I hate working, and I hate that I hate working.
June 23, 2020 1:17 AM   Subscribe

I've been in therapy for the past five years flip-flopping between two modes of solving a problem:  That my job/industry is not for me, and we need to figure out what else I can do VS. I genuinely don't know what else I can do, so until then I can learn coping mechanisms for dealing with my career which I have trapped myself in.  I feel like I've hit a wall with both of these strategies and don't know what to do next.

For 3 weeks of quarantine lockdown, work was REALLY slow and VERY boring.  It was amazing.  My quality of life increased significantly.  It was right out of Office Space:  I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it would be.  For three weeks I told my therapist I was doing amazing, feeling great, feeling alive, getting sleep, going for walks/exercising, cooking more and enjoying it, able to coherently form sentences and articulate thoughts, calling old friends and reconnecting with them. I didn't even care that I was in the throes of social isolation - life was actually really nice, and I was actually very happy.

...Then work picked back up.

And then I fell back into my old life of the last few years:  Fear of deadlines.  Dread of the work and the industry itself, which I despise and find deeply uninteresting and meaningless - more now than ever given the current state of the US and the world.  Procrastinating work and putting off responding to emails.  Little mistakes snowballing into big mistakes, having to provide nervous post-mortem explanations to clients and superiors about "What happened, and how it will never happen again" (narrator: it will definitely happen again).  Feeling angry when anyone asks me to do any tasks because I hate all of the tasks so, so much; feeling angry that I have to attend pointless status meetings that I don't pay attention to.  Continuing to not paying attention in meetings, having little understanding of what people more passionate about this stuff than me are talking about at any given time.  Feeling scared that I never fully understand what's going on - it doesn't help that I have fallen into a very "mathy" and data and analytics-oriented field despite never gotten higher than a C in any mathematical school subject in my life.  Constantly feeling like I am in over my head and that I am on the outside looking in.

Coping with these negative thoughts around fear and anger and dread and alienation are what I pivoted to in therapy after we couldn't figure out how to begin a real career change.  How to cope, how to work through it.  I've pumped myself with depression meds, ADHD meds, on and off, dealt with crappy side effects, tried to put my head down, tried to not take it so seriously.  "It's just a paycheck!" "You haven't gotten fired before, why would you now?"  "Stay calm and work through it - not everyone loves their job, not everyone has to BE their job, do what you can and then go live your life"  Some days, it really does help - and I can keep a zen attitude.  The truth is, I just don't *care* about my work beyond the paycheck and the selfish preservation of it:  I don't care about the success of my clients, the future of my industry, what's happening in the trades, all the new tools and software and updates to them, etc.  I don't care anywhere close to the way my coworkers seem to care.  But now it's all starting to boil over, and in the process of "trying not to take work so seriously" and the last few years I have fallen into utterly lazy and pathetic complacency.  "None of this shit matters, the world is on fire, it's just a paycheck, so who even cares."  Obviously not a good mindset for building/sharpening any actual skills to take to a new career.

Dreams of another career - or attempts to dream - fills me with equal dread:  Even a theoretically "creative" or "interesting" job sounds terrible.  I'd still have shitty emails to respond to.  Crappy tasks would still pile up.  There would still be deadlines and dread and procrastination, and boring meetings and administrative tasks and some semblance of executive function skills and navigating work politics.  And if I "just quit" to "take some time off" I fear I will never find a job again, or at least one as high-paying at a company as good as mine (I know it's my career that's wrong and not just my job because my company is actually fantastic in terms of culture and benefits).  Not to mention re-starting a career (or going back to school) would mean making much less money, having to give up my apartment which I love and adore, and has been my home near my friends and neighbors for some time now.  

Perhaps having to pack my shit up and leave my community is a deserving punishment for committing such a long grift and for lying to myself for so long.  I feel worthless, no matter how much I try to internalize that I am a fucking human being and I am NOT my job and NOT my work and "success at work" is NOT my identity, and goddamnit this is capitalisms fault. But I've been doing this for 10 years now, 5 of them spent in therapy, battling these thoughts and feelings, giving up, letting them sit, trying to process them, then battling them again.  This decade-long war has become unbearable - no amount of cognitive behavioral tricks seems to be doing it for me now. 

