It’s been a chronic problem of mine these past months to be unable to focus at work. I sit down, open up my calendar and this document or that spreadsheet, and… nothing. I watch the cursor blink or the cell sit empty, stare at all the pretty colors in the mapping software with maybe the dregs of inspiration trying to smack me in the face. Sometimes reading about my work helps. I have a few ideas as to why, but more on that later. Most days this heart of mine is wayward enough that I can’t even bring myself to work on my own stuff. Jot down some notes, maybe.
So I ask myself: why? What’s the deal? I’m too tired, but here’s a day that I’m not tired. I’m depressed. Well, what about when you’re awake and alive? The fluorescent lights are annoying me. Turn them off. You get the picture. Eventually, I reach a point where there’s not a single god damn justifiable or readily available reason that I can’t muster the gumption to accomplish something worthwhile.
Mostly that just means the work day drags on interminably, and I get mad about it until I can leave. I took a different tack the other day. I thought I’d ask the internet. A simple question: why can’t I focus at work? Lo and behold, there were a multitude of purveyors and seekers of information and remedies and reasons. These answers I received shouldn’t have surprised me, and I suppose they didn’t. But it never ceases to amaze how often people miss the mark on something right in front of them, or how easily I forget my own understanding of things and start to blame myself.
That answer I received, kids? We’re adapted to move and hunt and chase shiny, bright objects that may or may not provide sustenance. Nature didn’t build us to sit at a desk! We’re not fighting our evolutionary impulses and machinery hard enough. If we don’t change our tune, if we don’t strive to do better than our caveman brains running on default programming, the endless novelty of Twitter feeds will be the end of us all and the machines will take over. Humanity will cease to be of value to itself. Our average attention span was downgraded from 12 seconds to 8. And so on…
Let it be known, that not a single article pointed out that most work is inherently meaningless and boring and trite. Even work that is deemed moderately important or supposedly rewarding, like mine. It’s often hamstrung by backwards administration and political roadblocks and this or that or the other thing. Jobs aren’t fun, and often when they are, you’re hampered from having fun. The day is an 8-hour slog. Wages are payments in lieu of damage to your soul.
If, however, you’re the unicorn that has a fun job and is given the latitude in the workplace to have that fun, you’ll probably disagree with these estimations. You might even haughtily conclude that yes, people can’t pay attention to things. They’re just dumb, cow-minded nincompoops that should be excised from the surplus population. You’ll go home with a bank account full of green because you were lucky enough not to be born into a pathway toward student loan debt; you’ll sit down for the Patriots game and maybe jerk off later.
I hate to be the bearer of ill tidings, but: you’re in the minority, pal. Things took a turn 30 years ago, and now we aren’t even paid well enough to justify having a daily mockery made of our slowly dwindling lifespans. I hope you’re happy. You and yours fucked things up for the rest of us. But as long as you can afford that house in the hills, who cares? This is a dog-eat-dog world, and that’s a tall ladder to climb. There’s only enough rungs. When you have a heart attack at whatever height you managed to climb to, though, I want you to know that there was never any room at the top waiting for you. Just a sneering welcoming committee of every asshole whose face was ever printed on a note of currency, the token exceptions to the rule sulking in the background of a party they never asked to be invited to – and they’ll kick you in the teeth while you’re smiling all the way back down to the bottom.