How to Survive Work

Warning: This is a satirical piece. The author does not condone any of this behavior or practices. This was merely written as kind of a fun stress reliever that does have some pieces of truth throughout, but by no means is the author suggesting anyone should take all of the “advice” given.

Build your scream chamber. Choose a place, a special place. This can be a quiet place, somewhere serene, like a beach at sunset, or a trail in the middle of the woods, maybe even hand-in-hand with someone that makes you feel quite warm despite it being far from outside. Or, it can be a loud place. Maybe it’s the middle of a concert where you’re watching your favorite band perform. It’s that moment, right when you tilt your head back, look up at the sky, imagine you’re seeing stars just as the lead sings that one lyric you’ve considered having tattooed on your body, just across your rib cage. Right then, everything goes quiet for half of a second – you almost miss it – that silence. It can be anywhere. For me, this place is on top of a cliff, similar, or exactly like the one Friedrich captured in Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. I stand there, looking out into the distance, perhaps at dusk, and scream to the top of my lungs a slur of profanities until my voice gives out completely. Construct this place, give it the furniture needed, give it some structure, some color (or maybe not), and wrap it in a feeling that is strong enough for even Lupin to say “Yes, this happiness is enough for a Patronus.” It needs to be powerful. This is your happy place. But unlike the place you may imagine when you are meditating, this is reserved only for when you are seconds away from smacking someone right across the face, maybe even hoping to draw blood while doing so. For every stupid question you are asked, for each time your boss talks to you as if you never passed the first grade, for every co-worker that speaks to you with an air of passive aggressiveness that makes you cringe and wonder if they can even hear themselves, for every work meeting that goes on thirty minutes too long – this is the place you need to escape to. When I want to speak my mind, when I think that I’m finally fed up with someone, I pause, bite my lip (just as Bella Swan would), and venture over to my cliff where I take a deep breath and then scream to the top of my lungs until my head is rattling with nothing but my own voice. If I’m lucky, it’s just loud enough to drown out everyone else’s.

Learn how to leave your body. Women are quite good at this one. I think we perfect it at some point in high school, or at the least, those early few months in college when we realize that a lot of the things men say to us are almost a bit too ridiculous and douchey to have an audience. While I, much like you, spent much of my childhood practicing active listening, there comes a point where I had to deconstruct this and re-learn this skill, just to survive. By the time I was stuck in my fifth or sixth conversation with the opposite sex, red solo cup in hand (just like the movies), listening (or staring past said person) to some woe is me tale about an ex, the intricacies of Fight Club and morality, or my personal favorite, anything involving Ernest Hemingway (which I think is really just a ploy for men to drop the fact that they are “book smart” and therefore, worth some poor girls time), I decided that I wasn’t going to be complacent in it anymore. At least mentally. This life skill has followed me post-graduation, as it is a necessity in the working world. For every meeting where people are droning on too long, for every developmental training where I have understood the basic instructions yet people insist on asking questions as if to prove they were never listening, I do this thing where I let my eyes glaze over. I picture myself watching the scene from somewhere above. Like in a movie, only not nearly as exciting. Maybe the more realistic non-edited version of The Truman Show, minus the part where I get to leave. So, I sit, and I exit my mind for a little bit. Then, I come back refreshed, ready to listen to what is actually necessary and not the details of someone’s weekend at a bar, which, let’s be honest, is really not considered work appropriate.

*Side note: Has anyone figured out how to politely tell someone you don’t care what they did over the weekend? I mean, it’s like asking “How are you?” to someone you don’t really know. The answer should always be a vague non-committal reply, like “Fine,” “Not bad,” or “Ready for the weekend!” Why do people think such a question is an invitation for a free therapy session? I don’t want to hear about your cats Janine, and no Tom, I don’t really need to know about your awesome weekend spent spewing leftover pizza all over a bar. 

Give yourself something to look forward to. At the end of every shift, you need to find something that will make your entire day worth it. Give yourself something to hold onto. Is it a pint of ice cream and a crappy rom-com you found on Netflix recently? Is it the new pillow you just bought you can’t wait to cry into before you fall asleep? Is it a face mask sitting in the fridge? Is it a no-nonsense bottom shelf shot of something you still can’t believe you bought at the convenient store? Find something – anything, and make this your savior. This is now your knight in shining armor. Your damsel in distress. This is what you will think about as you trudge through your day at work and wonder, why am I doing this to myself, what have I done to deserve this? Should I have maybe majored in something else? Taken that job at XYZ company? It doesn’t matter, because, at the end of all of it, you have your one thing to get you through the day. Apply this same rule to your weekends (or whatever consecutive days you may have off – if you are lucky enough to have that). Plan certain things, whether it’s meeting a friend and going to a movie together or out to dinner, or maybe spending a night out, then spending only half of your Saturday regretting said night out. Regardless – go. Go participate in the world as you know it. Get out and pretend you don’t have a job. Don’t even utter the word. Don’t even think about W-O-R-K at all, unless you are ranting to someone in a drunken stupor about something someone said to you that week that’s still eating you up inside – then, by all means, talk about work. Talk about work until your teeth are stained purple from that glass of red wine. Or was it four glasses? Five?

