Scars from Employment
Now that I’m close to the end of my journey, I can look back and document the lasting negative effects from working for the last fourteen years.
I have to admit, at times I wonder how painfully honest I should be in this blog, and this particular page of this particular post has me wondering where the line is. I’ve decided, though, that it’s important to share my experiences completely, even if some of my own internal thoughts and analysis make me look a little pathetic. Don’t worry, I can take the hits to my ego in stride — I’m working hard to shed useless thing anyway.
- I’ve changed quite a bit. Being simultaneously bored, stressed, busy, and bored (and did I say bored yet?) for such a large chunk of my life has had the effect of somehow reducing my expectations for the remainder of it. There were times when I was younger when I felt that, like a protagonist of a Disney movie, I could be great if I only believed in myself and followed my dreams and all of that nonsense. Everything has shifted now. I don’t want to be great. At anything, really. Instead I want to be happy. And that requires a mental adjustment to wanting to be merely good at a few specific things — a good husband, a present and loving family member, a supportive friend, and a decent human being. I want to pursue things that provide pleasure and satisfaction on a day-to-day basis. Healthy eating, regular exercise, time with my wife and friends, a few intellectual pursuits and hobbies, that sort of thing. It’s hard to say whether these changes are simply a function of getting older, or are correlated with the cumulative misery of so many years of generally unhappy work. There are too many variables in play to know for sure. What I can say is that I felt a lot more happy-go-lucky when I was younger, and I hope like hell that RE helps me regain some of those feelings. Surely it can’t hurt.
- I’m a little twitchy at all times. I expect things to go wrong. To be called to discuss Problem X or some outage on a live system, e.g. LAF, folks can’t access our corporate website, what the fuck have you done and you better fix it immediately. I do think that this feeling will go away, eventually — I know that when I have large blocks of time off of work that, after two weeks, this internal alarm gets quieter. Maybe I’ll find a way to take a sledgehammer to it.
- I don’t see people and jobs the same way any longer. When I was younger, I might catch a commercial for, say, Crest, and just think: Jeesh. That was a waste of my time. I can’t wait until Voltron comes back on. Now, I think: Shit. The people in that horrible commercial probably wanted to be actors and failed and now they’re pretending to be thrilled about brushing their teeth for money. They’re doing something they don’t love because they need cash. I wish I didn’t relate. In other words, I feel bad for the human beings participating in the advertisements. Note that I think these thoughts despite originally going into my field because of a genuine interest. The intrusion of business on my function, plus feeling forced to do more or less the same thing every day for a decade and a half has purged most of the fondness I originally felt. See my post on corporate job staples for additional details regarding how jobs grind us down over time. But back to my point: I’m continually interested in how people ended up doing what they’re doing, and their corresponding levels of happiness and satisfaction engaging in whatever the hell that activity is.
To be fair, we should also look at the positives, of which there were quite a few.
- I earned a boat-load of money, much of which I managed to hold onto, and this has enabled my exit from the rat race.
- Throughout the years I’ve learned plenty along the way. Much of the knowledge I’ve accumulated would have not been possible without slogging through the years with various employers. I certainly would never have chosen, for example, to give presentations and pitches in front of bunches of strangers for products I don’t particularly care about if there wasn’t the matter of money in play; I no longer fear public speaking.
- In addition, the demands of various jobs have made me tougher, more willing and able to put up with total nonsense in order to achieve a personal goal, and have increased my levels of confidence overall. I mean, I feel like: If I did this crap, for so many years, surely I can do just about anything.
Hopefully this page hasn’t been so negative that you’re considering a CVS run to buy a gallon of bleach to chug. Really, I’m very happy with my life overall and I have few regrets.
Perhaps most importantly, I have no regrets whatsoever about spending less money, saving as much as I can, and being able to responsibly quit the employment game before the age of forty.
If I died tomorrow, I would not regret one bit of the FIRE path. Spending less has had zero negative impact on my life. Actually, I think it’s made my experience richer.
To do the Harry Potter thing yet again, do you think Draco, who was loaded, was happier than Ron, whose entire family struggled to get by? Ron got to hang out with awesome people in the form of Harry and Hermione every day while Draco was stuck with Crabbe and Goyle. Did money have anything to do with how things were going in their lives, really?