...is to imagine yourself without one. – Oscar Wilde.
This morning on the way to work, my husband was lamenting about his job. He said that he didn’t particularly like the uncertainty of not knowing precisely what his bosses really wanted. He doesn’t appreciate being made to feel that his job is in jeopardy every time one of his bosses chooses to “talk to” him, and feels unsteady and unstable. My response to him was “Welcome to the working world.”
After all, just yesterday I was pulled aside by my bosses for a minor transgression. They told me that while I am a valuable member of the team... yadda yadda yadda. I have to admit, when I got the email requesting the meeting – at the end of the work day – I had convinced myself that my desk would be boxed up when it was done and security would be waiting to escort me out of the building. Of course this didn’t happen. Instead, I spent a very unproductive half hour discussing insignificant bullshit with my two bosses. But before the meeting, I had almost worked myself into a blind panic. What if I lost my job?
Huh? I HATE this job. You don’t understand the vehemence with which I pronounce my revulsion. I have been close to walking off several dozen times in the past few months. Sometimes I have to swallow an enormous amount of pride to go back in the next day. I fight this feeling every morning. It gives me heartburn. If I could, I would scribble a short resignation (something along the lines of “I quit effective now.”) and walk out. It would feel good. No, scratch that… it would feel incredible.
For a little while… After the initial euphoria of “I don’t have to work” wore off, the blind panic of “I don’t have a job” would set in. I know me. I would hyperventilate and more than likely vomit. I would start to shake and I would go cold all over. No job means no money means no cable, no power, no car, no gas, no rent, no food. Sure my husband is working, but he doesn’t earn nearly enough to support us. We would end up living in the car, or worse, in a box on the street! I wouldn’t be able to see past that horrifying image. I would feel responsible for our dire circumstances. I would be crippled by the guilt. I would require medication and hospitalization, neither of which we could afford. Oh, God… we wouldn’t have health insurance! My migraines will return! My husband’s diabetes will run amok! There will be great pain and suffering!
Breathe, Dawn. Just breathe for a moment. All is well. You are still gainfully employed. You still have health insurance, and money for food and gas and bills and the car. All is well. All is well. All is well.
The above scenario plays itself out in my head and keeps me in line (most of the time…) I would bet that I am not alone. (Holla at me if you have ever panicked at the thought of being let go and being out of work). I go through most days blissfully unaware that the headsman’s axe could fall at any moment and cut me from the dubious comfort of my work-womb and send me screaming into the world blindly unprepared. I would recover (as would any of us) but it would take some time and it would take a toll. Every now and then I feel the full force of that uncertainty that sits in the back of my mind. Most of the time I can ignore it, but every now and then I feel it.
And, the shit rolls down hill. My boss hears something from her boss who heard something from her boss who heard something from her boss who heard something from the CEO. I am at the very bottom rung of that ladder. The CEO has a bad day and I end up envisioning pink slips and unemployment lines. That is no way to live.
I am convinced that we prepare for this from infancy. Think of the words to that most famous lullaby:
On the tree top
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.
What kind of terrifying image is that for a sweet innocent baby? What else could we be saying other than the world is an uncertain place and so is your place in it? Aren’t we all sitting out on a limb someplace, where even a gentle wind can send us tumbling back down to earth? Financially speaking, I know that most of us are living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t save much if anything, and we wind up working for pennies on the dollar compared to what we are worth.
Welcome to the working world.
As I told my husband that we all go through his uncertainty at some point, it dawned on me…
Why am I doing this? Why is he? The steady paycheck? They can take that away at a moment’s notice. We are at-will employees. I have to tell you, I don’t like being at someone else’s will. If my life here is uncertain, wouldn’t I be just as well off being my own boss? Don’t I have the ability to do that? Don’t we all have the innate ability to follow our own creativity and desires down a more logical path? Wouldn’t we be better off if we did, or at least tried?