In summary:  I'm 33, and I just really fucking hate work.  I hate it so much. I feel like a baby for feeling this way.  I feel burned out.  I feel like Peter in Office Space, minus being stuck in a state of blissful hypnosis and instead just trapped in hell. My discipline and creativity and organizational and motivational skills feel like they've been ground to dust. Part of me knows that is likely not the case but it FEELS that way, it feels like drowning in quicksand.

I don't know what to do and don't know what my next move is, but I could use advice from anyone who has been through this before and come out the other side clean. Consumed by fear, feeling trapped by a comfortable life outside of your terrible career choice but scared to throw it away all for..well, no actual concrete goal in my case. What did you do? How did you manage?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (29 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Ha, are you me? I had the same epiphany during lockdown and promptly felt guilty about it.

I went and booked some therapy for myself, this was a big part of the reason. Therapist seems to think it has more to do with my expectations on myself than external pressure. My work is sometimes stressful, but nothing I shouldn't be able to handle per se - I don't generally do overtime, for instance. Plus, Europe. If you're American, this may not apply to you because your labor market sounds suicide inducing.

Anyway, be my therapy buddy! It's a good idea!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:30 AM on June 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Quit. Get a job as a dog walker, become a maid, hit the road, buy a yacht, work on a farm, move to Thailand and get a job at a dive shop, join a commune. Whatever. Life is too short to be miserable, especially if you don't have nothing tying you down. You do not have to live a settled life with a workaday job. Some of my best friends have NEVER had a 9-5, one tried it for a few years and almost had a breakdown. Some people are not made for it. it's fine.
posted by fshgrl at 2:00 AM on June 23, 2020 [25 favorites]

sometimes hypothetical extremes help me see what i really want/need

if you could snap your fingers and be doing anything you want, what would that be?

if you had to do one thing beyond basic self-care every day for the rest of your life, what would that be?

if money was not a concern, how would you live your life?
posted by kokaku at 2:13 AM on June 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Stop working with a therapist and start working with a job coach. Analyse what your transferable skills are and apply for shit!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:26 AM on June 23, 2020 [17 favorites]

Woah, 5 years and your therapist didn't really dig genuinely into what else you can do?

Either new therapist, or get your Therapist to start working through:
"I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was" by Barbara Sher, with you.

You're already part way through one of the initial exercises -
Describe your Job from Hell!

The really crucial bit that comes up really early is the picking something, doing it, moving in a direction, it doesn't have to be perfect, but you do have to want it, as a test in order to find out why moving towards the thing you would prefer, FREAKS YOU the @#$@ out!

Because you would be so stuck for so long, if actually 'moving' didn't bring up massive resistance. There is a reason for that. There's a message in your head which says it isn't safe for some reason. And the job is to find out what it is, and get around it. Not by analysing it (well, a little bit!), but mostly by doing something different, seeing how you react, and starting to recognise the pattern.
posted by Elysum at 3:21 AM on June 23, 2020 [9 favorites]

Yeah, you need to quit. Take the hit financially. Start thinking about what else you want to do with your life, but quit. There is no reason to be this miserable.

Would you rather work with people instead? Work with your hands? Do you want to help people? You’ll need to take some to figure out what your next move is. Volunteer work is a wonderful way to figure that out. Go out, volunteer, see what sticks.

If you stay here, you’re choosing misery, and nall the advice in the world can’t change that for you. Quit.
posted by Amy93 at 3:21 AM on June 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

Yeah, a career coach could help. This guy is based in New York, but takes remote clients, and he was EXCELLENT at helping me pinpoint things that I was good at and avenues I could try.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on June 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

There are lots of jobs where you are not beholden to lists of tasks and email. Lots. But there’s often a trade off with salary.

Take a good hard look at your cost of living. Could you move somewhere cheaper? Both in terms of your living space as well as location.

What is the bare minimum of social expenses you need to be happy? What’s that budget?

What is the bare minimum of modern comforts that you need to be happy - Netflix, Amazon prime, gas and insurance for a car, etc. Maybe really think if you “need” these things.

Now take a look at what you need to bring in to cover all this (and hopefully some savings buffer). Maybe you can consider scaling back to either part time, seasonal, or service led jobs, where you truly just clock in, so some stuff, pick up your check and return to your life.

