‘Working To Live’

This
They tell us
Reassuringly
This is simply
Working
To
Live

The photocopier’s swansong
The deafening desperation that leaks out into open plan space
The communal hummmmm of despair
Talk so small it barely exists
Don’t make me answer the phone
Is it gross misconduct if I disconnect it?

Everyone’s got a screensaver of that great holiday they had that time
Yet we all know
Two weeks in the Med in 2007 isn’t going to plaster over this lifetime of hell

The lift shudders and for a beautiful moment I think I’m trapped
Slump against this mirrored square foot
Each reflection looking back at me
Tormented
In a slightly different way

The toaster sets off the fire alarm at least once a week
The PC gives me an electric shock
As does the microwave
Almost like my unhappiness is branching out into physics
An electromagnetic field of my displeasure now reverberating through the office

There are no career ladders for us
Twenty-somethings that become thirty-somethings
Whilst we
Still sit in our
Entry level jobs
That
Have no exits

The generation above knows it, too
Glancing down with their heads in the sand
Prefacing tea and coffee requests with
‘So sorry to ask but…’
White no sugar – white no sugar – white no sugar

You work with them for over a year
They’re
Still
Getting your name wrong
Gosh
You must really be blinking through the
9-5
If you can’t remember a simple 4 letter word
Pretend we’re inconsequential to you
Yet
We get more time than the people you choose do

And you see everyone around you is just silently begging you
Pleading
Come on
Just play the game
It’s the game we are all playing obediently
And you’re making us uncomfortable
But it’s not in my make up to
Cling
To agreement and acceptability and
I’m so tired of pretending it is just so I can get a paycheck
Because it’s not enough
No amount of
Money
Could stuff the gaps of my
Inauthenticity

Groundhog days of heart sinking
Nothingness
Less than nothing
Scramble together some semblance
Some sense of self
Somewhere between
6.15pm and 11.30pm

Summer comes
The air con packs in on day 2
Great, as if I wasn’t already suffocating
Then winter’s dark and I’m foreboding
Climbing out of bed to go from one death to another
But in this 9-5 one they make me keep my eyes open

Then it’s time to be
Lost for words at the Christmas party
Let’s all get to know each other so this whole facade is less weird
Offices where bullshit is the main currency make communication between any free thinkers near impossible

I start getting migraines halfway through the year
‘May be the strip lighting?’, the doctor offers
May be the coffee I throw back every hour just to sustain enough passion to compose an email
‘Are you seeing auras?’, he says
Doc I’m not that far gone
No, no, the migraines are the product of
Habitual
Discontent
A coup against monotony
We’re pushing down everything that we are for 8 hours a day and our minds are kicking our foreheads with a metal plate saying
NO, NO, NO this is not what you were made for

And all the while the affectation becomes less and less that and more and more
Just …
You

Others say happily
‘Oh I’ve worked here for twenty years; I’m part of the furniture now’
And you think yeah but that’s all you are now
An inanimate object
An institution
A set of rules

Halfway through the month you feel a strange sickness trickle through you
As you wonder
Is that my fate, too?

Fictional ‘work/life balance’ always offered up as a solution
As if we may carve a knife down different selves like a cake

Remember to get a reference, though
All whores to the reference in the end
Aren’t we?
You give your life to a job and you’ll get a
Few staid adjectives
And you’re supposed to be, what,
Grateful?

So we go from job to job
Reference to reference
Without ever speaking our minds
Even though
Our minds have
A lot
To say
And thus
The cycle of our artifice
Continues unabated
Never really disturbed
In our ultimate goal to
Get
That
Mortgage
Paid
So at least we have something concrete to show for it
Something we own
Because we certainly don’t own ourselves
So in our retirement we can
Gaze around our
2 bedroom semi-detached gamble
And try to ignore the
Howling regret
That echoes
Through
Every last brick
Because,
You see,
We are just
Working
To
Live