DIARY of a 99%-er: The Struggle Between Survival and Creative Expression

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May 28

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back to work after the three-day weekend. And, there’s 150 emails staring me in the face, begging to be opened ASAP. Don’t even get me started on the emails. This educational company should be called TMI because that’s what they’re drowning in, as I’m sure every company in corporate America is experiencing these days. You have to cc your supervisor on every email. And, on most emails, they cc you, and, omigod, it’s an email nightmare and truly amazing that any work gets done at all.

But the most amusing part is when you overlook something, which inevitably happens with so many emails, and your supervisor asks you with a VERY STERN FACE, as if someone has just died, “Didn’t you see that email??

This is when you want to go running for the nearby park and sit at and stare at a tree for a few hours and remember life before email. And how nature’s pacing is so slow and perfect and just lets things unfold, and how did our daily work lives ever get to be so ridiculous?

The irony is that there’s an absolutely gorgeous park very close by – one of the most beautiful in Orange County. It’s so convenient to walk outside your office, right into the park, take a break of any duration, and do a lap around the park or two or three or four. But many of these managers, are afraid to leave their desks because they believe they are SO NEEDED. Most of the administrative staff wouldn’t even recognize this park if they had to pick it out of a line-up, because they literally never enter it. I, on the other hand, am in that park as much as possible. Sometimes, I take my work into the park and do it there. If I could put my office in the park, I would.

Something else totally inexplicable about the people who work here – no one among the managers or administrative staff wears sunglasses outside. Now this totally shocked me. Here we are, in Southern California where the sun is stronger than almost anywhere on the West Cost, and no one wears sunglasses? What is the deal with that? What are they trying to prove? That they will sacrifice the health of their eyes because they’re too intellectual to wear sunglasses? Unbelievable! One of the gals in one of the departments I worked in actually had the audacity to give me the third degree at a Christmas party about why I wore a hat and sunglasses outside? Duh! We’re in Southern California. Who doesn’t wear a hat and sunglasses to protect their eyes and skin. Come on now! Obviously some of these people need to go back to school for remedial training in common sense. But conformity is king here, and more often than not, conformity trumps common sense. And, if wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap makes me a non-conformist, so be it.

And, another thing? The managers all tend to be high-strung women, (and I don’t say this in a sexist way, they just make up the majority of the administrative pool). In fact, they are some of the most high-strung women I have ever encountered. They actually enjoy controlling and micromanaging. They seem to derive some perverse pleasure from using fear and intimidation to exert control, probably because deep down, they’re totally insecure. And, some of them are real bullies – the kind you experienced in the schoolyard sandbox that you thought you outgrew. This need to control other people in the workplace is so foreign to me because it’s something I’ve never personally aspired to. I’ve never laid in bed at night thinking, “God, I wish I could be a manager and have so much control over other people.” All I want is to be left alone and work independently. My desire for creativity, freedom and autonomy have always superseded the need to be a manager of any kind, including an editor. I honestly have no desire to manage other employees.

To top it off, many of the managers I have worked for do not take any breaks or do any exercise or work out during the day. Even though the Human Resources Department is constantly urging everyone to get out and walk, with all sorts of programs and incentives, the people who actually do this are few and far between.

By no means, am I perfect. When it comes down to it, it is absolutely me that doesn’t fit into The System, not that I would want to, although I thought at first that I would. I am totally out of alignment with this system. For most of the past few years, I’ve felt like a square peg in a round hole, trying to relate to these people, but failing miserably. And, I absolutely make my share of mistakes and get completely overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of email and the never-ending tasks, with barely any break for socialization or celebration. This is not the kind of system where I can excel and thrive because there is barely any opportunity for freedom, creativity, laughter, or even a modicum of live/work balance -- all the things I consider essential. I thought I was a domesticated free spirit, but apparently not so domesticated that I could conform to this environment.

The lack of a live-work balance is one of the most frustrating things. I’m sure that tons of the former professors at this company have done very academic research on the importance of incorporating a live-work balance into your life and published the results. Yet, I can bet most of the managers and administrative staff here have probably never read it and never will. If by any chance they have, I would venture that they would be hesitant to implement it in their own lives. They are just too frightened and intimidated themselves to take breaks. It’s just a whole cycle of intimidation and fear in these offices, from the top management on down.

And, as much as I’d like to take the ultimate risk and quit, I feel trapped by the way the American Corporate System is structured – it’s meant to keep people in their jobs with a steady paycheck and free insurance, for the most part, although that is changing as well. This system used to keep people in miserable jobs with the incentive of a pension, but as everyone knows, that fell by the wayside a long time ago. So, even with less incentive, I still feel compelled to stay in this work environment because I need the money, until my own writing projects gain traction and hopefully start yielding some steady, substantial income. I know every creative soul yearns for this.

So, where is the reality show for writers? I know – dream on! There are so many opportunities for aspiring singers, dancers and actors to gain exposure.

But writing is such a solitary, unglamorous process. Not sure that even Mark Burnett could turn it into a compelling reality TV show, a la Shark Tank or Survivor.

Tonight, during my yoga practice, I just go into child’s pose and surrender and ask the Universe for more patience, more free time, more free attention, more energy.

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