Career coach counts like a good resource to help you through the process. Don’t be turned off because it’s called a “career” and you think they are there to help you find your “dream job”. Your dream is to disconnect from having a job so that you can live a fulfilling life outside of your career. A career coach worth their salt should be able to help you with this.
posted by like_neon at 4:05 AM on June 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

The moral of Office Space is that Peter was in the wrong career field. In the end he switched to construction and was way happier.

I used to have a job I hated, and I bought into the idea that "everyone hates their job" so why bother getting a new one? Eventually I got a new job and realized that although most people probably aren't passionate about their job, they also don't HATE IT. I haven't found a job I love doing every single day, but I have liked them all MUCH better than that job I used to have. You don't need to go back to school to check careers and in fact I would tell you not to go back to school right away. Just get a new job. Any job. If you think it might be interesting, apply for it. Peter probably never saw himself working in construction during his Office Space days either.
posted by Penguin48 at 5:08 AM on June 23, 2020 [11 favorites]

Can you start working towards early retirement? Figure out how much money you need to live on and start saving. Having an end goal in sight may put it in perspective (though I agree with others that there is a job out there that you will not hate).
posted by oryelle at 5:35 AM on June 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Dude I'm right there with you! Capitalism sucks it, big time. But we live in it, and so we figure out strategies to survive our mind-numbing conditions.

From your question and commentary, I gather three things:
1. You dislike the type of job as much as the specific workplace or industry. (I'm like this too - I work in non profit setting and believe in the mission - HATE the work.)
2. You want to make enough money to feel comfortable and are diligent enough to stick with a tough situation to get that.
3. Your friends, family, and community seem to be the most important thing to you. You mentioned this a few times - and its important! Not everyone is like this or so lucky.

So I don't really think you should do the "quit on the spot" thing; you probably would have done that already if you could. It also sounds like your job is not that high end - like a good salary, but you do still have an apartment and some fear of losing it and you don't mention a safety net.

What you need is a plan to get out of this job hell. So use parts of the great advice above to get to that goal - escaping hell:
1. Figure out what amount of savings and income you need to sustain your current lifestyle and access to your community; how much do you need to stay in your town (if not current apartment) and how much will you need to make going forward?
2. Make a 3 to 6 month plan based on that budget with a specific end date that you are working toward. That's your last day at this shitty job. That's your goal.
3. In your budget, figure out:
a) how many months can you *not* work at all and have another quarantine like routine?
b) what salary do you need after your time off, to stay in your town, near your community?
c) During your lovely break from current hell, spend just 1-2 hours a day (and take off weekends) applying for new jobs. You don't need to do the whole "looking for a job is a full-time job" crap - you planned this time off for yourself.
d) Get a job doing something NOT like what you do now - construction, waiting tables, temping, whatever you are into - that can hopefully fit that budget.
*d1) - if your budget doesn't allow this - like you just really need a white collar office job making your 75K or whatever - then think of this plan as a respite, and go back into that industry/type of job. Then rinse and repeat - work a couple years, take a break, etc.

Your goal is to escape white collar capitalist hell; if you can't do it entirely for the rest of your working life, do it for periods of time. Respite matters. But I bet you can do it!
posted by RajahKing at 6:00 AM on June 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you're pretty stressed, your team is under-staffed and also like you're being pressured to sacrifice your integrity (make assurances to clients that you don't believe to be accurate). That sucks. Your company culture is one thing, but teams have their own subcultures, too - and those can be wildly different within a company.

What if you were in the same industry, but with fewer meetings and emails? What if you didn't have to interact with clients? Would that give you a little more breathing room while you figure out what to do next?

If you can't see your way to quitting and aren't sure what other career paths could work for you, perhaps a smaller move could still help. A few years ago I made a lateral move - same job, different company - and my stress level dropped dramatically. Mostly because my new boss didn't loathe me, but also because things were structured differently and I had less direct responsibility to (angry, aggressive) people outside my team.

Apply for something. Take your resume, highlight the things you enjoy most and are best at, and look for jobs with those keywords. Apply with the goal of exploring your options and avoid getting hung up on whether or not you'll land a specific job. If you get excited about something specific, that'll be informative - you'll know more about what you might enjoy.
posted by bunderful at 6:03 AM on June 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I fear I will never find a job again, or at least one as high-paying

Ah, the icy grip of capitalism.

