Going on Strike
People only go on strike for better working conditions, better wages, better opportunities to become something other than they are.
— from The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller
When I worked neo-traditionally, full-time and in an office, my right eye twitched with sporadic regularity, in pace with the time ticking, to remind me of my impending death as I, stressed, rushed toward it. The greyscale landscape, concrete, windowless, and ceaseless in perpetuity, further lost flavor, blurred by the white noise of computer fans, power generators, hopeless flat-lined pulses — I could stand or sit at my desk though, there was that option.
Life is said to be quote-unquote too short to do what you do not love doing, but this is incorrect. Life is too long. It is to dread the everyday each day and it is too long to live narrowly, specializing in oppressed desires. So, I am finished with the rat race of it, the tooth-and-nail Sisyphean struggle toward a success ill-defined by two-car garages pack-rat filled with lifelong junk. I am finished aiding and abetting this doldrum life of antidepressents, antacids, and antipathy. I am on strike.
I am 26 years old, born into and of 1990s angst and nihilism. I read Fight Club too young, and I let it form me. But this is not my naive feverdream longing for fictionalized rebellion, this is reasoned logic: I stood atop the hill of life as a young middle-class adult, 90k salary and 50k debt in tow, and saw no greener pastures down the road, only salt-bleached blacktops and chemical fumes and both cacti and camels dying of thirst. I simply don’t like much of it — the American Dream, its capitalist propaganda, wastefulness, overzealous work ethic, two-week vacations, putting off enjoyment until old age and such — and if I am powerless in all save for my choices, I choose to opt out when and where possible.
On my resume, I have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, magna cum laude, and a master’s degree in analytics, high honors. I worked as a data scientist in operations, healthcare, cable, marketing industries. I trained predictive models to do better; I anonymized, generalized, went anonymous; I binged caffeine and alcohol like clockwork and let my body rust from inside out, spiritually dehydrated, heartburn and headaches. I learned to hate my future and the future with fervor and in ways I never learned in college, wherein each sugar-coated course was a pretty pastry with thornless icing roses.
You see, in college, I got off on the prospect of a big paycheck — secondhand lessons in money not buying happiness notwithstanding — without considering how empty my options would be once they became my choices. Also in college, I had internships, four of them, six months each, wherein I counted down the last five months, always, and used that remaining time to read very long books and plan my future in a way different from the current plan, as the current plan — the one I held with optimism at each internship’s start — always ended up feeling wrong in sedentary, stagnant ways of thankless struggles and required blindness (of both nature and morality) over the course of that first month of each temporary job. I felt sad when I looked at my bosses, not admiration.
My third job out of college, when I called my mom crying from the bathroom of my workplace, on a day that held no position on a countdown and lacked a relationship to other days (save for its being identical), I was essentially asking for her permission to quit. I couldn’t let myself walk away, still holding onto believing everything I grew up knowing, and feeling bad for not being better. She said she only wanted me to be happy, as moms tend to do, so I cried a little harder, then packed up my things and left.
That was about a year ago. Today, I work a little less for money and a little more on personal projects. I go outside more, too. Still, I don’t know if here, where I am, is just right either, but it feels better and different and sometimes I am hopeful.