The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I’ve talked before about how I’m an inadvertent ladder climber. In my current career trajectory, I’m transitioning from a production employee (one who does actual work) to more of a middle manager type who makes sure the rest of my team provides our outputs in our consulting role. That’s ok. I’m not super technically proficient and generally enjoy the role of puppetmaster. But with that transition company politics and administrative responsibilities and BS from up on high become more a part of my daily life.
Last week I was promoted, which came with a pay bump and more responsibility. My short term excitement lasted a couple of days before I started having dreams due to the dread from more responsibility. I feel like a frog in a boiling pot, where by attrition, luck, or good work I find myself with only a few rungs left, and realistically one. It’s a conflicting feeling because I’m well respected in the company, but am thinking every day “how can I get out of the rat race faster?” I realize I’m just a cog in a machine, one designed to make our shareholders (I am one) money, and with that knowledge comes the fact that I really don’t care that much for the grander vision.
Two weeks ago, one of our eight VP’s was unceremoniously fired. No one knows the reason, but this was a rarity in our company especially since he ran the most profitable division in the company. A former VP who I spent time with had retired about 6 years ago. I heard he had died yesterday at 65. Life is too short to believe in either the narrative that we’re important in our role or that we should lock our lives to a shackle of a desk by consumption. Any of us can be replaced, and after your use is through – either by your own accord or from the decision of a bigger fish – the company will move on. You’re work friendships will dissolve and ultimately the place where you spent most of your waking hours will end up meaning nothing except a means for really living.
My work allows me to feel productive in the context of my job, and work with moderately fun, intelligent people, and for that I’m thankful. But I don’t have illusions that I’m changing the world or really care that much about my coworkers. Really I have been a little in the doldrums in an existential way and like many, don’t believe we are meant to be spend it at a desk.
With our recent pop-up camper purchase, more time spent camping with my family and friends, and being outdoors, I really appreciate the Thoreau idea of simplicity and nature. Less is more. I haven’t ever wanted the corner office (though I backed into one) or a luxury car or bling or nice clothes, and don’t spend my hard earned money trying to impress people. I wear 10 year old tennis shoes, drive a Honda Accord (typical dad car) that I’ll drive into the ground, and just want to play board games with my kids and take walks with my dogs.
If you’re like me and don’t really love your job, but don’t hate it, you have to pretend to care if you want more money. And more money means more savings, and more savings mean getting the fuck out of the office sooner to live a life that is defined solely by you, not just for survival. So keep taking those leadership classes, and punch that clock, but use that money to buy your freedom. You never know when you’ll get fired, or die.