Trapped in the Cubicle

I just want to say that I love hearing from my readers.  I don’t get many comments on my actual blog–most conversation happens either on Twitter, Facebook, via personal messages, or through face-to-face discussion.  I’m not sure what that is, but I think it has something to do with how personal a topic is like this for so many.  There’s a stigma associated with unemployment/underemployment, and I’m not sure people are all that willing to talk about it publicly.  No one wants to admit they’re unhappy when we’re supposed to be in the most exciting and optimistic time of our lives.  Through the people I have talked with, though, I am learning that my story is the story of many people out there, just in slightly different forms.

I recently got a Facebook message from someone who has graciously allowed me to republish it here.  I think they had some interesting thoughts on being young and frustrated, and I think you all might think so, too (name and business ideas left out for respect of the author):

Hey Allison,

I was reading a few articles in your blog, about living life after graduation, and wanted to comment a little bit on something.

I also played by the rules, did what “good” people should do by graduating college and then fortunately getting a job that has a decent salary. But, I’m unhappy.

I’m unhappy because I waste 5 days of my life sitting in a cubicle, programming a f****** computer in a way that doesn’t help many people, while being only able to see the person that I love for 2 days out of the week. What I do is program computers so that people can have faster hard drives in their computers. To some, it may sound mind-stimulating, but for me, it is a waste of time. The only good parts of my job are the salary and the skills that I gain, but ultimately, I’m unhappy. The salary, sure, compared to many other jobs, I am fortunate. However, it’s barely enough to sustain a living. I know that perhaps you feel that I am exaggerating and being inconsiderate, but I really feel like I feel the same way you do. In short, my conclusion is that money really does not bring happiness, and if we cannot find a way to be happy with the life we have now, any amount of money wouldn’t make a difference. Many people say this, but I find it easier to believe if I share it with someone else and hear myself repeat it.

The times where I feel true satisfaction is when I can help other people. Then, I feel that life is worthwhile, and I am happy. If I could change one person’s life everyday, then I can be happy for the rest of my life, even if I wasn’t paid. (there are some caveats like providing care for your future children, etc.)

That’s mostly all I wanted to say.

Well, thanks for listening.

I think they hit it pretty much right on the head with the “helping other people” comment.  There is a lot of truth in that statement, and our generation has shown up in extraordinary numbers for volunteer positions to do just that.  It’s just hard to see so many of us waste away at mind-numbing jobs, especially when some feel trapped there by a decent paycheck.  Do we leave the paycheck and follow our heart to help?  Or, do we stay and remain miserable?  Is there a way to do both without going crazy?

Would you share your story with me?  How have you maintained sanity in a mind-numbing job?  What is it that gives you satisfaction in the midst of unhappiness?  Love?  Volunteering?  Music?

Keep writing, folks!  It’s good to know we’re not alone.

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8 thoughts on “Trapped in the Cubicle

  1. Alissonnay!

    Just read your blog, and I’m glad you got over your dry spell and started posting more blogs! A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on my blog with your blog in mind about how I felt in my year off between undergrad and grad school (http://shahblahblah.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/retrospection-without-regret/). I hope you draw some hope from it!
    Sometimes in the midst of making plans and yearning towards grandeur future, we lose the subtle pleasures of what it means to be in that in-between phase in our lives. Cherish it even in the times when you lose yourself to frustration due to the face of uncertainty. Growth is important and that’s what this period in your life is really for. You’re a smart, introspective person which means you’ll always get to where you want to go but you won’t have many opportunities to reflect, enjoy, experiment and adapt as you do now on the way to your journey’s end. I wish someone would’ve told me this when I was in your position a year ago! Love ya kid! Chin up!

    • Palak– Thanks so much for your comment! Your blog entry was right on the money with the way I’ve approached my life in the last few months–leaving a seemingly “good” job in which I was completely miserable to work at a coffee shop where I have more time to go to school or plan my next move. What seems like a step in the wrong direction is instead what I’m calling a “tactical retreat.”

      Excellent advice to embrace our life as it is now for what it is rather than resent it for what it’s not. Wise words, my friend. And thank you for your kindness and encouragement!

  2. Allison,
    Been reading some of your posts when I see them on Fbook and very much enjoy them. Keep it up girl. I agree with being frustrated with a job situation and this quote from this posting hit home…”if we cannot find a way to be happy with the life we have now, any amount of money wouldn’t make a difference.”

    Is it our generation that feels a need to BE and DO more? Or just certain people? I have this urge and longing to give back, but find it hard when the money issue comes into play.

    Thanks for your posts…it was a downer day and to see that others feel the same as me, truly helps.

    -Kate

    • You bring up great questions, Kate! I think it’s only certain people who feel the need to be and do more in the world rather than entire generations, but it seems that so many from our generation are the ones struggling with it right now. And it’s unbelievably frustrating when those of us who actually DO want to be and do more are overlooked and/or trapped in our current situation.

      I think you picked up on a great point which is that our lack of money is not our generation’s biggest complaint, but rather it’s the seeming inability to make a difference in the world or even find where we fit. If we could figure out how to be content and make our difference, could you imagine what we could accomplish??

      I’m glad this post brought you some comfort. I’m really glad to have you as a reader! Speaking for myself, I know I spend a significant portion of my time feeling a bit down-in-the-dumps, and it’s always encouraging to know I’m not alone in that.

  3. I’m trapped in a cubicle, and my job is to actually design cubicles for other people. It never ends.

    Seriously though, I stay sane by surfing the internet and watching cycling races in the morning and reading blogs in the afternoon while at my desk. At home, the best thing to do is to be creative and make something new. A photograph, a song on the guitar, a perfect paragraph, a bike ride, something to feel accomplished about. I can’t ever get motivated to care about my job (as long as I have health insurance).

    • That’s some great insight, Luke. It’s hard to feel like a waste of a person if you’re creating something new everyday. How do you respond when someone asks you what you do, then? Do you associate yourself with being a creative first and foremost before being a cubicle designer? Do you hope to one day have a job you’re passionate about, or is it sufficient to be creative in your spare time?

      Thanks for the excellent comment, and thanks so much for reading!

      • Oh, it’s definitely not sufficient to just be creative in the hours after work. It helps, but it’s not enough. It’s not that I dread going into work, but I can’t remember the last time I really looked forward to it either. I still refer to myself as an engineer, even though this isn’t the type of engineering I’d like to spend my time on. I think it’s a pretty common theme, but I’d rather be working on something more meaningful, something where I can make a positive impact on the world/people.

  4. Pingback: Get a Life vs. Get a Job | The Get-a-Life Project

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