I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it would be.

At about the same time in my life I was well and truly fed up with my career as well. I had five years worth of savings (plus the 401k) tucked away so I quit to give myself time to really get out of the working mindset.

It took about three years of doing nothing (and it was everything I thought it would be) before I decided I missed working alongside other people and started trying to figure out what to do next. In what I consider the greatest failure of imagination in my life, I decided the reason I ended up in my original career was because I was very well-suited for it. So I trained up so that I would be buzzword compliant and took a job that was a little more junior than the one I left. Advancement did not take long.

Working the second time was so much easier. All those meetings and policies that you currently suspect are meaningless overhead? They are meaningless overhead. You can easily pick out the ones that are in important (to your career) and skip the rest. Corporations are Kafkaesque messes with rules created by people who really believe what they’re doing is important. They are much easier to navigate when you are sure that you are the sane one in the equation.

And of course they are easier to tolerate when you have a solid goal in mind. In my case it was to store up enough money so that I could do nothing full-time. Eventually I did, and so far I have lived happily ever after.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:26 AM on June 23, 2020 [18 favorites]

Hm, could your new career path have something to do with perfectly expressing the suffocating traps of modern work? Because you’ve really articulated some tangled and complex issues in a clear and engaging way.
posted by kapers at 6:30 AM on June 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

1. You hate work - okay. Let's talk about what you love? What gives you energy and not just relief from the pain caused by your work? When was the last time you felt The Flow? What does your life outside of work look like? What are your hobbies and interests? Focusing on what you want to avoid is unlikely to get you towards a solution but asking yourself what makes you come alive will.

2. Don't just quit. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy but unless you have enough money saved up (or being provided to you) that you can afford all living expenses PLUS HEALTH INSURANCE for at least the next year, you can't just quit! Alternatives to quitting include:

- Take a few weeks' leave from work to do some intensive work on finding your goals. Do a Vipassana meditation camp for 10 days or an Ayahuasca retreat for two weeks or some kind of "find-yourself" type camp.

- Get a different and low-stress job (may I suggest: Starbucks barista. They have some really nice perks, including health insurance and a 401K and even free college at ASU if you don't already have an undergrad degree.)

- Ask to go part time at work for a few months but still keep your health insurance and other benefits.

3. Fire your therapist. Five years is a ridiculous amount of time to spend on this problem with so little insight to show for it. It sounds bonkers to me, and I'm someone who is strongly in favor of meandering "unstructured" psychodynamically oriented therapies. I'm not saying your problem should have been solved by now. I'm saying you should know exactly what the hell is going on with you and why, by now. But you don't sound like you know. You sound like this is mystifying to you. That's bad therapy.
posted by MiraK at 6:41 AM on June 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

Yeah you sound ripe for radical leftist self-education and going in to work that tries to abolish all the things you so succinctly and lucidly describe! Go find the people working to tear down the systems that have stifled you, as an individual, and help them to work to stop them stifling huge swathes of humanity!
posted by Balthamos at 7:05 AM on June 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

Not to mention re-starting a career (or going back to school) would mean making much less money, having to give up my apartment which I love and adore, and has been my home near my friends and neighbors for some time now. Perhaps having to pack my shit up and leave my community is a deserving punishment for committing such a long grift and for lying to myself for so long.

Yeah, no. You are just another imperfect human being among other imperfect (ooh, the redundancy!) human beings. There is a pandemic going on. It is a shitty time to quit a job. You love and adore your apartment, which is near your friends and neighbors. You have nearby friends, which is wonderful and worth fighting for.

As suggested above, consider firing your therapist and go get a new one and/or fire your therapist and get a career coach. Also, are you really, truly as well-medicated as you might be?

Finding the right medication for my ADHD (when the old stuff stopped working) and, last December, for my depression and anxiety was truly life changing. My ADHD brain is still going to ADHD, but my black-and-white thinking has been cut drastically. A bunch of what you wrote resonates with me from my years of not having the meds I needed, but I know that I am one of the lucky people; not everyone benefits as I have.

