I’m going through a bit of an experimental phase right now, career-wise. Much the same as when I first moved to New York City seven years ago at the ripe age of twenty, I’m following the winding road that is craigslist. I’ll focus on writing! But I should spend more time outside and pay my bills so I’ll walk dogs! What else can I do for money without much prior training or experience? Help me, Internet, help me.
If my career path were a sandwich, then right now, craigslist is looking like the bread, with the meat being a solid string of good, old-fashioned office jobs. As I move further through my bread days, I sometimes reflect back on the cubicles, desks, and swivel chairs of my past. Who’s to say this time sandwich won’t become a club and I’ll one day venture back into the meaty office? Who’s to say I won’t find even more extravagant ways to complicate this metaphor?
For now, especially during those Roger Murtaugh, I’m-too-old-for-this-shit moments when my body aches, my bank account is empty, and I still have to work over the weekend. In those moments when I’m tired and all I want is a bath, scented candles, and the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine… that’s when my mind drifts back to yesteryear when I had a comfortable, adjustable seat and 1-2 monitors to stare into all day long. So, yes. Though quitting my last office job felt empowering, there are still some things I miss.
There are the aforementioned chairs and monitors. But what they allow for is something even better; the sum of the parts is the ability to comfortably surf the Internet all day long. Sure, you’ll probably go home and look at yet another screen (television, laptop, phone) until bed, and maybe realizing that all you do ALL day long is look into brightly lit squares is mildly depressing. But, you’ll never be so up on news, pop culture, and the personal lives of acquaintances than you are when you work in an office.
Then you’ve got the food. There is always the possibility of free food when you work in an office. Maybe one day you’ll be lucky enough to work somewhere that has a designated time for a company-wide meal (payday, every other Friday). I worked at two such places and it was magnificent. Even if you don’t have such riches, however, you know the beauty that is the “There’s XXX in the Conference Room/Kitchen” email. Doughnuts, bagels, fruit, muffins, sandwiches, maybe even pizza. These emails are a gateway to a fun, filling, free surprise that, as long as you don’t have any dietary restrictions, you can enjoy for at least 5 minutes. That’s 5 minutes you’re not staring at a computer or getting frustrated with your workload.
What else? Well, when you work in an office you never have to go to Staples. Scissors, Post-it notes, tape, paper, notebooks, and staples (to go with the stapler you took on the last day of your last job): the supply closet has it all. When you’re a kid your parents take you Back-to-School shopping, but as you get older those items become more coveted. Spending money on them feels like a waste because that $10 could get you a fancy drink or sandwich at a place that has a bit more ambiance than Staples. Fortunately, if you work in an office, you don’t even have to choose. Take the free stuff, bury it in your workbag, and walk out of the building. Go back the next day and take some highlighters just for fun. Everybody’s doing it.
At an office job you also get to wear nice clothes like skirts and loafers. Sure this might seem like a downside when you’re in the mix, but looking back now, when I wear athletic gear to work and always smell like dogs, sweat, and tears, those big kid clothes really seem like something.
People? Yeah, I might miss them too. Casual friendships based on the rules from high school, except that you get to leave them behind when you go home in the evening. Conversations that graze over the weather and only the most basic facts about your personal life, trying to avoid subjects like politics and children… I guess I don’t really miss not knowing what to say or do when superiors would make very un-politically correct comments. I don’t miss the work that inevitably eats into the Internet time. But during these bread days I think about it all.