I was passing my lunchtime in a bookshop near my former office when I found a book with the following title: ‘30-Something and Over It’.
I’m not 30-something, but this book was speaking to me. (Maybe it’s because I have been reading at or above my age-level since that remedial class.) I took the book down and began. From page one I felt recognition.
I stood there, a non-fiction display shielding me from the bookstore staff’s cold stares, and read about the author’s battle with demotivation. She told the story of climbing the corporate ladder until one day she woke up with no desire to reach for the next rung. She lacked the desire to even cling to her rung. She lacked the desire to get out of bed.
The author is Kasey Edwards. Before her career-existential-dilemma she was a senior change management consultant with a large firm in Melbourne. Then she stopped caring. She started coming in later and later. Doing less and less. Her performance reviews were still stellar, and she began to wonder why she’d bothered for so long. She felt “completely and utterly over it.”
I didn’t finish the book in the bookshop that day, but I nearly did. Reading it made going back to work very hard. I was getting a bit over the swivel chair, the relentless administration emails, the shortage of control you have over your day, and the shortage of control you have over the policy you’re supposed to be making. The book was taking these thoughts and fitting them into a pattern.
Edwards asked around and found she wasn’t the only one in her peer group feeling like this. Her best friend admitted she was also unfulfilled, unispired and bored. However, while Edwards was dealing with a lack of motivation via guilt and introspection, her best friend was dealing with it using gin.
Edwards didn’t quit her job – she had been spending her paycheque, and knew that she’d need to rein in her purchasing to build a buffer for whatever came next. As she laid a financial foundation for her new phase she began to research what was making her unhappy and what could help. She did meditation. She read self-help. She asked everyone she met whether they liked their jobs.
In the end she kept her job part time … only to be retrenched in the midst of the global financial crisis. This makes her question her path even more. When “…the corporate world is spitting out loyal and dedicated employees. You can’t help but question the wisdom of devoting your life to a career or company.” The Age, May 09.
At first I thought, this was definitely a Gen Y, single-person’s problem. In the olden days there were no mid-thirties crises, because people ran into the challenge of spouses and babies. But another famous author describes how working for the man can suck:
‘labour is external to the worker – i.e., does not belong to his essential being; that he, therefore, does not confirm himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind.’
So, Edwards book is ploughing a venerable row. But what happens to her in the end? What’s the result of all that research?
She says “I’d built a dysfunctional relationship with my job where I expected more from it than it could possibly provide.” Edward’s conclusion – don’t expect too much from your work. “Putting all [your] happiness eggs in the career basket” is not going to satisfy you. This is a very mature conclusion. I hate it.
Here, lifted straight from this website, are her top five signs you’re over it. (If you’re a dude, please substitute beer, hifi equipment and vehicles for cocktails, shoes and handbags):
1. You wake up one morning and realize you don’t want to go to work. Ever again. And you’re terrified of spending the next thirty years of your life in Cubical Hell.
2. You realize that your boss and most people you work with are faking it. They know just us much or even less than you do.
3. It starts to bother you that you haven’t had a hobby or an interest outside work since you gave up piano lessons.
4. You spend stupid amounts of money on shoes, handbags, soft furnishings and cocktails trying to fill the void in your life.
5. Everything you do at work seems meaningless and pointless. The news that your company achieved double-digit growth in the previous quarter fails to excite you as it once did.
6. You have a blog which you are *really* excited by. (yep, I added this one)
So, do you believe in being over it? Do you think about quitting your job? Once a month? once an hour? What would you do if you weren’t in the swivel chair??