Updated: Feb 27
I’ve worked in many jobs,
Everything from fixing fridges in a cold shed just outside Brighton, to pulling the back bones out of dead squid at a posh restaurant owned by Michael Cane. I was a waitress in one of those American style restaurants where I had to carry huge round trays of potato skins about my head (would you like 3 skins or foreskins sir?) I’ve run bars and had boring office jobs. Most of my jobs I’ve not liked. Being a person that is rubbish with authority means I felt angry having someone there, breathing down my neck. Be it a sour faced lady from accounts or a weird over-touchy guy from the customer services team that had spit in the corners of his mouth and asked me on dates. (It makes me shudder as I write.)
In all my jobs I usually began each placement with enthusiasm. Keenly filing the tax forms, stuffing envelopes with a smile on my face and cheerfully making teas for my colleagues.
But, as time passed, my enthusiasm diminished. Repeating the same mundane tasks,again and again, got boring. I mean, there is only so many times you can pull the bone out of a stinking dead squid while humming ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’
But, I stayed in jobs I hated because it was easier than looking for something else. Safer to stay than to learn a whole other set of equally mundane tasks.
I worked in roles that made my soul hurt,
but I was weirdly comfortable doing something I despised.
Hating something yet feeling comfortable there, was confusing and it meant I invited a level of melancholy into my life. A sort of ‘well life is shit let’s just get on with it’ attitude.
I kept punching my timecard, knowing the day was going to drag, knowing that lunch was 12 and I finished at 5. I’d moan to colleagues in doorways during fag breaks about the crap coffee and stubborn photo copier, we’d be full of venom as we slagged off the lady in HR…. then we’d all be there the following morning, nodding at each other in the elevator,
‘Here again are we?’
‘Can’t keep away, hey?’
I invested so much time into some jobs that it made it harder to leave.
I’d learnt the ropes, people relied on me and I didn’t want to let the boss down.
So, I sat at a desk feeling like I might break a keyboard over my knee or pour a boiling hot earl Grey over ‘Lee form accounts.’ I stayed even though every pore in my body was telling me to march through the sliding doors whist unclipping my name badge.
The problem was that the predictability of the job was comforting,
Knowing the bills were going to be paid drew me back in… and other things too,
Seeing the same people getting on the bus each morning handing over tatty tickets to the driver, watching that same flickering traffic light change from amber to green, seeing the man on the park bench feeding the pigeons just outside the revolving office door, being greeted by my nick name and feeling like one of the crowd, it all has some sort of satisfaction to it.
As humans we are all so very comforted by certainty.
and I'm not sure that it's a good thing?
There was one job in which I did persevere. It was a volunteer position I had for over 20 years. I clocked in on Friday nights and checked out on Sundays. I was a skilled professional with a specific goal. I was a leader, an executive high flyer when it came to this one role and I worked my way up the ladder until it snapped.
Yes, you’ve got it.
Drinking was my main occupation. The security of it kept me interested. The predictability of my habit made it feel almost, cosy. I had a guaranteed results and no competition, those things combined with my need to please, meantI was the perfect candidate for the position!
It’s unfortunate I never got paid for downing pints because by now (Rodney) I’d be a millionaire.
If only I’d spent the time drinking, perusing something with meaning, something with substance. I could have 10 ten degree’s and been a brain surgeon if I’d put the same amount of effort into studying as I had deciding which wine to choose. I could have parked a Range Rover in the headspace I used up thinking about booze.
Such a waste of a perfectly good brain.
But like with any job, even though I was unhappy, I was strangely comfortable when drunk. Happily moving along with the crowd, not thinking about any other options, just repeating the same old predictable patterns.
I could tell you, half an hour before my first drink, how the night was going to end up.
I was able to anticipate my zig zaggy escapade because I knew myself that well. I’d being doing it every weekend for my entire existence. I knew at 11pm I’d be trying to drag a mate to a lock-in, the at 12pm be persuading a doorman that the stamp on my hand had washed off, that by 1am I’d have smoked 5 Marlboro Lights, and then by 2 I’d be in a takeaway slobbering over some fried chicken. And as if my magic, every Sunday I’d be in bed, in need of a can of Lucazade and a packet of Neurofen.
And after kids,
7pm wine, 9pm bed – (shorter and a bit safer I guess), but with the same casual, frighteningly undetectable, probability.
Over time, the predictability of my drinking became tiresome.
Same old pub, same old bar, same old….. sofa at home after the kids were in bed. I think drinking is like anything, do too much of it and eventually your enthusiasm will dwindle.
But the reason I had stuck with it for so long was because I felt safe, I was comfortable knowing what was coming next. The predictability of my inebriation meant I didn’t have to veer off track or worry about any other options. I could just get happily shitfaced knowing that the result would be the same. Every weekend I hopped on my own private crazy bus, did what I was trained to do, what I thought made me feel happy.
But towards the end of my drinking days, I remember friends sending me texts,
‘R U out tonight?’
Those four words (combined with the terrible grammar) sent a shiver up my spine.
Why would I want to go out?
So, I can show everyone my knickers, again, and so I can regurgitate chicken goujon’s on a cab drivers gear stick?
Why on earth would I want to do that?
The mundane act of repeating the same behavior no longer appealed. It felt like total madness.
That misguided comfort meant that for 26 years, I stayed in my career. Working my way up that wonky ladder, progressing in my chosen occupation until I reached a rather slippery middle rung.
When I got there, I was so puzzled. How could I leave a job I’ve been in for all this time? I was comfortable, everyone liked me, how could I quit the only thing I’ve known?
But when I looked down, at my past errors, clerical and emotional, I realized I was bored. I wasn’t looking forward to drinking anymore, l was just staying in it because I had no idea how to send it a resignation letter.
The boredom of being so damn predictable forced me to search out something else. I couldn’t carry on doing something I hated anymore. The time had come to write a new CV and look for something else.
The utter monotony of my drinking is what forced me to reach out for help.
And then I was able to quit.
One thing I have learnt so far on this sober journey is that change is within us all.
A change of job, a change of diet and a change of habit.
No matter how comfortable I was within my drinking habit, I was able to leave.
And now I’ve found I’m much more comfortable, sober.
But it means being brave.
You have to take the first step.
You have to kick the grumpy boss (you) in the balls and say,
“I’ve had enough.”
You have to leave behind what is making you comfortable.
Stepping out from ‘drinking culture’ isn’t an easy path to take, it would be so much simpler to just keep following the mainstream, clocking in with everyone else,
feeling uncomfortably numb whilst carrying on down the same well-trodden path…
But as they say, nothing worth doing is easy.
I realize now that there is nothing more boring than drinking. There is nothing more soul destroying than staying in a role you hate.
Yes, Sobriety is unpredictable, its high and its low, it had soft edges and sharp claws,
but honestly, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
And it beats pulling the back bones out of squid.
Pic -Younger, prettier, drunker! Imagine what I could have been doing instead of having this gold fish bowl size glass of wine!!