So I’ve really been struggling with my job. I work 10:00-6:30pm with a half-hour commute and leaving early enough to get coffee and get settled in the AM which means 8 hours of getting paid to work really equals 10 hours of my day. I chose that shift so I could theoretically get 8 hours of sleep a night, night owl that I am… so that leaves 6 hours to get ready for work, feed myself, do dishes, etc. It’s really difficult. Yeah, I know, woe is me. But it is.

Add to that the fact that it is now pitch black when I get off work (thanks, daylight savings time) and it’s a struggle not to swim in the mire that is melancholia.

I’m frustrated with the level/method of feedback for the job, frustrated with the company policies that make as much sense to me as they do to the callers but which I have to defend or attempt to explain anyway, frustrated with the lack of anything intellectually or artistically stimulating in my life, and tired of trying to find ways to keep myself busy while basically waiting for the telephone to ring all day.

I don’t have friends at my job, really, because the nature of the work doesn’t lend itself to fraternization. We try to make small-talk but that can be – and is – interrupted mid-sentence, and even then, I only speak to the 5 or 6 people in the cubicles closest to mine. A 30 minute lunch barely gives me time to eat and pee, let alone make conversation. Plus, when you spend all day talking, I usually want to spend my lunch 1/2hr in peace.

I also think that my empathic nature works against me. I have a tendency to absorb the emotional climate of those surrounding me, and the nature of call center work means people use the CSR (customer service representative) as a sounding-board for their anger, frustration, confusion, etc. Even one bad call with someone yelling at me for rules I didn’t create and can’t help and refusing to listen to my attempts to assist them can cut me to the quick.

This leaves me even more drained and less inclined to be around people in the time I do have in the evenings.

After graduate school I’m really no longer cut out for the kinds of jobs where I have to accept information or policies or rules without question. The difficulty with the level of analysis to which I have become accustomed is that I am painfully aware of the flaws in the system at hand but helpless to do anything about any of it.

I find myself feeling a sort of bond with the callers, both of us trapped in a system of incomprehensible bureaucratic red tape and legal loopholes. I want to help them and am equally frustrated by the procedures and policies which prevent me from doing so. Only the callers are unaware of this bond and my feelings of identification with them, more often than not seeing me as the enemy.

This only makes things lonelier.

I feel helpless and trapped in my life. I took this job because it was the first non-Freebirds (i.e. non-food service/non-minimum wage) position interested in hiring me and because there was no way I could make enough to live getting part-time hours any minimum wage job dooms its workers to. I similarly signed the lease with my apartment to prevent myself from being homeless or a perpetual couch/guest room surfer. This was the only apartment I could see being able to afford and is a reasonably good deal. Except for the bit where I couldn’t afford the pet deposit for my kitten and overlooked the clause that allows maintenance to enter with a Master key any time they like and only inform us after.

So now I have to pay $100 for that infraction and then attempt to pay another couple hundred dollars to make my kitten legal or else be prepared to pay $100 any time I see a note on the kitchen table saying maintenance inspected the apartment. And I took the kitten because she needed a home but also because a friend wisely advised me that pets really do help with depression. I broke down sobbing yesterday at the thought that the complex could deny my kitten legal entry into the apartment because some days that little 5-lb ball of fluff really is one of the last bastions of my sanity.

Even when I’m annoyed with her or trying to keep her out of trouble, at the end of the day, that is time I am distracted from wallowing in my own negative thought-spirals. And even though she kneads my face too early in the morning it is comforting to have a fuzzy ball sleep by your toes or on your back or near your face.

I love that kitten and I had this moment where I realized there’s not much in my life that I have control over. I can’t control the way I dress or spend my time or even the way I keep my apartment. And all these choices that have led to the bad parts of my life, while choices that I made, were really the lesser of two (or three or four) evils and not a free choice.

Not that we ever make free choices.

And I’m left with the feeling that these were the best choices I could have made, and somehow that’s worse.

After two years spent studying hegemonic power structures I feel more stuck in the middle of them than ever before. I feel trapped and helpless and want to go back to a world where we find the little moments of agential action in the world and highlight them as the pinnacle of human achievement they are. Look here, academics say, these people were able to make a space for themselves, against all odds, and even if just for a moment, where they could feel free.

Because really, we only ever *feel* free. Even the most subversive and radical are still a part of the system in one way or another. But there are ways to not be completely crushed by the powers that be.

That’s what I try to remember in the long stretches of the afternoon when no one is calling and I’m chained to a desk, left with little but my own thoughts.

I feel like there must be more to life than this, and I’m afraid there isn’t.

I need to find a way to pay the rent while keeping my soul alive.

I don’t know what that is yet.

6 thoughts on “Paying the Rent

    • @myatheistlife: Thank you for your thoughts and compelling questions. Upon reflection, I think it is less that I don’t like myself and more that I don’t like what I am doing in my life. So maybe that means I like the person my life allowed me to be before more than the person my current job allows me to be? That there are facets to my identity which I do love but are kind of lost to me now and I am not sure how to recover and reintegrate them. It is hard to like being with myself when I don’t feel I am heading in the direction I would like to be or doing the things I want to be doing, but am at a loss to know how to change it.

      • I don’t know if it will make sense to you, but that made complete sense to me. So it is with a compassion that I say that I hope that you are able to find a way to put things right in some way.

  1. I had the same experience before. I remmember last year my blog was only about my struggles. I decided to move on, a big change. I decided to quit my job, move to another country and change my blog. I am not gonna write negative things toward my life. Because this will make me even more sad.

    • @taishinana: Thank you for your comment. I am glad you have been able to make some good changes in your life. I find that writing things out helps me process them and get them out of my head, which helps me. But I realize that these things do not work the same way for everyone.

      • About co-worker friends, I rarely make any either. I may have them on facebook, and we keep in touch. But, I realized once I change the job, the chances to remain friends are rare.

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