The Trap: Corporate American Dreams and Nightmares

B.W. Mckay
Aug 28, 2018 · 6 min read

“I swear I’m done with this stupid place,” I grumbled to myself as I slammed the door to my old Chevy many years ago. I prepared to face the long commute home in a bad mood thanks to yet another dreadful day at the job I had sworn thousands of times before that I’d never set foot in again. Who was I fooling? I had become egregiously comfortable with the lie I told myself. We’ve all got bills which is why we sought out a job in the first place. We’ve all got bills which is why we sought out a job in the first place. The need for income allowed me to subject myself to fear mongering tactics and draconian rule sets just so I could faithfully collect a check every two weeks.

The thought of doing this exhausting song and dance for another 40 years made me literally feel ill. The experts believe millennial’s won’t be able to retire until after seventy-five years of age. No thanks, I’ll pass. My goal is not to offend anyone who sincerely finds joy working within the corporate environment. If you’re doing what you love then I’m supremely happy for you. I do however wish to encourage those who loathe the idea of the nine to five. There’s an alternative that may bring you the freedom and liberty you desire if you’re willing to put in the work.

Every day someone loses their life to the pursuit of the polluted American Dream, which by the way is built on the accumulation of debt and indentured servitude. People are tired, burnt out and feeling more hopeless than ever. This piece is written to those who find themselves tired of feeling ensnared by the trap of indentured servitude in corporations across the country. I once subscribed to the “be thankful you have a job” school of thought to make myself feel better about the oppression I experienced each day. Can you imagine willfully going somewhere to be mentally and emotionally tormented Monday through Friday in the name of a steady paycheck that can barely support your life? It happens everyday.

I’ve spent the last several years in a state of deep thought. I found myself drowning in a sea of conflicting ideals that challenged everything I’d ever learn from the people who believed they had my best interest at heart. “Go to school and get a good job,” my mother would often say to me as young man. We’d have many conversations about what I’d like to do and become when I grow up. I don’t ever remember saying I’d like to die a painfully slow death inside of a dusty-ass cubicle. Traditional work environments are ingrained into the social construct. It’s almost as normal as breathing. I myself once had dreams of wearing a suit and tie like my father did everyday, showing up to some office building to clank away on a computer. I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. I’d picture myself power slide parking my BMW into the lot, You know, James bond style and walking into the joint with my brief case in tow, saying good morning to everyone by name. I quickly learned when I became a “woke” adult, that working a traditional job in many cases just flat out sucked, no matter how much money I’d earn.

We all in some way bought into the script that if we worked hard enough, we’d be rewarded. If we’d go get that expensive degree, they say, all the opportunity in the world will be available to us. The truth is, maybe you’ll be promoted or perhaps you wont. Maybe you’ll get a raise, maybe not. Over time I began to see just how uncertain that arrangement really was. Did I want to leave my future up to chance? I’d once witnessed a grown man struck with fear when the boss called him in the office after he’d ask for a raise. Seriously, a man with kids of his own, turned pale stricken with fear because he thought he was in trouble. I’ve seen directors and upper level management who thought it would be a good idea to play musical chairs with people’s careers. I’ve seen good men and women get cut down to size because they disagreed with someone in the C-suite. Don’t get me started on how these organizations try to motivate their burnt out staff. One of their go to moves is what I call, “Motivation by pizza,” which is the oldest trick in the book. In order to get maximum productivity they bribe you with free lunches and sugary treats which actually only end up making you so damned tired, you aren’t even able to be productive anyway.

As a well compensated Black man who has held many different IT positions that many would label a great career path, I can tell you from experience how hard you have to work on a daily basis just to be taken seriously. There are egos to massage and unfortunately there are times when you have to suppress who you are just to prevent yourself from becoming a target. This as result is in some ways the plight of trying to climb the latter in someone else’s dream. Freedom is the word that illicit’s warm and fuzzy feelings within me. The idea of being told what to do, when to eat, what time to arrive and whether or not I could leave is what fueled my desire to find another way. Many companies today forget employee’s are stake holders and not slaves. We drown ourselves in paper work that lay out how we should think, act and adhere too. Someone once told me of a job where upper level management told her that she had to wear heels no lower than 4-inches and that her hair could not be worn naturally. If that’s not control freakish behavior, I don’t know what is. Generational wealth and the shattering of the glass ceiling can be manifested through starting your own business or seeking an avenue that you’re passionate about within a system that fosters creativity. I can hear it now, “but it’s risky!” It’s no riskier than sitting in an office where the “man” can send you packing anytime he feels like it. I’ve seen men and women who’ve given an organization their whole adult life and still got laid off or fired. Ouch.

Somewhere along the way our truest desires became muddied. We exchanged our dreams for a steady income. My hope is that you’d be encouraged to do something different if that’s what you’ve always wanted to do. This could be that nudge to gets you moving toward that new opportunity or business venture you’ve always wanted to try your hand at. There’ll always be fear and a bunch of people that’ll try to discourage you from being different. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the trap because I’m willing to bet most people who line the rows of cubicles in your office would rather be anywhere else in the world instead of being cemented to a chair churning out spreadsheets all day — I’m just saying. I’m not advocating that everyone should become an entrepreneur because the truth is, not everyone wants that for themselves but I am saying you should find work that is means something to you in an organization that values you. You should never have to be somewhere that doesn’t respect you or stimulate your mind and you don’t have to settle for that. Deep down inside of you is the ability to learn, grow and create something powerful. The hardest part is pin pointing how you intend to provide value to the world. When you provide value to others, people in return will pay for it. The more value you provide, the more money you’ll make. Make time to brainstorm how you can be of service to others. For me, writing is what get’s me going, so I gained the courage to pursue it unapologetically. As you work toward freeing yourself, allow yourself to feel the unspeakable joy of knowing that everyday you’re one step closer to walking out of those doors forever to live the life you truly desire.

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-B.W. Mckay

B.W. Mckay

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B.W. Mckay is a writer from the Washington D.C. metro area.

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