Dec 23, 2014

Disillusioned

So I was musing on twitter last Friday about how a bunch of people at work seemed to be building up a lot of stress and anger, and how I couldn't see myself switching over to their department simply because I didn't think I could handle it... the reality is that I'm absolutely DREADING the upcoming year there because things are about to change dramatically for me and my own job, and not in a good way.

The Company began "restructuring" a couple months back, and one of the people who got sent off to early retirement works the same job as me. Tomorrow is her last day there; it'll be just me and another guy working the job from that day forward, meaning that our work capacity is about to be stretched even further. We already have our hands full as a three-person unit; but the same workload, under a two-man operation? I'm absolutely dreading it.

Our supervisor is trying to convince The Company to bring in a replacement for the "retiring" coworker, but one doesn't appear to be forthcoming, at least not right away. Fair dues to him for even making an attempt to hire a new person in her stead, even though all of us kinda figured there wouldn't be one.

Having said that, when he announced to me and the other coworker the other day that we were getting a pay raise for next year, I wasn't excited in the least. Why would I be? The long and short of it was telling me that come 2015, I'll be doing at far more work, and logging even more overtime, for what I figured out would be almost the same pay (when factoring for inflation).

Hey, far be it for me to complain about this, of course. People all over the globe would dearly love to have my kind of problem, and would switch places with me in a nanosecond. But man... when I hear from a slew of my own friends saying they're running into similar situations at work, that plants a bunch of thoughts into my mind.

I mean, I don't wanna go too far down this particular road, but a number of signs point toward our generation being worse off than the our parents' and grandparents' generations -- and I can see them clearly. This is just one anecdote, but only a handful of my high school and college friends are married; fewer still have started a family of their own. I have to wonder if a big reason for this is because we barely have enough money to maintain relationships, never mind become moms and dads.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm scarcely ready to face the changing reality of my work situation a little more than two weeks from now. Suffice it to say that the new year isn't looking very much like a new start for me. I suppose it is, from the basic sense of putting up a new calendar -- but beyond that? I'll get a much better sense of how that new reality will be like once I'm actually exposed to it -- but will I still be well-equipped to handle it?

Because right now, I feel burned the f--- out in every sense: Physically, mentally, and spiritually. And I have two weeks to basically just get over it. If I could pull a Landon Donovan and just take a three-month break (or longer), I'd do it in a heartbeat. But I'm not deluded enough to think I have that kind of luxury. And because 'Merica is one of those uniquely brutal places where you literally have to earn your access to physical and mental well-being, the only reasonable way I got toward getting my mind and body back in the right place is by, well, putting in eight-plus hours every single workday.

Again, I can see how ungrateful all of that sounds. Hell, me circa July 2012 may well have made a few sarky responses to anyone spewing these kinds of words. It's December 2014 now, though. Your whole outlook on life, let alone life itself, can change in as little as 2.5 seconds, never mind 2.5 years.

I got a side story for ya (well, if I can call it that)... I took a course in Italian history during my senior year at UCF. I needed a few history credits for my major, and it was the only class that had open seats at the time, so I sheepishly signed up. So when we got to the WW2 era, our professor had us read a famous novel from that time -- it was titled Bread and Wine, written by Ignazio Silone.

(I think I still have a copy of it somewhere, alongside every book I haven't touched since graduating from uni)

Anyways, there was a passage in the story that really stuck with me at the time, and came creeping back to me in recent weeks. From what I remember, the main character was visiting an old friend in Rome, who was basically a living embodiment of disillusionment. The money quote there, to totally paraphrase: "My father said he hoped I would have all the things he never got when he was on his deathbed. But I'm not deluded enough to believe my own kid will be better off that me in the future."

I didn't know why that line stuck with me then, but now that I think about it, I read that book right as the economy -- and the future of my generation -- was starting to go to hell in a hand basket (that was in 2008-09). Those were the kinds of passages I read in college textbooks that are slowly coming back to me years later. The quotes just seem more relevant to me in these times, and the symbolism behind them more potent.

Because it wasn't even that long ago that I didn't feel disillusioned making that morning commute and putting in my daily shift. Now? I'm feeling more and more disconnected from my job, at the precise time when I should be prepping myself for the increased burden. The focus just isn't there; ditto the motivation. Just turning up to work everyday has been weighing heavily on me for a few months -- but as I said before, I don't have the luxury of calling it quits.

When I went to Seattle last month, it wasn't just to visit my family there, or to breathe in that town's air again (though they were huge reasons why). It was also for the simple reason that I absolutely had to get away from Mouseville, and from real life itself, even if it was only for a weekend. I was very keenly aware of what I was getting away from, and what I would be coming back to, when I booked my trip up to the Great Northwest... and let me tell you man, the day I went back to Florida, I spent every moment in Seatac, right up until the plane left the gate, wishing I had put the boarding pass for my return flight through a shredder.

I went back to work the following Tuesday. My body was there (I think). My mind was probably wandering around somewhere in BFE. I can probably still find it there, if I ever feel the urge to do so again.

I obviously haven't mentioned any of this to my bosses or coworkers. Who wants to hear that their colleague's heart isn't in it? Although, based on the way those same coworkers are cranking up the volume while yelling into their phones, maybe they're looking for a way out, too. But we won't hear any of it, though. It's too much of a taboo topic, because copping to it could jobs and livelihoods at risk. And rumors have a way of spreading like wildfires even (especially?) in the biggest workplaces.

And cynically, I think most of them are too #washed to realize that they're becoming cranky and crotchety (I'm a relative pup in that office). Then again, if that really were the case, then they would prob be even less sympathetic to me telling them that I'm feeling the effects of a Defcon 2 burnout.

Those are just small details, though. My biggest challenge at this point is steering clear of the proverbial spiral staircase before 2015 hits.

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