Surrounding yourself with suited-up, pseudo-successful ladder-climbers will make you feel simultaneously great and awful about your life. Great, because you’re not them. Awful, because you’re never quite sure how many months you have left until you are.
Today, a few observations on office life. Think of it as a “scared straight” PSA for twenty-somethings who are considering that the lifelong cubicle/picket fence route may not be so bad after all.
This morning, a frumpy, poorly dressed woman in her 40’s lumbered ahead of me in line at my office’s coffee/variety store. Low-level admin, I assume. She buys a scratch-off lottery ticket. She wins… another lottery ticket. She wins again off the new one, this time $3 on a $1 ticket. Finally, she buys THREE MORE and walks her fat, innumerate ass back to her cubicle.
Watching her, I consider how much money she’s wasted on lottery tickets over her life. I wonder if anyone has ever explained to her the idiocy of what she’s doing. I think that, even if she does know, maybe she’s still willing to trade hundreds of dollars a year in expected cash flows for a brief glimmer of hope every day over her lunch break.
There are some people you just can’t make small talk with, because they just have nothing to say. Ask them about their weekend and they dump a big load of negative energy on you every time – the sad truth is, most people don’t really do anything in their free time.
Some of them are overworked to the point of exhaustion, and don’t really have much “free time” to speak of. They are generally successful in their careers, even though their twenties and thirties are evaporating in front of them. That’s not what I want in life, but I guess it works for some people.
The really sad sacks are the ones who just don’t have anything to do. They put in a forty-hour work week and spend the rest of their waking hours – I don’t know – watching TV? Whatever it is, they don’t have anything to reply with when I ask them what they did over the weekend.
The unmarried are the saddest of all. Among the middle-aged people in my office, those with families are the happiest. They’re also the easiest to work with, since they have more important things in their lives to worry about than gossip or perceived slights against them by colleagues and bosses. The truly dead souls shuffle ring-less through our hallways with their heads down. The women have short-cropped hair and a constant sneer. The men are fat, sloppy, unkempt.
So what’s the takeaway from this post?
Each of the middle-aged mediocrities that I walk past every day was once twenty-five and full of dreams. One out of a hundred are living lives their younger selves would be proud of. Maybe half can’t stand the face they see in the mirror every morning.