Again, please do not quit your job, at least not yet (unless, it is quit or kill yourself. If it is that bad then yes, quit). I just think that the one thing worse than the dread and negative thoughts you have now will be the dread and negative thoughts you will have after you lose both a hated job and your beloved home.

Can you try to brainstorm your way out of this current slump with friends or family members or your new therapist/career coach and into greater productivity long enough to find a better job? Not all jobs suck. Not all jobs pay badly. But this is a terrible time to quit. Especially in America (if you are in the US), the land of let poor people die, whatever.

Feel free to MeMail if you want to do a little brainstorming about creating a kind of structure that might help you navigate through this sucky period. It is exhausting to have ADHD apart from anything else that may be going on. I wish you all the best in finding a job that works better for you. You have not been lying to yourself for years and you are not a fraud. You are neurodivergent, and society is often extra hard on folks like us.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:04 AM on June 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

It's pretty clear from your post that you think that it's not just this job, not just this career that is making you miserable.

Some things to consider:

There are positive and negative halo effects from work. If you are feeling this bad about your current job, it can feel like all work will inevitably be awful because every work thought is tainted. You need to realise this and accept that you will not feel the exact same way about every job.

Dreams of another career - or attempts to dream - fills me with equal dread: Even a theoretically "creative" or "interesting" job sounds terrible. I'd still have shitty emails to respond to. Crappy tasks would still pile up. There would still be deadlines and dread and procrastination, and boring meetings and administrative tasks and some semblance of executive function skills and navigating work politics.

I know you are pursuing treatment but I just want to emphasise that it is very clear from your post that you have executive function issues / ADHD / something. Please continue looking for treatment that works.

Other people have already suggested things you could to improve either your job search or your mental health, I'm going to suggest something else.

It sounds like you have a good upper middle class type career job, I do not know where you live and what you earn but there is a community of people (mostly well paid salaried employees living in low or moderate cost of living areas) who pursue aggressive savings strategies to achieve early retirement / financial independence. Of course this does require the pre-requisite of having relatively high pay (members of the community are often a bit blind to how uncommon this is) and it does require developing a life where you are happy with much less spending.

In your case, I think you should investigate the ideas of the 'FIRE' community.

First, because having an end date at which you know that you definitely do not depend on working will do wonders for your mental health.

Second, because you clearly dislike working so much that the consumption you would be likely to give up to not have to do it would be substantial.

To give you an example from where I live, the median gross income for outer London is £24k, in other words, half of people live on less.

Many well off professionals make three times that. Ignoring taxes for the moment / assuming that one is a professional who makes three times the net, so more than three times the gross. This would allow such a professional to save two thirds of their income if they spent as much money as the median earner. At that savings rate you only have to work for 10 years from a standing start to accumulate sufficient savings for early retirement.

Your numbers may vary. Even in NYC I suspect that the calculation is similar. If you earn substantially more than the median, then you can retire very early by consuming only the median (which cannot be described as such a hardship). If you are comfortable consuming much less than the median then this will be even earlier.

You're American I assume so for healthcare reasons will want to keep some employment in the future. Someone mentioned Starbucks, that sounds like it doesn't have the things you don't like.

The reason I suggest this rather than the much less radical idea of reducing your spending a little in order to do another job which pays less is that it sounds like you might not enjoy any of the well paying jobs in the 21st century world. Don't take a pay cut just to suffer slightly differently.

I don't do this myself because I both enjoy my job and am a fancy, fancy boy who likes expensive things so the tradeoff does not work so well for me but you might have a different experience.
posted by atrazine at 9:26 AM on June 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Add me to the "quit your job" camp. Some people seem to love their work at your company. Let them have it! Why should they get to enjoy their jobs, but not you?

Maybe some success stories would help? I have a friend who quit his well-paying job to become a rock climbing instructor. I quit academia to build my own business (which has its own struggles, but still). Another quit her job in the legal field to do laser-tattoo removal. We were all around your age (late 20s/early 30s) and none of us had any savings when we made those leaps. There are ups and downs, but on the whole, we're happier. Don't torture yourself anymore! Life is, indeed, too short.
posted by gold bridges at 10:20 AM on June 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

ETA: When those career changes happened, there wasn't new work lined up, either, or even a vague idea of what to do next. Only the desire to get out of the traps we were stuck in. Once out, our desire to eat became quite a potent motivating force to find the next thing.
posted by gold bridges at 10:25 AM on June 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

From what you’ve written, liking half your life isn’t enough any longer to outweigh the how much you hate the other half. You’ve spent years going in circles trying to find an answer to the problem, and been unable to find one.

