At nearly 30 years old, Andrea and I have both experienced the ups and downs of surviving the corporate jungle. And the experience has left its mark.
Some days have been great—I know I’ve shared in a number of slap-happy laughs, as well as the many wonderful moments of genuine, personal connection with my coworkers, but that hasn’t been without navigating office politics or corporate correctness. It’s like this: I shouldn’t have to don a mask to go from home to work, and vice versa. Who I am in the peace and clarity of my home, should be who I am in the peace and clarity of… my cubicle. Interestingly enough, that is what all of the courses in my employer’s Leadership Foundations program has tried to teach us. We’re taught to embrace being more people-oriented rather than task-oriented, and to just be more understanding, open, and decent to one another. Those teachings go against anything I’ve ever experienced in my six years with different corporations.
The other day, I was telling Andrea that wearing my lanyard was very akin to putting a collar around my neck before serving 9 hours in a windowless, florescent-lit jail. There’s no greater feeling in the entire work day, than the feeling of freedom while walking out of the building at 530 (many times later) and ripping that lanyard off. But after that relief comes the depression—over 70% of each week over the span of roughly 50% of my adult life has been spent cowering under the shadow of a corporate employer. I’m trading all of this time, all of my precious youth, for a paycheck to buy things I’m supposed to want. Now here I am at 29 years old, feeling like I haven’t even begun to truly live.
Applications, interviews, offers, training, productivity, performance evaluations, annual reviews, employee engagement surveys, quarterly meetings, networking, project updates, 1-1’s… I’m over it all. Bandwidth, leverage, innovative, efficiency, maximize, analysis, leadership, reporting, collaborate… just hearing these terms in the sacred repose of my personal life makes me cringe. And Sundays—it’s hard to fully enjoy a Sunday anymore after realizing that another Monday morning of “living the dream” is just a few hours away. Living the dream? Whose dream? My dream isn’t to give my time to ABC Inc. so that I can spend the next 40 years climbing some illusory ladder with promises of matching my 401 contribution up to x%. Sounds more like a nightmare to me. Andrea calls it “playing business.” You see, she and I are both children at heart who yearn for adventures, sunlight and games, and uncontrollable laughs with new friends. “Living the dream,” as we’ve seen it, is in direct violation of who we are and what we need.
We’ve been playing business so long now that we feel emptier than the day before. Each morning that we spend with smiles plastered onto our indifferent faces is another morning of our souls being syphoned out by the corporate jungle. We lose ourselves little by little, until we find ourselves pretending happiness in each area of our lives. We pretend to be grateful for having a job. We pretend to be satisfied with independence. We pretend to cheerfully sacrifice our own lives to support some loved one or cause… We pretend. If we’re incapable of pretending, then we can’t possibly be a good person, right? So we settle. We settle and we stagnate—we succumb to Corporate Jungle Petrification.
At this point, we have two options—we can continue down the road of security and pretend to be someone we think we should be, or we can take some risks and discover what our dreams really are and make those dreams our reality. Andrea and I are choosing the latter.