Rant. Not at work – never do that. Never prove to anyone that you are less than the worker drone you have made yourself out to be. Don’t play into the narrative that you openly hate what you’re doing and want to let everyone know of this fact. Instead, save every grueling horrible detail, crumple them up, and turn them into fun little anecdotes to laugh about later when you have to begrudgingly call up your friend and ask them “What are you doing right, right now, because by God, have I got a story for you.” Make these fun little calls as often as you need. Maybe even storm over to said friends apartment at 11:30 pm with a bottle of wine, two cracked glasses, smelling of the two (okay, it was three) stress smoke’s you had on the way over, ready to tell them every wonderful detail cataloged under, you’ll never guess what happened at work today. These things are necessary, therapeutic even, and sometimes your only savor between ending it all right in front of your boss. Which let’s be honest, is kind of a fantasy of yours.

Master your own version of “resting bitch face.” This is a survival tactic, much like leaving your body, though you have to be careful who you use this with. While it can be appropriate to use with fellow colleagues and even those in a position lower than you (or customers, if you work in retail or the lovely, the incredible, fast food industry), I wouldn’t recommend using this with supervisors, managers, bosses, or the like. This has to be carefully constructed in order for this to be the most effective because you have to pick your moments. Is there a co-worker spending too long doing the most menial of tasks? Have you asked for the same report to be done multiple times and caught someone playing Tetris instead (oh, this is a true one). Have you been giving the same basic instructions and nothing seems to be clicking? These are your moments, these are the times where you can use this face to relay the message in the most simple, most mundane terms that hopefully anyone who has ever watched The Office can understand. It’s the cousin to the questions: “Oh, are you still here?” “Oh, are you still working on that?” “Oh, did you not hear me when I asked you to do this?” My friend is a master of sorts when it comes to this. She has that face, that face that screams, do not even ask me that question, are you insane? It’s a thing of beauty really, to watch it in action; people scatter and immediately start working, the sea parts (I mean truly), tasks are completed faster, people shut up and do their job – wow, incredible, I’m here for a standing ovation.

Dance it out. The best way to get over an especially stressful day at work is to throw yourself in the middle of a dance floor surrounded by hundreds of strangers at a club with some ridiculous name that makes you wonder if SNL might have been the one to inspire it. Horrible remixes of every and any Justin Bieber song of the last decade alongside the same succession of beats strung together by a DJ who probably hates his life more than you is better than any anti-depression drug your psychiatrist can prescribe. Mindless, a bit numbing if you’ve had just the right amount to drink, dancing is like the imbalanced and a bit neurotic younger cousin to working out. It boosts your endorphins, you burn calories (even though those are canceled out by those delicious blue drinks that taste like summer), and if you do it right, you end up feeling pretty good afterward. No one cares if you can’t dance, you just kind of have to jump, and if you’re a girl, just fling your hair around pretending that you’re a lot prettier than you actually are – roll with that fake confidence, it’s 2 am for God’s sake, everyone is confident at 2 am. Jump to the beat of something that just may be blowing out your eardrums, rub against some stranger you’re never going to see again, yes, yes, go ahead and try to dance up on top of that table – live your life, dance your stress away.

Break the stigma of “bad habits.” Stop hiding in the bushes when you’re having that last resort smoke. Don’t hide behind the cover of a mask when you are purchasing your seventh bottle of wine from the liquor store. No one behind the counter of a convenience store is going to judge you when you purchase your third tub of ice cream in a week, because you know what, life is difficult, you deserve these things to make it through. There are no bad habits, only expensive ones. Are these one and the same? Sometimes. Ever since Parks and Recreation coined the idea of Treat Yo’ Self, I feel like people have clung to it like it is the single greatest justification for any said action that makes people feel any ounce of guilt. You’re going to do it anyway. Just do it. You’re an adult. This is your life right now. This is what you signed up for. Everyone’s miserable, so who are they to judge?

and on a lighter note…

Remind yourself why you are working. There’s always a perk to every job, whether it be something small like the coffee in the staff room is actually good, or on Thursday’s a local restaurant caters lunch for everyone – even a paycheck. There’s always something to keep in mind when things start to get tough. For me, it’s the kids. As most people in education probably understand, the administration, colleagues, all that white noise is not the reason why you’re working in education. Most likely, you are doing it because at the end of the day, you genuinely enjoy children (and if you don’t, well, what are you doing?). Every job should be like that. There has to be some aspect of the job that is keeping you going, because, if for any reason, you are sitting at your desk wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life, maybe you should be doing something else.

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