Ode to an Office Job

17 Dec

Retro-Looking Office Waiting Room

Ah, the weightless fulfillment of full-time work! After four years of contracting and freelancing, a temporary yet full-time position with a local employer has been rapturously simple. When you spend so many months in self-employment land, a numbness to the pressure of the juggling act slowly seeps into your mind, dulling but not eliminating the swirling, colliding to-do lists and goals.

From the first day I set foot in the artificially lit, cubicle-laden office in November, I could feel the burden of self-employment being silently peeled off of me. How wonderful it can feel to have a solution to empty days—an agent of deeply relaxing, frivolous weekends. I had forgotten (had I ever really known?) about the freedom of a full-time job.

It is the freedom to feel that what you’re doing is enough, and that the time when you are not at work is truly your own to do with what you like. Although my current work is not forever, it bears with it the reminder that the demands of a job are not necessarily infinite—requirements do not always span across weekends and week nights and complicated client lists.

I’ve written a poem that attempts to capture the funny reality of office work—the wonderful security, the comfortableness, the predictability, the prosaic simplicity that is both wonderful and completely absurd.

The Good Water

Back and forth behind my cubicle door
strangers silently trudge over the grey carpeted floor
to a grouping of items that calls out homey comfort
with drippers and chillers and brewers at alert.
They come to heat and fill and rinse at the sink.
They like to say hello, but mostly they drink.
Because it’s well known through office chatting and fodder
that this spot in the corner’s got superlative water.

This clear-bodied stuff doesn’t cure boredom or depression.
It won’t make you tingle or laugh.
The good water doesn’t taste special or splendid.
It’s not bubbly or sparkly, not served by carafe.
It comes out of a machine that’s plugged into the wall.
Push a button or two and it fills your glass tall.
When examined up close, the difference is miraculously small.
It’s just a bit colder and warmer, that’s all.

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5 Responses to “Ode to an Office Job”

  1. broadsideblog January 21, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    So true. Whenever I’ve had a job and steady paycheck I wonder where that $$ is coming from. Yes, my labor, clearly, but it never feels 1/10 as difficult as going out and getting it myself.

    • McKenzie M January 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      Maybe it’s the millennial in me talking, but sometimes it feels like I’m finally ‘in the club’–because self-employment is viewed as a joke to so many, with a “real job” being one with a boss.

      In Shanghai I attended an event where a speaker talked about the subtle benefits of hierarchy–the idea that having less responsibility on your plate can be limiting, but it can also be liberating. A strange side effect of working below so many others that I find to be true in certain ways.

      • broadsideblog January 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

        That’s a silly notion when so many people will also find themselves fired overnight and may face a 6-12+month job search. Maybe not at your age…

        Self-employment is exhausting but it develops a tremendous range of skills. Whenever I have a “real” job in an office I’m easily bored and feel stifled because I have only a tiny idea what’s really going on — when I work for myself, I know to the penny what’s owed and earned. It’s a matter of control, I guess.

        • McKenzie M January 21, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

          I totally agree that the feeling of security is in most ways a false one–especially in an age where so few employers are willing to take on the ‘risk’ of a full-time employee. (Perhaps the concept gains more popularity in a historically “communist” country). I also totally agree that there is great development and a sense of reward in being executive in your professional life and livelihood. You’ll never be fired (by yourself), even if times are occasionally slow.

          • broadsideblog January 21, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

            And when they’re “slow” all you have to do (sigh) is rev yourself up and got get some more work.

            I see so many people being worked to death in their FT jobs — with no raises, promotions or job security. That seems a poor bargain to me.

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