Work & Money, part 2: ANY JOB won’t do – how it stopped working

Cubicle Life

While in “school”, I conducted three job searches over five-years. With “help” from my sustainer, and my “teachers”, I successfully landed work and increased my income the first two times.  I progressed from temporary worker, to editorial assistant to marketing copy writer and my salary increased accordingly.

As with most “school-sponsored”, aim-driven adventures, those quests required frantic, frenetic and constant efforts to find ANY JOB. I made cold calls, walked my resume into offices, handed fliers to McMansion owners offering myself as a house cleaner ( side note – many female “students” end up cleaning houses at one point or another), while submitting as many resumes and cover letters as possible.

These experiences forced me to grow. I dreaded stopping into offices and the door-to-door soliciting. However, I would walk in fearful, talk to whomever I found sitting there, discover that most people were either indifferent, or friendly, and walk out leaving a piece of dread behind me. Once I landed an interview on the spot. Both searches contained two elements that verified the magic of school-sponsorship: Externally,  my efforts picked up a momentum and potential employers appeared to respond accordingly – calling consistently to offer interviews and job opportunities. Internally, every time I left a piece of dread behind, I changed as a woman; the world looked less frightening  and more exciting.

I still credit “school” for this transformation, for its insistence on these efforts shed light on my fear of other people transforming it into excitement when I discovered that most people were not to be feared; however, I was unaware that I was replacing one fear with another: what would my life be without “school”? What if I lost this “source” of wisdom? How could I function? For I knew that I wasn’t functioning so well before my school days.

But a big disappointment awaited me: once I’d landed work, the “ANY JOB will do” doctrine didn’t work for me. In fact, my copy writing position perfectly portrayed the job I never wanted, solidifying that I was living the life I never wanted. Even in my deepest “school”-induced stupor, I saw that my workplace and me were caricatures and that I had all the makings of a ridiculous “The Office”-like sit-com:

The artsy, liberal and creative hippie woman squanders precious days in the institutional, deadening, soul-sucking, life-draining and male-dominated software company. Every commute she stews in frustration and resentment in her lime green, peace-sign adorned, V.W. Beetle,  while battling other commuters in the race to windowless, grey-carpeted, corner cubicles. When in the cubicle, she spends her days writing vapid  press releases about non-existent products (otherwise known as vaporware) for a non-existent audience. In between she checks her email, reads Facebook posts and shops on A quick stroll around the office reveals a prevalence of Facebook posting, Amazon shopping and Web surfing.

Every morning this woman would attempt to counter her contempt for this empty ritual by stating “aims” to dredge up enthusiasm.  She would force herself to join her mostly male co-workers at the lunch table — racists who spent their lunch hour yelling about Barack Obama for whom she’d canvassed votes in 2008 (By the way, after I silenced my lunch mates by telling them all about the Martin Luther King biography I was reading; after that I stopped sharing my mid-day break with them). Every afternoon she would struggle to keep her eyes open, aim long forgotten, wanting desperately to be anywhere else.

In the evening, she would drive to her cult, where she would  flall around doing “body work” with classmates and then, with her fellow “students,” file in silence in to the “classroom”. There she would sit in a circle to “participate” in a highly-orchestrated class “discussion”, which entailed “teachers” calling on students granting them permission to speak, calling on them as though running a kindergarten classroom — I have to give “school” credit for naming itself so aptly.

Most of me was too steeped in “school” indoctrination to awaken to creepiness of this scene, where adults allowed themselves to be treated like school children. But the still, small voice kept whispering “What are you doing?” She kept poking and pointing at the picture, whispering, “something’s wrong.” But, despite my ever-growing discontent, I needed to believe that “school” would show me the way. “You are just bored,” I told myself. “You’ve a decent salary. Grow up. Buck up. Collect the check. Do the work.”

I grew more miserable, restless and evermore lost.  I chalked my misery up to my flawed character. I soldiered on, ever fighting and losing battles between starry-eyed believers who thought I should keep wearing an ill-fitted suit, and the rebels who kept saying, this suit is too fucking confining; there has to be a better outfit. Between, the inner battle, and the ever-growing “school” demands, my anxiety and judgement compounded; solitude, quiet reflection and sane decision making seemed vague and unreachable concepts that didn’t apply to me. Discouraged and depleted, I tried harder. The harder I tried, the more discouraged and depleted I became. The more discouraged and depleted I became, the more I thought “I must not be trying hard enough” and the harder I tried to try harder.

Every “school” attendee runs a version this viscous circle.

Needless to say, over time, I became a shell going through the marketing motions, invisible and ineffective five days a week. Come evening, I would then go to “school”, to feed on its “wisdom”, my soul ravenous for something meaningful and purposeful. And, as dad’s days waned, I felt that mine were draining away, too. He passed away May 5th 2009, leaving me to face life’s impermanence, and question what I was doing with my remaining days.

Thank God I had “school”!

Part 3: Work and Money – ANY JOB Gives me the boot

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