Cubicle work is the opium of the masses


If Karl Max was alive today he’d have to revise his opinion about religion. We no longer need the promise of a golden afterlife to placate grey-faced, factory worker grunts. For most of us in the West, life has become a lot more comfortable and, for those of us who are still living in abject poverty and misery, consumerism has replaced religion as our insidious balm of choice. Who needs God when you can replace Him with things, or the heady dream that you’ll soon have those things?

In the grand scheme of things, my life is OK. I’m not exactly happy, and I do live from pay cheque to pay cheque, but I have food, clothes and a roof over my head. Life is a struggle, but it’s not the same soul-crushing, spirit-sapping struggle it was for people like me when Marx was alive.

But there is huge problem – I no longer think, or care about all the really important issues I should care about. And why is this? It’s because I spend 40 hours of my week, sitting on my arse in a cubicle. Sometimes I do get to interact with my colleagues in a normal human way (face-to-face!) but the vast majority of my daily interactions take place in online work chat rooms because I need to sit at my computer and get good “stats”.

The most “meaningful” work relationship I have (and I’m truly stretching the definition of the word “meaningful”) is with “T.”, a married, self-professed piece of white trash from some shitty Republican town deep in the heart of the state. I like him because he’s irreverent, very funny and is a Socialist, but I’ve barely exchanged more than a few sentences with him in person. All of our work relationship takes place via chat.

When I get home at night, I’m too tired to do anything except fall on the sofa, and watch episodes of “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” on TV, glass of red wine in hand. I barely read any more, and if I do, it’s usually 30 minutes snatched here and there in my lunch hour. I try to read “The New York Times” as much as I can (I’m old-fashioned…I get the paper version delivered every morning) but it worries me that I just absorb all the things I read there, without really thinking about them. I just go back to my online work chat room, and laugh at whatever new nyah nyah cat or Rebecca Black meme people have sent around.

I know it’s arrogant to think this like this, but ten years ago, when I had just graduated from university, I never thought my life would be this way. I thought I was destined for great things. Ha! I know I’m a good writer and singer, but there’s now so little time to get things done. Combine the lack of time, with my unfocused brain, crippling perfectionism and fear of failure, and it’s no wonder I never do anything creative.

I don’t know where to start, to be honest. I’m thirty-three years old, and I haven’t done anything much with my life. I can never seem to make the changes I should to be “successful”.

Is this it then? Am I destined to spend the rest of my life in a fucking cubicle, becoming more brain dead by the second?

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32 thoughts on “Cubicle work is the opium of the masses

  1. darwinsbladearekino July 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm Reply

    You’re livin’ la vida loca, I see. Maybe some zen philosophy can clear up your mind, save you a few brain cells?

  2. arekino July 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm Reply

    Strange… That’s not my name. Darwinsblade is a nickname I used in my old gaming days but how does this website know that?

  3. arekino July 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm Reply

    WTF?

    • petrichoric July 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm Reply

      This website knows everything about you, Arekino – even the colour of the underpants you are wearing now.

    • xul July 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm Reply

      All your information are belong to us!

      • xul July 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm Reply

        And I bet he wears those sexy hybrid underpants. ;-P

        • petrichoric July 8, 2011 at 10:19 pm Reply

          I have no idea what sexy “hybrid” underpants are, but they certainly sound good. I think Arekino is more of tighty whities kinda guy, though, don’t you?

          • arekino July 9, 2011 at 1:33 am Reply

            ಠ_ಠ <– look of disapproval that.

            Xul *must* be psychic though. My underpants *are* part lion tamer and part dragonslayer but unfortunately also part chastity belt.

            • petrichoric July 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm Reply

              Arekino, I think you should send me a crotch shot. I will post it to my blog!

              • arekino July 14, 2011 at 7:45 am Reply

                Never gonna happen.

  4. xul July 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm Reply

    Reminds me of that line in As Good As It Gets when Jack Nicholson’s character asks the mental people in the shrinks waiting room, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

    That’s the rub, isn’t it?

