Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have an office job. Well, it’s from home right now. Our guest bedroom is my corner office upgrade from my dusty suburban cube. But I still have an office job. Which is for squares. Like me. People who do paperwork. If the paper is pixels, it’s still paperwork.
This is completely on purpose. For years I’ve been saying that I went to college so that I could get a job where I sit down. Standing desk? No thanks. During parts of college I wanted to be a journalist. I thought that would come out roughly to be standing half the day, sitting the other half. Then, I learned that journalist jobs had been getting cut at a decent clip since like the early 90s or something. Why not public relations? Writing for headquarters was still writing, right? I would not be an idealist. I would be a professional. With steady hours and pay. Who needs journalists anyways, with their self-righteous pursuit of truth?
I got a master’s degree designed for professionals with a penchant for credentials. Master of Arts in Communication Management with a concentration in public relations. I liked it quite a bit. Being the architect behind an organization’s reputation. Crafting persuasive messages and shaping a public image. Sounded cool to me. I hoped to move from thoughtful observer of rhetoric and media to active practitioner.
In school, all of this PR, marketing, and media stuff sounded at least a little bit glamorous. In school, you look at the biggest case studies, read the most famous speeches, write papers about the coolest ads. In school, you are the ultimate critic, with insight and analysis and a dashingly strong point of view. A point of view that will be crushed some day when you work in an office.
In the office, you are rewarded for compliance, predictability, and general dullness. If your dullness can dress itself up as a buzzword like innovation, agile, or data-something-or-other, all the better. Bravo! We love a dullness that can act. In the office, the good parts of the story get cut out. In the office, all points of view converge to a single, muddy press release. You find yourself walking the halls, escaping around the block. You are dizzy and soulless, in the office.
As I confront my (naive) expectations of creative expression in the office workplace, I have to remind myself of the silliness of ever guessing that there would be freedom around the corner of the doors at headquarters. Didn’t I know this was for boring people? Didn’t I know that I was one of them? Wasn’t the real reason I headed in this direction the steadiness of hours and pay? Wasn’t I aware of the creative compromises, of the “realistic” view of work that I was taking?
Yes. I was.
But I didn’t know it would be this compromised. This dull.
Thank you for listening to the complaints of a white, heterosexual male with a master’s degree who doesn’t find personal fulfillment in the good job with benefits he’s privileged to keep during a worldwide pandemic. Your generous empathy is to be congratulated.