It Never Gets Better
As I walk through the catacombs of cubicles to my particular niche in the wall, I look at the caffeinated undead staring lifelessly at their glowing rectangles under dim florescent lighting. The sun is high and bright, creating a beautiful summer day that we'll never see. Day and night have no meaning here. We look at a website or an app to discover the weather conditions ten meters away from us on the other side of the steel and concrete penning us in. Is this what we wanted? Is this what we spent our youths waiting for?
My name is Contrapants, and it never gets better.
We sit in school, bored and staring out the window. Math classes are filled with unanswered chants of "when will I ever use this?" We are taught to regurgitate the trivia of a science text. Literature class is filled with contrived symbolism that even the author disagrees with.Bradbury If we discover a different interpretation, we are wrong because the Teachers' Manual states the test's "correct" answer. Even art class is a study in mimicking the teacher's own style by rote.
"It'll be OK," the liars tell us. "Just wait. It gets better."
We are told that to have a good life, we have to get a good job. We need to spend our formative years doing everything possible to attain some dream career that we don't yet have the mental faculties to even imagine. High school is just pre-college. "If you want a good career that can give you a good life," they deceive, "you need to get into a good college."
So, we spend high school joining clubs we dislike and doing extra work because "it looks good on your transcript." Now, we spend our time staring out the window during school, and after-school is filled with dull extra-curricular activities. "It'll be OK," they lie. "Once you get through all this and into college, it gets better."
Four years later, we are in college. Tuition costs are so high that they seem like a throwaway joke out of a bad sitcom. Now, we spend a few years in lecture halls rather than classrooms. The windows here are too high to stare out. Now, extra-curricular activities have been replaced with essays and papers, taking even more of your time. Once another half-decade disappears from our lives and replaced with student loans, we lament about spending entirely too much on a piece of paper and a handshake. "It'll be OK," they say once again, stalling as they fabricate another qualifier. "Just wait. It gets better now that school is over."
We begin our careers. We are given just enough money to pay our loans, rent, food, and transportation. As we get cost of living raises, student loan companies raise our minimum payments accordingly, something only student loans can do. "It'll be OK," they reiterate. "Just wait. Once you pay off your loans, it gets better."
"But I can't pay them off," we plead. "They take all our money. We can only eat through a credit card."
"Who's fault is that?" they scoff. "No one made you pick such an expensive school."
"But I didn't know! I listened to your guidance. It's all I had! I was trying to do that right thing!"
"Do you do everything people tell you to do? If someone told you to jump off a bridge, would you have done it?"
So we sit in our offices, glancing occasionally where a window might have been in our cubicle walls, but the outdoors doesn't exist outside of our commute anymore. We get to work earlier. We leave later. We spend our weekends running errands and attending obligations.
"It'll be OK," they beguile again. "Just wait. It gets better once you retire."
That's unacceptable. "The first time you spoke to me, why didn't you just tell me that it never gets better?"
Maybe it never occurred to them that it doesn't. Maybe they want your money. Maybe they still have false hope. Maybe it did get better one time for someone, like that one success case that is the cornerstone of every pyramid scheme. Maybe no one actually cares about us, and consoling us is a quick way to get us to shut the fuck up. Maybe, none of us matter as long as we keep typing shit into our glowing rectangles for just enough wages to come back the next day.
Maybe we're waiting to live when we're already dead.
I wrote the above back in July. While that was five months, nothing has changed but the seasons. Yesterday, I was in my cubicle for twelve hours straight with my boss, and it reminded me of Ian Golding's Summer Vacation Guide for Life After College.
Leave work late wondering if it was a nice day!
Old You might have gone on a walk or sip a smoothie in the park. Lame! New You can enjoy the perfect day from the isolated confines of your beige cubicle. It might be sunny and 80 degrees outside, but that's miles away, and these projects don't finish themselves. Aside from a stray glimpse of the outside at some distant window, all you need is harsh florescent lights and recirculated air. By the time you reach a good stopping point, it'll be dusk and any joy of the day is gone. The walk out to your car in the last remnants of sunlight is perfect for those who want to lament their squandered youth!
