What My First Job Taught Me

Ever since I started working last month, there has been a lot going on in my head — thoughts about all this adulting thing becoming clearer with each passing day.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “This chump only worked for a month and have something to say about the working world?! I’ve been at it for years! Even decades!”

And you’re not wrong to think that. But all I can say is that everything I’ve experienced come as a great culture shock to me that just proves how schooling never prepared me for any of this.

It is also here I’ll have to ask, how do you do it??? I frankly have to admit I don’t know how to live like this.

Let me describe to you my daily workflow.

I get to the pharmacy at 8.30 in the morning and begin scanning some documents I don’t even know what they are. But I do know 2 things:

  1. That the photocopying machine keeps getting jammed and annoys me to no end.
  2. And the whirring and droning sound of the photocopying machine lives up to its fabled prowess of inducing you to a trance-like state. Nothing like a great stoning session in front of the photocopying machine, wondering how your day is going to turn out (not exciting definitely), what you are gonna have for lunch (probably bread), what you’re gonna do with your life (let’s not get into that).

Then the first trickle of patients come in (which I don’t even get to see) and I start packing drugs into ziploc bags. To me, these patients are just a faceless sticky label that I paste on the drug packaging and send them out. That is literally my job. I try to convince myself that my job is meaningful and crucial to the healthcare of the patients, that I play a huge role in ensuring they get better. But I just couldn’t. I hate my job.

When the drug count gets low, I have to run to various places to stock them up — basically Sisyphus pushing that rock up when it rolls down, again and again and again. Because as long as patients come, drugs will deplete and I have to fill them up, only to have them depleted again.

After standing for 9 hours the whole day, I finally get to go home at 6pm, bathe, eat dinner and settle down around 8pm. By this time I have the energy of a sloth and you can find me camping in front of the computer screen, hoping the internet can bring me some light in this bleak groundhog day I’m living before knocking myself out and doing the exact same thing the next day.

What I’m most impressed by is the pharmacy technicians and pharmacists working there. I probably come off as Mr. Complainypants as these people reach earlier than me and leave later than I do.

This is where I get to the crux of what I cannot understand.

Where is life happening? Is this it? Is this all there is? My mindset certainly does not operate in the same wavelength as theirs because they seem pretty nonchalant to the fact that they are actually living for the weekends — heck, there’s work on Saturdays! So is this what happens, 73% of their waking time — and in turn, adult life — cooped up in the pharmacy?

It was unfathomable to me, to the point where my mind was blown by this realisation. This was the shock I had — that for the most part of human existence, are we just trading the time we have on Earth for money and perhaps a week vacation every year?

This is definitely not the life I want to live.

Maybe one day I will grow older and this safe mundane life is the kind of life I want to live. But now, I’m sure I’ll not be fucking smiling when I’m in my coffin, knowing that I spent almost three quarters of my youth and adult life squandered in a pharmacy dealing with prescriptions.

You can scoff at my naive perspective. Even I am scoffing at myself as well, for having this lofty ideal that you can just go out and do what you want. Who doesn’t want to do that? Everyone does, but instead we are all shriveled up in our little boxes doing what we don’t like. That’s what almost all humans do in the end, isn’t it?

The hard part is recognising and accepting the fact that our lives could turn out the same way — stuck somewhere doing something we don’t like because we want food in our mouths or a roof over our heads.

The biggest lesson of all

After much thinking, I can only come to this conclusion. Maybe it’s just that this job isn’t for me. I am a creative person, who finds routines insufferable (and currently, my busy kind of routine drives me insane). I like to make things, to create things, discover and unearth. To talk with people, know their stories, share my stories. Learn.

My first job has taught me how important doing what you love is. It doesn’t even have to be what you love, it can even just be what you like doing. Just never, ever, ever, do what you hate.

I hear many people saying “go to where the money is”.

But I think sanity is worth much more to me than money.

— JJ

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