The Long Road Back to Work

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?” – Charles Bukowski

It’s been three months since I was let go by my last employer. To me, it was a grim situation – it’s all too easy to define ourselves by our work, and what we bring to the table. Feeling a breakdown in understanding, a dismissive reception towards the things I was struggling through, and a massive amount of burnout, I felt a bitter sense of acceptance in taking the severance check and signing a corporate agreement to sever ties.

I had tried everything to make it work. I sat in on difficult meetings and broached uncomfortable subjects in the hopes of improving my situation. I signed papers, followed Performance Improvement Plans, and simultaneously trained and interviewed my replacements while also developing an on-boarding program for corporate clients. I held meetings, booked business expansions, shared systems of elaborate knowledge, and sat in on early-morning security review calls with prospective buyers. I answered every beck and call, and somehow the pressure only ever increased in intensity.

None of it was enough. I felt like a failure.

I’ve been taking a slow pace for the sake of recovery because I’m burned out. It’s a frustrating process: I’m not used to resting for extended periods, and sitting around doing nothing feels unpleasant after a while. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that I need to get back out there. Day by day, a little more money slips between my fingers, and I grow increasingly concerned about how I’m going to make ends meet.

I’m left to reflect on what I actually want to do professionally, and I begrudgingly accept that the only way out, in the short term, is to get back on that proverbial treadmill. Only…it can feel all too tempting sometimes to only search for that elusive, magical job that’s going to fulfill you.

“Fulfillment?!” my dad asked incredulously during a birthday phone call, “it’s a job, for Christ’s sake. I worked at a factory and a slaughterhouse to put food on the table for you kids. What is it with millennials whining about work?”

He sort of has a point. While I’d love to find something precious and incredible, like a Mozilla or Wikipedia job, the truth is that the Ciscos and the Salesforces and the financial startups of the world are the ones who are interested right now.

I just need to get back on that horse.

Sean is a guy from the middle of nowhere in Illinois who passionately supports Free Software, Free Culture, and decentralized communication systems. He serves as the editor of We Distribute, a publication dedicated to the development of the fediverse. In his spare time, Sean is a budding indie game dev, writer, web developer, and a musician.

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