I was driving home at 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, following 13 hours at work when it occurred to me, I mean really dawned on me… that was a day of my life. That’s it. Poof. Gone. Bye see-yah.
We have so precious few of these days and I just gave an entire one to a job I don’t care about. I did absolutely nothing I wanted to do that day. It wasn’t mine, the whole thing was wasted.
Surely That Can’t be True, I must have done Something I Wanted to
No. I didn’t. I woke up to an alarm, which is a terrible way to wake up, got dressed in clothes I don’t like wearing, and made coffee and packed a lunch. Then I did the worst thing of all. I commuted.
I’m an accountant, which means I spent my entire day changing the way a large set of numbers was organized. That’s it. That’s what I did.
You exaggerate, that’s not all you did
No, it really is. There was this huge data set that was very rationally organized using GAAP rules. But since tax laws are needlessly complex in a way I can’t even begin to explain (mostly because I don’t understand them), I had to take all of that data and re-organize it using tax accounting rules.
If you think your personal taxes are complicated (they’re not) you wouldn’t believe corporate. I honestly, mostly un-sarcastically, think most accounting rules exist only to make accountants employable.
It’s really hard to derive meaning from a job where you essentially click around in Excel all day. I mean maybe that would work if you were changing the way Disaster Relief aid was being allocated or something… but I’m not doing that. I don’t know that a single person received any value from what I spent my 13 hours doing, least of all me.
So What Did I do it For?
I think it’s important to remember that this whole working situation is an exchange. I’m trading something I don’t want to do for money. I’m certainly not doing this for any other reason. Work not only takes my current time, but also my peace of mind and most of my best thoughts. The thing I’m trading all of this for had better be worth it.
I hope it is. What helps me get through these awful days is knowing I just traded today for a better future. One day I’m going to live a life unbeholden to wages. I won’t need the money. I’m going to trade more of my time now to stockpile for the future.
That’s really what this all boils down to. I could decrease my current ire in lieu of more leisure, but it wouldn’t come free. It would cost future me.
When you have days (weeks) that are challenging it’s important to remember what you’re doing it for. Future you is only going to have dulled memories of toiling in an office. The faintness of the feelings further obscured by the tall task of filling obligation-free days.
If you practice delayed gratification you’ll be future you’s favorite person.
An easy thing to do during beat-down work weeks is to literally try buying happiness. We use consumption as a way to put our stamp on something. Like listen, I didn’t want to do all that shit I had to do today, but by-golly I am choosing to buy this new whirly-gig. I’m the one in control here!
Making a purchase to feel in control is a cheap form of satisfaction. It’s also one that marketers are very keen to exploit. It’s so ingrained in our society that family and friends often encourage it. How many times have you vented to someone about a tough day only to have them suggest you Treat Yo’ Self as recompense for your struggles? Hey have a nice dinner, go shopping, buy a new car. You deserve it.
No, what you deserve is freedom from the wage chains. Buying your way out of misery never works, it only cements your need to stay right where you are.
So We Should All Just Stay Miserable?
I’m kidding, no of course not. It’s important to strike a balance between sacrifice and indulgence. It’s just hard to know what that balance should look like. The realization that we’re throwing away days occurs to us more acutely at times, making it important to remember what you’re doing it for.
But what if I don’t know what I’m doing it for?
Join the club! My name is waiting to be zapped, I obviously don’t have this shit figured out.
Go All-in on Future You
Put all your stock in your future self. They are going to have things figured out. Ok, probably not, but at least they’ll have the resources to figure things out more freely. Imagine your current predicament now, only with a fully stocked F-U pile of money. You could leave that dumpster fire of a job forever.
It also helps to resist the urge to splurge. If you really want to feel in control after a long day at work, go home and cook yourself dinner. You’ll be amazed how quickly the vacuous desire to acquire falls away.
It’s hard sometimes to stay positive when you look back on a day that wasn’t your own. It would be easy, understandable even, to feel defeated. Try instead to use it as motivation. That’s one more day down; one more out of the way. It’ll be a great day to use as a measuring stick when you’re living the life you want.
I mean, how will you know you’re happy later if you don’t have some unhappiness now to compare it against?