    • petrichoric July 8, 2011 at 10:20 pm Reply

      I saw “As Good As It Gets” years ago, when I lived in Germany, and I can’t remember a damn thing about it. However, let’s hope I won’t need a shrink to solve my dilemma.

  5. yogurt July 9, 2011 at 1:00 am Reply

    I remember opening up an account sitting across from a woman who worked in a cubicle. The coworker in the next cubicle talked at an eardrum shattering tone. How do you get any work done with such a loud neighbor? I was very glad that I hadn’t worked in a cubicle before and likely (hopefully) never would. In my pre-career days there were no cubicles and now I can only do my work in an office with a closed door. So you’ve got my sympathies. And also to say you’ll find more meaningful work. It makes all the difference.

    • petrichoric July 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm Reply

      I fear that I am probably like the woman who talked at “an eardrum shattering tone”. I am infamous in the office for my “cackle” and my ability to laugh at immature things for half an hour…like the customers who made a typo in her email and talked about her “dong”.

  6. williamx July 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm Reply

    My experience, after 43 years of life and 25 years of working as a soldier, telemarketer, market researcher, and various types of software breaker, is that you can’t let whatever crappy job you happen to be subsisting from at the moment define what you are, or take over your life. And if you happen to land a job you enjoy and are good at, still don’t let it take over your life or even go the least bit to your head, because that comfort can vanish in an instant.
    But still, it’s easy for me to say these things as I have always at least liked where and with whom I was living. And maybe because my soul was crushed long ago and further crushing doesn’t bother me . . .
    In any case I am damned glad to read more pertrichor words. Since I just got back from a splendid weekend camping I am extra optimistic. I extend my optimism your direction and hope some of it lands nearby.

    • petrichoric July 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm Reply

      Wow, Williamx, I had no idea that you had been a soldier? Seriously?! Oh, the problem is not that the job is taking over my life. Actually, I like the job well enough. It’s just that I have to spend 40 bloody hours a week doing said job! It’s too much! I hate work! It’s a huge inconvenience. Thank you for the optimism, though!

  7. williamx July 10, 2011 at 11:57 pm Reply

    Seriously, Light Infantry combat veteran. Panama. Hoo- motherfucking -ah. How does that poem go?
    Will no one tell me what she sings?
    Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
    For old, unhappy, far-off things,
    And battles long ago
    And what would the Sergeant Major say except “They don’t call it work because it’s fun now shut up and drive on.
    40/168 = 5/26th of the time you are alloted in a week , , , and don’t forget you can sleep forever when you are dead.But on the other hand I hate work too . . .

  8. Reluctant Blogger July 11, 2011 at 7:09 am Reply

    You often seem to be on the same wavelength as me. I am older than you and I seem to have reached a similar sort of point. Well, similar and different. I don’t work for anyone but often what I do now seems pointless and I do only do it to pay the bills and to enable me to travel. And my life is just so mundane and mellow and plateauxed – and well, boring to me. And yet, I never say that because I am lucky. And people get cross if I seem bored when I seemingly have everything.
    But I always thought I would do more, go to more places, feel more I think.
    I actually think I am just a person who thrives on change and on drama. And when I don’t have those things I get slumpy and lethargic and stop thinking about anything or doing anything or challenging myself.
    I am trying to hard to snap out of it and have moments when I think I might – I went off to Brazil for a bit which felt like an adventure, and I have registered to do a half-marathon. But I think I need love-life drama – I need lust and intrigue and to be worried about being found out. But logically I know that is simply not sensible.
    My current slump is why I have not been blogging. Plus I think if I start spouting about how dull or unsatisfying my life feels, my readers will be exasperated with me!!
    I do hope you find a way to wake up. I think sometimes you have to just go for it – run away or something. But I shouldn’t be telling you that. There must be another way.
    Well done on blogging it anyway xx

    • petrichoric July 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm Reply

      But I think I need love-life drama – I need lust and intrigue and to be worried about being found out. But logically I know that is simply not sensible.

