I decided that I’d refuse to let a building define me. I’d refuse to allow any company, or entity, or job, or anything define who I was as a person. As a human. As a man. The contents of that building did not define my success. My success was not in there. It’s in here. It’s within my chest. Within this soul. I am defined by who I am, and what I do…what I believe and what I feel…what I’m capable of…not by the whim of some fucking corporation. Interestingly, it was brought to my attention that I may be afraid to move forward, that I feared success more than I feared failure. The thought of that shit had me up in arms, like “what?” You’ve got to be kidding me, right? “All I want is success”, I’d tell myself. But you know what? Maybe I was.
The day that my potato exploded in the microwave was an eye opener. It was a sign…an omen. A message from the powers that be. Maybe I’d nuked that fucker for too long, or maybe I just didn’t give a shit. Either way, that little vegetable bastard decided to commit culinary suicide and blew itself spud first all over the confines of the microwave with a mere five seconds left. I mean, c’mon…it couldn’t have kept its composure for a measly five more seconds? Suck it up, god damn it! I had no money left, I had no lunch, and I was hungry enough to eat the scum out of the bottom of a homeless man’s shoes. It was definitely a sign…an omen…a message from the powers that be.
I had no real idea what I was doing. I mean, I had a loose grasp of the general concepts, but the actual execution was a different beast entirely. The company tinkered with their methods and procedures so often that it was nearly impossible to keep up. True proficiency was a fucking pipe dream. Just when you got used to doing things one way, BOOM, they decided to change it up again…and for no good reason. Their feeble and half-handed attempts at ‘training’, if that’s what you want to call it, were just a ridiculous ruse. I literally had no idea what I was doing, and spent the bulk of every day winging it…and I did it for years. Talk about disheartening; it’s the most depleted feeling inching your way to five o’clock blindly, in the dark, not knowing what the hell you’re doing. For years. Even after it’s been explained, because their explanations amounted to a fresh pile of zebra shit. There’s a great line at the end of the movie ‘The Usual Suspects’, where Kevin Spacey’s character states “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.” I’ve gotta say, convincing this joint that I knew what I was doing, that I was a stand up, functioning employee, ranks up there with the greatest.
When would I decide that enough was enough? Had I determined what enough was? Or when? What was my threshold? My breaking point? How much would I have to endure before I realized that I’d had it up to here? It had been years of the same old, years of stringing together reason after reason, excuse after excuse, line after line. Coaxing together a thin fabric of a façade that masked my true purpose, a purpose that had lain dormant for God knows how long. It was once asked if dreams deferred wither and dry up like raisins in the sun; I often wondered that same question.
What happens to dreams when they’re cast aside like old laundry into an old darkened corner? Do they begin to smell? Do they rot? Do they grow hairy mold? Or do they just die…regretfully, painfully, scornfully, and utterly unforgiving of the person that relegated them to that less than golden fate? Do we blame ourselves? Do we blame ourselves as the result of our jobs? Or is it all one giant soup that we’re all stewing in, bubble by bubble, until we reach the boiling point that sends us oozing over the edge of the pot and into the unknown? Maybe there in that zone lies the reason behind it all…the purpose that we all so desperately seek…the one that very few of us have ever truly lived enough of in order to assist the rest of us schlocks that were too afraid to step out and live.
The trials of being me:
“Damn, a year’s already gone by.”
“Fuck, I really can’t believe I’ve wasted two whole years at this place.”
“Yo, please kill me if I make the three year mark.”
“Hey man, for real, throw me off a fucking bridge if I make it here four years.”
“Like seriously dude, something’s seriously wrong with me if I make it to five years.”
“Wow, three months from now will be my six year mark.”
“Well I’ll be damned. Six fucking years.”
So begins the current situation. Keyboard clicks, telephones ringing, clunky fax machines humming their disjointed rhythms, random chatter, overcooked professionalism, clichéd power phrases, false motivation, no incentives, wilted prospects, dried up ambitions, phony smiles, fake promises, and utter loss of concentration await. Deep breaths.
So here’s the deal; how many times have you been at your desk, pretending to work of course, daydreaming of another life? How many of us sit in the gardens of our own little secret worlds, scheming of creative ways to shake things up? Dreaming of ways to just flip the script and start over? We don our masks every day and face the world with our pretend selves…most of us tend to fake our smiles, fake our enthusiasm, and fake our brains into believing that we’re all on the same team. We all do it; the customary nods, smiles, and hello’s, the traditional talk about the weather and the local sports teams and what not, and the quintessential remarks about how we all can’t wait until 5 o’clock. It’s all the same; it’s the universal language of things. It’s as if we are all actors, and to be honest, the great bulk of us could truly win Oscars and Golden Globes for our performances. We’re all actors, and we’re scarily good at it. We are all performing on a daily, acting until five o’clock, acting through meetings, acting through the bullshit until we can reach our little safe zones, wherever that may be. Yeah, I get it. It’s like we’re following a script; we’re all different pages of the same book, and not one of us has any idea as to how the story will end. It’s a very thin veneer. Part of me would rather take on that horde of stumbling, slobbering, reanimated flesh that I was dreaming about than spend one more day…one more second, even…typing meaningless entries into that meaningless database.
Birds darted and soared outside in slow, steady spirals and graceful zig zags. My cubicle faced the window, which was heaven and hell all rolled into one. Staring out into the blue skies was a revelation that reminded me of the unfathomable depth of the world, and that the world still breathed…and, through it all, that I was still alive despite the paralytic effects of my surroundings. It reminded me that beauty was a real thing, a very honest concept, not just a figment of imagination and magazine ads, or movies, commercials and television shows. It was a reminder that I was most certainly not meant for the off-white box that I was in. On the flip side though, having a window seat was pure, uncut hell, because it was also a sickeningly painful reminder that I was very well shackled to a cube wall like some dungeon prisoner in the old cartoons or comic books, all hairy and ragged and barefoot and threadbare. I felt as if I were that comic book detainee, tethered to some imaginary world where numbers ruled, office politics reigned supreme, and management was as crooked as a bad case of scoliosis. Either way, it was awesome to see the clouds float by and the birds soar outside every day.
A sharp shudder awoke me from those old thoughts, and the quintessential office cacophony of keyboard clicks, ringing phones, and light chatter swirled around my ears like bad porn music. I’d only dozed off for a scant few minutes, and traded a (quite pleasant) humorous dream for a very real corporate prison cell. Not a good swap; those dreams and daydreams were the fuel that propelled me through the persistent tedium of the day. My screen stared back at me with rows upon rows of untouched work, a dull mishmash of numbers and letters, reports and spreadsheets that I’d scarcely mastered after all the years being there. Those rows and worksheets stared at me with dead, drab, critical eyes, and I stared back at it with equal scorn. It was abnormally cold in the cubicle that morning, and the fluorescent lights above shone down as coldly as a winter star. In the office, it was always either too hot or too cold…as if working in a state of discomfort was somehow great for productivity. I was dreaming of zombies again that day, and those raggedy bastards managed to grab hold of me and tear the hell out of my jugular. Again. I deftly flicked a bit of morning crust from the corner of my eyes and squinted hard in an attempt to refocus them on the computer screen that I’d been staring at for hours; a gang of work needed to be done, and it was only 9 a.m.