I go back to the point of this and the reason why I’ve decided to write this book or the others before it. At some point, I came to a staggering realization that I was part of the 85% who were unhappy with their work life, which bled into my home life. I was part of the mindless motions of everyday commuters. I had my traditional cup of coffee in hand and a newspaper folded beneath my arm. Each morning, I was heading to a job that was more of a habit than a passion. My body knew which way to go, when to turn left or right, when to pause, when to stop and when to go. I was almost Pavlovian in the sense that my day was mainly predictable. Nothing was ever exciting or fulfilling. Instead, mine was a simple case of life on the clock. I punched in to prove my existence and at the end of the day, I logged off to prove that I had ceased to exist in the corporate world.
I say this because this was how it seemed. Work was nothing more than a mutually beneficial agreement. I’d give my time and effort and in return, I was paid a wage. I’d work and they’d return my efforts with benefits and some vacation days. I could take time off and have a few sick days. I could put into my retirement fund. I could feed my pension and annuity and at the end of the day, I could clock out and go home. This was it.
There was no direction or challenge or excitement. There was only work. There was no reward or sense of accomplishment. There were only job tickets and work orders. There were directives and tasks. There was maintenance and preventative measures, quarterly, semi-annual and annual projects to take care of. I was neither regarded nor disregarded; but instead, I was simply a faceless mid-level person whose position was important but hardly recognized. I was a cog or tiny piece of a much bigger machine. I was almost anonymous, which is what happens in big corporations. The base of the pyramid is wide and each brick is mainly unknown and unnoticed at the bottom. The top is noticed and, of course, more valued because the positions are fewer and higher up. However, the translation is disregarding to the lower positions in the pyramid.
I have worked in places where I was sent to find someone who, just to use a name for this, we can call this person Jacob. Let’s say Jacob works in a big office and sits in a cubicle. Let’s say I am unsure where Jacob sits and I ask a person who sits in a cubicle, “Do you know where Jacob sits? I need to give Jacob this paperwork.”
I have seen it happen where people stand up and poke their head around. There is a curious but lost expression on their face because they are unsure of the name let alone where Jacob sits. Meanwhile, Jacob sits one row over in the cubicles behind them. See what I mean about becoming anonymous in the corporate machine? No connectivity, no meaningful or interpersonal experiences.
I thought this way about myself. There was no drive or direction. There was only the mindless action of a job that had to be done, deadlines, quotas and the occasional Christmas party which eventually became uneventful. There was no rush or adrenaline of pleasure. There was nothing to keep me youthful or fulfill a simple charge. No, there was only a job. There was a long commute each day. There were times on the subways where things were downright crazy, which I eventually became numb to. I started to become desensitized which, in essence, robbed me of the joys that life is intended for. This is why I go back to the idea that there is no rule that says we have to be miserable and that we are not allowed to enjoy our time at work.
More than the competition and more than the thrill, more than earning a living, more than filling a position and more than being a team member or being promoted to a team leader; I wanted to be, think and feel with a sense of reward. I wanted my work life to be more than a habitual process. I wanted my life to be more than an action that my body could do without the input of my brain. There was no advancement. There was no way for me to rid myself of that mid level feeling. So then what?
I compared the ideas of promotions and attention from executives to feeding fish in a fish tank. Once the flakes drop, all of the fish swim up and move fast to get whatever flakes they can. Some get more, some get less and some miss out for no other reason than they were on the unlucky side of the fish tank.
I have seen different versions of favoritism and nepotism. This has been around since the beginning of time and it would be inaccurate to think this will go away any time soon. After all, it’s not what you know. It’s who you know, right?
But what do you do if you don’t know anyone?
I say this is when we have to disrupt our position and create changes.
My involvement with this life was nothing short of cyclical. I became this process. And again, I became this without any input from my brain. I had a job. I had a title. I worked with a group. Some people I worked with were fine to be where they were. Some were miserable and clearly vocal about their misery. Some were older and resigned to the fact that this is their life and that’s all there was to it. No joy, no deep valleys of despair, just a simple mundane life in the land of purgatory and mediocrity.
