Oh, look! There I am walking out of a glass high-rise in one of the wealthiest cities in the midwest. It’s 4:00 in the afternoon and I just got off work. Can’t quite see me? Zoom in a little closer. Ah, there I am. My blondish hair is swept back into a low braided tail. It’s probably slightly unwashed. Ew. I’m swallowed up in an emerald-green puffy coat because (even though it’s April) it’s still winter up here in the arctic midwest. Under my arm is tucked a family-sized box of Cheerios (my favorite), from which I have been snacking most of the day. What can I say? I have an oat obsession and have never met a Cheerio I didn’t like.
In fact, Cheerios have been a favorite part of my diet since childhood. All that TV marketing hit me hard… I saw all those smiling kids on TV eating their Cheerios with milk (and those two perfectly cut strawberries) and thought, “I want to be happy and have low cholesterol just like those kids!” Bring on the Cheerios for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack!
Look back a little earlier in the day and I am bored and zoning out… I pushed my skinny butt out of my spinning chair, walked the twenty steps from my cubicle to the security doors on the suite, and walked another twenty steps to the amenities. As usual, the cleaning lady has put an “Out of Order” sign on the women’s bathroom door. I’m well aware that it’s not broken… she just gets tired of cleaning while bumping into us chicks every day. Ugh. What a day… I needed to clear my head so I padded through the hall and walked slowly down two flights of stairs to the 6th floor. I hate this part of my building because the stairwell, the stairs, the ceiling, the doors – everything is white and echoey. In fact the only items that are not white in those stairwells are the fire extinguishers and the black pad mounted to the wall where we scan our badges for access to each floor. And, no, my badge doesn’t work on every floor. Inviting, huh?
Even though I really had to pee, the 6th floor is one of my least favorite floors. It’s eerily quiet down there. Like, does anyone alive actually work on this floor? Gray carpet, gray walls, short ceilings, that high-pitched whine from the overhead vents, and fluorescent lightbulbs taking ten years off your eyeballs. There is no laughter and no sounds of conversation – just the sound of industry. The sound of corporate.
“You think you are living a real adult life, but you aren’t”. My mind drifts back to a conversation I had with a friend just a few days before. You’re right. This “boxed life” this “gray life” this “corporate life” doesn’t feel like life for some reason. I think I am living in some sort of an imaginary adult world.
Believe me, I am no stranger to living in my imagination.
Lets zap back a few years like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs and, ah, there I am again. I’m four. My white-blonde hair is long and as straght as a hair can possibly be on a head. I’m dressed like a ragamuffin, as usual. In those days the most important rule for outfits was that all clothing (including shoes) must match. That means that if red panties were chosen then ALL other items must be red as well. One exception to said rule was that they could be varying shades of red. Genius! So, I’m crawling around on the floor on all fours because clearly I am a dog and have been a dog for the past two months. My mother has dutifully filled two plastic bowls: one with water and the other with – you guessed it – Cheerios. As it turns out, humans were simply not made to lap water from a bowl…
I’m no psychologist but in my experience my very active childish imagination served two purposes: fun and escape. Aside from my adventures as Gigi the gorgeous golden retriever I created entire worlds in my brain and invited my older sister to join me in them. It’s a little bittersweet to think that those days of fun just sort of melted away without me noticing. Now I only have the vaguest recollection of those imaginary worlds in which I delved deeply. Around the same time as my dog phase my Mom said I also created an airplane with which to escape my four-year-old troubles. At the time my dad traveled a lot for work and at certain times would be gone for several weeks at a time. I used my airplane to “visit” him. It’s kinda sad really but apparently to my four-year-old self my airplane was what I needed at that time. Whenever I was flying around in her everything was right. Everything was just as it should be. Everything was consistent and safe and reliable.
Now I’m back to 2017 and I’m still sitting on the toilet and I realize that I’ve dozed off with my chin resting on my knuckles. Awesome. I finish what I’ve started, push my way through the heavy bathroom doors and once again I’m padding slowly through the hall and back to the stairwell. I grab my badge from my belt and right before I swipe I think, “I am N0274653 reporting for duty” and then giggle (it’s the little things in life). N0274653 – that is my assigned number. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if that has secretly been tattooed on my behind and on my assigned chair, at my assigned cube, in front of my assigned computer, with my assigned headset in a sea of 200 other butts in chairs.
There I said it, “I feel like a butt in a chair.”
It’s the nature of the job. Everything in life is a choice and I chose to work remotely for a corporation, while sitting in a cubicle. When I first accepted the position I imagined that even though I would be working for clients remotely I thought that I would at least get to work with employees locally. As it turns out I am on an island just wishing that some ship would come rescue me and take me away for a loooooooong loooooooong meeting. Meetings mean conversation and collaboration and problem solving; sitting at my desk on my island means mindless repetition and faceless interaction. I’ve started to hear voices… Actually those are probably just coming from my headset that’s on my desk instead of on my head but STILL. And to all you people on business Skype who don’t take the 2 minutes to store a profile picture… I am secretly giving you the stink eye.
In my mind I believe this position is my imaginary escape from the reality that I was meant to do something with my life besides this. Something that requires a butt-load of effort. Something that is gonna soak up my blood, sweat, and tears. As Author Conor Grennan once wrote to me: “There are many amazing opportunities in the world and one of them is for you alone.” Sure, employment is important. Having a roof over your head is important. Paying your bills is important. But not feeling as if the life is being sucked out of you daily is also important.
I no longer crawl around on the floor like a dog (I miss those days, though). I have found other ways to amuse myself. I no longer fly away in magical airplanes (although I have been known to run away on real ones, but that’s another story). I have found other ways to deal with my problems.
I think it’s time to leave my imaginary adult world behind – one filled with complacency – and start working on my life’s mission. Everything in life is a choice.
So, today… I quit my job.