“This can’t be it…”
I muttered to myself, staring out of the 4th floor window from my cube. Prior to this I had worked in manufacturing facilities for five years, staying busy and running around constantly. I worked my ass off, it was stressful, the hours were awful…but I had an office and I was up and around moving and grooving most of the day.
Unfortunately, my career was limited in that spot and my pay was somewhat stagnant – I knew I could do better given my education and skill set. I applied with three companies around the U.S. and got three offers. I chose one in my current city, the pay was much better and the hours were stable. I was sad to leave the old, but excited to start the new. One thing I didn’t take into account was the impact of being in a typical office environment.
It’s remarkable how quickly I physically felt worse. Within two weeks I felt fatter, softer, and dumber. It was like the skills I had honed were melting away. After three months I was going out of my mind. It was noisy and hard to concentrate, partly because my cube was right outside of a large conference room. I experienced the pleasure of people lining up at my cube, talking loudly and staring at me while they waited for the conference room to open up.
My daily routine included peering around at my colleagues as they stared at computer screens. This was a reflection of my future. Their daily discussions revolved around how they were trying to lose weight, and how they were serious this time. Two hours later one of them would make a vending machine run due to the hunger pang they were experiencing.
“You want me to get you anything?” The runner would ask to everyone in earshot. Inevitably they would get a couple takers per run.
The Mental Shift
I was 28 years old at the time, an age where my mind was racing and the constant feeling of wasted potential ate me up. I knew was capable of more than staring at a computer in my office/tomb. However, I hadn’t developed a plan yet and I wasn’t sure what to do.
This feeling of unease, semi-depression and general anxiety has a name. It’s called a quarter life crisis. I didn’t know it had a name until years later, so I made up a name myself that seemed fitting. The Cubicle Life Crisis. I called it a cubicle life crisis because it didn’t really hit me until I started working in cubical land. Sure, I had some of these thoughts and feelings at my previous job. Although, on the whole, I was moving constantly, working hard, using my noggin’ and staying mentally and physically active.
The transition from plant life to office life was jarring. All of the feelings were amplified, and new ones started to appear (all negative, mind you). Maybe I was experiencing a mild quarter life crisis before, which was probably very normal. Once cube life started, it took on a whole new life. Hence the Cubical Life Crisis name.
You’ve heard the descriptions – mind numbing, soul crushing, corporate imprisonment etc. These are not exaggerations, it truly feels like you spirit is slowly being sucked out of you in order to make you a cooperative, dull, corporate shill for the good boss man upstairs.
There’s Always a Bright Side
There’s always a silver lining, and I think these emotions are good for people to experience. Just like I think everyone should work a retail job once in their life, everyone should work in a cube too.
This experience provided a source of perspective and motivation that I might not have otherwise. Without it, I would never have delved so heavily into financial independence, real estate, or lifestyle design. It has forced me to seriously evaluate where I want to be 10 years from now, and to start planning my life accordingly. Because of the cubicle world, I am forced to start designing and planning for my new life.
In the mean time, the job provides me decent compensation and benefits that will help me achieve my overall goals of financial independence while still providing for my family.
I despise cubicles and don’t see any upside for the working person to be in them. However, working for a corporation does provide some benefits. Namely, if you plan correctly – a ticket to early retirement and a life custom designed for YOU.