As the long-awaited meeting came to a close, I watched my coworkers exchange enthusiastic glances. In response to high turnover rates, my employer finally listened to its employees and granted five more vacation days, rewards for good attendance, a company-wide pay increase and a better 401(k) plan, in addition to continuing to provide free health insurance to us and our families for at least another year.
I was happy, too. Who wouldn’t be?
After the initial excitement settled down as everyone returned to their cubicles or fork trucks, I started reflecting on the last nine years that I have worked here and how many mindset changes I have gone through regarding my job. From a 20-year-old who just wanted a set schedule and a paycheck to a 23-year-old devoted employee climbing the ladder and traveling constantly with my business credit card in hand, to a disgruntled 26-year-old feeling trapped, to now – almost 29 with dreams of freedom and plans to get it.
All in all, I like my job. As I mentioned before, the benefits and pay are great and the free health insurance is almost unheard of today. I do not deal with the public at work or even that many people in general, which is a saving grace for an extreme introvert. I’m not micro-managed. Actually, I’m hardly even managed. I have my own space where I can listen to music and podcasts all day, hang out on Instagram with fellow goal-setters, write blog posts and design charts to track my personal finance goals. My direct boss spends a lot of his time working on his own personal goals and therefore doesn’t mind that I work on my own at work. I have a set schedule of 8 AM – 5 PM Monday through Friday, I’m close to home and I’m paid weekly. I’m very grateful for my job.
However, when I get home to my favorite person, I have nothing to add to the conversational review of our days, where he tells exciting stories of working important cases, solving crimes, chasing bad guys and being an everyday hero. Is that the lifestyle I desire? Never in a thousand years, but the passion my husband has for his career is envy-inspiring. I sometimes wonder if I bore him by not having anything worth mentioning after my day, which mostly consists of writing work procedures, building spreadsheets and answering questions of the office workers in distribution centers across the country.
I could write a list of things I don’t enjoy about my job, as could anyone who has a job, and I’m positive that their lists would be a lot longer and more serious. Being a young, attractive woman in a sheet metal fabrication company dominated by ego-driven men presents obstacles in itself, in addition to the growing pains of a rapidly growing company who does not have the number of employees necessary to alleviate the strain. I could list the typical annoyances of working in an office environment, including the cattiness of the women, the high expectations without adequate training and a definite lack of communication from our corporate office.
Most people would tell me to leave. “If you’re unfulfilled and unsatisfied, leave.” “If you don’t love what you do, you shouldn’t be doing it.” But if I got another job, would that take care of the list of cons, or would I just exchange one set of problems for another? The work lives of my coworkers and I just improved exponentially last week, but they’re already complaining about petty things again, and I’m writing a blog post about not loving my job.
Because when it comes down to it, you can give me 10, 15, 20 more vacation days, add a couple thousand to my salary, give me hundreds of dollars in gift cards for perfect attendance, and I still will not be satisfied. When freedom is what you value and desire more than anything and you finally realize that it is attainable, no job can satisfy you.
I don’t want to be given anything. I don’t want someone else deciding how many days I can have to do as I please. I don’t want to be approached by coworkers every year who ask if I have heard if our annual companywide raise will be 50 or 75 cents, and I do not want an award for being a good girl and showing up on time every day. I don’t want to look back at my life and see that the majority of it was spent alone in my small cubicle, looking forward to my 30 minute lunch, the few hours I get to hang out with my family after work, and the two out of seven days per week that I get to do what I want. I don’t want to get handed an allowance after a week of doing my chores. I don’t want to spend my life being a part of someone else’s machine.
And because of this, I am so grateful that I don’t love my job. I am grateful to not fit in with any of my seven coworkers. I’m grateful to only have 30-minute lunches and to work for a company that manufactures products that I have no interest in. I’m grateful for the men who do not take me seriously most of the time and for every eye that has rolled at my suggestions.
If it wasn’t for these things, I wonder if I would be comfortable enough to settle for a mediocre life of working 8-5, gossiping with coworkers about office politics and complaining about lack of appreciation, all while increasing my lifestyle to match every raise I was given until I retired at 65, if at all.
So, as my coworkers hand in vacation slips with new plans for one-week beach vacations, I am planning my permanent vacation from the rat race. From being told what to do by people who think very highly of themselves for being related to the owners of our small company while wearing overly expensive attire and financing luxurious vehicles. From depending on other people to maintain my livelihood. From feeling like I need to look busy at all times. From the redundant greetings of “Good morning” and “See you tomorrow” that start and end my workday, only broken up by the weekly “Happy Friday!” From exchanging my precious time for money. From being average. From mediocrity. From settling.