Today was the last day I will ever go into work in a US Air Force uniform. I went in this morning to take care of some administrative things, get all my “outprocessing” ducks in a row, and then simply left the base. When I walked out of that building for the last time the sun seemed a little brighter, and the air tasted cleaner. This is the end of a long and tiresome journey, and I can finally say I’m free. I have no job lined up, my income will drop to zero in a couple months, my cell phone is in pieces, and I’m driving around a sad old car whose latest trick has been to lock up the driver side door so that I have to climb in and out the side door. And yet life looks so much more promising than when I had a generous income with “stability” and “security”. Now I won’t be spending every day of my life beholden to some other person’s whims, like some kind of slave.
I came to the decision to leave when I still had 3 years of commitment to serve out. Since then I’ve spent much of my time wallowing in desperation, enslaved to a system I could not escape. Here’s some advice: never enter a contract where you have to sign your body over to someone else for years at a time. It’s a ridiculous notion, and was called by its rightful name, indentured servitude, in more honest times.
Of course I didn’t spend the entire bulk of my time in the depths of depression—after all, no one knows how to make lemonade out of lemons like a military academy cadet—but the lows were very low. The stale and stifling nature of daily office drudgery has a real way of killing a person from the inside out. Some old journal entries I wrote show just how frantic I was capable of becoming:
“It’s getting continually harder to keep up the charade of going to work. Pretending I care about various job-related things that I simply don’t give a shit about. I can force myself to get into work mode, but its getting harder and harder. Somehow, I just wasn’t made to be content with this. All this, that’s supposed to pass as an ‘adult’ life these days, with the normal office job. How spirit-crushing! I didn’t suffer through a high-level education so that I could lead a life of wage slavery, crushed under the oppression of a boring and monotonous office life.
Emails, meetings, punctuality, professionalism, courtesy copies, deadlines, conference calls, meetings, reprimands, boring conversations, sitting all day long, powerpoint, excel, management… good-bye to all that! Rotting away inside an office, for what? A steady paycheck? The question isn’t “why can’t I put up with it?” The real question is, “how does anyone else?!”
After proving to myself that I was more than capable, the novelty of the whole “job” thing has really worn off. Fuck security. Fuck stability.”
My military experience was not one of constant deployments, and tense situations in faraway deserts. The best way to sum up my time in the military is “Office Space in BDU’s.” When I was younger I had requested deployments just to break the monotony, but this is before I learned what would become an unbroken rule during my military tenure: you will never get what you ask for—in fact you will usually get the opposite of what you ask for. It's worth mentioning that these deployment requests came before I looked further into my government’s motivations for war and learned just how deeply I disagreed with it all… but that’s a story for another time.
As I was entering the work force I would often look around me, at all the other people shuffling to and from their jobs, and wonder if my dissatisfaction wasn’t just a byproduct of some sort of laziness that was coded into my DNA. How could everyone else be so content with this arrangement, while I was so distraught? But as time went on I got the impression that my sentiments were not uncommon. At the time of this writing I know few people who really do enjoy their jobs—in fact, a lot of the people I know are downright miserable. They spend the majority of their time doing something they don’t want to do.
Take a look at your week: 168 hours. The average person works a job that takes up 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, which comes out to 45 hours. A healthy person should be sleeping 8 hours a night, so that will take away 56 hours out of the week. That means that you have 60% of your time sucked away just so you can get by, then you get to live your life in the margins. Is that progress? Is that the kind of existence we should be aiming for? Should we spend the majority of our waking hours in cubicles? Something tells me that people just weren’t made for that kind of existence.
Now I’m free, and it’s up to me to see if I can find a better way of living.