Have you ever been so over a job that everything annoys you about the place? The carpet starts annoying you: the colors, the coffee stains, the snags. The desk you work at is not lit properly, which nags at your eyes all day long. It’s too cold, too hot, not perfectly temperature controlled. There’s always at least one coworker with incessant throat clearing. The bantering “joke” emails that just aren’t funny anymore. The people who keep bringing snacks for the office that you always gravitate towards even though you’re trying to lose a few pounds. The chair that isn’t comfortable and makes your back ache after a while, no matter what kind of cushion you bring. The lack of appreciation you get for your work. The tedious duties you have to do each day. The annoying bray of a laugh the women three cubicles down lets out far too often that cuts through any music you have playing. All things that should, in theory, easily be shrugged off, but over time build up tension… so much tension that you just want to scream. Is that just me?
Shouldn’t I be doing something that matters? Instead of the mundane tasks I perform that make no difference to the world? Everything in the universe seems to be screaming in my face that I need to quit if I’m not happy, to follow my dreams while I still can. Well, seven years has passed. Every weekday, I lay in bed contemplating taking the day off, but eventually I trudge into work, my heart sinking into my stomach. Every single day around two, I think about what would really happen if I got up and left and never returned. Would they call? Would they yell?
Jim Rohn once said “If you don’t like where you are, change it. You’re not a tree.” Sometimes, I feel like a tree. I’ve built roots, no matter how reluctantly. I have built up a proper amount of vacation days, of pension. My coworkers have learned how to deal with me. I know what I am doing to a certain extent, enough to skate by and not fuck anything up, at least. Reluctant roots, but roots all the same.
Monday started like any other day. Woke up, stared at the ceiling, calculated the days off I had left. It was mid-April and I have one one-week vacation planned…I had already taken 3 sick days. I sighed heavily. Couldn’t waste the day. I slung my legs off the bed and pushed myself up. I sat there, slouched over and mustered the strength to stand up. My morning duties were performed in a fog, as usual. I did everything in autopilot, no thought required. Somehow, I arrived at the door of work and shuffled to my desk, which was slightly littered with pain pills, coffee straws (our company bought coffee stir sticks instead, so I provided my own straws), and napkins from various places. I sat down and forced my arm to go to the power button of my computer. The whir of my computer starting up always reminded me of an airplane off into the distance, taking people far away from the mundane realities their lives truly held.
I stared at the start up screen, waiting for my day to begin, listening to the sounds around me. Eh-hem! Throat clearer strikes. How about that game yesterday, huh man? Bros talking about sports because there seems to be no other option for small talk. Eh-he-he-heeeemm! Man, something must be really in that throat today. Oh ha ha ha! Jimmy, you’re so funny! The lady three cubicles down has already found something to laugh about and it isn’t even 9 am. Whiiiiir. My computer that hasn’t been replaced or updated in the 7 years I’ve been here was launching still, getting slower and a little louder every day. The tension was already building up. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath and holding it for three seconds, like my therapist taught me in the month I went. Whiiir. I pictured being on an airplane, the hum of adventure in my ears and under my feet. Ha ha ha! Stop it! That is just too funny ha ha ha! I clenched my fists. Was it even possible to laugh any louder or more obnoxiously? Eh-he-heem! I couldn’t do this. I just couldn’t.
“Jaime! Good morning!” I snapped out of my tense trance and looked up to see my boss standing over my desk.
“Morning Mark,” I replied, quickly relaxing my fists.
“So, I looked at the report you wrote up, and I’m going to need you to make a few edits. I typed up my notes and shot them to your inbox. Got it?” Mark had this annoying habit of plastering a pearly white smile on his face that didn’t reach his eyes when he was annoyed. He pointed both of his fingers at me and kept that ridiculous smile on his face, “Need it by noon! Thanks!” He turned smartly on his heels and walked away, not allowing me any time for a response.
Noon. Fine. My computer had inched to life by the time this short conversation was over, so I opened his edits. This was the third round. As I read through them, the background noises continued, although at least subdued a bit by my concentration being on the edits. Almost every edit was something I had originally had in my first draft that “simply wasn’t acceptable” when I had wrote it. Only took him three times to get it back to the way I had originally wrote it. After 7 years of writing Mark’s reports for him, you’d think he would learn that I understand what he wants and can get it on the first try without his help. But no, every time he has to make at least three rounds of edits, only to eventually have it back the way I had sent it to him.
Walk out now. Never look back, a small voice in my head whispered temptingly to me. You’ll figure it out, you can be without a job for at least 5 months and be fine. It won’t take you that long to figure it out. Now is as good of a time as any. I shook my head, refusing to listen to the voice. Instead of even looking through the edits, I shot over my original to Mark and continued with the tasks I needed to get done.
Eh-hem. Ha ha ha ha ha! Eh-hem. Type, type, type. Eh-hem.
All of the tension from this morning had seeped back into my body. I couldn’t take it anymore. What was the point? Slowly, I stood up. I grabbed my purse and walked to the door. I reached out and grabbed the handle and held it for a second, feeling a jolt of adrenaline shoot from the doorknob all the way down my feet. Could I do it? Walk out and never come back?
“Jamie! Taking an early lunch? The edits you sent me were perfect! Let’s get it more like that on the first try, yeah?” Mark’s voice from behind me. I could see his white teeth and perfect smile, not reaching his cold eyes. My grip tightened on the doorknob, knuckles turning white. I could definitely do this. Without looking back, without a single word, I turned the knob and took a step forward. My feet were heavy, as if I was ripping out the roots of a particularly large garden plant that wasn’t quite ready to leave. But, I was ready, no matter what my feet thought. I had been ready for years. It was time to prove to the world, or really just to myself, that I could do what I wanted. I wasn’t a tree. Roots, to a human, are just excuses. What’s the point of excuses if all they bring are misery? I took my other foot out of the building, ripping the last of the reluctant roots I had grown out of the ground, a grin spreading across my face, feeling more free than I had ever felt in my life.