So, maybe now instead focus that same energy on trying to let go of your attachment to your current apartment and lifestyle. Start trying to visualise what your happiness might look like in other circumstances. You are not your job, but you are not your home either. It is possible to like your life with a different living situation than this.

It’ll take some time getting used to the idea, but please don’t frame it as a punishment, and please don't frame is as a failure. Reframe it as a matter of honouring what’s most important to you deep down, which you’ve been ignoring as hard as you can, up to the point where this is no longer possible for you.

Spend some time daydreaming about what you might like to do in the next couple of years if you weren’t tied to your apartment - maybe try to conjure some of the daydreams you had as a kid. Think big. Start thinking in the context that you’re free to do anything, rather than thinking within the parameters required to maintain your current living situation. Those aren’t working for you. Think about any job you’ve ever come across that you thought looked kinda cool and half wanted to try out, but dismissed as a valid option by the part of your brain that was attached to the gains of your current career.

I don’t see anything in your post that makes me think you necessarily hate work altogether - just everything associated with an office career. Me too! There are many, many jobs that don’t involve the things you’ve said you can’t stand - where you have a simple set task for the day and get the satisfaction of completing it, and going home feeling like you’ve earned your wages (which can be a nice, nourishing feeling!) - physical labour is good for this, but by no means the only option. It just takes acceptance that your income will be lower for the time being, but even then need not be permanent - nothing need be permanent. If you realise that the lifestyle you have currently outweighs the benefits of having a job that doesn’t make you feel like this, you can find your way back, and it mightn’t feel so destroying the second time round, having made this decision for your life knowing exactly the trade-off you are making. Or, it'll open other doors along the way that will lead to a comparable income from a place we don't know yet, because we can't always predict the unfurling of things.

For what it's worth, it sounds like the things that gave you the biggest sense of being alive and happy in those three weeks didn't require a high income. Going for walks, cooking, sleeping, spending time with friends - those things will still be in your life. More so, if you have a job that doesn't wreck your head and require anything of you after clocking off for the day.

It’s always scary giving up something that gives you comfort and security (and at least some happiness), especially when it sounds like this career is pretty much all you've known, but the gains may be far greater, and it sounds like you can't keep going with this any longer. So maybe start trying to let go.
posted by FifteenShocks at 1:03 PM on June 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Another one in the "life is too short" camp. If the only safety nets you have are tied to something that's slowly killing you, you're not a person you're a tuna.
You're not broken, at least no more than many of us who still manage to make it out there. It's fine and normal to not want that office life. You don't mention if you have kids, but for many people it's THE factor that justifies all the compromises and tips the balance into "worth it" territory. If that's not the plan for you, you're in a much better position to say fuck to it all. Figure out what you want to keep (that apartment) and lose (them email chains) and then put together your own equation.
My professional goals in my 20s-30s were to have as much control over my schedule (no shifts) and my physical location (no office) as possible. I'm just 40 now and have thrown everything away and rebooted job+living situation... 7 times since. Changed cities and industries, academia to private sector and back, my resume is wild. The changes weren't always out of unhappiness, a lot of times they were cool upgrades that presented themselves, and being confident in my goals made it easier to recognize those opportunities. There were some unstable and unpredictable times, but not as many as I would have feared. I know I was happier facing those difficulties than the slow suffocation of choosing a higher paycheck at the expense of my own priorities.
When you figure out how easy it can be to change things up for yourself, it becomes addictive. The scariest time is right before the leap, the best is right after.
posted by Freyja at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

No matter what you do about your specific job (I also suggest leaving it if you can conceivably live more cheaply, and Starbucks barista is in no way a low stress job as claimed above), doing something that helps your community or others or the greater good is almost always going to uplift you. It won't solve you hating office jobs, but it will increase your life satisfaction.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 1:24 PM on June 23, 2020

My evolving feelings around having a career/doing work have some similarities to yours, I think. Different starting point: I have been extremely lucky for 20+ years to build a career in a field I love and feel passionate about. I’ve identified strongly with my work and felt energized about it... until I didn’t. It wasn’t just a matter of my specific job; it’s that I don’t want to spend my time and energy on any job at this point in my life.

