So Long, Stinkjob!

I have long viewed the corporate paradigm with some suspicion. The idea of sitting under fluorescent lights in a cubicle during the most vibrant part of the day, every weekday for the next 30-45 years is delightfully parodic and absurd when you are young and in school (I mean, don’t we all just LOVE Office Space?). However this idea becomes very real and depressing as one’s college years advance and internships and job offers become a very real measuring stick for who is “going places” and “making contacts” and “getting a good start on their career”. As an engineering student I had fervently hoped to do something “cool” and “hands-on”. Working with machines, designing prototypes, you know – like Junkyard Wars (this was actually how I idealized pure engineering), but ya know, indoors sometimes and with longer deadlines.

For reasons both internal and external, this vision did not come to pass, and I found myself with a string – beginning in college – of boring, tedious engineering jobs. The worst of these involved creating piping models for a to-be-built nuclear power plant and analyzing them for stress. This always sounded cool to my friends and people I met at parties. Depending on the situation, I sometimes tried desperately to explain that the job was actually complete drudgery, a horrible whirlwind of meticulously inane detail, rigorous adherence to inscrutable file management rituals and total uninvolvement in the other parts of the project and company. This is not to mention the futile and depressing zeitgeist of the project, which was going in circles and forcing us to work to “show progress” for corporo-political reasons. Indeed, any work that I or anyone in my department “finished” was in fact not finished, and would, after a matter of many months, need to be be revisited, reopened and retrofitted with whatever awful bullshit new rules the piping brain trust had come up with in the copious meantime. Factor in a suffocating underground commute, a hobby-precluding (but emotionally valuable) relationship and all the new and annoying responsibilities of adulthood (this was my first job out of college) and it wasn’t too long before I found myself clutching my knees in a bathroom stall, arms tingling and heart thumping, deep in a full-on panic attack.

I still remember the overriding sense of relief I felt when the project went belly-up I was laid off. I was unemployed from late March until mid-August, and that 5-month stretch was pretty damn good. My panic dissolved like morning fog and I felt like a human being again. I was collecting unemployment and looking for jobs, but I also signed up for a (costly) sound engineering apprenticeship. I ended up at Chicago’s Miller Street Studios under the tutelage of a young, but very skilled and scrupulous sound engineer. It was not the career changer it should have been (due to MY lack of initiative), but it was an experience I would not take back. I learned a great deal about sound, equipment, mixing and recording. However, when it came down to it, I took the safe route and went right back into the paycheck-lined maw of the corporate environment.

This Job was more promising than the last, but to make a long story short I ended up working on another colossal fucking project that was also a colossal fucking waste of time. I didn’t have any more panic attacks at work, but often I would find myself slouching sullenly and distractedly at my desk, checking some giant bullshit fucking spreadsheet that I had already checked perhaps a year ago, caught in the same multimillion dollar currents that large capital intensive projects always seem to create, and selling my time for money that I vaguely needed, but felt unearned. Many were the days when I would grit my teeth and throw on Pig Destroyer and Car Bomb – the angriest most violent music I could stand –  to neutralize my rage. This time I realized I had to leave on my own.

What hurt me most in these lost years was that there was rarely ever a chance to finish anything, stand back from the work and say “this worked, and this didn’t”. Indeed without that sweet glow of achievement at the end of an undertaking, what is the point? And indeed, I also craved the corresponding wisdom of mistakes made and lessons learned, a bitter milk, but just as important to the growth of the man, of the soul. I was enriching neither my workaday engineering money-making skills nor my interior temple of self-actualization, confidence and love. I felt myself floating in a rudderless state of paid stasis. It was time to get out before I got tired, got old and gave up, seeking solace in drug or drink, TV or movies, insincere marriage or ostentatious condominium.

So here I am! I have just quit my job and am taking a “sabbatical” from the corporate work-life structure. I will be moving from Chicago to the sunny shores of Rhode Island shortly and indulging my under-tested creative side for as long as I can. I feel that my whole life story has been of a person who has been given the gifts of intelligence and ethics and imagination, but also cursed with fear and shyness. Therefore our hero has conformed and taken the paths of least resistance through a landscape of modern American paradigms of achievement. Despite many people telling him he is fortunate (and he agreeing with them in the objective sense), our protagonist finds the successes of his path to be hollow and untrue. He has finally said “¡no mas!”

This blog will contain meanderings about daily life, social experiences, reviews of bizarre, obscure heavy metal albums and whatever else I can come up with. I’ll also document my experience, so that any readers considering a similar leap can use my long and nauseating downfall or stirring and poignant march toward triumph as a factor in their own decision.

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2 thoughts on “So Long, Stinkjob!

  1. […] has been almost a month since I said “So Long, Stinkjob!” and began my “sabbatical” in Rhode Island. These things are never like you imagine them – […]

  2. […] me. I had to make a hard break with that life before it broke me. In the months prior to saying “So Long Stinkjob!” I unfairly projected a lot of my misgivings about the corporation-subsidized life on these […]

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