Last night, I was an automaton. I don't even remember getting home. Why would I put myself through this?
In office life, we are trained to be this way. The company is understaffed to save on costs, and the employees are overloaded until it's impossible to complete the work. Then, you're expected to work outside of work hours while the upper echelon gets to go home.
Of course, as James Altucher points out in Why Do People Hate Their Jobs?, you will never be paid as much as all those other people that left at 5:00. Even worse, you aren't going to be able to keep the money you're given, anyway.
- Jobs are modern-day slavery. We are paid just enough to live and not more. You are punished if you ask for more.
- We are often verbally abused on the job and we take it because we think it's normal that people would yell at us.
- There's a glass ceiling. It doesn't matter if you are a woman or minority or a white man. The glass ceiling is that you aren't allowed to make more than your Master, even if he's an idiot.
- From 7am to 7pm you are either A) going to work, B) at work, or C) coming back from work. Hence, the times when you can be most creative are garbage-compacted into your cubicle.
- You realize that all the dollars you spent on degrees to get you a job that will make you happy were completely wasted. You were scammed but you can't let the next generation know how stupid you were so now you become part of perpetuating the scam.
- A trillion dollar marketing campaign forced you to buy a house you didn't really want and now you will "lose a house" you never really owned if you don't bow down to the Masters every day. The words "The American Dream" were coined by Fannie Mae in a marketing campaign 40 years ago to sell mortgages to slaves.
- Your IRA was not intended to provide for your retirement. It was intended to take money from you every month so you remain chained to your cubicle. Inflation then takes 90% of your IRA.
- When you were a kid you liked to draw, and read, and run, and laugh, and play, and imagine a magical world. You're never going to do any of that again.
- Over time everyone is getting fired and being replaced by younger, cheaper, more temporary, more robotic, versions of you. You see this but are afraid to do anything about it.
"But Contrapants," you say, "I'm different. My job needs me. They'll treat me right when the time comes." I was also that naïve, and to an extent I still am. We still haven't fully accepted what Charles Bukowski wrote in a letter from 1986: we could lose our jobs at any time for no reason.
They call it "9 to 5." It's never 9 to 5, there's no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don't take lunch. Then there's OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there's another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, "Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors."
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don't want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: "Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don't you realize that?"
They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn't want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
"I put in 35 years..."
"It ain't right..."
"I don't know what to do..."
They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn't they?
"Bah," you scoff. "He's talking about blue collar workers," as if that's any different. As a counterpoint, I've worked in a large electronics company, one that you definitely own products created by it, where they chose to lay off people by putting a pink slip on every other desk one morning. New employees and employees loyal to the company for decades were fired solely because of the location of their assigned desks.
By doing this, the company could shut the lights and heat off in a third of the building. The company was applauded for its efforts in "going green."
No blue collar worker was laid off; they were unionized.
Did you want to mind-numbingly type numbers into a spreadsheet every day for your entire life, or did you have dreams?
While college tuition will suck the rent and food money out of your wallet until death, you still have a life. Crying about how a decision you made before you knew any better is pointless. As Albert Ellis said, you play the hand you're dealt.
The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.
It never gets better. Life will always have problems. Terrible shit will always happen to good people. Those who lie, cheat, and steal aren't going to get what's coming to them. That asshole you know doesn't have a heart of gold. The best day in your life is the day you realize and fully accept that nothing you do matters. You don't matter.
Stop putting off living. If you want to write a novel, do it! If you want to draw something, do it! If you want to play video games, why not? Just because it's "not constructive" doesn't mean it's not worth doing if it makes you happy. Vacations aren't constructive, and the people judging you base their whole lives around those.
You know that 1:00 PM meeting is meaningless, so why would you work through lunch to prepare for it? "Sorry, guys," you tell the friends inviting you to lunch. "Maybe next week will be better for me."
Waiting for a better time to do something is pointless. It's never going to get better. Waiting around only makes your life more pointless.
Stop putting off your actual life before you no longer have one.
Bradbury Especially Fahrenheit 451
Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.
Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.
Kaiji I can't find the original source for this image because it's all over Reddit and Imgur, but I've found that the quote and images come from Ultimate Gambler Kaiji.