It took a lot of soul searching, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s okay. Doesn’t mean I’m lazy, unmotivated, without value; it means there are other ways I should be spending my energy at this time. So that’s what I’m working towards. I’m 18 months out from what will either be a couple of years hiatus or an early retirement.*

Making this choice and doing the work to get there has cleared away so much of the depression and frustration that I had been feeling, and ironically has made me a much better worker.

I just offer this anecdote because your anger at yourself for not being a happy worker really resonated with me. It’s so strongly inculcated in us that Work is Good; I had to work hard to shed that and trust myself that opting out of work doesn’t make me bad.

*Obviously there are financial considerations that make this possible for me. I don’t have dependents who rely on my income and I am extremely privileged in having assets (house, retirement savings) that can support me modestly for a non-working stretch. On the other hand, I (like you) have a beloved little home in a wonderful area that I will have to leave when I am no longer earning. I am using my 18 months to get okay with that choice, to enjoy it and say my goodbyes (in a shelter-in-place sort of way). I’m also getting used to living on less, both to make my savings last longer and to alleviate some of the worry about what kind of income I’ll be able to come up with if it turns out that I need to work again at some point. All of this to say, I’m not in the “quit right away” camp; keep getting paid while you figure out what your next stage looks like.
posted by tinymojo at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, man, you could be me right now. I am 1000% over my job and industry and every day there's some infuriating bullshit that reminds me why. Here are the steps I've taken:

--I am working with my therapist on identifying short-term and long-term career goals and strategies for how to overcome problems as they arise. She is doing a good job with this and has some background in career counseling. You could reach out to for a job coach, but IME it's helpful to have some support with the emotional side of the process as well and a job coach won't take your insurance. It sounds like your current therapist is not doing this for you, so it's time to look elsewhere.
--I am actively applying for other jobs. Unfortunately, being locked in by your experience means you are most likely stuck in the same career without taking more radical steps, but I'm hoping that a change of venue is a big improvement for me. I'm even willing to take a slight step down in pay just to get out of the current job where I am totally checked out.
--I have a plan for the next 18 months that involves going back to school and getting a new credential. This means taking into account the economic impacts of that decision and preparing for a new set of stressors. This also means a certain amount of uncertainty given the current COVID situation. Even if my plan falls through or doesn't work out perfectly, it's helpful to have a plan.
--I met with a new psychiatrist (technically a nurse practitioner--much easier to get established with and much easier to work with) to calibrate my med regime so I can still be at my best and as healthy as possible as I struggle with the stress of this moment and this transition.

I don't know if this is going to work perfectly or at all, but I thought I'd share my notes. Good luck!
posted by zeusianfog at 2:57 PM on June 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Right in the title you say that you hate working AND you hate that you hate working... what if you could reduce that second part? That second part is what ACT therapists sometimes call a "secondary emotion" or "dirty pain" - basically it's an emotion caused by struggling against another emotion. What if you stopped fighting against not liking your work? Maybe you don't like or value your work, but nonetheless your work (or more likely the money you make from work) makes it easier for you to get the things you do like and value? Or maybe your work is pulling you away from the things you value and it's time to make a change? It seems like that would free up a ton of mental/emotional space for you. Maybe your therapist has brought this kind of thing up? (I agree that maybe you need a new therapist.)

People above have said that they feel better when they are working for a cause they believe in but personally I felt much guiltier and worse about not liking my work (and/or not doing the absolute best possible job at my work) when I worked in cancer research compared to now, when I write software for stock portfolio management. That was also a long time ago and I was young and kind of a mess - I think I would be better able to handle those feelings nowadays. But still, there's something very freeing about knowing that worst-case scenario, if I mess everything up, some rich people lose some money (I suppose in the absolute worst-case scenario, also my company goes out of business and my coworkers, who I like a lot, are all out of jobs).