I suppose my awakening might not be so different from anyone else’s. In short, I came to a realization that I was not where I wanted to be. I had no direction. I was employed and spending long hours at a place that only paid my wallet and not my heart. I worked to provide a life, pay my bills, turn on the lights in my house, and to pursue that dream of wait, what is it again? Oh, yeah. The dream is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But at the same time I spent more time at an unenjoyable workplace than I did enjoying life, the place I paid bills for and the table I worked to put food on.
I came to an instance of realization whereas; I realized there were no rewards, no passion, direction or thrill. My level of awareness improved; however, the fears and concerns were based on the ideas that I, myself, was at the bottom of the pyramid. Since I saw myself as mainly unnoticeable, how do I improve to the sense where noticed or not, I was satisfied and fulfilled? I had no idea how to make changes nor was I sure how to change the pathways my body was trained to follow. My mind wanted better but my body was trained to do otherwise.
I knew that I wanted more and that I wanted better but how? My schedule was set and my mind was on autopilot. This meant that I had to face change and the oddity of an awkward discomfort. This meant that I would have to learn to disrupt my usual pathways and patterns to create a new plan for myself. What’s more, this meant that I would have to make a commitment to this change and accept that not everyone around me will be supportive and not every door I knock upon is going to open. But open or closed, if nothing else, I would have to build my own doors and give myself permission to open them and let myself in.
I had to train myself to live differently and alter my schedule. I had to permit myself the feelings of discomfort and accept that my change will take time. I had to realize how to invest my time with people, places and things; and should my investments turn poorly, I had to learn when to walk away, how to remove myself from rejective thinking or rejective ideas and how to reinvest in myself some place else.
None of this would have been possible for me if I had faced this in an emotional sense. Emotions only seek emotions. Strategy is emotionless and seeks plans and goals. Nothing else. I have an emotional mind. This is where I store my fears and concerns. This is where my dreams come from; however, this is also where I store the arrows to shoot my dreams down from the clouds.
I have a strategic mind. This is where I store my plans. This is where logic lives. There is no emotion here, no inner-child to contend with, and with no emotional tantrums; there are only tactics and methods, goals, plans and a strategy to achieve. I should listen to the strategic brain when it comes to my dreams.
I found myself the day I chose to learn a new direction. I found my passion in an emergency room. I was working with an opiate overdose recovery program. There was a woman who had been saved. She was dead and they brought her back to life. She overdosed after a terrible battle with pain medications. She was not homeless, dirty or odd looking by any means. She was simply another person in this world who lived in this mundane sense. There was nothing to provide a sense of satisfaction. There was nothing that could take away her physical pain, which for the record, this is where her entry to the opiate culture began. She was unfulfilled and unrewarded. And me, I was her specialist. I was there when she was vomiting into a pan. I held her hair back at the time to allow her the dignity of being a person instead of an overdose victim—or better yet, I allowed her the dignity of being human instead of treating her the way she was treated by the doctor who labeled her as “Another junkie!”
Years have passed and I am still in contact with this woman. She is alive. And I keep her close to me but not because I was her recovery specialist. I keep her close because she is a reminder of what life can be like without passion or reward. I keep her close because she helped me define my path. In fact, we were there for each other to help prove there is another way to live. And this worked for me.
For you or for anyone else, the question is what has to happen to help you find satisfaction?
What would you need for your life to be the dream you’ve always wanted?
Even if the choices are as simple as how can we spruce up our desks or how can we be better than our environment, the question is if we are uninspired, how long will we live this way? Is the answer until we retire? Or, is it the case of “When?” and we just keep waiting.
I took a class to become a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate. The culture in the room varied. Of all, perhaps this was the most diverse group that I have ever been a part of and I was asked questions by my new peers. I was asked about my life and my experience. I was asked because since I had a job that came with a decent wage, then why would I look to enter a position that paid considerably less.
My answer: My day job pays my bills. But this job pays my heart.
My goal is to learn how to pay both on a fulltime basis. I want to do this from now on, until this day forward; for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.