people’s expectations has a tendency to keep us idle while forever “waving goodbye to corporate life”.
“I’m Too Old”
My mom and I were talking about my writing career one Sunday afternoon, and how excited I was to explore the world of rigid creativity on a digital pen and paper. And in lieu of passing knowledge through creative literary pieces, she brought up the fact that she’s somewhat “fed-up” with being a professor. “Despite my love for the children and teaching, I’m afraid I’ve gotten rather tired,” she confessed to me.
Naturally, I said she should consider changing her field. After all, she’s a respected professor and has been for the past 30 years. There’s bound to be a much calmer and less tiring position for a woman of her calibre out there. And in the middle of all of my passionate commentary about change and the digital era of finding work, she merely brushed it off by saying, “Darling, I’m too old for change”. I paused and looked away. How can someone so clever, say something so ridiculous?
Why do we love to preach about the shortness of life and the “you only live once” trivial and factually inaccurate nonsense, when we still allow age to get in the way of prosperity? To top it all off, we stay in conditions that eventually make us feel exhausted, dissatisfied, and, in the words of my mother, “fed-up” with everyday life.
It can be argued that everyday life is as trivial as the work we do. And yet, day by day, small-talk by small-talk, and cigarette break by cigarette break, that little and “small” everyday life just become – your life. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Despite my unconditional love and respect for my mom, I’m afraid she is painfully and utterly wrong. There’s no such thing as “too old” for a career shift, nor a career change at 40 and over. The second you wonder when to quit your job is the second you should start developing a plan to execute exactly that. Especially when your own life and happiness are on the line. And yes, I’m looking at you, mom.
Finally, Break Free From A 9-5
Rules and discipline are essential to everyday life, no two ways about it. Bringing in some structure, even within creative processes, is a compellingly healthy practice.
Without those embedded roots, our lives can become too chaotic to enjoy, and we often become too lazy to care. That’s why the concept of “moving forward” becomes a challenge in and of itself.. It’s like we’ve grown roots in the only place we shouldn’t have – the ground. The ground being the corporate life you desperately want to quit.
The math is fairly simple: Either stay under someone else’s roof and have scheduled downtime, or work on your own self-discipline by building that same roof yourself.
For a society to function, there have to be some mutually-respected ground rules and structured arrangements. This ensures equal opportunities and, most importantly, a sense of peace. In order for an individual to do the same, they depend on that same society and everything created within it.
One can’t go without the other unless you fancy taking a lifelong break in the forest cabin, which is also an encouraging thought. Since we’re already faced with tools without a concrete choice, it is how we use what’s in front of us that will determine the freedom we seek. Furthermore, in a world where everything is already constructed for you, freedom is an abstract concept as well. We are not as free as we think we are, and we wouldn’t be as happy as we think we would be if met with that freedom we seek.
In other words, you can always find another 9-5, as they are quite literally behind every other corner. But creating something with your own ideas and hands just might be that Halley’s comet you wouldn’t want to miss out on.