On the whole, I don't like working. But the things I do like doing are not the kinds of things you get paid money to do, and I do need money, so for now I work, and I'm OK with that.
posted by mskyle at 4:58 PM on June 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Are you me? Because I am following this thread like my life depends on it.
posted by nkknkk at 7:11 AM on June 24, 2020 [11 favorites]

Perhaps there are creative ways to keep your place. Subletting? Roommates? A strange option in these times, for sure (and it depends on where you live), but at least that way you get to keep the home base that you love.
posted by gold bridges at 4:27 PM on June 24, 2020

I have so many thoughts about this, but I'll try to keep it as short as I reasonably can.

Like all living things, in order to conserve energy we evolved to do the minimum to survive and pass on our genes. Eventually we learned ways to plan long-term which improved our lives and ability to pass on genes, but let's be honest — as successful as this strategy is, it is deeply unnatural. You and I and our kindred spirits in this thread are sane people in an insane world that ignores how deeply unnatural modern work is.
I have fallen into utterly lazy and pathetic complacency
This is the default state of humans. It's why agriculture took hundreds of generations to develop: we could have had a steady supply of food much earlier in human history, but doing lots of things that have no immediate payoff to secure a large payoff later is both good and deeply unnatural, even to humans.

This isn't to say I dislike the modern world. It's awesome to have unprecedented food security and creature comforts. But we should be honest about the ways it goes against our instincts so we can be kind to ourselves when we feel alienated. It sounds like you are feeling alienated and I think you deserve to treat yourself with kindness because the alienation is not your fault.
Obviously not a good mindset for building/sharpening any actual skills to take to a new career.
Do you actually need to sharpen your skills? My path was to go from job to job (made easier by consulting for pretty good rates) until I found one that was less obnoxious than the others. These days I'm an expert in my little niche and I have no desire to move up because my job mostly stays out of the way of enjoying home life. It's not perfect but it's the best work/life/pay balance I've found, and maybe that's enough. I also hate to say it, but as you get older clients will probably respect your input more, so you'll be treated more like an expert even if your skills haven't substantially changed. Now that I'm 36 I give the same recommendations I did when I was 26 but these days people listen, and I think the only difference is my age. So you might find that your work gets easier for reasons outside of your control even if you don't sharpen your skills.
Even a theoretically "creative" or "interesting" job sounds terrible.
I hear you. It's not the productive work, what bothers me is the severely broken culture of work that is focused on assuaging egos over productivity. My favorite hobby is easily canoeing and kayaking. But the thought of paddling for a living (e.g., leading trips)? Awful. I really do think there are people including myself for whom no job will be invigorating.

I feel like a broken record since I recommended this recently, but check out https://www.reddit.com/r/Financialindependence. It's mostly a group of people who feel there's more to life than a job and are financially responsible, so they look at money as a tool to gain more control over their lives. Early retirement is a common theme but not required — some people just want the ability to say "no" to ridiculous requests at work because they know they could go for years without a job (in that community this is called "fuck you money" because guess what you could say to your boss or clients if they're being unreasonable?). You say you don't want to "just quit" to "take some time off" because you may not find a job as lucrative as your current job. Well, if you take full advantage of that lucrative job maybe the pay at your next job won't matter as much as the company culture and the ability to set boundaries. Looks like Tell Me No Lies and atrazine had similar ideas.
having to give up my apartment which I love and adore
This concerns me. If I could give everyone one financial tip, it would be "be frugal with your housing costs." If your housing situation is bleeding you dry no amount of frugality will help you save a real nest egg. I don't pay much attention to my spending except to keep my housing and transportation costs low, and I hit all of my financial goals and then some because it turns out that housing and transportation costs are 90% of the problem. I don't know your situation but if you're spending more than 30% of your gross income on housing then some people would say you are a servant to your apartment and that's why you are unhappy. So if you are overspending on your apartment, look at other ways that you could get the benefits that you are getting (e.g., proximity to the people you care about) without spending quite so much.
What if you stopped fighting against not liking your work?
This, this, so much this. Earn enough to get what you need but don't blame yourself because work sucks. If it didn't suck they wouldn't pay you.

Anyway, in summary I would say this is a common and downright natural way to feel, even if you are feeling it more acutely than most. So be kind to yourself, realize there are plenty of us in the world, and look for ways that you might be able to follow your natural inclinations.
posted by Tehhund at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

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