So there I was wandering absently around the bookshop the other day, arms full and preparing to max out the credit card (again), when I passed a newly released book with a title which made me hesitate.
Now, ordinarily I’m not much of a memoir reader and my current non-fiction obsessions are the big journalistic essayists, so it wasn’t what I was there to look for. Plus the cover looked a little bit, well, girlie… you know, in the chick lit, Sex and the City, Brigitte Jones kind of way. Exactly the kind of stuff which makes me want to slap the narcissism out of their fictional female leads, or at least wish for a few zombies to turn up in the narrative, so normally I wouldn’t have looked twice.
Except… well… thirty-something and over it…
… and here’s me at thirty-something and, well, just so totally over it.
Oh, okay, so there’s also the fact I read a piece by the author, Kasey Edwards, in my local broadsheet the other week and recognised her book when I saw it, so already knew I was interested. Nonetheless, that title made me stop precisely where I was and if the universe had any real sense of narrative drama there would have been sudden and dramatic violin music by Bach or Beethoven or something in the background. Except the universe never does anything I think it should anyway, so I’ve learnt not to be disappointed about stuff like that.
Fact is, this book is completely about me.
Weeeell… to be precise, it’s not actually about me at all, not literally, seeing as I’ve never met Ms. Edwards and we have no personal connections and it’s her memoir about her experiences, based on her investigations and her research, so it’s actually about, well, her.
But when I opened those first few pages, as one does while standing there in the big book store struggling to juggle the half dozen other weighty tomes already selected (not one of which being the actual book I’d come in here to buy), I almost dropped everything with stunned recognition.
(Cue the non-existent violin music again. Humph. Nothing. Bloody universe never gets in on the game.)
So that’s how I found myself reading, with an awfully familiar feeling, the memoir of a thirty something Melbourne woman, with a comfortable middle class background, good university education and who had spent her twenties climbing the corporate latter with significant success and enjoyment. The great career, the lovely lifestyle…
… the waking up one morning all of sudden never wanting to go into work again.
In Ms. Edwards’ own words, “I’d lost my give-a-shit.”
Gods, I love that perfect, perfect phrase. If nothing else, I will always stand in awe of Ms. Edwards simply for coining that one alone. It describes the experience perfectly and if you need it further elaborated then you clearly have not gone through it yourself as yet. See, my career used to be fun, exciting, exhilarating. And then it suddenly became… well… a bunch of meaningless bollocks, really.
Somewhere in my thirties, I realised KPIs, stakeholder engagement and optimising knowledge sharing initiatives to leverage our key learnings* mean nothing. So it was a relief to discover that I wasn’t the only one out there in the corporate world only pretending to care.
It was a truly excellent book, all the more so for bringing into the open the big albino meta-fauna standing in the corner of the room. So all of you – go read it now.
Now, I’m sure you all recall because you’re all just so riveted to everything which goes up here, but about a month ago I wrote a blog touching on this subject. In that blog, I admit it, I deliberately pulled my punches. I lost some good giggles in being softer on the topic than I planned, but hey, this is a public forum. My real name is right up there at the top. Anybody could read this, should they accidently stumble across it out here in cyber-land, including anybody from my current place of employment.
I really don’t want colleagues making assumptions about my attitude towards work by reading it unexpectedly on a blog. So just like Sam, I’m playing it again – stating for the record that I’m deliberately not discussing my current workplace here, nor whether I’m feeling good, bad or ugly about it.
Jaysis I’m good with a disclaimer at times.
Fact is, I lost my give a shit a good three years ago now and I don’t want it back if it means becoming one of the corporate zombies again. You know, the ones who seriously believe that “leveraging our knowledge capital” actually means something. What I do want, like most others out there, is to be engaged with my daily activities and have a purpose to what I do.
Which for me does not mean working full time in the one position, wearing a suit in an office (frankly I can do my job just as well in jeans and a funky t-shirt, thanks), or doing the same ridiculous pap I’ve spent my career to date becoming an expert in and which belongs solely in a Dilbert cartoon.*
Though sometimes I wonder about some others out there… especially when a bunch of us play the “what I’d do if I won Tatts” game and we’re all comparing notes on how we’d tell our employers to go get… a replacement for our positions, and somebody whines “but I’d be bored if I didn’t have to come in to work.”
In text speak, because we’re all just so young and hip around here – WTF??
Sure, we all need meaningful activities in which to engage, but do you really need for that to be paid employment in somebody else’s company? Okay if what you’re doing in that paid employment also happens to be the passion in life which makes your heart sing, but if it’s not, are you really so incapable of entertaining yourself or finding purpose, outside of trudging into an office and working for the man?
If I were independently wealthy, I’d set up my own publishing business, freelance as a writer and start a charity to help the carers of mentally ill loved ones. I’d devote myself to my photographic art and hold exhibitions in local cafes. I’d study and keep on studying.
Bored? I don’t think so. There’s a million things in this world I’d do, if I had the time and unlimited funds with which to do them. But hey, that’s just me and as painful the realisation may be, it’s not always about me.
A few years back I knew a chap, with no kids and who was not studying, who cut down to four days a week at work. With the amount of flak he copped for it, you’d have thought he was a bomber pilot stationed in Italy in the dying days of World War Two. Every Thursday afternoon as he wrapped up his working week, but the rest of us still had a day to go, he had to field off the insistent buzzing of “but why do you need the day off?”, “what will you do with the time?” and the unspoken, but always implied, “aren’t you just being lazy?”
He’d usually just tell them he was devoting his Fridays to sitting on his couch watching daytime TV and eating biscuits straight from the tin. Our employer wasn’t paying him for the fifth day, so it was his business. For all I know, he could have used the time to volunteer at an old people’s home, write a children’s novel or to expand his drug running business on the side. Or yes, to sit on the couch eating Iced Vo-Vos in front of Oprah, if such was his kink.
Whatever, he was all the happier for it.
So here’s the moral of the story, kiddies, because I know you all like to have it double underlined in thick red texta pen, just so you don’t miss it: we need to stop judging the value of time spent based on how much money is earned during the spending of it (if that makes any sense). Earning a wage doesn’t make an activity inherently meaningful, just as it doesn’t preclude it from being the passion of your life either.
Find something you love so much you would do it regardless of whether someone paid you or not. And then figure out how to get someone to pay you to do it.
The rest is just management speak. You know, totally meaningless bollocks.
* I’m serious, my job really is straight out of a Dilbert cartoon and I have the actual comic strip to prove it. It’s photocopied and stuck up at my desk and includes the phrase “we must develop knowledge optimisation initiatives to leverage our key learnings.” I have been known to entertain myself by slipping that phrase into the reports I write at work to see if it gets taken seriously. Ah, the world is just that bit brighter when very serious people in very serious business suits read it, then nod sagely and agree.