      Oh, RB. You and I are scarily similar. I feel like you’re my big sister or something, and I wish that you were! I’m very sad that you’ve given up blogging as you wrote over in your blog recently. The blogosphere just won’t be the same without you. I, for one, would love to read about how “dull or satisfying” your life feels. Come back, RB! Come back!

  9. An author July 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm Reply

    I made a mistake, thought and outlook are two discernable things. One can literally have all the solutions internalized and mentally processed, yet still act in the same way, consistently and endlessly. Im beginning to think an action only has motivation after the fact. If thought isnt determining action, action may determine thought. The problem is in finding that motivation to simply act. One can be beautiful, talented and intelligent, as im sure you are, but what does that amount to if a lack of action refuses to pave a path to identity. And i think thats what everyone here, including myself, struggles wit. an identity determined by activity. or something.

    • petrichoric July 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm Reply

      Your comments are very true – and that’s what makes them a little depressing. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t speak your mind – it’s just that the truth is somewhat hard to handle sometimes.

  10. rafgeymir July 18, 2011 at 4:42 am Reply

    This is my very first commet I’ve ever written in a blog (and besides- it is the very first blog I’ve ever followed).
    You and I have got quite a lot of things in common, I must say. I am a teacher, not thinking of quitting, but every now and then I am really not sure if this is THE JOB I want to do the rest of my life. But then again I haven’t found “my destiny” yet.
    And wanting to be a singer/writer: Tell me about it!!! The last few musical projects I started were some years ago and now I often simply lack the energy to write anything after work.
    Sometimes I feel really depressive not being able to be more creative. (But then again I know that forcing myself to be creative is probably the most impossible thing in the world!).
    So, here’s what I did: I tried to take this “being-creative-pressure” off of me and I started to do different craft-projects, which
    a.) can be done in little time and/or
    b.) don’t require too much creativity.
    E.g. I bought myself a sewing machine and make nice little things (applications on old t-shirts, decoration for glasses to put candles in, etc.)
    I also found a pretty old stamping kit on a flea market (a metal frame and many many letters- I can make my own words/phrases/statements and make individual postcards/ picture frames/ etc.)
    This helped me very much with getting new ideas how to express myself without necessarily writing a new song or s.th. like that.

    Besides: Maybe you heard that before- but I think you already ARE a writer. And you’ve got an audience here! Please don’t stop writing!

    xxx. rafgeymir.

    p.s.: Sorry if my English isn’t perfect. It’s not my mother tongue and I don’t live in an English-speaking country. (But in a country you also lived in, I just read…)

    • petrichoric July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm Reply

      Hello, new poster! Sorry for taking ages to reply to your first ever post on a blog! Wow, I’m flattered! And the first ever blog you’ve ever followed! Double wow! Your first comment actually did turn up successfully, as you can see, so not to worry.

      I think you’re very right about trying to do little creative things that don’t take up too much time. I know that I (and my husband) fail at being creative because we think up these huge projects, which we’ll never have the time and energy to get done, so we set ourselves up for failure. It’s so hard to learn to think “small” and be less perfectionistic.

      So, you are a teacher in Germany? I was a teaching assistant in a German school in Bavaria when I was 19/20, and I was impressed by how rigorous the educational standards are over there. American kids get to university and can’t even write properly. I kid you not!

      Well, thanks for coming to my blog. I hope that you will come back again!

  11. rafgeymir July 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Oh dear- I’ve just written my very first comment ever and somehow it didn’t work. Why?!?

    • petrichoric July 20, 2011 at 12:01 am Reply

      No, don’t worry! It worked! I just have to approve the comments first before they show up on the blog! Thanks for the lovely comment. I am flattered that it’s your first blog comment ever! I will respond more in full once I’m not so exhausted!

