For me, the waiting is just about the worst. Sitting in a quiet place knowing in an hour or less it will be swarming with hundreds of people who talk for a living and are yelling to be heard over one another is really just like a descent into madness. Or maybe a decent into hell. Possibly both.
Business developers, sales execs… as far as the eye can see its people who want to talk and want you to talk with them. I’d very nearly rather set myself on fire. I’m sure they are all very fine human beings, but their innate mode of operation exhausts me at a very base level.
Waiting for this barely controlled chaos to start is awful… but pretending to be engaged, polite, and vaguely interested for hours on end in what several hundred complete strangers are saying is really just about the very worst thing you can ask me to do in terms of mental health and wellbeing.
Frankly I’m amazed that year after year I get through it without completely withdrawing into my own head and slipping quietly into psychiatric emergency.
After you’ve spent a good portion of your recent life working for a manically dictatorial uberboss, one of the problem you’ll face is not being particularly well adjusted for work in an office where the worst thing that happen are, well, perfectly normal workplace situations. Is it possible that I’d become adjusted to having someone throwing metaphorical rocks at my head five days a week? I’ll confess that part of me now lives on edge because I don’t know if or when the next rock will come flying in my direction. It’s made me surprisingly uneasy lately – Not quite anxious, but definitely a feeling that nothing can be this relatively calm without another shoe dropping at some point.
Admittedly, it’s not something that’s been keeping me up at night. While not losing sleep, I do find that sitting at my desk, I can feel the tension creep into my shoulders and I catch myself glancing back to make sure the specter of bosses past isn’t somehow managing to sneak up on me with an arm full of PowerPoint changes, newsletters, and snide comments.
Is it possible for a cube-dweller to come down with a case of battle fatigue five months after escaping from the influences that were sending him in the direction of a breakdown? Maybe my subconscious is just now accepting how bad things really were and starting to reconcile it with how remarkably good they seem now. If history is any guide, the bottom should be falling out any time now.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
I watch people. I don’t mean that so much in the Creepy McCreeperson kind of way, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated in watching people and trying to figure them out. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to read them. It helps that most people are pretty dumb and almost all of us are predictable on some level. I’ve had a few weeks to watch the family next door now. It’s surprising what you can see when you don’t have a six foot privacy fence between you and the rest of the planet, but I digress.
The thing I’ve noticed most often is how tired the guy who lives next door looks. 6:30 in the morning leaving for work, he looks tired. Cutting the grass in the evening, he looks tired. We all work, pay bills, and keep up with the endless list of things that need done to keep our houses from falling in around our ears. We all get tired. The difference I’ve noticed is that even when I’m tired, I go to bed, sleep for a few hours, and wake up refreshed. All you’ve got to do is look in this guy’s eyes and you can tell there’s no waking up rested going on there. He’s a nice enough guy to say hello to, but he’s got that vacant 1000 yard stare that speaks of being completely exhausted. It’s that look of exhaustion that really made me think.
We never really know what’s going on in other people’s lives, but I always look askance at couples who claim they can’t get everything done. Seriously? There are two of you doing what one of me does. That would be cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cooking, yard work, washing the car, grocery shopping, running errands, making the money, and generally managing life. The difference between us is that I’m doing it with half the manpower you have available. Without knowing the intricacies of your life, it seems that if one of me can manage to get it all done, two of you should be able to at least keep up.