The October of My Discontent

Today we were allowed a very rare “jeans day” at work. Only a few times a year are we allowed to wear jeans, although I have no idea why. We are not a retail establishment and we rarely have customers stop in. Who are we dressing up for? Ourselves? Each other? I’ve never gotten a satisfying answer. The generally unsatisfying answer is that our company’s president, who came here a few years ago, doesn’t like sloppy dressers.

So, today was a jeans day. However, in the 9 months since I started this job, I have gained 9 pounds (1 lb per month, pretty scary!), and my jeans don’t fit. Oh, I could wear them, but they cruelly show every one of those 9 unmerciful little buggers. I had a brutal morning trying to find SOMETHING to wear with the tight jeans that would make them look not-so-tight (and I even had a moment where I stupidly thought, “maybe they’ll stretch out during the day”), but I finally realized I’d better just wear some regular dress pants that still fit my now-fat self.

I arrived at work (the  jeans stayed home, but the 9 pounds came along) and realized I was in for another fun day. One of my orders from earlier this week was goofed up by someone packing the order, and the customer called me to complain. Then another customer called to ask where his product was, and I looked it up and I hadn’t even seen his order yet. He insisted his secretary faxed it 2 weeks ago. –But so what? That doesn’t help me find the order. I didn’t receive it. I apologized even though it wasn’t even remotely my fault (I do this often, still a product of my Catholic upbringing) and asked him if he could please have his secretary fax the order again. He said yes, but then repeated, “but she faxed it on 9/27.” I loved how he had to tell me this again even though I couldn’t do a thing about it. How am I supposed to know I didn’t get a fax? (Often, when customers are about send me an order, they call or email first and say, “will you let me know when you get it, so I don’t have to wonder?” It makes perfect sense and I’m glad to oblige.)

The odd thing is, these things happen all the time in Sales, and generally they don’t bother me. Part of my job is to troubleshoot and problem-solve from time to time; they can actually be a nice break from selling; and they can even be satisfying. But today, they made me realize I wanted nothing more than to LEAVE THE BUILDING. I called my boss and asked him if I could take the afternoon off. He said yes, and was there anything causing this need to get away, that he could help with? He must have sensed in my voice that I just didn’t wake up “right” today. I am just “off.” I thanked him and said, no, I just need a long weekend. I do appreciate that he asked. I’m lucky to work for a nice guy. It has been many years since I’ve had a cruddy boss, but I still appreciate having a good one.

But the fact is, I’ve been on my way to this place for awhile. It took me more than a day to gain 9 pounds, just like the little things helped me to see, gradually, that  once again I have a job that satisfies my material needs but not much else. I like our company’s products and all, and my co-workers are generally a nice bunch, and I don’t work long hours or have a lot of stress . . . but the job still doesn’t fill my needs. After a day in the office, I’m bored and fidgety. And after a week in the office, I’m almost insane.

Why do I continue to expect, after 15-20 years in the full-time workforce, to have a job that makes me happy? Where did I get this crazy idea that you should like your work? I wasn’t raised with such stupid idealism. My parents didn’t love their jobs but they still went to them every day, year after year. I know a couple of people who say they love their job, but even they complain about stupid co-workers and dumb things that happen at work. And it’s certainly not as if I’ve ever had a perfect job, either. So I don’t know why I can’t just settle into the fact that work is work, and it cramps your style and gets in the way of the rest of your life, but that’s what you do because you have bills to pay and you would rather have money than not have money.

An alternative would be to quit and let my husband support me. But that would be morally intolerable to me because I believe women should be part of the workforce.

Another alternative would be to find a part-time job instead, so I could still enjoy more time at home, where I love to be and am most happy. But then, I’d have to pay for health insurance, which would probably eat up my entire wage anyway. So that’s not really an option.

Another alternative would be to figure out what type of work I’d love doing, and then find a way to do that. But I’ve tried that in the past, and it seems like making work out of something I love becomes just that–work.  So although it might work for some people, I am just not the type of person who can do what I love for a living. If I had to garden all day, for example, I’d hate it! If I had to read all day, I’d fall asleep! If I became a tour director and got to travel all the time to exotic places, I’d be homesick and resentful! Blah, blah, blah.

Which brings me to the conclusion I’ve reached countless times before:  I need to find a way to have a job that’s just OK, and just live with it and enjoy the rest of my life. That’s probably the best balance for me.

Which brings me back to this morning . . . This morning, my job seemed positively intolerable even though it wasn’t greatly different or more annoying than it is most mornings. Do I need to go back on anti-depressants because it’s October and no longer summer? (Probably.) Do I need to lose 9 pounds so I can fit back into my jeans? (Uh, yes.) For the moment, maybe I’ll just take a nap. After all, I do have the afternoon off.

In all seriousness, I’m sometimes frightened at my ability to find discontent in the most benign of situations, and to be my own worst enemy. I’m old enough to know better, and introspective enough to realize when I’m going it . . . but I still find it difficult to break away from. If anybody reads this and has any suggestions, please let me know.

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