I Quit My Job
I know it seems unfathomably ungrateful, hubris again, to complain about being paid to do nothing, but 7 hours/day is a long time to do it. Friends with jobs in which work must be done make for bad gchatters. Books are too flagrantly un-work-like to just read at your desk, and there are enough scattered questions from the bosses surrounding you to make concentrated youtube-watching impossible. And at a certain, awful point, you reach the end of blogs, having read all posts. And past that point, there’s nothing, except yourself.
The experience of being forced to do nothing, being paid to do nothing, actually living nothingness as a daily activity with no conceivable purpose, puts a gut-level sense of your own nothingness within you. This becomes an obsession, how to fix this nothingness, but one about which nothing can be learned, and nothing can be changed. The result is a kind of awful office Zen. Rather than becoming one with a sword, or being both the arrow and the target, you are one with rolly chair, both the keyboard and the comment box; things that were never thoughtful in the first place have become the entirety of your being. Enlightenment is not an option.
This nothingness can be ridden like a wave throughout the afternoon (lunch being a reprieve, as you leave the office and read a book and taste General Gao’s chicken, rebuild the illusion of reality for an hour). In its more peaceful moments, you can try simply replacing the scene in front of you (a monitor, a low cubicle wall) with one from your head. I imagined building an igloo with a friend from grade school in a snowstorm, just piling up the blocks. I once managed, I think, to sleep with my eyes open, hand on the mouse, for about 45 seconds.
As this went on, the rot spread, and began to inflect my life beyond work. Standard suicidal inklings on the daily commute were no fun, but paled in comparison to the grasping social desperation that set in. Friends who have whole days filled with thoughts of things besides themselves, filled with work and tasks and spreadsheets, don’t need to fill the nighttime hours with other people to remind them that they aren’t nothingness. And the productivity they lived let them, in turn, function in the world of productive people.
In this city (unlike in college, where fecklessness was practically a virtue), as a non-rich-or-famous person, doing nothing robs you of the right to exist socially. The wasteland of my workday soon overwhelmed the night, flooded into every corner of my life. Of all the various vicious cycles I’ve jumped into, this one was pretty much the worst. I could sometimes forget about it and simmer down after dinner, alone or no, as I drank or read a book, but it came back in all its teeth-grinding melodrama at quitting time every single day, without fail.
I often thought of the Ren and Stimpy episode where they fly into a black hole, climb a mountain made of smelly socks, and at the end, just implode.
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