  12. rafgeymir July 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm Reply

    Aaaaah- here is is!!! 😉

  13. rafgeymir July 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm Reply

    Oh- you lived in Bavaria? Lucky you, that’s the nicest (though most conservative part) of Germany. In fact, I work in Bavaria, too. Which is why I’d really love to know where exactly you lived.
    I live in a little town pretty close to the Alps- nice landscape, but pretty boring “nightlife” if you can call it that.
    The reason why I started smaller crative projects was exactly for the same reason: I always felt I wasn’t able to start a big project. I REALLY do feel better since I had that idea!
    And I certainly will stick to your blog.
    Thanks so much for answering- it’s such a great feeling to know that there are other people like me/you/us out there.
    Hope you enjoy your weekend!!

    • petrichoric July 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm Reply

      Hello again! Do you live in Garmisch? I lived in München. It was pretty but, yes, Bayern is pretty conservative, so I didn’t feel terribly comfortable there. I also lived in Berlin for six months, and that was MUCH better. I’m assuming that you teach English because your English is so good. If not, I’m going to be so jealous. I spent years studying French and German, and my language skills are definitely not as good as the average German who never studied English at university. Booh.

  14. rafgeymir August 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm Reply

    I live in Kempten (southwest border of Bavaria), but I’m about to move to a tiny little village a bit further up north (another school is awaiting me- hope it will be good there!!)
    I didn’t want to live in a city anymore. Many people don’t understand my decision because they think you can live more freely in a city.
    It’s certainly true that you are not that much under “social control” as in a village- but I need SPACE. To breathe, to walk, to have a garden and to start new projects (gardening, picking apples and plums, stuff like that…). I feel less bored there, funny, huh.
    But if I ever had to live in a big city again, Berlin would be it!! It’s certainly a great place (and I really don’t like München. Way too snobby)
    Oh, and many many thanks for your language skills compliment! I do teach English- so don’t worry about your language skills!!
    Viele liebe Grüße aus Kempten!

    • petrichoric August 2, 2011 at 11:59 pm Reply

      Hallo nochmals, “Rafgeymir”! No, I know what you mean about the countryside, and the feeling of space you get there. I actually grew up on a farm, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. I miss just being able to walk out into a field without being bothered by *anybody*. Sure, I can go to a park here, but it’s not the same thing. There will always be people there.

      But I don’t think I could ever imagine myself living in the country again full-time. In an ideal world, I would have a city apartment, and then a country retreat I would visit whenever I needed to get away. Having both would make me truly happy.

      München hat mir auch nicht gefallen – die Leute waren alle “schicki-micki” und immer schlecht gelaunt. Am Anfang war ich sehr deprimiert, weil ich mit den Leuten da absolut nichts anfangen konnte, aber ich fand endlich ein paar Freunde, und dann ging’s ein bißchen besser.

      Viele liebe Grüße nach Kempten, und viel Glück in Ihrer neuen Schule!

  15. rafgeymir August 3, 2011 at 2:37 am Reply

    Your German is FANTASTIC!!! Believe me! I know it’s not the easiest language in the world but you did an amazing job!!!!!!!
    Having two houses/ apartments in two different places sounds great. Every now and then I really enjoy spending a weekend in a bigger city (even if it’s München), but then I’m just happy to come back “home” to where nobody bothers me.
    Now I’ll be spending a few days in Nürnberg but I will be back on your blog soon.
    Thank you for answering- it always makes my day brighter!!

    • petrichoric August 4, 2011 at 10:17 pm Reply

      Well, thanks for the compliment about my German. Actually I think German is a pretty easy language. It’s kinda hard for the first two years, but once you’ve got the basics down, it’s extremely logical, which makes it easy. French, I’ve found, is the other way round – it starts off easy (at least it’s got the same word order!) but then it seems to get harder and harder. Also, I can’t stand France, and French culture, so that gives me even less of an incentive to perfect my French.

      Viel Spaß in Nürnberg!

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