Hear the alarm go off and cringe. No one likes to hear their alarm, but yours has become like a glass of ice water splashed on your face during a particularly pleasant dream. “Get up,” it says, “time to do this again.”
You have that daily debate with yourself, running through the pros and cons of calling out sick, figuring out how believable an excuse would be again — how many have you made so far this year? This summer? This month? “My sister is sick.” “I have the flu.” “My car broke down.” You’ve clearly made too many to be believed again, but a tiny part of you wants them to know it’s fake, that you’re trying to get out of work, and fire you. You aren’t even hungover, just profoundly tired of seeing these same people, doing these same things. It feels like a hangover, strangely, only without the wonderful, debaucherous night preceding it. You want to be fired, but can’t work up the balls to quit. You know, on every level, you can’t.
You need this job.
How many days could you live without a new paycheck? How much do you have in your savings account? Do you even have a savings account? Why don’t you ever save money — why do you leave yourself like this, dependent on the errant change you’ll find in the couch cushions so you can have subway fare? How much change can you possibly have in one couch?
Brushing your teeth, you debate even doing your hair, putting on new clothes, doing anything that would give the false impression that you have any interest in being there. But, day after day, you do. There is a proud, almost endearing part of the human mind that insists we look presentable, even when marching to our deaths. Can’t let them know they’ve won. Gotta look good. You make yourself look nice, you shine your shoes, you smile at everyone. If you have to go, go out with a bang, not with a hundred whispered questions of “What happened to them?”
Your coworkers are grating — and perhaps what’s most grating of all is that they seem to take some kind of satisfaction out of this job, as though they could possibly enjoy the claustrophobic tedium of this bullsh-t routine. They ramble on about something they did this week, some change they heard was happening at headquarters, something they saw on cable TV the night before that you have yet to illegally download. They are an adult, you are not. And the gossip, God, the gossip. This coworker — the one you don’t care about — she slept with that one guy you might have met that time but don’t remember. And that coworker — the one you also don’t care about, though in a more profound, almost existential way — he is breaking up with his girlfriend. Nod, nod, nod. Ooh, how interesting.
Maybe this would all be easier if you had even a shred of respect for your boss, but you don’t. How could you? Aside from dedicating their very life to the kind of job that makes you want to kill yourself before you even hit 30, the only satisfaction they seem to derive out of their existence is degrading and condescending to you whenever the occasion presents itself, reminding you that no matter how narrow and claustrophobic this food chain is, they are firmly above you. You don’t want to be there, but you need to, and there must be some small part of your boss that knows it, that exploits it. Call them your “manager” whenever you get the opportunity, “boss” implies a much firmer station of respect, and the utter mediocrity of their position in the grand scheme of things really chaps their ass to think about. It’s the little things, really.
Go home at the end of the day and relish in the small freedoms that your increasingly brief weeknights permit you. An overfull glass of wine, a trashy reality show, greasy thai food. Look at your surroundings, make a mental list of all the things you could do without, of all the pay cuts you could possibly survive if it meant getting out of your crushing daily routine. Think about going somewhere new, somewhere far, somewhere you could live on a few dollars a day and work hard, work well. Think of that fulfilling kind of exhaustion at the end of the day, a day in which you accomplished something. Somewhere, not here, but somewhere, you could feel that way every day. You could sleep heavy and quiet, and rise with the sun, with a smile.