6 Things You Learn When You Get Your First “Real” Job
1. “Real people” are a myth
Congratulations: you got a job, and now you’re a “real person.” You and the guy at the desk next to you who spends the whole workday fleshing out his Twitter persona. Just like when you lost your virginity, you spent the first week with a smile on your face, right until you realized that everything’s the same as it was before. This secret society of “real people,” with their salaries and their employee benefits, are just scraping by, the way you and your friends did mere months ago in school.
2. Hating your job can be productive if you make it so
Simply hating your job is for underachievers, and if you were an underachiever then you wouldn’t be here in the first place (supposedly). Instead of loafing around and Facebook chatting with your friends (who are also bored at work, and who agree that the eight hour workday is an archaic holdover from the industrial era), use those critical thinking skills you bought with $60,000 of loans. What in particular do you hate about your job? How much of that can you change on your own? What can’t you change, and can you look out for those things in a couple weeks, when you start scrolling through Craigslist postings again? Most importantly, what is this company doing horribly wrong, and how can the company that you’re going to start with Kickstarter money steal all their business?
3. You can listen to more music/podcasts during a week of work than you have in an entire year
Remember that sprawling list of artists you “need” to listen to? The one you wrote out on six or seven sticky notes? You’ll mow through it in four days. Monday will be the day you get around to listening to everything Bowie ever recorded (or at least all the stuff he did on cocaine). Then you’ll spend Tuesday wondering why the hell everyone your age gets “nostalgic” over Neutral Milk Hotel, when they can’t possibly have heard them until they got to college. Then you’ll realize how great podcasts are, until you get sick of the ones you started out with. (Most of the worthwhile ones aren’t on iTunes.)
Eventually you’ll have a week where you listen to nothing but singer-songwriters. You never really got into them before, but something about the cubicle makes the image of the lonely soloist very relatable.
4. Unemployed people are easily impressed
That Facebook status about your newfound employment got you more likes than you’ve ever gotten. When you meet with your friends for the first time since the announcement, your gig is always the first thing they ask you about, their eyes wide with equal parts awe and envy. You were in their position only weeks ago, and something about that is a little sad. It occurs to you that most of the employed people who made you feel humbled and inferior probably hate their jobs as much as you hate yours.
You pay for your friend’s drink, despite how insecure you know they feel about it. “You’re, like, a real person.” There it is again.
5. Employment makes you miss unemployment, and vice versa
Employed You: Why do they insist on making this office a fucking meat freezer? I miss the sun.
Unemployed You: Why haven’t I bought an air conditioner yet? I miss my dorm.
Employed You: I wish I didn’t have to rely on instant dinners. I miss cooking myself elaborate meals with every pot and pan I own, and having the time to clean it all up afterwards.
Unemployed You: I wish I could afford to make something other than an inconsistent stew of beans, veggies, and my roommate’s cumin.
Employed You: God it would be great to wake up at 11:15 and then go on an hourlong jog like I used to.
Unemployed You: God it would be great to have a reason to wake up in the morning.
6. Nothing is forever
All that stuff your parents said (along with Avenue Q and Buddha) about everything being “just for now”–all of it is true.
Remember when you were a teenager, and you were utterly certain that your experiences were totally independent from those thousands of books about adolescence, and hormones, and periods and wet dreams and whatnot? Remember how utterly wrong you were about that? What’s the likelihood that you’re not utterly wrong about this, too?
Accept the cliches for what they are. Take things one day at a time, and adapt to your situation. You were worrying about the future last month; now here you are, and clearly wasn’t worth all the chewed-up fingernails. In all likelihood, it never will be.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”