The Job Experience, Tech Support: Year #4, Part 1

Life Changes

It's tough to run when you've put on a few

I totally feel you, Fat Sonic.

Since I’d gotten hired by SoftwareCompany, my health had really gone to crap.

It wasn’t like I was going to die or anything.  But I’d basically been eating out for three consecutive years:   breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  On top of that, I’d developed a nice little minor drinking problem, spending at least two nights a week downing five or more pints, and another four evenings having a drink or two to “unwind.”

The only thing I did for my health, really, was continue to walk to work.  The distance was only about a mile, though, and not a single universe exists where this is enough exercise for a grown man.

I blamed work, with the typical set of excuses.

Oh, I’m too stressed to exercise

At night, I just don’t have the energy.

I don’t have the TIME, dammit, the TIME!

The thing was, these reasons were all bullshit.  I didn’t exercise because it wasn’t a priority, plain and simple.  I’d let my life become dominated by work, and I allowed myself to become a pudgy pile of recent-college-grad geekdom because, well, it was accepted.  When I’d go drinking with coworkers after another day at the office, we’d all forgive each other for being lazy sacks of shit and justify it.  Of course, we all knew we were making excuses, but it’s not nearly as much fun to acknowledge the truth (we can do it, we just don’t want to) as it is to pretend that we’re helpless victims of the system.

Me: Corporate America is making us fat!  It’s part of the goddamn Man’s plan — this way he can harvest our bodies more easily once we’re worn out.

Coworker:  Right, we’ll get recycled as Soylent Green by Proctor and Gamble or something, thus completing the very profitable Circle of Human-Industrial Life.  But they’ll call it something that actually sounds cute and tasty, like Hombre Grande Burritos or Big Jack Fries, which are actually made from guys named Jack.  

Me:  Right, all totally microwavable in minutes and found in your frozen food section.

I’d taste delicious.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Homie.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Homie.

One of the underrated parts of Your Money or Your Life is the examination of drug and alcohol use. Like I said a couple of pages ago, the book isn’t strictly about finances. It’s about taking control of your life.

Notice all of the passive verbs I used in the previous section to describe my weight problems and use of alcohol.  I allowed myself to put on weight. I let myself get coerced into going to bars.  These are not the words of someone who is actively making life choices.

But back to YMOYL.  The author continually asks questions along these lines:

Would you feel the need to drink so much if you weren’t miserable from work?

I decided that I probably wouldn’t.

Then why are you doing it now?  

At first I thought the author was being preachy.  You know, like drugs and alcohol are Bad.  Just Say No, and all of that.  I could almost see Nancy Reagan hovering over Joe Dominguez’s shoulder as he wrote these sections of the book.

But the more I thought about it, the more I started to identify that drinking itself was an extension of work misery.  After work, instead of shutting off thoughts about the office, I went out — with co-workers no less! — to talk about work and drink myself into a state of morose agitation, followed by an inevitably crappy night of sleep.  This, of course, made the following day significantly worse, completing the negative feedback loop of alcohol-induced work suck which then obviously demanded additional drinking to further unwind.

Put another way, I was voluntarily a) extending my work hours by commiserating with folks from the office, b) extending the number of years I had to work prior to retirement by spending $100 a week out at bars, c) making my time in the office worse than it had to be by inflicting hangovers on myself and d) reducing my overall energy levels, making it difficult to engage in time consuming or rewarding personal projects.  Or, for that matter, exercising.

As a part of my work-rehabilitation plan, I greatly reduced the number of nights out.  Instead of heading to bars eight or ten times a month, I’d go out just once.  If I wanted to see one of my friends, I’d convince them to just have dinner at our apartment.  At first they thought it was a little weird but they got used to it.

Here’s the amazing thing.

After a month went by without drinking, I started to feel much much better physically.

Once my energy levels went up, I actually wanted to exercise again.  It wasn’t something I had to force.  I got a pair of jogging shoes, made it part of my routine, and ground out seven or eight miles a week.  In addition I went to my new apartment building’s free gym and did some light weightlifting here and there.

Here’s the deal.  Alcohol is an intoxicant.  Your body (liver) processes it as the poison that it is.  Of course, everybody knows this.  But we drink it anyways because we’ve been told it’s necessary for social interaction.

It’s not.  And if you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance that it’s holding you back from being happier.  I think that we generally underestimate the negative effects that drinking has on our lives.

PS.  Of course you’re like me.  You’re human.

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8 Responses to The Job Experience, Tech Support: Year #4, Part 1

  1. Dwayne Hoover says:

    Oh man, you totally owned Mr. Data!!! I am loving this series 🙂

    • livingafi says:

      Hi Dwayne
      I will say that at the time, it didn’t feel like I owned him (Mr. Data) — In fact, going into that meeting I was pretty sure I was going to get fired on the spot. I wasn’t even super happy when I realized that things worked out — what I felt was much closer to simple relief. I’m very glad you’re getting a kick out of these posts.

  2. Wow, that was only year 4! I guess I was lucky to have significant variety in my projects for the first 4 years, I felt like I was just hanging on by my fingernails while I learned what the heck I was getting paid to be an expert at. Getting a PE license my 5th year helped coalesce my self confidence and I did something similar to what you describe the following year, after one of the most miserable years of my life. Middle finger lightsaber, I could definitely use one of those, mine was more of a slow steady wimpering until my manager finally confronted me and I felt like I had nothing to lose (except a job I could barely drag myself to). Looking forward to Year 5!

    • livingafi says:

      Hi EV
      Yep, only Year 4 and it’s still not over. I had to split it into parts because it’s so unbelievably long. I know what you mean about hanging on by your fingernails — that’s how I felt year 1 and 2 for sure, before I started making real improvements in skill levels and efficiency. It takes time. Glad you corrected your own Year 3 issue. When work is THAT bad, it colors every aspect of your existence and feels like there’s no escape. And of course there IS an escape but when things are going that poorly you’re usually blind to the solution.

  3. I generally agree with you on the alcohol. I keep trying to find a balance but I’m not sure there is one. Whatever it is, I’ve definitely been consuming too much the past couple weeks.

    My version of the job experience would be terribly boring reading, but this is entertaining and enlightening, so keep it up 🙂 I imagine it’s cathartic for you as well.

    • livingafi says:

      re: Vitamin A. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people can find balance and some people can’t. Personally I’m not so good at it and my life runs better when I stay away. But GC, listen, I’d love to read job experience posts from you or anyone else. I find this stuff incredibly interesting — even when it’s not. Such large chunks of the human experience are invested in jobs, even kind of boring ones, and I feel there’s always value in learning what life is like for other people. BTW, just finished up Year 4 and pub’d it.

  4. Bank says:

    I quit a job in year 4 of my career, walking away from more money than I had ever expected to make in my life because I couldn’t get along with a new manager (immediate cause) and because the amoral nature of my position became impossible to square with my values (underlying cause). It makes a great story now, but at the time I thought I was going to throw up from the stress and cry from the relief.

    Really loving this blog. I have spent far too much of my workday following your progress. Keep up the great work.

  5. StockBeard says:

    Woohoo! I’m reading this series like I’m watching some sort of very cool TV show, totally awesome that you stuck it to Mr. Data 🙂

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