Tribe of the Ambivalently Employed
The Great Resignation rages on, but some of us are being left behind. Call us: The Tribe of the Ambivalently Employed. Our jobs are not so awful we can gleefully give our bosses the middle finger, nor are we that revered breed that unabashedly love their work, like my Theatre Professor Wife. Committee meeting at 8 a.m: we were so productive! Class at noon: can't wait to watch their Shakespeare scenes! Rehearsal till 10 p.m.: we almost got through the whole play! If you don't happen to live with one of these people, you probably have to work with one. Their level of engagement, productivity, and general enthusiasm can bring up difficult feelings. Mention your ennui to these folks, and they'll think you're just speaking French. It's shameful to admit, but sometimes to make myself feel better, I will treat my wife like she's just a little bit . . . you know, special. And if the thought of running into another Great Resigner who took that big risk and now makes twice as much money doing that darn thing they always wanted to do makes you feel pathetic, fearful, lazy, or just vaguely unworthy, then the ten tips below might be for you. After all, there's no reason to be ashamed about not quitting your job. You're part of a vast unsung tribe that lives each day like it was yesterday, with similar prospects for tomorrow.
10 Tips For Not Quitting Your Job:
Remind yourself that working in exchange for money makes you part of an employment ambivalence tradition going back five thousand years, when the Mesopotamians would toil in exchange for shekels, the first known form of currency. If you can glimpse your place in this long arc of history, it will help put your current employment into perspective.
You know that terrifying dream you have where you're riding on the roof of a passenger van and the road suddenly diverts to a rutted dirt track on the edge of a steep ravine, the van lurching toward oblivion as you cling desperately to the roof? That's not actually a sign you should quit your job, just that you should keep your health insurance.
On the really long, cold days of winter when life just feels like a bottomless scroll of whatever-web platform-you-happen-to-be-on, take comfort that according to a recent scientific paper, scientists are predicting time itself will end in just five billion short years, right around the same time our sun is due to expire.
Are you thinking that if you quit, you'll have loads more free time? Remind yourself of what you actually do with your free time. There's a reason for the incredible success of Netflix, Hulu, and my personal favorite, HBO Max. I recommend taking up meditation while waiting for new episodes of your favorite shows, because mastering the art of sitting still will definitely come in handy when you finally have to quit the biggest job of all: life.
If number four hits close to home, consider taking up a very challenging, physically demanding hobby, such as training to be a contestant on American Ninja Warrior (a show I currently enjoy watching on Hulu with my daughter during my own precious free time). A hobby like that will really tire you out and also flatten your tummy. Both those things might lessen that existential itch to strike out for those so-called greener pastures.
Live paycheck-to-paycheck. I know the money managers say to have a six-month nest egg, but this kind of advance planning is dangerous if you're committed to not quitting your job. If it's hard to spend all your extra money, consider giving a large monthly sum to a charity that benefits people who genuinely have it worse off than you, which, let's face it, is at least ninety percent of the human beings on the planet.
Do you sometimes wish you could trade in your body for a better one, maybe the one you had twenty years ago? You can't. Think of your job the same way. Your new motto needs to be: Work is my Double Chin. You're stuck with it, no matter which angle you stare at yourself in the mirror. Cultivate grace and acceptance, especially when you feel boredom and stagnation.
When you imagine leaving your job, you probably also imagine leaving your current personality behind as well. You can't. You will still be you: irritated by the same things, lazy about the same things, self-righteous about the same things. Sorry, but no job can fix you.
One of the great struggles with being ambivalently employed is that sometimes you find yourself happy at work. Sometimes, you feel like your job is just the right mix of things for your unique personality and skill set, and this is confusing, what with everyone else resigning all the time. Sometimes people are really nice to you at work and seem to genuinely value what you do. Sometimes you realize that staying in a job through the good times and the bad is actually a sign of being a responsible adult. Sometimes staying put can be just like being a not-terrible parent: you're not going anywhere, and while perhaps not the most exciting choice, it's an important one. In fact, lives depend upon it. In 2012, the author Wendell Berry gave a lecture where he quoted his mentor Wallace Stegner who thought that Americans were divided between two types: "boomers" and "stickers". Boomers are those who are constantly on the move, seeking fame, fortune, and novelty. Stickers are "those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in." So perhaps you're actually a sticker, someone for whom life and work is hard by definition, yet instead of seeking novelty, you can find nobility, integrity, and meaning in choosing to stick around.
In the end, if none of the above nine tips end up working, and you choose to leave The Tribe of the Ambivalently Employed, we really hope it works out for you. And if becoming A Great Resigner isn't as great as you thought it might be, don't blame yourself, it's not your fault. Maybe it's just because at the subatomic level there's no discernible difference between your current job and the new one. Atoms and particles are spinning this way and that. Your new office chair, while perhaps slightly more padded, is made up of pretty much the same stuff as the old one. Same goes for your new boss, even if that new boss is now you.