About four years ago, I was working for a corporation that everyone in my city thought of as the golden ticket of employment. People would ask where I worked and, when I told them, would reply “how did you get a job there?” It was partly a misapprehension, of course, but so many people assumed that a job there was a job for life, and it paid well, and everyone was happy. Kind of like the Wonka factory until you get older and realize that the Oompa Loompas were essentially slaves.
But the thing is, I hated that job. I hated that job more than I have ever hated any job, and keep in mind that I once spent a day squeezing dog assholes as a groomer and a few years pulling espresso drinks for bitchy gentrifiers at 6am every weekend. The job I had sent me home every day with ulcers and migraines and brought me to work with a pervasive sense of dread. And it wasn’t even the job – the job I could handle. I can handle most tedious tasks, it’s part of my poor person DNA. The problem with the job was the department it was in, and the people who ran it, because I have never in my life felt so devalued as a human being as I did for the 8 years I worked for them. And, by the way, I hear they’re still at it, the same people in power for over 10 years now, because those are the kinds of people who never move up because they’re so damn good at exacting cruel mediocrity on everyone else.
When Graham and I decided to move to Seattle, it was for a few reasons. Sure, we had friends here and had fallen in love with the city, but also, I knew that if I left that job and stayed in St. Louis, eventually, I’d be back there someday. It’d already happened once before. So for my health and my sanity, I could leave that job and stay in St. Louis, taking another job that either involved a 2.5-hour daily commute or destroying the world at Monsanto, only to return one day to the same old soul-killing drudgery, or I could move 2,000 miles away to Seattle, where I’d never again be tempted to return to a paycheck that looked great but involved dying inside a little more every day. I chose to move 2,000 miles away.
At first, I took a job at a place that paid well enough, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and although most of the people there were nice enough, they weren’t the kind of people I wanted to keep working with. It’s just…when I have to show people how to save a document to their desktop multiple times because they can’t keep track of the piles of paper on their desks which have started to look like the inside of a birdcage, it gets a little tedious and I knew I wasn’t going to learn anything there. So I started looking for a job in tech, and I got one, and I know this makes me Asshole #1, but guys – I really like my job.
It seems silly to like my job. There’s nothing all that special or prestigious about it. It can be irritating and I still don’t like saying the same fucking things to the same fucking people over and over again. But – and this is a huge but – never once do I look up from my desk and see someone from my department walk by and think “I hate that sonofabitch.” Never! I don’t dislike anyone I work with, even though I’m aware that some of us are fundamentally different and would probably never ever be friends outside of work. But also? I am friends with a number of these people outside of work. Not, like, creepy friends, like when people start working somewhere and immediately become best friends with everyone in their hiring group to the point of going on trips together and being in each other’s weddings. That’s just weird. But I like hanging out with these people, and by and large, they seem to like me. And the thing is, I don’t think that as a group, they’re organized enough to fake it or trick me.
I like that I work in tech, at a company that still conducts itself like a startup. Sure, the pay isn’t as impressive as it would be if I worked at, say, Amazon, but I once worked for the Amazon of beers and I wanted to kill myself on a weekly basis. The answer at my job is never “that’s the way it is” or “that’s how we’ve always done it” or “how would you know, tell you what, I’ll suggest the same thing and steal your credit.” The answer at my job is “tell us how to make it better and we’ll build it for you.” Sure, you still have to repeat yourself a thousand fucking times to condescending web developers, but at least they’re actually doing something about it and that makes your opinions – and, by extension, yourself, in a way – feel valuable. Even on my worst days, I never come home with the intention of drinking a 12-pack until I pass out. I never fall asleep grinding my teeth. I want to tell myself that I’m lucky, but I also realize that no company should ever treat their employees the way my old one did. I’m not necessarily lucky, I just escaped.
And this is what I force myself to think about on Sundays, when it’s gray and raining for the millionth day in a row and we’ve lost an hour to Daylight Savings Time and the deep animal part of my brain is digging in its heels because it doesn’t want to go to work the next morning. I think about and remember this stuff, as well as how it feels to stand in front of the elevator every morning and realize that I’m not dreading going inside to start my workday. I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like my bosses. Whenever I think about how I make less money than I did before or how my insurance isn’t super great (ahem, like when I stare at the medical bills on my desk, like, right now), I remind myself that it’s a small price to pay for feeling like an actual human being every day, and I am grateful that I finally found this place.
(It helps to know that I have no expectation of my bosses every finding me on the Internet, btw, so you know that I really really really mean this.)