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I’m having a moment. A head-butting the wall moment. An underwater scream moment. It’s a moment that requires the expulsion of something from within. Something that is affecting my overall equilibrium, my alignment, my mojo. There are times I engage with the idea of ’emotional vomit’ – a term I use to describe feelings that are far better off out on the floor no matter how messy they might be. This is not one of those times. This is more of a ‘mental vomit’ time which would refer more to thoughts and perceptions as opposed to feelings. My brain is short-circuiting because it can’t process my indignation. It’s being given a blanket party by apoplexy and horror. So it’s time to purge at the vomitorium and get it all out. The only problem with this is that it is practically impossible to have a subtle, nuanced vomit such is the required velocity to expel the poison from one’s system. A good robust vomit is not a bon mot or a quip – it is an unadulterated rant. Therefore you will have to forgive me if I don’t get it all in the bowl…

What’s unsettling me is this. Why do so many people trudge through their working lives nursing a deep sense of injustice, a personal conviction that they or their colleagues are under-appreciated, undervalued, and yes, underpaid, and yet choose to do nothing? I’m not naive (well, maybe a little), I understand well the mundane necessity of a wage, the unquestionable need to provide for those most important to you or even the simple imperative of a job being a means to an end but really, must it be such a compromise? I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say the vast majority of people I come into contact with are unhappy with what they are doing for a living. And I’m talking about smart, capable, positive people, not rabble-rousers and contrarians. People who are clearly suffering from a depletion of joy and are somehow less than they should be. People who have been ground down and ‘cynicised’ by their exposure to structures and work culture designed to dehumanise them and make them part of a faceless entity known as ‘the staff’ AKA ‘the team’ or perhaps ‘the gang’, ‘the crew’, ‘the guys’ etc. God help each of us from being a willing member of any of those dubious collectives (only dubious when uttered in the classic workspeak way i.e. “you’re a terrific staff, you’re an amazing team etc.).

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s brilliant to be part of a team but not if that team is unquestioning and unthinking. But so many are consciously switching off those parts of themselves that would question and would think because it’s the path of least resistance. Because it’s the easiest way just to get along. Is that not the grossest indictment of the modern workplace? I don’t want to get bogged down discussing the make-up of the workplace, we can all imagine the kind of environment I’m talking about. The question I am asking is at what point do people lose their voice? At what point do they no longer have conviction? And why?

It’s as if there are two meteorites hurtling towards each other in space, one representing your ideal life and one representing what the cynics like to call ‘Reality’. With a bit of luck the inevitable crash will result in minor damage, a few scratches down the side of the car, a new wing mirror required, that’s all. But more likely is the head-on collision scenario where you’re walking around in a neck-brace for months afterwards unable even to stoop to pick up what remains of your shattered dream. By the time the brace comes off and you’ve regained a reasonable level of mobility, super-atmospheric space winds have blown the debris to the far ends of the universe. You’re staring into the middle distance wondering what the bloody hell happened when a meteorite taps you on the shoulder and says “Hi, I’m Reality, want a date?”

And then in the absence of anything else you proceed to hang out with Reality and you’re basically underwhelmed but you gradually get used to Reality’s lack of interest in you and your ideal life vision. You become accustomed to Reality’s steamroller flattening your occasional moment of uplift. You no longer expect Reality to ask you what you want to do – Reality calls the shots now. It picks the movie, it chooses your dinner off the menu and it doesn’t walk you to the door. And when Reality sends you a curt text weeks later you jump at the chance for another date because you’ve forgotten what the alternative was like. Guess what. You’ve just settled. For less than what at one point you thought was the minimum you deserved. How does it feel? Don’t answer, it’s rhetorical.

That all sounds very negative and I guess it is but it only becomes really insidious when you embrace the cynicism and lack of joy that is central to capital R Reality. But of course that is a choice and it is a choice you don’t have to make. Isn’t it about time you reclaimed reality for yourself? Or do you really feel that helpless, that impotent? I’m not talking about some idealised reality where everything is teddybears and strawberries and beautiful people blowing air kisses in your general direction; I’m talking looking reality in the eye and accepting that nobody but you can effect change in your life. If you can get your head around that you will see that you have only one choice (which is in fact no choice) – if you want something to be different you have to do something about it yourself.

I’m feeling better already. Could someone please pass me a napkin?

By the way, I thought I’d drop this little lexical nugget in your laps courtesy of Oxford dictionaries online:

Definition of vomitorium
noun (plural vomitoria)
1. each of a series of entrance or exit passages in an ancient Roman amphitheatre or theatre.
2. a place in which, according to popular misconception, the ancient Romans are supposed to have vomited during feasts to make room for more food.



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11 years ago

To often we blame something or someone when in fact we are the problem and lack the courage to confront our failings and shortcomings. Its not easy to look at oneself and accept the truth .GB

11 years ago

‘That’s the problem with Reality its taken far too seriously’

Jason Anderson
11 years ago

Accepting personal responsibility. Change. Scary things (at least for me). A woman I worked with long ago called us employees the “Worker Bees.” That made my skin crawl. 🙂

Basil Miller
Basil Miller
11 years ago

One place I worked, where the usage intensity for the mouse (desktop) was such that I developed RSI, we referred to ourselves as ‘fleshware’ and our deeply cynical motto was ‘We log on, therefore we are’.

11 years ago

If I can get around to selling it, my next book will be about why work is so unrelievedly shitty for so many people. So much of the way we’re treated at work is quite appalling. I’ve had many bosses (NY, journalism, say no more) who thought it quite normal behavior to shout at me, including filthy language, at a physical distance of subway rush hour — i.e. you’d call a cop if someone did it to you in public.

I went freelance seven years ago and am not sure I would ever subject myself to this shit again.


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